Finding Sanity at 20,000ft :: Flying with Infants & Toddlers

Like the old adage, “Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” – our family mantra for travel is, “Any cross words said in transit, stay there.” Ha! I’m not going to lie, flying turns me into a three headed monster! Maybe it’s the lack of control {seriously though, person hacking up a lung two rows back – can you please put on a mask and not infect my infant?!}, maybe the lack of leg room, or quite possibly the the thought of your child crying uncontrollably for 4 hours and everyone and their mother giving you the evil eye. What I do know for sure is, we started flying with Caroline at 10 weeks old, and 11{!!!} trips later, I’ve learned – the more prepared you are, the better your travel experience. And sometimes {yes, sometimes}, you may even be pleasantly surprised.


Here are my favorite tips for sanity at 20,000 feet!

::{Start Prepping Early!}::

Like Lauren said yesterday, in talking about car travel with infants and toddlers – preparation is key. There’s nothing worse than running around hoping that you have remembered everything you need at the last minute. If your travel is planned, begin making your packing list 1-2 weeks in advance. This gives you enough time to purchase anything that you might need, do laundry, and start laying items out. When writing my list, I divide it into several categories :: diaper bag, carry on, feeding, toiletries, sleep, and clothing – and I break down the clothing part of my list into daily outfits. Don’t forget a birth certificate or immunization form, especially if you are flying with a lap child! Also, as you think of additional items, you can add them to your list, and NOT remember them as you are boarding the plane.

::{Consolidate Your Bags!}::

I try to travel with as few bags as possible. For me, this means ditching my purse for a cute tote that can serve triple duty as a purse, a catch-all for my necessities, and any diaper bag overflow. If you MUST have a purse, think about emptying its necessary contents into a tote, and then packing your purse. {This is also a great opportunity to clean out the Target receipts from 6 months ago, random Excedrin tablets floating around, and maybe you’ll find a long lost Starbucks card!}

::{Attention: Breastfeeding Mamas!}::

Did you know that a breast pump is considered a medical device, and does not count against your carry-on limit?! AND breast milk is treated like liquid medication, so don’t fret about not being able to travel to and from your destination with liquid gold in tow!

Here’s a few things you may want to keep in mind regarding breastfeeding/pumping/breastmilk storage:

  • Nurse during take-off and landing! It will help your little one’s ears! As soon as you feel the plane descending, begin nursing. However, if he/she is sleeping, don’t worry about it, let them sleep, and they will be just fine!
  • Do not freeze your milk while traveling. If you have to, only freeze what you know will be used while you are gone because if it thaws out during your return travel, it will have to be used within 24 hours or thrown out.
  • Even if you plan to JUST breastfeed on the plane, bring at least 1-2 servings of pumped milk or formula if you supplement in a cooler – stress can adversely affect your supply, and you may end up with a very hungry and unhappy little one.
  • Drink LOTS of water. My rule of thumb is a liter for every two hours flying. Yes, this results in a trip to the bathroom or two…BUT it also translates into less chance for dehydration and/or decreased supply.

::{Have a little – or BIG – bag of tricks!}::


The best compliment I have EVER received while flying was from a man that called me Mary Poppins. He really could not believe the things that I kept pulling out of my carpet bag – er, I mean, diaper bag. For sanity’s sake – make sure your diaper bag is well stocked!

  • My rule of thumb is to bring at least 2x the number of diapers that you need. For some reason, I feel like flying incites crazy diapering needs. Yikes.
  • Put EVERYTHING in your diaper bag in Ziplocks {including blankets!} – it will help you keep things organized, clean, and lessen the chance of exposure to germs and gross airplane “stuff” {speaking of gross airplane stuff – bring multiple pacifiers, and a paci-clip if your little one uses a pacifier}.
  • Make sure you pack a change of clothing for your little one. This is good practice for anytime you’re out and about, but especially so when flying. And yes, I learned the hard way. Nothing like walking out of an airport with a kid essentially naked save for a muslin swaddling blanket in mid-November. Yeah, about that…
  • Snacks! You can NEVER have too many snacks. When we first started flying, we would bring puree pouches, but they’re pretty heavy when you talk about carrying a few {especially when you already feel like a pack mule}. Plus, they literally pacify my child for 10 seconds. Some options I found to be much more effective, and satisfying for my little one are fresh blueberries, sliced apples, Little Duck Organics’ Tiny Fruits {freeze-dried fruit pieces}, Happy Baby Organic Puffs, and Happy Creamies {pureed fruit and veggie snacks made with coconut milk}. Think mess free!
  • Toys and Books. I always try to find a small toy that is brand new, or one that Caroline hasn’t played with in a while to keep her busy. The key here is something light and small.
  • Medications. Motrin, teething tablets, teething gel, etc. If you’ve cleared it with your doctor to give your child Benadryl, I would recommend trying it out a day or two before you travel. Sometimes it can produce less than desirable effects – hello, crazy kid!

::{Travel Must Haves}::


  • Skip Hop Travel Blanket – A perfect sized blanket that folds into an animal themed pillow…great for an independent child that insists on carrying something themselves!
  • Hello by Highlights Magazine – I cannot say enough about this. It is literally indestructible, and 10 of them weigh about the same as one board book. Plus, they are printed with non-toxic ink, and are full of great pictures and stories.
  • Zo-Li Travel Formula & Snack Dispenser – I love this product. It is an excellent formula dispenser when you are in the bottle stage, and an even better snack dispenser once your little one starts eating solids. Love it!
  • Gate Check Bags – Even when you leave your stroller at the gate to be put under the plane, it can take a serious beating, and there is nothing worse than spending an arm and leg on a stroller to then have it torn up or dirtied. The same goes for the carseat. If you ever decide to put your carseat under the plane, put it in a bag, and never check it with your luggage. It may be inconvenient to lug a carseat to the gate if you don’t have a travel system, but if the foam in the carseat cracks at all, you have to throw the car seat away! And they tend to be much gentler with them if you check them at the gate.
  • Babyganics Surface Wipes – No explanation required…have you been on a plane lately?! {These are also great for use at restaurants, and pretty much anywhere!}
  • Ziplock Bags – I’m not kidding when I say to put everything in Ziplock bags. This also includes everything in your suitcase. I like to plan outfits by day, and gallon size bags are a PERFECT fit for infant and toddler sized outfits! Additionally, if you write out all of the outfit pieces in Sharpie on the outside of the bag, you will ensure that you get back home with all items when repacking!

::{You’ve Got This!}::


  • You’re always going to have 18 kajillion things to bring, that’s just kind of a way of life when traveling with small children…so accept anyone’s offer for help, you will be so happy that you did.
  • Don’t stress too much if your child cries…everyone that has flown with a small child has been there and should understand your plight. What I’m not saying is let your child howl while you read the latest issue of People magazine, but if you’re trying to calm him/her down, and it’s just not happening – it’s not the end of the world. I promise.
  • Just take a deep breath and everything will be fine…plus, the more you travel, the more accustomed to it your child becomes, and the easier it will get. You’re going to do great, you’ve got this, mama!

What are some of your travel must haves? Do you have any additional tips for traveling with small children?

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Amy S
Amy was born and raised in Northern California before moving to the Houston area in 2003. Amy has a degree in Corporate and Organizational Communication from the University of Houston - where she met her husband Tate, a former football player for the Cougars and current CrossFit gym owner. Amy and Tate enjoyed their first year of marriage as Inner-Loopers before moving out to the suburbs to start a family. Caroline joined their family in September 2012, and life has never been the same since! Aside from her job as mom, Amy works full-time as an English teacher at the junior high level. She loves fresh air, online shopping, baking, and finding new things to do in and around Houston. Amy writes at New Mom Problems where she chronicles her life as a California girl living in Texas, motherhood, being a wife, and teaching middle school.


    • Kaleigh, thanks for stopping by! Love the tips that you share for travel — especially the sleep sheep! The Cloud B Gentle Giraffe was definitely a lifesaver for us! I may have to do a follow-up post with more tips and tricks as I remember them! 🙂

  1. I like using a backpack as a carry-on/purse/diaper bag. So much easier to handle especially when getting on the plane. No one likes to be hit in the head with a loaded diaper bag and the over the shoulder types tend to slip and slide especially if you have to bed down and pick anything up.


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