Top Tips for Flying with a Toddler this holiday season

  1. Child on planeTiming: The team at Babyfriendlydc.com recommends scheduling your flight around your little one’s schedule (if financially and practically feasible – we know sometimes you just don’t have a choice). Usually this means no extremely early or late flights. You know your kid best. If he’s one to fall asleep easily, try scheduling a flight during nap time. If she is happiest in the morning, try scheduling the flight then. Your end result should be a much happier baby.
  2. Early Boarding: Boarding early can give you extra time to get your little one settled. In our experience, some airlines are excellent at providing an early boarding option with children…others are not. For a better on-boarding experience that doesn’t require dishing out extra cash for early boarding, we recommend booking your flight through Southwest, JetBlue, Alaska, or Virgin Airways. If money isn’t an issue, try booking with an airline that allows you to pay extra to board early.
  3. Safety: If you purchased your child their own seat, make sure you only use child restraint systems that have been certified by the FAA or the airline attendants will not allow the CRS to be used. A list of instructions on FAA approved CRS products can be found here: FAA Website. Note that there is only one approved airplane specific harness-type restraint for children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds.
  4. Checking in: Most airlines require that children under 2 have a copy of their birth certificate to show that they do not need to have their own seat purchased. We have flown with our child a number of times since birth, and each time we have been asked to show a copy–even when he was five months old and clearly under 2. Make your life easier and have a copy of your kid’s birth certificate with you.
  5. Food: Given how common flight delays are these days, it’s always best to travel with at least two meals (and snacks) and drinks for your little one. Terminal food is hit or miss, so prepacking food you know they will enjoy is always the best plan. Never rely on plane snacks and drinks. We recently experienced a turbulent flight where the flight staff was not able to get out of their seats to serve anything.
  6. Toys: Entertaining your child on the plane is not an easy thing to do. Always try to bring a few books and washable toys to keep your child entertained. You can even try introducing a new toy. Leave toys with pieces (they can get lost easily) and are  hard to clean at home or safely stowed in your luggage. Allowing some distracting screen time can also work. Preload age appropriate games or videos to your tablet or smart phone, if you have one.
  7. Diaper Changes: Depending on the airplane you are on, changing a diaper in the airplane bathroom can either be a moderately easy experience or an activity requiring 3 years of juggling lessons. If the airplane bathrooms are small or not equip with a changing table (this has actually happened to us) and you are traveling with 2 adults, we suggest simply changing your child in the 2 available seats. It’s faster, cleaner, and in some cases safer given the small and confined quarters of some airline bathrooms.
  8. Strollers: Almost all airlines will allow you to gate check your stroller for no charge. Bringing a stroller to scoot around your child (and sometimes hold bags) makes life easier. If you are delayed, it also makes a great clean and safe place for them to nap. If you intend to bring a stroller with you when traveling, we recommend purchasing a travel bag for your stroller, as it can help minimize damage to your stroller when checked.
  9. Assistance in the Terminal: For us, the most difficult part of flying has been waiting around in the terminal before the flight departs. Our little one just wants to run around through the sea of people. If you are lucky enough to have close friends or family drop you off at the airport, find out if your airline will issue them a gate pass so they can come through security with you. Having an extra set of hand to wrangle your little runner or new walker or crawler takes a lot of stress off of you and allows your family or friends to spend a more time with you and your child.