Tips for Tackling Air Travel With a Toddler


Tips for Tackling Air Travel With a ToddlerThe last time I got on an airplane with my 18-month-old son, I swore I would never get on an airplane with him until he was 18-years-old. From the wiggling, to the screaming, to the snacks being thrown all over our aisle, it was traumatic and exhausting (but huge shout out to all the other parents on the plane that were giving me the ‘We’ve all been there!’ nods).

Looking back on the experience, it wasn’t THAT bad, and honestly, I can’t really blame my son for his actions. He had just learned to walk and that was all he wanted to do—he didn’t want to sit on my lap for two hours.

As with everything, as time passes, we forget how bad the situation really was (childbirth, am I right?!). Many months have passed since that flight, and we find ourselves taking another airplane ride with our son yet again! This time, I have done more research, and I am going to be more prepared—we’ll see if my planning pays off.

From the flight schedule to in-flight activities, here are a few travel tips to consider:

  1. This might be a no-brainer, but try to schedule your flights around nap time. I can’t promise they’ll actually nap, but at least the odds will be in your favor.
  2. I try to look for nonstop flights when traveling with my son. While the actual flight time might be longer, it’s one fewer airport and take-off/landing you have to deal with.
  3. ‘Know before you go.’ Check out TSA’s website for traveling with children, and look at your airlines’ website as well. The more information you have, the better!
  4. Pay for the extra leg room. My son stood up in front of my seat for a while, and that helped with his ‘wiggles.’ Paying for the extra space was really worth it.
  5. Most airlines let you check strollers and car seats for free, so you don’t have to lug them around the airport.
      • Invest in a lightweight stroller (like this one or this one) that breaks down quickly and can fit in the overhead bin.
  6. Your child can travel for free as a ‘lap child’ until they are two-years-old. After that, they have to sit in their own seat, which they will probably like a lot better than sitting on your lap. You can put their car seat in their individual seat too. If you’re interested in that, this car seat travel course looks extremely informational.
  7. To minimize ear pressure during the take offs and landings, try to have your child suck on something (pacifier, bottle, sucker) to help them adjust to the altitude change.
  8. You can NEVER have too many in-flight activities up your sleeve. Here are several I plan to use this trip:
      • Off-line video content, such as downloadable Netflix episodes, videos, Amazon fire games, etc. (there’s no such thing as limited screen time on an airplane). I’m going to introduce headphones during this flight too, which will hopefully make him feel like a ‘big boy.’
      • Seasonal window stickers to use on the airplane window or a reusable sticker book.
      • Suction toys for the airplane window.
      • Snacks, new snacks, favorite snacks, snacks in different types of storage containers, more snacks.
      • Melissa & Doug’s Water Wow! Reusable Activity Pads (I found some at TJMaxx!).
      • Gift wrap all of the toys and books you bring on-board. Unwrapping each item will be a fun, time-consuming activity itself!

9. Have no expectations, and…have fun!The bottom line: traveling with toddlers (and infants and big kids) can be stressful. I hope these tips ease the stress and add some fun to the flight — there is no such thing as too many travel tips.

What are your go-to travel activities or tips you swear by? Also as I mentioned, I work at the airport. Do you have any travel questions that I can answer? I’d love to help!

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Caitlin Darras
I am a local public relations professional by day, but my most important titles are ‘Mom’ to my rainbow baby, Clayton, and ‘Wife’, to my high school sweetheart, Louis. I have worked at McGhee Tyson Airport in the public relations department for the past ten years. I manage the airport’s website and social media accounts, but what I love most about my job is the ability to help passengers have a safe and enjoyable experience at TYS. After becoming a mom, it became even more important for me to share travel tips and ‘mom-hacks’ that make traveling with children seamless, stress-free, and maybe even fun! As a born-and-raised East Tennessean, I am a fan of (orange!) all-things Knoxville. I love seeing our area continue to grow by offering unique, memorable experiences for all ages and interests. When I’m not singing a Blippi song that’s stuck in my head or kicking around a soccer ball with my son, you can find me traveling, reading, or reading about travel.


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