Just the thought of flying with a toddler seems to strike fear into the hearts of many parents. And to be fair, it can be challenging.
Flying with a 2-year-old presents a different set of challenges than flying with a baby. And that’s because toddlers don’t sit still! They’re energetic, headstrong, have fleeting attention spans and are prone to meltdowns. They can make any parent cry.
But flying with a toddler doesn’t have to end with you crying and abandoning flights until they are much older. All it takes is some proper preparation and planning, clever packing, and heaps of snacks and toys!
Whether you’re flying solo or with a partner, caring for two toddlers or just one, these flying with a toddler tips will help prepare you and make air travel with your little one a smooth process.
- Flying With a Toddler: Booking and Other Preparations
- 1. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks!
- 2. Consider how and when they are going to sleep
- 3. Choose your seats wisely
- 4. Toddler car seats can work wonders for keeping them still
- 5. Some airlines are better for families than others
- 6. Make sure you have all the documents needed to board
- 7. Pack extra essentials
- Navigating the Airport and Flying With Your Toddler
- 8. Take a travel buggy
- 9. Visit the toilet before you board
- 10. Tips for getting through airport security and boarding
- 11. Tire your toddler out before boarding
- 12. A travel tray can make the journey much more fun
- 13. Have an activity bag and a few toys ready to go
- 14. Screen time can be a lifesaver!
- 15. Be patient with your little one and yourself
- FAQs: Flying With A 2 Year Old
- Our Thoughts on Flying With a 2-Year-Old!
Flying With a Toddler: Booking and Other Preparations
1. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks!
This is definitely the most important item on your flying with a toddler checklist… snacks.
Whether you’re taking a short or long flight, make sure to pack lots and lots of snacks for the flight. For toddlers, snacking on a flight can be an all-consuming activity on par with watching Peppa Pig or Paw Patrol.
So, if you want to keep your little one quiet and occupied, break out the snacks. Will there be crumbs and sticky fingers? Maybe. But it definitely beats a bored toddler having a tantrum and a row of annoyed sighing passengers.
Top tip: bring double the amount you think they’ll actually want. Even just an hour’s delay can put pressure on the snack bag!
2. Consider how and when they are going to sleep
Getting your toddler to fall asleep on a flight can be a challenge at the most inconvenient times, so consider the timing of your flight.
If you’re taking a short flight, try to book a flight around the same time as your little one’s nap time. For a long-haul flight, consider an overnight flight. Your little one will understand that it’s bedtime and quickly (hopefully!) nod off in no time.
3. Choose your seats wisely
If you have a particularly active toddler, you might consider booking an aisle seat for one of you. This will make it easier for you to get up should the time call for it without disturbing other passengers.
A window seat is great for keeping them occupied and fascinated. In an ideal world, you’d end up with the entire row to yourselves or an extra seat, but don’t bet on it.
4. Toddler car seats can work wonders for keeping them still
As a parent of a toddler, you’re probably well aware that they’re notoriously energetic. Many rarely cooperate by sitting in a plane seat for an extended period of time. But if provided a familiar seating arrangement, they can quickly calm down and sit comfortably for a while.
Consider bringing your own toddler car seat on board. Not only is it safer for your child, but it also helps you out! Having a toddler on your lap can be draining, especially for long-haul flights, so buckle them up in their own car seat with a seat belt.
5. Some airlines are better for families than others
Flying with a toddler is tough, and you want to ensure your airline accommodates all the stresses that come with it. There are some great family-friendly airlines with flight attendants that are primed and ready to help you out if you need it!
Some airlines provide activities for children, while others don’t. Do your research before booking and find out if your airline has toddler play packs, priority boarding or any other family perks.
6. Make sure you have all the documents needed to board
Before setting off on your adventure, make sure you have all the documents needed to travel. If you’re flying solely within the UK, including Northern Ireland, you do not need a passport, but you do need photographic identification or your toddler’s birth certificate. A passport is required if you fly internationally.
7. Pack extra essentials
It never hurts to pack a little extra. A clean toddler means a happy toddler and a happy parent. So pack an extra nappy or two if needed, at least one change of clothing for your little one, an extra shirt for yourself in case of spills, and most importantly, plenty of wipes and sanitiser.
Navigating the Airport and Flying With Your Toddler
8. Take a travel buggy
Making your way through the airport can be chaotic. They’re huge and you have to navigate dodging people and their luggage. In a scenario such as this, toddlers can quickly become overwhelmed and want to be carried.
9. Visit the toilet before you board
Nothing says stress like your toddler asking to “go wee wee” while you’re midway through the boarding queue, or worse, midway through take-off. So be sure to visit the airport bathroom one last time before boarding.
10. Tips for getting through airport security and boarding
Getting through airport security with a toddler can set your journey off to a bad start if not done strategically. Your little one won’t have the patience to stand in long queues as you do, so consider giving them a snack to munch on or a toy to play with while you wait.
There’s no need to sit on the plane longer than necessary. If you’re flying with your partner, consider letting them go ahead to find your seats and store away your carry-on luggage.
Once everyone else is on board, then you can board without the hassle of squeezing between other passengers and getting your little one in their seat.
11. Tire your toddler out before boarding
A great strategy for lowering your little one’s activity level while on a plane is to squeeze in a bit of exercise before the flight. While your partner goes off to grab your seats and store away your luggage, walk around the airport or play a few games.
The more time spent keeping your little one in motion and busy, the more ready they’ll be to sleep — or at least sit still — on the plane.
Some airports and lounges actually have soft plays and activity areas where your 2-year old can burn off some steam. We just discovered the soft play at Heathrow T5!
12. A travel tray can make the journey much more fun
In some cases, the aeroplane’s tray table may be too high for toddlers, making activities difficult and potentially leading to your little one throwing a wobbly.
A travel tray is a great toddler-occupying item to bring on board. Many come with a host of compartments for storing toys and activity items and a range of features for your little one to enjoy.
13. Have an activity bag and a few toys ready to go
Having the right travel toys for your toddler on a flight can be the difference between a happily entertained kiddo or an hour-long tantrum with a plane full of new enemies.
While you don’t want to bring an entire toy box on board — desperate times call for desperate measures — your main objective while flying with a toddler is to keep them entertained and occupied.
The more games, toys, or books you bring on board, the easier this job will be. Some great toys and activities for your toddler are soft books, magnetic puzzles, sticker activity books, play dough, and a drawing board set. These are great because they’re quiet, compact, and lightweight.
14. Screen time can be a lifesaver!
No matter how opposed you are to screen time under normal circumstances, when it comes to flying with a toddler, all bets are off!
Your little one will eventually tire from colouring in or playing with stickers. Screen time is a blessing for keeping your toddler entertained and occupied.
But this doesn’t mean you need to shove Paw Patrol in their face as soon as you board. Rather, use screen time as a backup or mid-flight entertainment on a long flight.
15. Be patient with your little one and yourself
The truth is, your little one will probably cry or at least have a few miserable moments. And if things don’t run as smoothly as you would like, just remember that you’re trying your best!
You may be thrown a curveball like your flight being delayed or your toddler flat out refusing to calm down or sit still throughout the entire time you’re in the air. Just keep in mind that it will all pass.
FAQs: Flying With A 2 Year Old
If you are flying with slightly older (or slightly younger!) kids, be sure to check out our companion guides:
Does a 2-year-old need a separate seat on an aeroplane?
Once your little one reaches their second birthday, they will be considered a child and will need to travel in their own seat. You’ll need to book them as a ‘Child’ and pay the child fare.
Can a toddler lie down on a flight?
While the safest option always is to buckle your little one in their car seat, there are other options are available to help your toddler sleep comfortably, especially on longer flights.
Options include a sleeper seat or inflatable seat extension. Some international airlines will let you book an entire row for you and your little one to lie down on for an added fee.
Some will also let you bring your own inflatable, individual seat extension for your toddler to lie down on. But these are relatively new and not all airlines permit them, so always check ahead of time.
Do toddlers need ear muffs flying?
Two things that always kick-start a crying fit for a baby or toddler on a flight are noise levels and air pressure changes. Consider giving your little one earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones to help protect their ears during take-off and landing. Snacking or sucking on a dummy can also help relieve the pressure.
Can I take milk on a plane for my toddler?
While there are strict regulations about liquids on flights, you are allowed to bring breast milk, formula, baby food, and water in your carry-on bag for the journey.
Can you fly with a car seat or travel buggy?
Car seats and travel buggies can be checked in just like any other item at no charge with most airlines. However, some airlines may require your travel buggy to be placed in the hold. If your buggy is small enough, it can be transported as cabin luggage.
Always check your airline’s size and weight restrictions for carry-on baggage beforehand.
What is the best time of day to fly with a toddler?
If you’re flying long haul, night flights work best for toddlers because they have a higher success rate of getting your little one to fall asleep.
But if you’re flying shorter distances, there’s no right answer. Some think that the best time to fly is in the afternoon, closer to the time your little one typically has their nap, whereas other people prefer flying in the morning when they’re not as tired and perhaps better able to cope with all the new experiences.
Our Thoughts on Flying With a 2-Year-Old!
Flying with a 2-year old is no walk in the park, but it’s not as scary or difficult as it may seem. Sure, your toddler may give you extra sass while flying, and you’ll most likely get a few loud sighs from fellow passengers, but flying with a toddler is not unsurvivable.
As long as you’ve done some clever preparation and are equipped with an arsenal of entertainment, you and your little one will be just fine!
And if all else fails, just remember that flights are temporary and the best travel memories you’ll make are when you touch down at your destination.