I did it, and I survived!
I traveled on an airplane with my one year old. And you know what? She did great! I know this is probably due to her disposition more than my “excellent” planning skills, but regardless of the reason we had an almost peep-less little girl who sat happily in my lap for the three hour flight.
So what does an airport, and then an airplane with a small toddler look like?
- Babies and toddlers are needy travelers, and TSA knows that. As long as you’re packing a “reasonable amount” TSA allows you to bring milk, water, and food through security as long as you let them know it’s for your toddler. Here’s a link to the TSA guidelines on traveling with children, which includes specific information about how much food you can bring.
- Some airports have special lines for families and other “low threat” passengers that allow you to go through the metal detector without all the prep work (taking off your shoes, taking out your liquids and electronics, etc). Some airports don’t offer this “pre-check” service.
- You will not be asked to separate from your child.
- Stickers and paper: This was a big hit and my husband found it at the dollar store. This kept E busy for a good 30 minutes at a time. That’s a big win!
- Books: E really loved the literature on the plane already (the safety pamphlet and the magazines), but she mostly loves to tear paper. With the age of your child in mind, it might be good to have a couple board books handy as a distraction.
- Favorite stuffed animals and blankets: When it comes down to it, E will relax if she can just cuddle her elephant and suck her thumb. We waited until all other options ceased to entertain, then pulled out this Ace. Bottom line, make sure you bring your child’s absolute favorite comfort items.
I knew we couldn’t bring messy, smelly food that we generally eat at home. E was a lucky kid during our trip, enjoying several treats such as:
- Dried Apricots and Apples (these were great for popping her ears during take off and landing)
- Squeeze foods (purees in those handy little squeeze pouches – love those!)
- Veggie Sticks – a look at the nutrition label will tell you that these things are “veggie” in flavor only. But man are they addictive for a toddler!
- Cheese cubes – a surefire favorite snack.
During this trip I experienced traveling with a lap-child and with a car seat. E enjoyed being in the lap more. For me, I felt safer with her in the car seat. Now we know how we’d like to travel in future. Here’s the scoop on car seats:
- Bring your car seat to the gate. Gate checking is a lot safer for your car seat than checking at the ticket counter.
- You may get to use your car seat after all. If you’re “lucky” like us, your flight could get delayed, cancelled, and then rescheduled three hours later. Anyone who had a connecting flight would have bailed, and you’d have a choice of seats into which you can place your car seat.
- Air travel is the safest method of travel. In the lap or in a car seat, E was safer in the air than on a road trip like we originally planned.
For a three hour flight our simple approach to air travel with a toddler worked like magic. All my stressing and compulsive list-making may not have been such a necessity after all, but isn’t that motherhood?
We intend to travel to Chile this Christmas to visit my dad and brothers right before E turns two. Tune back in for Toddlers on an International Plane!
We’d love to hear from you! What are your family’s best practices for air travel with little ones?