Flying with a Toddler – Advice for travelling with Kids

Whether you have come here from our previous blog post flying with a baby. Or maybe you have booked a holiday and need a guide to flying with your toddler. Toddlers come with a whole new set of life challenges as most parents of a toddler will know!

Flying with a toddler in some ways is easier. However, preparation is key to avoiding a meltdown. I am specifically aiming this at parents of children between the ages of 1 and 4. By now toddlers have learnt to walk, maybe start talking and most defiantly have their own minds. A defiant toddler can be challenging especially when you are restricted in space.

This post is here to guide you through our top advice for flying with a toddler. What to pack to make the journey easier and things you may not know airlines offer families.

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Extra Baggage Allowance

Check your airline’s policy first as each airline differs. But, flying with a toddler, you should normally be allowed 2 extra pieces of travel luggage. This could be a pushchair, car seat or travel cot. We have always taken a travel stroller with us as extra baggage, you can choose to keep it until boarding the plane or check it in at check-in and use a carrier.

If you do want to take your stroller to the plane door (or you may have one that fits overhead so ignore this). Let them know at check-in, that they will stick a tag on it and you will hand it in outside the plane. If you have connecting flights you won’t generally see the stroller again until you claim your baggage at the final destination – The extra baggage also sometimes comes out at a different luggage belt to the normal suitcases. Check at the baggage claim when you arrive at the destination to avoid confusion.

flying with a toddler

Don’t get parent guilt

We brought Roman an Amazon Fire kids kindle for his first birthday. We were going to Thailand the following month and thought it would come in handy on a 14-hour journey. We don’t really use it at home but when we travel it’s always there to help me parent him. I know if I put on a specific film or program I’m going to get at least 30 minutes of peace. And that’s okay! Flying with a toddler can be stressful, I believe there’s a time a place for everything. I also have a stash of emergency treats (chocolate, biscuits etc) that I also use as ammunition if needed. It’s a one-off at that time so don’t feel bad for giving in to them, you have plenty of time to teach health.

flying with toddler

Pack a separate hand luggage bag

Pack a separate hand luggage bag just for your toddler. Keep this bag stored underneath the seat in front of you if possible. This allows you to easily grab the bag when needed without having to get up.

Things to pack in the bag –

  • Spare sets of clothes – in case of accidents
  • Nappies and wipes – grab and go
  • Favourite comforter or toy – for settling down
  • A small blanket – versatile, can be used as a pillow or if they get cold
  • Age-appropriate toys – Playdough, stickers, colouring etc.
  • Food, snacks and drinks – put things in the plane fridge if needed
  • Emergency snacks – there is a time to be healthy and a time sweets are needed
  • Tablet – I’m happy to use a tablet when needed, loaded with Blippi or Peppa

My top tip is don’t peak too early! But if you can see a red flag of boredom creeping up you will always have something new to keep them occupied. I just visit our local pound store and fill a basket up with at least 1 or 2 new toys for every hour.

Don’t stress out over routine

At home, our 1-year-old is in an amazing routine. He sleeps in his bed all night, has a daily afternoon nap and is always ready to go down at a certain time. I expected this to be the same on the planes, I had this ideal expectation of the times he would sleep… haha. Don’t stress if your little one refuses to sleep, just go with it. At the end of the day if they are that tired they will crash and there is so much going on you can’t blame them so just go with it. Keep playing, keep them occupied until they decide because it’s not worth the tears from either of you.

Learn something new

Toddlers love to learn so plan some games that you can play during the flight that will keep them engaged – maybe a new word or skill that they can work on.

Age-appropriate game ideas –

1-2 years

  • Teaching them new words
  • Play hairdressers
  • Flashcards – Animal noises or point to the object etc.
  • Bring a stacking game

2-3 years

  • Play colour games
  • Practice counting
  • Learning body parts
  • Playdough is a great toy to have

3-4 years

  • Letter and number games
  • Sorting shapes by sizes
  • Matching games
  • Hide an object and guess what’s missing

Prebooking your seats

As with flying with a baby, some long haul airlines allow you to prebook your seats when you are travelling as a family. A child seat will normally always be linked to one of the adult tickets on all airlines. This means one of you will always be sat next to your child even without pre-booking. Most short-haul airlines will charge for early seat selection. It’s then your choice whether to risk waiting till check-in opens and hoping for seats together or booking them and knowing they are.

Booking a seat for your toddler

Once Roman hit about 15 months we decided unless it was a short flight, we would need to book him a seat. You normally need to call the airlines to do this. Children are not allocated seats until they turn 2. We all need a bit of space to stretch and a wriggly toddler on your lap for 7 hours is not the most comfortable. It’s a personal preference as it comes at a cost.

We had a flight with a low-cost airline for a 6-hour night flight from Israel to London. The flight was full so we did not get a spare seat in our row. Roman slept across our 2 laps the entire flight so we couldn’t move. The following days we had such bad back ache we couldn’t bare another flight like that.

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