Traveling'with Toddler

Updated on July 27, 2010
A.V. asks from Anoka, MN
12 answers

My almost 3 1/2 year old daughter and I will be traveling by plane for her 1st time. It will be just her and I (which makes me nervous) but I was wondering what you all thought about taking the carseat on board or not?? Also any special tricks for take-off and landing? Do you think I should take the stroller (she NEVER goes in it anymore). Thanks for any advice!!

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answers from Madison on

I just traveled by plane with my 2 year old by myself. Yes, take the car seat! It's the safest thing. Also, she won't think she can get up and run around if she's strapped in... she doesn't get to in the car, so why would she think she could in a plane. Take a stroller to make getting through the airport easier. As for the car seat, I strapped it onto luggage wheels. I was able to push the stroller and pull the car seat. Make it fun for her :) Good luck!

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answers from Washington DC on

I just travelled with my 3 1/2 y daughter and 9y son. Their first plane rides. For my daughter, I got a cuddly harness. It looks like a dog, has a 5 point harness to keep it on her, and a long tail for me to hold on to. She loves it. This let her walk without me holding her hand. I used it at the airport, the circus.

The above link didn't go through. Go to and look for 'baby harness'. They have them as a monkey, horse, dog, giraffe.

For the carseat, a backless booster seat will fit under the seat in front of you. This saves room in the overhead. They will not let you use a car seat on the plane, but you can check one for use at your destination for free if you want a toddler seat.

Also, take a backpack of games, dry snacks, etc. on the plane with you, but do yourself a favor and check your main baggage. I didn't and SO wish I had. You cannot take liquids through security, but can buy drinks once your on the other side.

Also, have her wear easily slipped on shoes for going through security. Mine wore her crocs.

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

Take tons of snacks, toys, if you have any way to take movies take them, also give her gum on take off & landing. This helps with the ears. I tried the earplugs but my daughter always pulled them out & got mad when we put them in. The gum did the job with out the fight.
I agree with the easy on off shoes. It is way easier at check in. My daughter was attached to a stuffed dog & she took it everywhere including on the plane, however at security we had to run the stupid thing thru the scanners. She freaked out when we were trying to take it from her to put in the box/container so I learned you hold the special toy/blanket before you get to security. This way they don't feel like you are ripping it from them & there is already a ton going on to scare them.

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answers from San Francisco on

My children are used to travel by plane, especially my 3 year old son. Our last trip was in May, a 12 hour flight alone with a 3 year old and a 1 year old and he was OK (maybe because I'm so used to it now!)
- For the carseat, I agree with the previous post.
- For the stroller, if she doesn't use it normally, don't take it. My son has the harness mentioned below, which is also a small backpack. We bought it at Baby'r'us. I have seen toddlers with ones looking like cute plush toys too. But, if you are alone with her and she is a good girl, holding her hands may be enough.
- For take off and landing, have her drink something ( to relieve the pressure in her ears) For take-off, bring something from outside as often the flight attendants are too busy at this time to bring you something
- If it is a long flight, try a night flight, so she will be sleeping most of it
- Bring a bag full of her preferred snacks and small light toys (crayons, books, stickers ...) For my son, y favorite when traveling are animal bath toys (rubber duckies and such), we bring 5-6 of them as they weight nothing and you can squeeze them even in a full backpack.
- if she uses a special blanket, lovey, pacifier... don't forget those
- Bring Tylenol, just in case
- Wipes
- a change of clothes (some kids get sick in planes)
- zip lock bags (for the soiled clothes for example)

I a not sure what your discipline philosophy is, but in general I am much more "relaxed" when we travel whether with buying treats at the airport or keeping a forgotten please/thanks unnoticed. Punishing a child and have her cry in a crowded plane is not nice for the other passengers and will not give her a positive experience of traveling.

You can borrow a couple of books on flying before hand at the library, so she knows better what to expect (security gate with removing shoes and walking alone under the X-ray, waiting time at check in, line at security, walking a lot to find the gate, more waiting before boarding, more waiting time in the plane before take-off, safety announcement by flight attendants, staying put with the seat belt fasten for xxx hours...) Especially if she is very happy and exited to fly, all this waiting could be very disappointed!

Have a nice flight

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answers from Minneapolis on

I recently flew alone with my 3.5 year old and did end up bringing her carseat ON the plane, and I am so happy I did! We needed it when we got there anyways, and we actually got in a car accident (a guy backed into the front of my sisters car)! It was not a bad one, but I was SO glad I had her buckled in TIGHT to her OWN carseat!! On the plane she did so good because she is used to the fact that when she is in her carseat she cant get up and run around, and she is used to falling asleep in there too. Plus, on the way back the flight was very turbulent, and it was just nice to know that she was strapped in. Since I was traveling alone with her this time, I bought a GoGo Baby TravelMate for $60 on craigslist, and it was the best money I ever spent! She rode in it in the airport and dragged her little "carry-on" suitcase with wheels behind her and everyone smiled and laughed at her, she loved it. Then when it was time to board the plane I took off the travelmate, buckled in her carseat (easy peasy) and in she went. You could also use it as a stroller for short distances, although it is easier to pull than push.



answers from Minneapolis on

I have a teacher friend who traveled a lot and gave me the advice for our upcoming trip to take a box of band-aids. She said that her children loved to stick them and it kept them busy on the plane and they don't take up a lot of space (and are easy to clean up). We have an ipod touch loaded with movies and some games that he loves as well as snacks. We bought a new sippy cup with his favorite character on them to hopefully help him to drink during take off (I took mine empty and bought milk once we went through the gate). Last year, my son didn't do so well (he was 1), but I can say that too many toys will just make a mess and make you crazy. We were not allowed to take our car seat on last year because it didn't have the sticker on it that said that it was approved for airline use, but I would check with your airline. We will take one this year, because it is what he is familiar with for travel and we are hoping it helps, but we found a cheap carrier with wheels at Kid's Rack. We have also taken the train into Minneapolis and watched videos with airplanes and played with the fisher price airplane. I am hoping this will help us. Good luck to you!



answers from Milwaukee on

I used to rent CARES. It's a airline approved harness. It's sooo much better than lugging around a car seat. I used a seller named cohibakd on ebay and always have been happy. My daughter stayed in the harness the entire flight and I kept her busy with coloring and different activities. She would usually end up falling asleep.



answers from Minneapolis on

I would check the car seat as luggage (airlines should not charge for this, but we have run into one instance where we were required to pay). That way you get rid of it quickly but have it waiting at your destination for use there. A stroller - depends on how well your kid likes to walk and how large the airport is where you arrive. MSP can have some big treks but if you get to the airport early you can use the moving walkways and just stand there to give her legs a rest. (and if you're out of terminal 2 you won't need it at all.) Strollers can be checked at the gate when you board.

My biggest advice is to get a little rolling backpack for her to carry - that way she has her own carryon and you don't have to fill your purse with all her things. We always bring a notebook and crayons, and I get sheets of tiny stickers from Walgreens - I can portion them out a little at a time (they tear into 3 pieces) and the tiny stickers take a while to peel and stick. Pick up some other small toys that will be new to her - $1 toy grab bags from Savers are great for this. That way you can surprise her with something new when she gets restless.

For take off and landing, a bottle of water with a straw top (that requires sucking) and Twizzlers. They're good and chewy without being choking hazards. (my kids always swallow their gum.)

Edit: I also give my kids ibuprofen on the flight about an hour before descent. I figure if there any lingering inflammation or crankiness we'll knock it out. :)



answers from Minneapolis on

What you want to get is a Cares child restraint it allows them to safely be in their seat but without the need to carry the car seat on board. If you need your car seat at the final destination you can always check it in advance (or gate check, which is free).

We've traveled a lot and have found it goes much smoother if you plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time. We bring a backpack for diaper bag so our hands are free. Take advantage of the family changing rooms and play areas in the airport in advance of boarding.

Always board last unless you have a lot of carry-ons (try to avoid). Nothing is worse than sitting for longer than you need to while everyone else boards. Bring snacks and a few books/toys but don't over do it.

Here's the link to the Cares restraint. I've also heard you can check with local moms's groups or on ebay for people who rent them for much cheaper.

Good luck!



answers from Des Moines on

Honestly, a car seat is just one more thing to deal with - and you won't want that. Also, nix bringing a ton of toys - again, too much to deal with.

Bring a favorite snack, a loaded Ipod, a DVD viewer if you have one, a favorite lovey. It kind of depends on how long the flight is - but this was MORE than sufficient to bring my 3 year old on several 18 hour flights.

Airplanes are so exciting when they are little that they get less bored than you think they will..... Also, with long haul air travel, the movement and the noise tends to induce sleep.

Let her move around the plane, don't worry that she will annoy people (most people actually do like well behaved little ones....), and see if you cannot find another family to swap seats with if your flight is long haul (that way the kids amuse themselves, allowing the adults to rest)

The biggest stress in traveling alone with a toddler is not the plane - its the airport. Make sure to talk to her about airports being big places with lots of people, and the concept of "stick to me like glue" - do this both before getting to the airport, and before getting off the plane (the luggage claim area is fascinating to kids, they want to ride on the carousel.)

As to the stoller, it depends on how long the journey is. McClaren Volo is a relatively inexpensive, super strong, super light-weight stroller.... great for travel (and can serve as an extra luggage rack!) --- I traveled half the world with my son in it (meaning his naps didn't force me to stop my museum strolls) If you are going on a journey, you should have one.... if you are traveling to see friends and family, its probably not so necessary.



answers from Houston on

Hey A.,
As much as Megan thinks she is right...sadly, she is not. IT DEPENDS ON THE AIRLINE!!! I took two gatorades on board with me...also, the couple behind us had an infant in a carseat. I will give you the BEST customer really nice...ask your questions...THEY will tell you what to do. I asked the similar questions a year ago...I got back from our trip, checked my emails, and got ALL THE WRONG answers on here...REALLY, CHECK THE AIRLINE!!! They all are different.

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