Tips and Tricks for Flying with a Toddler

Flying with a toddler can be stressful, especially if you are traveling alone and there is no one to help carry the child or the stress. But there are some tips and tricks that might ease that stress just a little bit and make for a more pleasant trip for everyone.

A toddler sits on an airplane seat watching an ipad on the tray table.Choosing a Route

If you plan on flying under 5 hours, a nonstop route is best. But any trip over five hours you should plan for a stop. If you are in a fuzzy range of between 6-7 hours then of course nonstop is the way to go.

If you are traveling internationally from Houston, I would not recommend choosing a transpacific flight, always go for the transatlantic routes. A European destination would mean a nonstop flight but an Asian/African/Australasian destination definitely entails a stop; the best stops are in the middle east. My number one recommendation if you can swing it is the Doha airport. The facilities are incredible and Qatar Airways have extremely comfortable economy seating. If you can find a flight that leaves right before naptime or bedtime, that is ideal. If not, try to have your children well-rested before the start of the journey.

Choosing a seat

A toddler sitting on a parent's lap on an airplane and looking at a flight instruction pamphlet.The million-dollar question, when flying with a toddler, which is better: the aisle or the window? Every parent knows that you never want to mess with a sleeping toddler, ESPECIALLY on a flight. Taking this into consideration, an aisle seat is best. It is better to bother your neighbor to visit the bathroom for diaper changes rather than have to get up in the middle of a sleep session for your neighbor.

Try to select a seat that is closer to the bathroom, which makes diaper changes just that much easier. If your child is under two they can sit on your lap and you can get away with paying for one seat. In this case, if you can swing it, go for a business class/economy plus ticket, especially for a longer flight. Once your child requires their own seat, take a car seat on the flight with you. This makes for a more comfortable flight for your child and for you. They will be securely strapped in and your car seat doesn’t get beaten to a pulp when you check it.

Entertainment on the Flight

Screen time is inevitable and IT IS OK. You are not a terrible parent for resorting to it. If your child has favorite shows, download them beforehand and get a strap to hang your iPad from the headrest in front of you.

However, screen time alone is not going to be enough, and there are toys that will serve you well on a flight. Some guidelines to follow when choosing toys are those that are self-contained, small in size, and easy to keep track of. Choose a few key toys and set those aside for travel only. This allows these toys to remain special and keeps your child interested for a longer period of time. A few suggestions of good toys for a flight are:

Food and Snacks while Flying with a Toddler

A toddler on an airplane drinks a carton of milkWhen flying with a toddler, pack PLENTY of snacks. One way to keep your child happy is to avoid hanger from setting in. Some great mess-free snack options are energy balls/bars, Cheerios, cut-up pancakes/waffles, string cheese, and oranges. Essentially the idea is to provide finger foods that do not smear.

If your child is breastfeeding try to offer the breast during takeoff and landing, as it helps with ear pressure. If your child uses a bottle/straw cup, offer the milk when the captain is revving up the engines to head down the runway; this will ensure the drink lasts till takeoff is complete. Landing is easier to judge, but taking off is much harder considering the amount of taxiing one can do.

I want to end by saying that when flying with a toddler, try to stay calm and relaxed. This is much easier said than done, but your child can feel your energy. The calmer you are, the calmer they are. If there is crying or tantrums try to drown out everyone around you, focus on your child, and know that more often than not people are sympathizing and not judging. Talk to your pediatrician about using ear drops to help with intense ear pain if it does occur.

Good luck on your travels!

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Tips and Tricks for Flying with a Toddler. A photograph of a toddler sitting on an airplane seat watching an ipad on the tray table. Logo: Houston moms.

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Shravanthi C.
Shrav was born and raised in Madras, India {yes, she will always call it Madras ifykyk}. Her family moved to beautiful Michigan and Shrav attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering. After several stops both in the US and abroad, Shrav moved to Houston, where she met her now husband and started her family. In all her travels Shrav has come to learn that the South is the South no matter what country you live in. She has come to love Houston and is always trying to talk it up to people who make assumptions about it. She is mom to a beautiful girl {Aug 2020} and her favourite thing to do in Houston is find new restaurants and cafes to enjoy. Here are some things you should know about Shrav: she is crazy passionate about the causes she chooses to support. She is a die-hard Michigan Wolverine, and you will find her screaming at the TV most football Saturdays {mind you, she did not know American football existed before moving here}. Shrav also thinks she’s hilarious but her friends and family definitely keep her honest. While she has a full time job as an International business development manager, you will usually find her searching travel websites and dreaming of her next trip. You can follow Shrav and her family over on Instagram @solidlysouthindian.



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