Simple ways to make air travel smoother with a toddler

I took my toddler Isaiah on his first flight from Chicago to San Diego along with three generations of family. Air travel with kiddos is no joke, but fellow blogger Matt Boresi’s funny post about flying with kids will make you spit out your coffee. Once you recover from that sarcasm-induced java spill, take in these tips to make family air travel easier based on my maiden voyage.

Pack early

Packing for another tiny human brings a ton of questions into play: Do you need to bring sheets for the travel crib? Do you need to bring the baby monitor? I started the packing process about a week in advance, but amid other responsibilities things still got down to the wire.

Another piece of that puzzle is figuring out what is allowed in checked versus carry-on luggage. Check out TSA’s online search tool to make that simpler. Isaiah’s stroller and diaper bag were allowed on my American Airlines flight with no extra fees, so I would also suggest checking your airline’s website well in advance to see what kid-specific items you can bring.

Consider a kid-friendly car service

Just thinking about all of the steps between your home and your postage stamp-sized seat can bring pure panic. Don’t freak out! Fellow blogger Taylor Wood found kid-friendly car services that offer child safety seats so you can avoid lugging yours.

Rest often

Try to get more sleep in the days or weeks before your trip to help leave you refreshed for when you reach your destination. After all, when flying with kiddos, you can kiss your in-flight nap goodbye.

Get pre-flight wiggles out

The O’Hare website provides info about the “Kids on the Fly” (KOTF) exhibit presented by Chicago Children’s Museum. The play place comes with other amenities such as nursing rooms and family restrooms. I enjoyed watching Isaiah, who had just recently begun to walk, manning the cockpit of the KOTF plane! We spent nearly an hour there and got all the wiggles out before our cramped flight.

Plan to pre-board

I would suggest asking if your family will be able to pre-board at the gate and what time you should be ready to go. The airline allowed our whole party of six to pre-board, giving us much needed time to get settled in for the flight.

Bring plenty of distractions (and back up support people if possible)

I know people travel alone with kids for a variety of reasons, and I am in awe. Having more grown ups along made a huge difference in my sanity level. Our flight turned into a 4-hour toddler variety show with my mom and I pulling out all sorts of tricks, including snacks, sippy cups, chew toys, small stuffed animals and stacking bath toys. Other family members made guest appearances when Isaiah started getting fussy. I am not going to sugar coat it though: It was exhausting keeping the little guy calm even with the family back up!

When we landed in San Diego, I felt relieved that we had somehow avoided a total toddler meltdown. Flying with a toddler will never be completely smooth, but I loved cuddling with Isaiah and showing him the clouds. I hope my experience can give you some helpful nuggets to make your next family flight a bit smoother.

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