Happy Friday! Now that I’ve made two flights with my (almost) two year old, I feel as if I’m an expert on the subject matter. (lol jk) But really, I DO feel like I can shed some light on what I thought for sure was going to be a miserable experience. Thankfully, our experience was quite positive, and I’m genuinely feeling as ease with the whole concept of flying with a toddler now. I’ll admit that even the thought of sitting on an airplane with Adeline for longer than 5 minutes made me feel a tad bid anxious, but my sweet travellin’ girl proved me wrong and instead was quite the rockstar. I’m not holding my breathe though, because I know there will come a day where we experience a delay, book a flight at a terribly inconvenient time, and have to apologize to everyone on board for a little extra noise. (Except not really, because you and your toddler deserve to be on that flight just as much as the next person, amiright?!) For our situation specifically, Adeline wasn’t 2 yet so we did not have to purchase her a seat. Instead, she sat in my lap the whole time. If your little will be 2 at the time of your flight, they’ll have to have their own seat.
So, since this is fresh on my mind, I thought I would share my newly learned tips and tricks. Hot off the presses, people!
Tips For Flying With an (Almost) 2 Year Old
- Ask Everyone You Know For Advice – Seriously! There’s no better place to gather help than from people you know who have been there before! Ask all of your toddler mom friends what their flights were like and you’ll have a much more realistic idea of what to expect!
- Be Strategic With Flight Times – If you have the option to be picky with the flight times you’re booking, try to be somewhat strategic. My thinking was 2 parts – 1. I wanted to book them early enough in the day that should we be delayed for any reason, we’d have all day for it to be pushed back and we wouldn’t have to worry about it getting to be too late at night. 2. I wanted to book them before nap time. Adeline is happiest in the morning, so I tried to book them before her usual nap time. For the most, I succeeded with this, but our second flight ended up being mostly during her nap time, which actually ended up being okay because she was tired and snuggly the whole time.
- Don’t Get To The Airport Too Early – They always say to arrive 2 hours early, but if you know the security at your airport is usually a breeze, then wait a bit longer to arrive. If you get to the airport too early, you’ll have longer to entertain your toddler before your flight. Since this was my first time flying with Adeline, we got there WAY too early, and I had so much extra time to entertain her and keep her happy before we boarded. Of course, the last thing you want is to be stressed out trying to make it to your gate on time, so this tip is a little bit of trial and error. You still want to allow yourself extra time to change diapers, get snacks, etc.
- Gate Check Your Stroller Only If It’s Less Than 20 lbs – I was never told there was a weight limit, so I was little taken off guard when the TSA lady at check in said they had to weigh my stroller. I just assumed any stroller could be gate checked no matter what, but it MUST weigh less than 20 lbs. Our Baby Jogger City Mini (NOT the GT version) weighed in at 16 lbs, so we were golden, thankfully! When you get to your gate, just tell someone at the counter that you need to gate check it and they’ll make you a tag, then either take it from you right then, or you can walk it down the tunnel right before you step on the plane. Then when you land, it will be right outside the plane.
- Don’t Wear a Coat On The Plane – Or a jacket, or a cardigan, or even a long sleeve shirt. Wear something that won’t make you sweat! I wore a long sleeved shirt on both flights and both flights I just about died from being so hot! I’m normally cold on airplanes, but I promise you won’t be cold with a toddler sitting in your lap for two hours!
- Be the Last People On The Plane – You may be tempted by the gate attendants allowing you to pre-board with your little, but resist the temptation!! Again, it will only translate to MORE time on the plane and more time spent trying to entertain your toddler. On our first flight, we had to sit on the tarmac for 20 minutes after we boarded because of some part replacement issue, but thankfully we’d boarded as late as possible instead of with one of the first groups.
- Pay For Extra Leg Room – We flew American, so we were assigned a seat at check-in. However, both times we got stuck with a middle seat. The first flight, we switched with the girl next to us so we could have the window but there was still zero leg room. On our second flight, when we checked in I paid extra for a seat with extra leg room. It was still a middle seat though, but this was probably the BEST decision I’ve ever made! Those 6″ made all the difference in the world! It also put us further up in the plane, which meant we were able to get off the plane much sooner when we landed.
- Use Benadryl and Don’t Feel Bad About It – I gave Adeline a small dose of Benadryl while we waited at the gate both times, and while it didn’t knock her out and make her sleep on the plane, I think it just “took the edge off” and calmed her nerves. Flying can be scary for littles, so I didn’t feel bad giving her something to help her relax.
- Pray You Sit By Kind People – But really! I think our experience was positive mainly due to the fact that we say by such nice people. The first flight we sat by a college student who was studying to be a Child Life Specialist, with a grandmother on the other side of her. On our second flight, we sat in the middle of a grandfather (with his sweet wife across the aisle!) and a fellow mom to 3, who just so happened to have children with CF, so we were able to talk pretty much the whole time. She had a 3 year old daughter, so she was more than happy to lend a helping hand when Adeline needed another distraction.
- Bring a Sippy Cup with Water For Their Ears – When the plane takes off, it tends to make your ears pop, as we all know. So, I tried to get Adeline to drink some water while we were taking off so she’d be swallowing in hopes that it wouldn’t affect her ears too bad. She never really whined or acted like her ears hurt so I’m not sure how much of a difference this made. She also had her paci, which probably helped. Just remember, fill it up after you go through security.
- Pack Snacks and Entertainment, But Only If It’s Easy – Even though I packed a backpack full of entertainment, I only pulled out the easiest things – my iPhone, stickers (Target Dollar Spot!), and a magic coloring pad with color wonder markers for like two seconds. Between watching something on my phone, eating the snacks that the flight attendant brings, and socializing with our plane neighbors, she was pretty well entertained and we didn’t have time to pull out much more. I’m glad I overpacked though, heaven forbid we got stuck on the runway for hours on end, but for our short 1.5 hour flight, we were perfectly content. When she gets a little older, I think a magnadoodle like this would be perfect!
- Use Your Phone For Movies – Everyone told me to bring the iPad, but I ended up not bringing it because I didn’t want to have literally ALL the devices in my bag. I already had my laptop for work, and my iPhone 8 plus ended up being plenty big for her to watch a movie on during the flight. I think bringing an iPad for a bigger kid in their own seat would probably be nice, but since she was in my lap, the phone was plenty. Plus, you can turn on Guided Access so they can’t click out of the app you’re using.
- Bring a Portable Charger + Extra Charging Cord – In the event that your phone dies, and your charger is in your checked bag, you’ll be thankful you have this! We LOVE our Anker Chargers, and both have one. We take them when we travel, no matter what, because with kids you just really don’t want to risk your phone dying and you not being able to connect with anyone. These Anker portable chargers can fully charge an iPhone 8 Plus about 7 times before running out, and also comes with two USB ports so you can charge two devices at one time. We also love our Anker braided charging cables, and keep them packed with our portable chargers.
- Make Sure Your Carry On Can Fit Under The Seat In Front Of You – We booked Basic Economy, which meant you’re only allowed to have something under the seat in front of you. But even if we’d booked a regular ticket (who knew there was even a difference!) I wouldn’t have wanted my bag up in the overhead bins because I couldn’t have gotten to it. So make sure you bring something you can easily dig around in when it’s under the seat in front of you.
- Have One Bag, Ideally a Backpack – Building on the last point, I think a backpack is the perfect way to go! I brought my North Face Recon backpack from college and it fit everything perfectly – laptop, drinks for both of us, snacks, entertainment, diapers, wipes, extra outfit for A., etc. It kept my hands free, and everything else safely tucked away, yet easily accessible. I packed my regular diaper bag in the big suitcase I checked, so when I arrived at my destination I just loaded it back up.
- Use a Clutch IN Your Backpack – Instead of having a backpack AND a purse, just use a small clutch to keep your driver’s license, boarding pass, credit card, etc. I have something similar to this.
- Take Advantage of Family Bathrooms – There’s a changing table in regular airport bathrooms, but the Family Restrooms are an even better option! You’ll have your own space, and you can easily pull the stroller in and just take a breather from all the people in the airport if you get overwhelmed!
- Take Advantage of Empty Gates – For our second flight, we walked down to the end of the terminal and found an empty gate for Adeline to get some wiggles out. I sat and ate a quick lunch while she ran around and looked out the window.
- Bring Birth Certificate, Just in Case – I brought Adeline’s birth certificate, but nobody ever asked for it. They asked me how old she was when we checked in at the kiosk, and again at security, but I think they were just making conversation. No one asked to see proof, her id. or birth certificate but I would have been up a creek if they’d asked and I didn’t have it! I kept it in a folder tucked safely away in my backpack.
All in all, we had a very positive experience both times. Of course, our flights were both only about 1.5 hours, so anything longer might be a different story!