10 Tips for Flying with Infants & Toddlers

We were almost home! The plane began its final descent, I began nursing our two month old, our first flight with an infant was going just as planned, then all of a sudden I felt a huge burst, and then another! My eyes shot open and my mouth fell open in panic; I knew without looking we were probably in for a mess. I told my husband, as I motioned for him to take our little guy so I could get things ready to change him. We had already established that the airplane lavatory had NO changing table so we were going to need to change him on our laps. As I removed my nursing cover, and began handing our screaming baby to my husband, I noticed that he had pooped all over my khaki shorts, all over himself, and on his blanket… I wanted to cry! My husband held him slightly above his lap, while I regrouped, grabbed our ’emergency plastic bags’ and began cleaning him up. Although it was a mess, we lucky were very well prepared! We cleaned up my pants, then laid him down and removed his diaper. We were on the mend. Suddenly, the plane jolted and the extremely poopy {sorry for the details, but they are important} slid off my legs and down between the window seat and the window. We now had a poopy diaper smeared ALL OVER the plane. At that moment, I bit my tongue and mentally told myself that I would NEVER laugh about this moment; you know, one of those kind of moments! Well, although we managed to clean it all up, apologized profusely to the poor lady sitting next to us on the aisle seat {who will probably never want children if she’d didn’t have any already}, we only walked off the airplane with stained shorts and much less pride; our son cleaned up, in new clothes, was as happy as could be.

This is the reason why I share these 10 Flying Tips with you! We fly rather frequently, and can’t imagine {and try not to} what would have happened had we not been prepared for the unexpected. Other tips shared are those we’ve learned over the past 3 years of flying with little ones and things others have shared with us; enjoy and good luck on your flight!

1. ‘Emergency’ Bags

It is sure to relieve some of your stress of flying with infants or toddlers if you plan for those little ’emergencies’. We make one bag for each child and use this in place of hauling the diaper bag on the airplane! We toss these into our larger family ‘carry on’ bag.

‘Emergency’ Bag Suggested Contents: Extra pair of clothes, 2 diapers, 2 plastic Ziploc bags (gallon-sized), extra wipes, and a special snack/treat that is sure to calm your fussy infant or toddler)

2. Nap Times

You know your child best! Talk to your spouse and discuss if it is better to fly during their nap time or after. Some children do well sleeping on planes, but so do not and a no-nap child can make for a ‘messy’ flight! Discuss what might be best for your child. If you’ve never flown before, compare it to being in the car. How do they do in their car seat?

For example, we prefer to fly just prior to our boys’ nap times. They are excited and not overtired when we board the plane, then the white noise lulls them to sleep after a while. We also allow our three-year old to bring along his blankie which otherwise stays in his bed. He loves that when flying he gets to bring it along in his backpack; it’s a special treat to him.

3. Nursing Moms & Babies

It is best to board the plane with a well-feed, happy baby. However, it is also helpful to bring along a bottle of breastmilk or your nursing cover and feed them a little while you are both ascending and descending; this helps the pressure not to build up in their ears. If you little one screams of pain during the flight, try feeding even just a little bit to possibly relieve any air pressure pain they may be feeling.

You CAN carry breastmilk on the plane with you! Just pull it out while going through security and when they see it in the bottle, they will run a few tests on it and return it to you without any hassle! This was so helpful to know when planning to visit family when my husband and I might be spending time away without the kids. I usually always took two bottles full of breastmilk in a small cooler bag, then stored them in a refrigerator when we arrived.

4. Toddlers & Drinks

A favorite ‘trick’ we have come across is bringing our own empty sippy cups. Fill your child’s cup with a little water or juice after securtity and just before boarding the plane. Encouraging them to drink on both the ascension and descension will prevent any pain from air pressure. Big Brother loves to order a drink from the flight attendant but their cups {without lids} make me rather nervous. Now, Big Brother and even Little Brother hand the flight attendant their cups and ask politely for their favorite drink. This makes everyone happy and saves us from cleaning up any messes!

If you do have a favorite drink your toddler enjoys, that they don’t offer on the airplane, bring it along in a sippy cup. Again, just like  I mentioned (above) for breastmilk the security workers will do a quick test on it and let you bring it along without dumping it out! It is considered ‘medical’ equipment.

5. Snacks

Pack small snack baggies for your babies eating solids and toddlers.

Surprise Foil Balls: Wrap a few small snacks in foil and let your toddlers see how long it takes them to peal them open! This is a great, fun ‘take anywhere’ fine motor skill activity that your children can anticipate on long trips!

Themed Snack Bags: Create a themed snack bag with some of your child’s favorite foods. For example, an ocean themed bag with Goldfish crackers, a few Sweedish Fish, and Grapes (bubbles).

{Non-Messy} Favorites- Crackers, Squeezeable fruits or vegetables, Cheerios, Cheese Sticks, Fruit Snacks, Licorice, Crasins/Raisins, Grapes,

6. ‘Flying’ Through the Security Lines

Here are a few quick tips to help things go quickly and smoothly in the security lines:

  • Little kids can leave their shoes on now; adults must remove their shoes
  • Make sure all liquids under 3oz are in small clear plastic baggies and you pull them out
  • Pull out all liquids for your child (breastmilk and juices) so they can easily spot them
  • You must take run all strollers through the scanners, so be ready to pull your child out and hold them
  • Baby Bjorn carriers are great for airports, however security officers are sometimes inconsistent about whether or not you have to take your child out when going through security scanners
  • Have all phones, cameras, laptops, ipads easily accessible to pull-out and run through separately
  • Remind yourself that it’s ok to go slow and not rush through; you have children, others in a hurry can move to a different line

7. Traveling Alone with Kids

One of our favorite little ‘less known’ secrets of flying has been that when approached respectfully, most ticket agents will give your {non-flying} spouse or family member a ticket to walk back to the gate with you, to provide you with additional assistance. This has been a life-saver when I fly alone with our two toddlers to visit my parents!

You can also make your flight attendant know that you are flying alone and they most often will check-up on you to see if there is anything they can help you with.

Helpful Seating: While it may seem like a hassle to sit in the back while traveling alone, I prefer it! Big Brother typically has to go to the bathroom on the airplane both out of amusement and necessity. Sitting in the back, allows me the ability to keep Little Brother in his seat monitored, while standing in the aisle outside the door ready to help Big Brother if needed. This is a HUGE help!

8. Strollers

Each family and each trip call for different equipment when you have young children! Don’t allow people to make you feel like you are or aren’t bringing enough along with you; sit down and discuss your trip with your spouse and talk through whether or not you will need strollers. Luckily, our family has always been great at accommodating our abundance of  ‘stuff’ when we travel places.

When our boys were infants, we loved traveling with the Baby Bjorn and checked our stroller with baggage. This kept our hands free and we only have limited bags and ‘extras’ to deal with. Now, we typically use an umbrella stroller our Little Brother and Big Brother walks along beside us {or rides on the back, shh}. One negative I’ve found about our umbrella stroller, is that we don’t have a food tray on the front for Little Brother to place food, snacks, or drinks on while we are waiting at the gate (this would be a perk to taking a travel system stroller for babies).

9. Car Seats 

Taking Your Car seat: You have 2 options when taking your car seat on the plane. You can check it with your luggage or you can take it on the plane with you. If you check your car seat, it does not count as a piece of your checked baggage, because it is considered ‘medical equipment’.The airlines will place it in a plastic bag for you when you check it in, or you can purchase a cushioned travel carrier (see below). If you plan to take your car seat on the plane with you, the hardest part may be getting it back to the gate. A few options to consider are connecting your car seat to your stroller and pushing it back, or purchasing a Traveling Toddler Car Seat Accessory (see below).

We don’t bring them unless we have to! For example, when visiting my parents they actually borrow car seats from some of their ‘grandparent’ friends for us to use. When flying on vacation, we don’t typically bring a car seat because we will have a taxi {and request 2 car seats} to the resort, then we walk to restaurants and around the town. If we need a car seat, we will ask the hotel to call a taxi with 2 car seats! If we will be renting a car, then we typically take a car seat along.

If Your Car Seat Gets Lost: Don’t worry! You will not be stuck in the airport with a screaming toddler! Speak to the airline as most airlines have ‘loaner’ car seat {not ideal, I know, but necessary}.

Renting Car Seats: Many car rental companies will also rent car seats along with the car. Request this when reserving your car.

Remember- Children under 2 fly FREE as a lap child, unless you want to purchase a seat for them. 

10. Surprises!

Who doesn’t love surprises, right!? Growing up, my mom always made “Goody Bags” for vacations. I would anticipate getting my “Goody Bag” from before we even left for our trips. Create a little “Goody Bag” for your child(ren). Fun things to color, play with, read, look at, etc. while they are both on the airplane and maybe something fun they will be able to anticipate using once they arrive! Keep the bags hidden, and pull them out at ‘just the right time’; trust me {said with a giggle} you’ll know exactly when that time arrives!

*If it’s your child’s 1st flight, be sure to tell the Flight Attendant! Many airlines and pilots will be happy to take pictures with your baby, offer ‘wings’, and sometimes even certificates! 


  1. Great post!! We had a terrible first airplane experience too, but thankfully it has gotten better:)

  2. We took our carseat to Italy with us. HUGE mistake. The hassle of walking through the airport balancing a carseat on top of the luggage was monumentally tough. We had the baby in a carrier, which facilitated full use of hands, but it was still really awkward to lug around. My advice is to ask someone in your destination city to borrow a carseat for the time you’ll be in town. Thanks for sharing these tips. The emergency bag is a great one, as well as the backstage spouse walking pass.

  3. This was an awesome post! I’ve pinned it for later!

    • Thank you! I actually forgot how much we ‘knew’ on the subject until I started writing…I started off with 5 tips and had to expand to 10! :)

  4. We haven’t taken our two (4 and 2) on a plane yet but I think some of these will still come in handy for them when we do fly. Thanks for sharing.

  5. It was nice to read something like this as I will be traveling in a few weeks with my kids. I’m not so worried about my 3 year old, but my 14 month old will not sit in our laps! We didn’t purchase an extra seat for her. Dreading! She is pretty fussy so I’ll try some of your tips. Also, what about some sort of medicine to help them sleep? Any recommendations? Our daughter will NOT take a nap in our laps. She will cry, whine and fuss.

    • Shonda- We have done ‘lap child’ seating with our oldest until he turned 2 and still are doing it with our 18 month old. Our 18 month old is wiggly and doesn’t like to sit still either. It helped us to ‘practice’ a few times getting him to sleep in our laps (which we never do). We also brought along our ipad and let him play games; he loved that! I have heard of people using Benadryl for infants to make them a little tired on long flights; but that is certainly a preference for each family. Ask your pediatrician to see if they have any recommendations! Good luck, let us know how it goes or if you have any further advice! :)

  6. Oh man! So hilarious and embarrassing. I’ve had a blow out happen at church before; all over my white skirt. I used to fly all of the time. It is the worst when your flight is delayed. I had to sleep in the airport with my 1-year-old on a cross country flight. I wish I had these tips. I love them all. Especially the surprise foil ball snacks! Thanks for sharing at Mom’s Library!

  7. Hi. I’ll be flying alone with my 27 month old son for the first time at the end of this month. I plan on checking his carseat and I’ve been told that I can check a stroller at the gate. Is that true? If so I’m sure I’ll be bringing one with.

    I originally came to your blog for your potty training articles. I was thinking about trying to train him before our trip. As in this coming weekend. In your opinion do you think I should wait or go ahead and try?

    Love your site!

    • Charity,
      Yes, you can gate check strollers! We do this all the time! :) I would say it depends on your trip. If it is a short time then go for it and start potty training before, but be prepared for a possible setback on the trip; it’s natural. You would keep him in pull ups the entire time just for your sanity, and then just pick back up when you get home! If it’s a long trip, longer than a week, you may want to wait until you get back. Keep us posted on how your trip and potty training go! :)

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