Flying with a toddler can be fun… yes I did say fun! Or at least, in my humble opinion, way more fun than traveling with a mobile lap baby! Maxwell has been on 16 round trip flights in his 2.4 years of life, many with layovers and even an international flight thrown in there. (That’s 40+ flights!) Here are my tips for traveling with a baby, tips for traveling with a mobile 6+ month baby, and now I’m covering the ins and outs of flying with a toddler.
Once your baby turns 2, you have to buy him or her a seat on the airplane. And this, my friends, makes all the difference in the world! His own seat plus the attention span to do something for more than 1 minute makes flying with a toddler a heck of a lot easier than flying with a mobile lap baby. So here’s the deal, if you follow me on instagram, you likely already know that we were in Nantucket Island with friends at the end of July. Andy and I flew to Nantucket together with a toddler (2.4 year) and a baby (4 months). Andy flew home with Maxwell by himself, and I stayed an extra week and flew home with Mila by myself. Like I said above, flying with a toddler can actually be fun… he’s so excited about everything! From the saying hi to the clouds to the pilot giving him a pin to ordering his very own special drink. It’s all so new and exciting! Here’s the low down on how and what we packed for 2 year old Maxwell, and how Andy handled the flight and layover alone with a toddler.
Tips for flying with a toddler
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If you have a direct flight, I’m a big fan of carry-ons! No waiting for bags, no paying the extra fees, and best of all, no lost bags. I typically never bring diapers in our luggage to save on room. I bring enough for a day and night of travel, and then buy diapers at the store when we arrive. But, if you don’t have a direct flight, are staying somewhere for more than a long weekend, and/ or do not have access to a washer and dryer, I do check a bag. If you have a layover with your toddler in tow, you will need that extra hand for wrangling the little guy! When I do check a bag, I always pack for Maxwell and I in one bag.
Like I said above, depending on the type of trip it is, I either bring a rolling carry on bag or I check one bag with both of our clothes and toiletries, and then I bring a backpack that lives under the seat on the airplane for easy access. I have a diaper bag backpack (backpack is key when traveling alone!) that has a bazillion compartments.
Here’s what goes in my backpack:
- Laptop: I don’t like to put my laptop in my checked bag, but that’s just me.
- Wallet, phone, boarding passes, lip gloss, gum all in one pocket.
- Zipper pouch with 1 diaper, wipes, changing pad, and doggie bags for poop incidents
- Extra diapers
- Sippy cup: I love Munchkin Miracle 360
- Hand sanitizer: I love The Honest Co. brand.
- Extra kid clothes
- Lots of snacks
- Phone charger
- Zipper pouch: More deets below.
3. Zipper Pouch
I bring 1 zippered pouch that fits in my backpack to house a diaper, changing pad, wipes, extra t-shirt and doggy bags. This is the grab n’ go pouch for bathroom emergencies on the plane. That way everything is one place, and you don’t have to drag in the big bag in a tiny airplane bathroom. For the record, Max is day timed potty trained, but we weren’t about to risk an accident on the airplane, so we decided to diaper him for the travel day!
4. Toddler Backpack
Max has a small backpack that he carries and is filled with plane/ layover activities. I try and let him pick out a few special things to bring, but that usually turns into a backpack full of matchbox cars so, yea at least I give him a chance, ha!
Here is what’s in Max’s backpack:
- Puffy sticker play sets: Each one is typically less than $5 and the stickers can easily be removed and re stuck. Love these.
- Color Wonder: The markers only color on the special paper… genius!
- Triangle crayons and a blank notepad: I love the triangle crayons since they don’t roll off the tray table as easily. Blank notepad is fun for doodling and practicing shapes, numbers, and letters.
- Books: Whatever books you know will keep your toddlers interest, Max currently loves all Mo Willems books and I brought this Animal Alphabet book because it is interactive.
- Cars: Because Maxwell loves cars and he can’t go anywhere without a few of them, ha! I let him pick his favorite 3.
- I Spy Sticker Game: This is a DIY I Spy game that Max and I made up together on the plane and then played it at various points on flights and at the airport. We took turns picking out stickers to stick to a plain white sheet of folded card stock. I folded it so that I could house the stickers inside. After plenty of stickers were stuck, I would say things like, “I spy 3 red dots.” or “I spy 2 milk cartons.” And Max would find the items I mentioned.
I bring mostly healthy snacks that we can share like trail mixes you buy in the bulk section of the grocery store. Usually a dried fruit one and then one with a little chocolate. I also throw in a few food pouches just in case. And then depending on the length of the flight one or 2 zip lock bags worth of whatever we have in the pantry at home: seaweed, raisins, Cherrios, oatmeal cookies, or pretzels. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll make us popcorn the night before our trip because we both love popcorn! If we have a layover, that’s when we get a fancy, sweet treat!
Window seat all the way. The window is entertainment and it also makes the aisle a lot less accessible.
I love this Maclaren Volo stroller. It’s only 9lbs, it folds and unfolds with one hand and it can hold up to a 55lb kiddo. I also love that it’s mesh which means easy clean up and breathable for hot weather. Strollers can be gate checked for free. The stroller also proves to be a fun toy for Max if we have a lay over. I usually end up letting him push it around in the airport. This stroller lives in my car when we are not traveling.
8. ID for a child
I was told that no child needs an id when traveling within the 50 United States and is under 18. I have been asked to prove his birthday before, so when traveling I keep a copy of his birth certificate in the photo section of my phone. I always tell parents to call the airline you are flying just to be sure.
9. International travel
Your toddler will need a passport. Here is the lowdown on how to get a baby a passport.
10. Family Bathrooms
If you don’t see a family bathroom in the airport, ask! All airports we’ve ever traveled through have designated family restrooms. The family bathroom is typically one room with a toilet, sink, and changing table. There is room for luggage, stroller, parents, and kids!
Just curious… is anyone brave enough to travel with a baby and a toddler alone? I would love some tips and tricks on that!