Airport Survival Guide with Babies/Small Toddlers


My little guy Sterling has officially flown ten times now, in his first two years of life! I am from North Carolina and we live in Utah, so I am sure this is just the beginning of many of travels for our family. I have flown with him across  the country at 2 months, 6 months, and 15 months, and recently, at 24 months.  Most of my travels were just he and I, with the exception of this last trip. Over the course of our travels, I have come up with some pointers that should help you along your journey!

Be warned, this is dense–but I had to mention every little detail for anyone who likes to soak it all in like me.

Snacks and even the airplane magazine
Snacks and even the airplane magazine

Travel Tip #1: When Booking Your Flight…


Don’t fret if you have a connecting flight. This has actually not been bad from my experience as it gave the little guy an opportunity to run off some energy, eat lunch/dinner, or nap as I pushed him around in the umbrella stroller.

If you do your research before you go, you may also learn that there is a play area for children in your connecting airport. I found this in the Chicago O’Hare airport and it was awesome!

Free before 2…

Also, if your child is close to two, and you can afford it, just get him/her their own seat! We recently did and it was the BEST thing (although it dented our bank account an extra $400)!

Otherwise, if you are on a budget and it’s the only way–GO FOR IT! But be warned: the little rascals can be difficult to keep on your lap. I would imagine it’s tough for young children to understand why they have to sit down and be so quiet in such close quarters with so many random strangers.

Time of Day…

I have also flown at just about every time of the day with him, including a hand full of red-eyes. There are perks to each.

Mornings, they’re usually bright eyed and bushy tailed. Towards the middle of the day, you can certainly bank on a nap. And from my experience, small babies have no trouble sleeping on red-eye flights.

I think the red-eye is my least favorite, though, as (for the parent)  it takes a day or two to recover from getting no rest. However, you can find some great deals if you’re willing to take the plunge. Entertaining a baby/keeping baby asleep on a flight is A LOT of work (especially if flying solo and you need a cat nap).

Travel Tip #2: Before Your Trip

This has always been my go to rule when flying home, even before a child. Create a list with every little thing you will need. Create one for the suit case and one for your carryon bag (for both you and baby). Don’t forget to include/think about anything you use day-to-day (i.e. baby spoons, bibs, his/her favorite blanket, etc.) that will make your little one feel more at home when you’re away.

Pack the majority of the items a day or so ahead of time. Slowly add everything until it’s all packed. On the day of travel, go over the list one more time.

Once you arrive at your destination, hang onto the list so that you can refer to it when you need to pack things up. With enough sleep deprivation, it’s easy to leave things behind ;).

Before Leaving For the Airport, Weigh Your Suitcase

If you get to the airport and your suitcase weighs over 50 pounds, you’ll have to do one of two things: open your suitcase in front of everyone and move items into your carryon bag OR buy an extra bag from the airline (~$25, believe me, I know haha) and then pay to check it (an extra $50 total!). So, just weigh your suit case.

I usually just stand on the scale and pick it up while someone else reads the weight off. Then I step back onto the scale and do the math ;).

Things to think of for your suitcase/trip:

  • Swim suit (I always take one–you never know when there’s going to be a pool or hot tub or ocean!)
  • A few diapers  to get you through the first day or so
  • Feeding items (whether that be bibs, silverware, bottles, breast pump, etc)
  • Sleeping items
  • Comfort Items (pacifiers, stuffed animals, etc)
  • Noise machine/Night Light if you need them
  • Baby monitors (if staying in separate rooms or wanting to go in another room while the child is asleep)
  • Electronics Chargers (if you are bringing a tablets/computers/baby monitors)
  • Underwear (if using), socks, shirts, pants, one jacket, etc.
  • Hats/Gloves/Sandals (any seasonal sundries)
  • Clothing to wear during your trip
Wasn't feeling 100% on the way back and actually slept the whole way (both flights!). Glad we didn't bring a car seat.
Wasn’t feeling 100% on the way back and actually slept the whole way (both flights!). Glad we didn’t bring a car seat.

Travel Tip #3: Travel Day | Think Ahead & Plan Accordingly

I like to save on costs, so the very first time I traveled with him (2 months old), I decided I would bring everything I could on the plane to avoid any extra fees. Boy was I in for it.

Many people gawked as I was crumbling at the seems.  A sore sight was I: an unraveling Moby wrap, a crying baby, a very heavy car seat with the base attached, a duffle bag, a diaper bag and a plane to catch!

  • Opt to use a back pack on day of travels–great for having free hands! I usually bring my diaper bag, but put it in my suitcase. Ditch bulky wallets and keep your ID/boarding pass in an easily accessible, secure pocket.
  • Use a sling or a baby carrier, not a Moby Wrap. Way too bulky! Hard to re-wrap as you’re deplaning. A baby carrier works best because you can literally snap and unsnap. Very easy, especially when traveling alone.
  • No liquids greater than 3 oz on a plane (or through TSA). If you use baby formula, mix it after you have checked through security. If bringing breast milk, make sure to store it in less than 3 oz sizes or just keep it in your tatas, you’ll never see these people again (bring a nursing blanket).
  • As a funny side note, I was once in an airport and a woman working in TSA asked if I had any breast milk. I slyly smiled and grabbed my boobs and said, “Yeah.” And in autopilot and a very rude tone she said, “Take it out please!” I chuckled and said as I cusped again, “Um….it’s in my boobs…” and then she just looked at me funny like she hadn’t heard me right. Then she caught onto what she was asking and started laughing hysterically.

  • Car Seat OR Stroller at No Extra Charge.  Luckily, most airlines allow you to bring, FOR FREE, either a stroller (to be checked at the gate) or a car seat (you can take onto plane or check at gate).
  • Bring the Carseat? If you buy your child his/her own seat, it is up to you whether you bring the carseat. Some friends said DO IT (along with many blogs). But my kid hates being restrained. Not bringing it worked great for us. But think about YOUR kiddo and go with your gut! My family has a car seat that we use when we go home.
  • If visiting family, see if they are willing to round up some baby gear (used or not). This will help you out a lot! My grandparents have kept a pack-n-play at their house and it’s been a life saver :). Also, if you have the money and are going to a popular vacation spot, many places have baby gear rental (as a former concierge in a resort town, I have arranged it many times!).

Travel Tip #4: Venturing To The Airport

You know your baby! Before you take too much advice about what to bring on the flight, think about your child and what amuses and soothes him/her. Bringing a baby or small child seems to be stressful for everyone, so first things first–take a deep breath, you got this.

 Things You Might Want to Put In Your Carryon

  • For Babies, Small accessible toys they can pull, look at, feel, chew on.
  • For Toddlers, “new toys” for them to get lost in checking out. We bought a few mixed bags of toys from our local thrift store that had airplanes, cars, etc…all new and amusing. I have also heard people recommend going to the dollar tree to get a handful of new, enticing items.
  • Lots of snacks. For Sterling on this last trip, I packed about 10 different options all–mainly to keep it fun and interesting for him. We brought coconut chips, walnuts, dried cranberries, pirates booty, etc.
  • Small books/Thin books (they weigh less, less to haul).
  • Sanitizer or Sanitizing wipes
  • A small blanket–good for warmth/cuddling as well as nursing (I have always liked the Aden & Anais Swaddle blankets as they are light and easy to fit in your carry on).
  • Comfort Items (binky, stuffed animal, etc).
  • Traveling Changing Station (wipes, changing pad)
  • An extra change of clothes or two for the baby and for you if you wanna be extra prepared
  • For baby: An extra pair of shoes and socks. My babe always takes his off and when you’re in a hurry, they’re easy to miss when you’re thinking of everything else!
  • We downloaded some of his favorite episodes (we waited and used these as a LAST resort when he was getting antsy, worked like a charm!). We also purchased some little headphones before our trip (he loved them! and we didn’t bug fellow passengers).
  • My father sent a little learning tablet, he wasn’t quite able to figure it out yet but it entertained him for a few minutes.
    Daniel Tiger saves the day!
    Daniel Tiger saves the day!

Travel Tip #5: Let Them Burn Energy at The Airport

My vote is to bring an umbrella stroller if the baby is big or walking. They are compact, light-weight, and can act as a second bag holder if not using for babe. Also, walking babies enjoy pushing them and they can carry your bags if nothing else!

If you don’t have too many carry-on belongings, opt to board last! Let the baby run/play as long as you can. If you are traveling with your partner or another adult, allow them to board early to get everything put away. Be sure to have them put some of your stuff under the seat in front so you can access your bag of goodies without waiting for the “seatbelt” sign to go off.

In the meantime, you stay with baby and let them run and play outside of the plane as long as possible. This has worked awesome! Obviously, if you are traveling alone and have many carryon items, it may not be as advantageous.

Travel Tip #6: Have a Positive Attitude/Outlook (the most important, I think)

The first time I flew with Sterling, I had anxiety weeks before our trip. I searched tirelessly online for solutions to make the trip go “perfect”. I tried to find out what I could do to keep people happy on the plane.

I thought of bringing treat bags, ear plugs, buying rounds of drinks. However, the ONE piece of advice I didn’t see listed (that really helped me on my next trip) was having a positive outlook.

Sure people may be rude and break their neck to give you the stink eye if your baby makes a peep–but most of those people don’t get it or either have forgotten what it’s like.

Just do what you can do, and people will see that you are trying and most will appreciate it. Even when Sterling has cried, people have complimented my efforts. You can only do what you can do even if it’s shushing, whipping out the boob, taking the child to the restroom, or pacing the aisles to soothe or burn off energy.

The fact is, you’re flying with a baby. The chances of that baby crying or being upset are GREAT. The chances of pissing someone off on the plane are also great.  Owning that it’ll happen can take the pressure away and allow you to focus on your trip.

Most of the other people on the plane are actually very empathetic, helpful, and understanding. I have had people share stories with me on planes, offer to help, and even give a sympathetic giggle when NOTHING works.

Just have fun, enjoy your trip as best as you can, and remember that it’s important to keep being you and doing what you love and seeing those people and places you love–even if you have a lot more to think about and worry with when you do it! Life never slows down, you just gotta make it work! 🙂

Daddy even got some shut eye! This is a rarity with a toddler!
Daddy even got some shut eye!


4 thoughts on “Airport Survival Guide with Babies/Small Toddlers

  1. This brings back memories of flying with my little one overseas. I think I prayed the entire way, but we lived to tell about it! I love when you wrote “Owning that it’ll happen can take the pressure away and allow you to focus on your trip.” Absolutely. Yes!!!


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