Our little one had her first plane ride at 3 weeks old and has been flying pretty regularly since then. For the time being I’m going to skip “Flying with a Baby,” because honestly babies are pretty easy. Let me know if you have any questions about flying with babies though, I can always share what we did. Moving back to toddlers though ..
This post is not about the much larger topic of traveling with toddlers is just about the plane ride! I would say there are three main pieces to preparations when flying with a toddler.
Booking your Flight & Choosing your Seats
To Stroller or Stroller Not To Stroller
Packing a Carry-on to Perfection
Booking your flight and choosing your seat – For most of us this is largely dictated by cost. Sometimes things work out and exactly what you are looking for happens to be the cheapest option; it never hurts to wish!
I try to book flights that line up with her normal sleeping schedule. Something that doesn’t make me get her up too much earlier than normal, and if it can line up with a nap that’s great. I don’t worry too much about getting in after her bedtime, but that’s based on her personality. If she misses a nap we are all in for it, if we are out past her bedtime she’s a perfect angel. You will have to decide what your priorities for success are. Since nap time is so important for us, my first priority is to not have to change flights during her nap time. The last thing I wanted to do was to wake her up when I know she’s primed to be at her worst.
Now for choosing your seat, this is getting a little trickery these days. I remember flying with my parents growing up and families with young children were always asked to board the plane first. I have not found that to be the case anymore. In fact I had a conversation with the person at the gate (pretty much “sucking up”) the last time we flew and he said that the airline no longer had a policy to board families with young children first. He asked me if I had a lot of things and when I assured him that I didn’t and that I would be super fast getting in my seat he said, very quietly, I could board with zone 1. – My recollection was you wanted families to board first because they took so long, you wanted to give them time to get settled to avoid holding other people up; I guess not. – Anyhow, that’s the first part of the problem with boarding, the second part is why it’s so important that we board early; room in the overhead bins. On full flights there often is not enough room in the overhead bins for everyone’s luggage. While this is frustrating flying as an adult, it is not an option while flying with a small child. In that bag going in the overhead bin are: diapers, wipes, extra clothes, baby food, etc. This is not a bag I’m carrying on to avoid the fee of checked baggage this is a bag in which I might need every single item during the flight. If the bag doesn’t make it on the plane, I’m not getting on the plane. – So you are getting the gist of the goal when choosing a seat, early boarding!
Unfortunately I don’t have one rule of thumb that works for every airline. Discount airlines work their seat assignments and boarding differently; and many airlines now having boarding based on paying for premium seats at the front of the plane and don’t load back to front or window to aisle anymore. I recommend reading the fine print when booking your flight so you know exactly what their policies are. If possible I recommend paying the extra for a premium seat if that assures you early boarding. It is worthwhile because it also allows you to exit the plane more quickly. This is especially helpful when your newly potty trained toddler announces they have to use the potty as soon as the fasten seat belt sign goes out when arriving at the gate and you are looking at the the line of people in front of you; standing between you and that potty.
Looking at how long it has taken me to cover the riveting topic of picking an airplane seat I think I’m going to need to split this up. I haven’t even gotten into packing yet, one of my favorite topics!
When I finish up this topic in future posts I will add the links here for easy access.
As always, please add your own tips or questions below. I’m always looking for new ideas!