This past week, we miraculously escaped the polar vortex by spending the week in Orlando. Since Orlando is a twenty-some hour car ride from metro Detroit, we decided to fly. It was my 2-year-old son’s very first plane ride, and I have to admit, I was more than a little nervous about taking him on a plane – especially since my fiancé wasn’t able to come with us. But I survived the airport (and airport security) with a 2-year-old, and you can too! If you’re lucky enough to fly away from the winter cold, here’s what you should know about flying with a young child.
Your Car Seat Flies (and Checks) for Free
My advice: Check your car seat – it’s free. You do have the option to bring a car seat on the plane if you’ve purchased a seat for your little one, but for the sake of getting through the airport with ease, I’d highly recommend checking it.
Check Your Bags If Possible
Some airlines let you check bags for free, while some charge you crazy fees. Because my airline charged for checked baggage but not for carry-ons, I packed a week’s worth of stuff into two carry-on bags (no easy feat if you ask me). What I thought was a thrifty decision, however, turned out to be a huge pain in the you-know-what.
Going through the airport, I had a stroller, two carry-ons, a diaper bag, a purse and a small child. In my opinion, it would’ve been well worth it to pay the $25 each way to check one big bag instead of carting around two smaller ones. If we hadn’t had relatives to help us get everything through the airport, I kind of doubt whether we’d have made it to the gate without losing something. Check your bags – you (probably) won’t regret it.
Gate-Check Your Stroller
Did you know you can bring a stroller through security?
I was originally planning to check my stroller (something you can do for FREE), but on the advice of a friend, I brought it through the airport with me. We were able to keep it until right before we boarded the plane, and we left it on the jetway – so convenient! Here are a few reasons you might want to bring your stroller to the airport.
- You could skip the security line. I can’t speak for all airports, but at the metro Detroit airport, we were allowed to use the family line at security because we had the stroller with us. This allowed us to skip a very long line!
- You can use it to carry stuff. We loaded up the stroller with luggage – a lifesaver, since we had a lot to carry.
- You won’t have to carry a tired child. Airports are a lot of walking. Unless you’re willing to carry a bunch of bags and a child, bring your stroller all the way to the gate!
Don’t be afraid to ask the flight attendants if you can board early. Chances are, they’ll let you board right after first class so you won’t have to worry about holding up the line while you juggle bags and children.
Beat Cabin Pressure
Concerned that cabin pressure will hurt your little one’s ears? Here are two things you can do.
- Administer painkillers prior to takeoff. My pediatrician recommended that I give my son children’s Motrin about half an hour before takeoff. It worked!
- A sucking motion can help kids cope. If your kid uses a pacifier, give it to them on the plane. If they don’t use a pacifier, a sippy cup or bottle can be a major help.
Plan Ahead to Keep Kids Busy on the Flight
Make the best use of your personal items by packing them with a few fun activities for the plane. Need ideas? Here are a few!
- A music player. My son loves to listen to music, so we packed his MP3 player and it kept him busy (and quiet!) for almost the whole time. (Side note: Try the Baby Bidou if you’re looking for a MP3 player for the 3-and-under set. Yes – safe, toddler-friendly technology does exist!)
- Movies and TV shows. Download movies and TV shows prior to your flight. That way, your child can still use your phone or tablet while it’s in airplane mode.
- Small toys. Just be careful what small toys you choose, and don’t bring too many. You probably don’t want to be chasing matchbox cars or balls through the aisles while the plane’s in motion.
Well, those are my best tips for flying with a little one. Have you flown with a young child? How did you do it? Share your tips and advice with other readers in the comments below!