Baby’s First Plane Trip {Tips on Traveling with a Toddler}

Baby’s First Plane Trip {Tips on Traveling with a Toddler}

My son is active. I think he was born wanting to walk, and I firmly believe he was a difficult baby simply because he was frustrated that he couldn’t get anywhere on his own. As soon as he got the hang of the walking/running/climbing thing he’s been a different child. He finally sleeps at night, he entertains himself, usually by running or climbing, and he is just all together MUCH happier than he ever was as a baby.

When the opportunity came for us to go visit my sister in New York I was both excited and terrified by the prospect. My level of worry was in direct correlation to his energy level. If you didn’t guess, both were HIGH. To be honest I had never seen my son sit still for more than 20 minutes at a time in his entire life, and I just didn’t see how I could keep him on my lap for three whole hours! I had vivid images of my son morphed into the Tasmanian Devil wreaking total and complete havoc, bouncing off the walls of the airplane.

Ultimately the yearning to see my sister overcame the sane part of my brain, and I decided that I had to try. After all I did my research, and there were many other mothers out there who had braved this potentially catastrophic milestone. I prepared for our flight by combining advice from other mothers who had traveled with children with dispositions similar to that of my son.

I can describe our plane trip in one triumphant word: SUCCESS! Here are some tips that made flight travel with my toddler just that.

Tips on Traveling with a Toddler

1. Try to schedule your trip with your child’s nap times in mind.

I found a flight at 11:30am and I booked it! My son is used to going down for a nap at that time so the hope was that he would fall asleep on the plane. We were flying out of New Orleans so I knew that on the drive there he would fall asleep and I didn’t want that to mess up his normal midday nap. Solution? We left Baton Rouge at 5:30am when he woke up. He did sleep on the way to New Orleans, but it was early enough that he would still be tired by the time we got in the air.

2. Do everything you can to tire out your toddler in the airport.

My number one priority once we got to the airport (at 7 am) was to tire him out. Not an easy task by any means, but I was determined. We climbed the escalator ten thousand times, went up and down with the elevator, almost pressed the elevator alarm button once, walked up and down the terminal, climbed all the empty chairs in the airport, ran off some grumpy men with our squeals, laid down in protest to more walking in the busiest part of the terminal etc. I’m telling you, WHATEVER it took. By the time we boarded the plane I was good and exhausted. I mean HE was good and exhausted. I think.

3. If your child is traveling as infant in arms, ask if the flight is full.

When we got to our gate I talked to the attendant and sweetly asked if it was a full flight. If not, could he seat me next to an empty seat? My son gave him the sweetest, cheesiest grin (not something he usually does to strangers) so the attendant, utterly charmed, gave us two of the best seats on the plane. This is HUGE. Having a seat for him was really so, so good. In fact, if I travel again with him before he turns two, I will seriously consider buying him his own seat. You can gamble on whether the plane will have extra seats, but if you want serious piece of mind fork up the extra money.

4. Bring their favorite toys, activities and shows.

My son loves tools. Give him his daddy’s screwdriver, and he will entertain himself for a good five minutes. That’s like forever in our world. I found a little toy car with a toy screwdriver and wrench at Target in the dollar bins, and it was his favorite thing to do on the plane (besides watching Wally). That brings me to the most important and lifesaving thing I did for us. I bought an entire season of Wallykazam on my iPad. When he got tired of his car he sat quietly in his seat and watched his show on my iPad. Seriously, lifesaver! Did he sleep? Yeah – when we got off the plane! I brought a baby carrier and as soon as I put him in there, while deboarding the plane, he fell fast asleep on me. The good thing was that he was definitely tired enough on the flight to not want to run around. So even if he didn’t sleep on the plane he sat quietly and played with his toys and watched his show.


So all in all our trip was pretty painless, but I did expect and mentally prepared myself for the worst. And it could have easily been that. Instead the worst I can say is that by the end of the day we were both absolutely exhausted. That’s something you should absolutely expect. Expect to be bone tired after a trip on a plane with a toddler. But then again, you have a toddler so you’re already used to that.

My son and my sister walking in Central Park. Totally worth it!
My son and my sister walking in Central Park. Totally worth it!

What has been your experience traveling by air with children? Any additional advice?

Adriana is an awestruck mother to a spunky 8 month old son, Jacob and a happy wife to a wonderful, smart and strong man, Joseph. She believes that ordinary things are the most important things and simplicity breeds unimaginable beauty. She hails from Romania, an eastern European country whose rural areas are stuck in a time warp where life is very basic but wholesome. Memories of growing up there have fostered a deep appreciation for the bonds of family, the beauty of nature and the power of a simple life. Second only to her love of family is her love of photography. She maintains a part time business, Heart Photography, ( and and is very excited to be launching a new, women-focused branch to her business within the year.


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