Flying With a Baby or Toddler: Tips and Tricks

If I am counting correctly, I have taken Evan on 12 different trips involving airplanes, which, including connecting and return flights, adds up to about 30 separate flights. And he’s not even 3 yet. He took his first flight at 7 weeks. And by 7 months, he had been on 8 different airplanes.

Evan’s First Flight – 7 weeks old

When people know this, I get asked for tips. I have talked several first time moms through their first flight planning. Which is why I thought this post might be helpful. Now, I only know what it’s like to travel with one child at this point, so my knowledge is limited to that, but it always seems to be the first time moms of singlets that are the most nervous about flying with their babies, so I still think it’s helpful. Maybe I’ll do a follow-up after we’ve flown with Baby Brother a few times.

Evan on Planes

Disclaimer: Babies are absolutely safer in car seats on airplanes than they are on your lap. The FAA agrees. This is common sense but not widely practiced. The reason lap infants are still allowed is purely due to political influence and monetary decisions and has nothing to do with safety. On top of that, checking your car seat is a bit risky and not bringing one means that you have to rely on a questionable seat at your destination (I have never used a rental car carseat and I don’t ever plan on it). That said, I only started buying Evan a seat at 15 months and I am not sure what I’ll do with Baby Brother when it comes time to take him on a plane.

Tip #1: Check As Much as You Can

Check as many of your bags as possible. You will still have a lot of stuff to carry but get rid of everything you can. This is why I love Southwest – free bags!

We usually bring one carryon bag for each of us. A diaper bag for E, a camera bag for me, and Ben’s school bag for him. We bring the car seat and sometimes we bring a stroller. We put everything else we don’t need on the plane into suitcases that we happily check.

Check, Please

Tip #2: Pack Light, But Smart

Evan’s bag has diapers (lots!), a change of clothes for him and me (I’ve actually had to change my shirt in my airplane seat thanks to spit-up), snacks, a water bottle (which I fill after security), his kindle, headphones, and a couple of books and toys. That’s it. My bag usually just has my camera, personal items, book, and water, and Ben’s just has his school work, computer, and a book. My boss would tell you to embrace the stuff. I say minimize it.

Tip #3: Park Close

I park as close to the airport as I possibly can. We used to use the economy lot, but now I’ll gladly pay 4 extra dollars per day to avoid a shuttle. If you can get a ride, even better.

Tip #4: Wear Your Baby; Push Your Stuff

Once my bags are checked, I have two ways of getting through the airport, but they both involve wearing Evan. In scenario 1, I bring a stroller and use it to lug the carry-ons and car seat and, in scenario 2, I borrow my friends Go Go Babyz wheels and turn the car seat into a roller bag and use THAT to lug all of the bags. In either circumstance, I wear Evan through the airport and security, no exceptions. I’ve watched parents go through security where they have to take little ones out of strollers or wrangle energetic or unhappy toddlers while trying to take their shoes and belts off and TRUST ME wearing your kid is so much easier. E is over 3 feet tall and more than 30 pounds and I still throw him on my back in the ergo. I’ve only been questioned about it twice by misinformed TSA agents.

If you only take one thing away from this post, let it be the awesome power of babywearing in airports

Most airports will usher you through the family line, which means you get to skip the long one with all of the common folk and get through security faster. Once you go through the metal detector wearing or carrying a child, they will do a quick test on your hands to make sure you don’t have any explosive residue. It takes a few seconds. Despite the 3-oz liquid rule, you can bring formula/expressed breast milk/liquid snacks for children. Kids under 12 can also leave their shoes on through security.

I have no idea why we didn’t check that roller bag, but the rest is pretty accurate for a normal trip. The stroller is used for the diaper bag, my bag, Ben’s bag, and the carseat, but never for Evan.

Tip #5: Find a Play Area or Create Your Own

For me, waiting to board the airplane is the hardest part. Some airports have some pretty awesome play areas (MSP, I’m talking to you) which make it so much easier. It’s also a great way to burn some energy since your kid has been cooped up and will be cooped up even more one you get on the plane. If there is no play area, I spend my time chasing E around the airport, which becomes a playground itself. If you have anything to gate check (your stroller, car seat, etc.) don’t forget to get a tag for it at the counter before boarding begins.

Tampa’s Tiny Play Area

Tip # 6: Boarding Sucks But It’s Over Quickly

Some airlines pre-board families and some don’t. I generally fly Southwest where families can board after the A group (at most 60 people) boards. Before the merger with Southwest took full effect, Airtran didn’t preboard at all and, if you didn’t pay extra, they’d assign you all to different parts of the plane. I would then have to get the gate agent to switch them (although I liked the idea of letting someone else hangout with E for the flight while I took a nap). The last time I flew Delta, I was still able to pick seats together for free. On Southwest, where there is open seating, I’ve never had trouble finding seats together when boarding with families (although I still try to get one of us a coveted A spot if I can).

Sometimes I have Ben board first to install the car seat since that takes a few minutes. When I’m by myself, it’s a bit more complicated. Picture me with a toddler on my back, two bags on my front, and a car seat over my head walking down a partially-boarded plane. Then picture me installing the car seat while the toddler is still on my back. It’s awkward but a bit empowering. People actually cheer you on. Seriously. And once in awhile someone offers to help. LET THEM. If a stranger wants to carry my carseat for me, I gladly hand it over. If you have a stroller, or if you’re gate checking your carseat, you’ll leave it at the end of the jetway to gate-check. If you are using a car seat on the plane, it has to be used in a window seat. Others will say you need the lap extender to install the car seat but I find it easier to do without it. You might not be able to install the car seat rear-facing, so make sure you’ve adjusted the straps accordingly. Every time I get on an airplane, I swear I have less space.

Tip #7: Car Seats Are Your Friend

Now that Evan is a toddler, he uses a car seat on planes and he will for a long time. It keeps him restrained and comfortable and safe. Plus, it’s familiar. They only time I let him out is to change a diaper because a taste of freedom is too much for him to handle. Some people let their kids wander the aisle, but I’ve never felt comfortable doing that (E is a runner) and I’ve never felt it necessary on my usual 2-3 hour flights. I am thinking about getting the CARES harness for Evan after Baby Brother is here so we don’t have to travel with two car seats. It’s FAA approved and seems better than letting a 3-year-old use just a lapbelt to me.

Tip #8: Nurse or Give Snacks & Water for Ears

When Evan was a baby and I flew with him as a lap infant, I would generally nurse him during takeoff and landing. This is supposed to help with the ears but Evan has honestly never seemed to have an issue with the pressure.  I will give him frequent sips of water or chewy snacks to try to get his ears popping.

Tip #7: Don’t Bother With Restrooms for Diaper Changes

We do diaper changes in our seats and only if absolutely necessary. Airplane bathrooms are SMALL. Some of them have changing tables. Some of them do not. I’ve never used one and I’ve changed a lot of mid-flight diapers (I used to say Evan hasn’t met a plane he can’t poop on). We just lay him across our laps and do our thing. (This also where cloth diapers actually come in handy because you don’t even need to get up to dispose of anything). I always change E’s diaper before and after a flight in an attempt to minimize mid-flight changes.

If you’re by yourself and need to use the restroom, page a flight attendant. They are usually willing to sit with your kid for a minute while you run to the restroom. I’d wait until all of the beverages/snacks are distributed before asking this favor though.

Tip #8: Unlimited Screen Time/Unlimited Snacks

As for entertainment, I have an unlimited screen time and unlimited snacking rule when traveling. Evan’s screen time is limited at home so this is a real treat for him. We even got him his own Kindle specifically for traveling. I pack a large ziplock bag with fruit snacks, crackers, and other treats and Evan gets to pick whatever he wants. I figure one day here and there where he eats four bags of fruit snacks isn’t going to kill him. I also like to fly at nap time and bedtime (in pajamas) and hope he sleeps. But sometimes this backfires. His worst flight ever was last month when I was flying alone with him from DC to Tampa. It was way past his bedtime and he whined and cried from exhaustion for the last hour of the flight but refused to sleep. I usually bring crayons and small toys but we never end up using them. Evan is pretty content watching Mickey or playing a game on his Kindle.

Screen Time FTW

Tip #9: Make It Fun

I make the whole thing an adventure. Evan loves it when I tell him we’re going to the airport. He loves watching the plane go really fast and take off. He counts it down like it’s a rocket ship and then claims that we are in outer space. He loves being in the clouds. He loves talking to everyone we meet along the way and winning them over with his charm. I am a nervous flyer. When I’m not pregnant, I actually take anti-anxiety meds to help me get through flights. But having Evan with me is a wonderful distraction and it’s so fun to watch him be so excited about something as annoying as air travel.

Blast Off!

Tip #10: Things Will Go Wrong So Go with the Flow

First, PLEASE do not be one of those people who bring a goody bag for all of the people on the plane because it is your kid’s first flight. Your child has as much of a right to be there as the guy rolling his eyes at you as you walk on the plane. Keep your kid from disturbing others as much as possible but don’t let other passengers intimidate you. Most people are friendly and understanding. And if they’re not, that’s not your problem.

Your kid might get upset. Your kid might kick the seat in front of you. Your kid might throw up all over you (this has happened to me twice). It’s all temporary and it won’t stop you from getting to your destination. You’re a parent, just do your thing like always.


I hope some of you find this helpful. Traveling with a small child seems daunting, but with some good planning, it really is very manageable. Let me know if you have any tips or tricks I missed in the comments.


New Mexico in Photos – Part 3 [Wordless Wednesday]

Today I am sharing few more pictures from New Mexico (because I am not actually taking any other pictures these days). I bought a macro lens that I use as a walkaround but I’d really like to use for actual macro photography. For some reason, I can’t get my lens, which is designed for macro photography to autofocus when I zoom too close to my subject (which I thought was the point…). So this is the best I could get. Maybe I need to manual focus?

Any macro tips for me?


Savannah [Wordless Wednesday]

We spent the weekend in Savannah, which was a bit of disaster. But here are a few photos (the only ones I’ve had a chance to edit so far) anyway. Don’t worry. These were all pre-puking-on-the-trolley.

One of E giving Ben a kiss by the river.

And a couple from the playground at Forsyth Park.

I’m pretty bummed I didn’t get to play with the camera more while I was there. I had my camera last year when we visited, but I was still shooting on auto at that point. Instead, I spent the whole weekend either at my conference or cuddling a sick kid. It sounds like this conference may be there again next year so all is not lost.

London in Pictures

And here we are. The LAST round of pictures from Europe. We’ve traveled from Athens to Rome to Florence to Venice to Vienna to Prague to Munich to Paris.  And now we’ve arrived in England. London was our base but we made it to Windsor, Stonehenge, Bath, and finally Oxford. And that’s where my adventure came to an end while Ben stayed to hang out with the smart kids.

Me and Maria

We met up with Maria from A Bookworm’s Life and she gave us a lovely walking tour of London.

Me and Ben

Ben and me

London Eye

London Eye

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge



Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle



Roman Baths

Roman Baths in Bath


Christ Church at Oxford

Click here for the rest of England (and here for the rest of the Paris pictures which I failed to link to earlier).

Hope you’ve enjoyed all of the pictures.

Paris in Pictures

We’re almost done. But don’t be sad. My favorite city is up today: Paris! It was HOT in Paris. Really hot. Like 104 degrees (40 celsius). We’re from Florida so normally we can deal with heat. But Florida has air-conditioning. Paris does not. Paris also has a really crowded metro with no ventilation. But we spent a lot of time in museums with the amazing Paris Museum Pass so that helped.

Despite the heat, I loved our stay in Paris. I loved everything about the city. I would move there in a heartbeat if I could. Sadly, my extensive knowledge of ballet terms (my only French) was not very helpful.


The Louvre (we had to leave quickly – I couldn’t take the crowds or the vastness. I preferred Musée de l’Orangerie and the Musée d’Orsay)

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe



Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower (Do you know how HUGE this is? I didn’t. It is BIG.)


Sacré-Coeur (+ we had a wonderful view of this from our room)

Eiffel Tower at Night

Sparkly Eiffel Tower at Night

Notre Dame

Notre Dame


Versailles (I was a bit disappointed honestly – too many palaces by this point I think.)

If you missed it: Athens, Rome, Florence, Venice, Vienna, Prague, and Munich.

The next post will be London. Hope you are still enjoying these.

Munich in Pictures

I have not forgotten about the pictures. I just didn’t remember for a couple weeks. I’ve showed you Athens, Rome, Florence, Venice, Vienna, and Prague. Onto Munich!

After taking the slowest train ever from Prague to Munich and getting in around midnight, we promptly woke up the next day and got on a two hour train to visit Neuschwantstein. Kind of crazy. And turns out Germany can be very cold in June, especially when your jacket stayed behind in Prague. But totally worth it.


Neuschwanstein Castle (just like Cinderella)

Bavarian Alps

The castle is located in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps.


So we did a little hiking while we waited for our tour to begin.

Mountain Goat

And we saw a mountain goat.


The following day we did a free walking tour of Munich which was probably the most educational tour of the entire trip. We learned A LOT but took very few pictures. This is the Glockenspiel.

Beer Steins

These are the beer steins at the Hofbrauhaus. We didn’t eat or drink there (because the tour guide told us it is basically a tourist trap) but we did walk through.


And later that night we ran into our old friend, Jer, from Michigan who just happened to be in Munich. And thank goodness since he helped cut up the WHOLE FISH that I was served (after watching this normally-a-vegetarian look upon it in horror).

If I don’t forget, Paris is coming up next. Check out the rest of the Germany pictures here.

Prague in Pictures

Ready for more photos? After Vienna, we went to Prague. It was probably our sketchiest hostel and we couldn’t grasp the language to save our lives and the money was really confusing but we still had a great time. It was the closest we got to Eastern Europe on this trip and might have been the most pleasant weather we experienced (other than London oddly). Also, they have really cheap beer.

In Prague

Prague Castle

Changing of the Guard


Strahov Library (Map Room)

Wandering the Garden

See more here. Munich is coming soon.

Previous cities: Athens, Rome, Florence, Venice, Vienna