We’ve already covered the 25 things you need to know before taking your first flight with your happy baby, but life is quite different with a toddler – for better and worse. Ok, mostly better, just different.

The days of sleeping the whole way are over, and a new set of opportunities and little challenges are here. If you want to keep the sanity of yourself and those around you, while making travel fun for your little one, here are a few simple things which can be massively helpful.

Book Flights That Fit Your Toddler’s Schedule

This isn’t always possible, but choosing a flight time where your child might usually nap can help with a quiet hour or two on the plane. For us, it’s been huge.

Yep, this may be a luxury, or impossible but if prices are equal, or budgets allow, trying to think in ideal toddler scheduling terms for minimal disruption to eating and sleeping patterns, rather than personal preference is the way to go.

An active toddler can be hard work on a flight, so there’s nothing wrong with a redeye either. Who knows, you both might manage a few hours that way!

Snacks, Snacks and Snacks. 

Don’t go light or put pressure on yourself to pack the perfect snack box, but whatever you do, bring a snack box. Flying usually only means a day or two in transit, so some “cheat” meals and treats that bring comfort and cure “hanger” can’t be too bad, can they?

Bring lots of snacks and bring ones your child will like. There’s nothing worse than a hangry toddler on board for all involved, and food is usually a part of the story. Bring plenty of water or milk too, or your child’s preferred drink. 

The Rule Of “2” And Seating Tips

At two years old, a toddler becomes a child, at least in the minds of airlines keen to make money off the milestone. Yep, if you have a trip and your toddler turns two after the outbound, but before the return flight, you’ll likely be on the hook for buying them a ticket home.

This can range in price from practically a full adult fare, to a discounted fare with full taxes and fees, and is a meaningful thing to note for planning purposes, since it can significantly sway budgets.

There’s two notable exceptions: British Airways and Virgin Atlantic allow children who turn 2 after their departure, but before their return flight, to fly home on the same infant ticket purchased, with no extra charges.

You just need to call and arrange the new ticket, which won’t cost any extra in addition to what you’ve already paid for the infant ticket. If you’re not flying British Airways or Virgin Atlantic, you’ll very likely be stuck with a new fare, which is just about as expensive as a full adult fare.

“Infants who become children while travelling

If you’re travelling with an infant who reaches the age of 2 during their journey, your child will need their own seat for any flights on and after their 2nd birthday. We won’t charge you extra for this; you’ll only pay the infant fare for the entire journey.

This booking can’t be made online, so contact us and we’ll be pleased to help you.

British Airways

A Travel Specific Car Seat And Stroller

Choosing a good, lightweight and foldable car seat and stroller for travel really can be very helpful. The more you travel, the more you realize how valuable these things are, and it’s actually funny seeing how airline staff notice.

“You can’t take thaaaaa — oh, it’s ok, it’s a Yoyo stroller”.

We use the Yoyo stroller by BabyZen, which folds up easily and fit in the overhead bins, making it easy to zip on and off the plane and through any airport. The Urban Kanga Travel Car Seat for travel to the airport and getting around destinations has also been fantastic.

Both are lightweight and fold up easily into a useful travel bag, so you can either check them or put them into the overhead bins. The seat is also really easy to clip in and out of all cars. Be sure to check the weight and height guide for your child. 

Fun fact: strollers and car seats do not count against your luggage allowance, so don’t panic about whether you’re over the standard airline allowances. The other bags will be subject to standard allowances (and your toddler gets their own allowance too), but these essentials are built in.

New Toys And Activities

Buying some new toys or keeping some aside for a couple of months, so they seem fresh again to your child can be massive on flights. Planes are exciting to most toddlers so there’s a natural desire to roam around, but having something new to play with can keep them happy and distracted.

Perhaps most importantly, it can keep them in their seat with you. If you want to go a bit “extra’, you can always even wrap the toys or activities up like a present, so there is the excitement of opening too. Anything that’s not crying or kicking is a win!

Download Shows In Advance

Airline wifi still isn’t reliable and still mostly isn’t free. For stress free flying,there’s no shame in downloading your toddlers favorites, and probably a few extra episodes too, just to account for any delays.

It’s not easy to sit still for such a long time and having favorite shows to watch can be a life saver, or create calm in stressful environments. Whether it’s on the phone, tablet or computer make sure you’ve got plenty to last you. For slightly older toddlers, little children’s headphones are great too.

Much respect for anyone who tries reading, coloring and other activities first, but at some point, it’s hard for the shows or movies not to com out! 

Help With Air Pressure 

Unfortunately, the pressure generated by altitude can be quite uncomfortable for some little ones. Having something to suck on during take off and landing can really help here.

Whether it’s breastfeeding, a dummy (pacifier) or drinking through a straw, easing that pain can be a big help. Sucky sweets can be choking hazards for young children, so be aware as to what you think they can handle. 

Activity Books And Art Projects

Another helping hand to pass some time. Books with activities, games, stickers, flaps, magnets can keep your little one busy and sitting quietly for a period of time. Even if it’s 5 minutes or 30 minutes, it all counts! 

Pillows And Blankets

Bring your little one’s favorite blankets, pillows, teddies or anything they use to feel cosy and comfortable can transform any airline cabin. In practice, if you forget these things, crews are generally really lovely and happy to help, but it’s always good to be prepared.

Whether they have their own seat or are still on your lap, pillows and blankets can also help pad out the hard, uncomfortable parts or just help with a little back support, and this can be particularly important for both little one and parents when the little one inevitably falls asleep in the most awkward position for both. . 

Change(s) Of Clothes

This one cannot be underestimated, for so many reasons, both pleasant and un. Bring a change of clothes for you and your child.

Unfortunately, mess of some sort is bound to happen at some point, be it food, drinks or other things. And if you’re lucky enough to escape without mess it’s always good to have a change incase any large bags get lost in transit.

Be sure to carry on plenty of wipes and other little one essentials too. If Murphy’s law applies, as it almost always does, there are some adventures ahead.

Going In With Low Expectations

This is ultimately the key. High dose of patience, low dose of expectation.

If you go in expecting in to be an exhausting day, full of tantrums, covered in crumbs, stuck in an uncomfortable position whilst your child sleeps; replete with flight delays and wondering how it’s possibly only been 45 minutes into the flight when it feels like at least 3 hours, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised at what a breeze it can be.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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9 Comments

  1. Don’t. The rest of us do not want to suffer the tantrums and disruption caused by your unhappy toddler. You chose to have children, now accept that there are restrictions on your lifestyle as a result. I am sick of entitled parents thinking that it is acceptable to inflict their noisy, smelly, disruptive children on the rest of us.

    1. LOL restrictions on lifestyle. Ah yes, I forgot about the checks by the secret outside the boarding door to make sure no children were attempting to board, so that pill popping lunatic boomer ladies can enjoy their “zen” public flight in total peace.

      Question for you: how many air rage flight diversions have been caused by under 2 year olds?

    2. How selfish… You were a child once.
      Responsible parents (admittedly not all) do all they can to minimise any disruption to others and that is exactly what this article is about.

    3. And btw “the rest of us” may also be tired of entitled keyboard warriors like yourself posting silly comments online. I would suggest you to take your own advice and “Don’t” bother posting such offensive, useless garbage. Thanks 🙂

    4. As someone who lives a flight away from family and had major anxiety about flying alone with a toddler because of people like you, if I had read your comment a week ago, I possibly wouldn’t have booked a last minute flight but I did and my 22 month old was much better behaved than the groups of people having 10am g&t’s and shouting across the aisle….was that you or do you also not like people who drink alcohol on planes? Merry Christmas!

  2. Gilbert – what a gift you are giving your child! Ignore the Karens out there. The only way to change your their minds is to successfully & happily travel with your toddler! I have taken MANY plane trips with all 3 kids plus my parents. EVERY time , my 70-80 YO dad was always the “problem child”.

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