Flying with a Lap Toddler can be Fun

I was pretty nervous about the idea of flying with my daughter. The thought foremost in my mind was: What if she throws a tantrum and everyone else on the plane thinks I’m the worst person in the world for ruining their flight? Or, what if she has a poopy diaper on the flight? I couldn’t imagine trying to change a diaper in a tiny airplane bathroom.

For these reasons, I probably would not have chosen to fly with my toddler except that we were graciously given plane tickets to Palm Springs for Christmas. And, right under the two year age limit, Marie could sit on my lap for free. So, I had no choice!

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We made it to Palm Springs! She wants to be a golfer, like her Daddy.

Here are some tips I discovered for making flying with a toddler a positive experience:

1) Plan a short trip. Take as short a trip as possible (with a direct flight) to ensure the best experience for everyone involved. Maybe you can postpone the 10-hour flight to Paris until your child is older? Lucky for us, our flight was only slightly over 2 hours.

1) Bring a copy of the birth certificate. If your child could possibly pass for two by any stretch of the imagination, bring a birth certificate just in case the airline challenges you. If you don’t, they might make you pay for a seat for your child. Expensive!

2) Bring your stroller or Ergo carrier. Navigating your way through the airport with toddler and carry-ons can be challenging. Marie was napping when we arrived at the airport, so I just strapped her into my Ergo carrier and then had two hands available to pull our rolling suitcases. Even though I rarely use the Ergo now that she is so heavy, I was glad to have it for walking through the airport. It was also great during the security checkpoint — that can be a little scary for kids and I know she would have wanted to be held then anyway.

3) Give her something to drink during take-off and landing. Drinking or sucking on something helps relieve ear pressure during take-off and landing. Marie likes pureed fruit packets, so we gave her one of those and that seemed to do the trick. Also, if you’re still breastfeeding, don’t forget that’s an option as well. I didn’t really want to nurse her on the plane with so many strangers around, but she got fussy and I ended up doing it anyway. Ultimately, I figured people would rather I nurse her than listen to a huge tantrum from which there was no escape.

4) Enjoy the magic of Disney. Yes, they say that children under age two shouldn’t be allowed to watch movies or television. We eventually had to lift that ban to avoid going insane — sometimes we just need a break. (Her exposure to media is still very limited, don’t worry). On the plane, do what it takes to make your child happy. For Marie that meant letting her watch Disney cartoons with no sound, because she refused to wear headphones. If you don’t want your child to watch movies, bring lots of books and toys for her to play with.

Luckily we didn’t need to do any emergency diaper changes and things went pretty smoothly for us on our flights to and from Palm Springs. Holding her in my lap was like snuggling with a warm teddy bear for two hours. My husband didn’t need to help much, and was able to spend most of the time chatting with other passengers. We even received some compliments on our wonderfully well-behaved toddler. So, success beyond my wildest dreams! Although the car rides to and from the airport were a different story altogether.

Have you flown with a toddler or lap infant? Do you have any additional tips that helped you through the experience? Did you have to do any awkward in-flight diaper changes?

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4 comments
  1. Grandma Alice said:

    A very readable account of traveling with a Sweet Pea! Planning pays off.

    • ursulamarie said:

      I am definitely a planner. I wouldn’t say it always pays off, but it does tend to tip the odds in one’s favor.

  2. ursulamarie said:

    Yeah, I was thinking the experience would be very different with an immobile baby…

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