Flying with Young Kids + FAQ

This is only the second time I have every flown commercial with my kids, so I am definitely not an expert in this department.  I am only sharing my experience because I found it helpful to read others' tips and tricks that they learned from flying with their toddlers.  

Let's just go ahead and state the obvious first.  Flying with toddlers is HARD.  There is no relaxing, it's a constant juggle of finding the next best game or snack or video.  It's doing everything you can to avoid the abrupt meltdown or having the annoying child that kicks the back of the seat in front of you.  It's exhausting.  But, it is doable.  Just try to mentally prepare. 

I flew to Vail from Pensacola, FL with my MIL, my two kids, and my SIL and nephew.  So we had three adults and three children.  Kids were age 11 months, two and three.

Monday was our travel day out to Vail.  We had a connection in Dallas and were supposed to arrive in Vail at 6:15pm.  My Mom was picking us up from the airport, so it should have been a pretty smooth deal.

Instead, our flight out of Pensacola ended up being over 3 hours delayed.  Thankfully, we knew it was delayed before we left the house.  We watched the status updates and quickly started to realize that we were going to miss our connection to Vail.  The problem was....there were no more flights into Vail that evening.

I wasn't sure if we should fly out of Pensacola because we would either get stuck in Dallas for the night with 3 young kids and no luggage or we would have to get a flight into Denver and take a 2.5 hour car ride.

The kids waiting to board the plane...

We got to Pensacola airport and when we checked in, they booked us on a flight into Denver for that evening.  Already, that was a pain in the ass because we had to find transportation into Vail.  But at least we were going to get in that night.

More delays occurred and we missed our connection into Denver.  Thankfully, they just put us on another flight an hour later, but it meant we would not be getting into Vail until after midnight.  The kids were over-tired, had no naps to speak of, and they couldn't get comfortable in the car.  We.were.over.it.

I share those details with you because it reminded me that flying with kids is tough enough; but when things go wrong with your flight itinerary, it can be a whole new ball game.  We just have to adapt. And drink more wine.

The boys were actually awesome on the flights.  They were old enough to understand that they needed to sit still and with plenty of sticker books, snacks, and shows; they were pretty happy.

Madelyn, on the other hand, was a mess. She's 11 months old and did not understand the concept of sitting still at all.  I think the airplane is very stimulating for them (all the people and noise) so it was actually tough for her to sleep.  She showed very little interest in her bottle and pacifier which made it tough and really was not that into her snacks.  This age is hard because they are too young to show interest in the iPad or many activities at all and they just want to be on the move!! In her defense, she was majorly teething and had a fever our whole travel day which was so sad.  I think she had trouble with her ears more than I remember Brody ever having.  It was just a mess.  She was tough to please.

 What did I wish I had??? Suckers.  I can't believe I forgot suckers.  Maybe we would have had luck with those on take off and landing since it would have been quite a treat for her since she'd never had one before.

The bright side??
She was a champ on our flights home from Vail.  Everything went smooth.  We had an 8am flight out of Vail and just threw the kids in the car in their pajamas straight out of bed.  Madelyn was awake the whole time on our first flight to Dallas (1.5 hours), but was pretty well behaved.  She took a short nap in the stroller during our layover and then slept the ENTIRE flight from Dallas to Pensacola (1.5 hours).  She fell asleep before we even took off and didn't wake up until after we landed.  So there is hope.

Both kids asleep on our flight home :)

The last time I traveled with Brody on a plane was when we went to Vail when he was 13 months.  It was a pretty similar experience (we had a 3 hour delay while we were on the plane), but my saving grace for him was that he was already entertained by Mickey Mouse on the iPad.  We also flew 1st class for that trip and the extra space was definitely a bonus!  

:: FAQ ::

Can you bring milk through security?
Yes, it just has to be tested by security.  There is not a limit on ounces.  I traveled with one full 8 ounce bottle and then carried a formula dispenser (see below) to make more bottles later.

How do you fly with strollers or car seats?
I highly recommend strollers.  I think it makes life so much easier navigating the airport.  It was also nice to be able to hang our heavy carry on bags to the back of them!  The strollers get gate checked at the plane for no extra cost.  You can either check a car seat into your destination just like your luggage or you can bring a car seat on the plane with you if you purchased a seat for your little one.  I've never done that, but don't think it's a terrible idea.

Should I bring a car seat or just rent one at my destination? 
I've chosen to fly without a car seat.  I think it's easier to rent one at your destination.

Do I need ID's for my babies? 
No.  You may bring a birth certificate with you if you think you have to prove your kid is under 2, but they probably won't ask for ID otherwise.

What time of day should I fly?
I would say it's best to fly in the mornings.  That is when kids are at their best.  It is also when flights are least likely to be delayed.  The later in the day it gets, kids get crankier and you have more chance of flight delays.  Always try to fly direct if possible.

Any other questions??

Just remember that every experience is different and flying at every age is different.  Newborns typically sleep great.  The toddlers can behave.  Some days are good and some days are tough, but we can get through it all!  Best of luck on your travels.  I promise I've recovered from mine :)

I would love any additional tips you have and I know the readers would too.  Sarah Tucker was so kind to share her experience of flying and traveling with her boys recently.  I was really intrigued on how she managed the four of them in a hotel room.  We haven't done that yet, but may try it one day in the future.

What did I pack??

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  1. Great tips! Thanks for sharing! We are planning on taking our first trip with baby in February!! Xo

  2. Thank you for this! I've been too anxious to ever fly with Walker (he's 2.5). However, we are flying from Dallas to either Pensacola or Destin next year for a family beach vacation, and these tips are super helpful. I'm totally not worried about how Walker will do (he'll be 3.5), but Knox will be a little over 1 and I'm nervous about how it's going to go! Brandon travels often for work and he's been SUPER delayed coming home the last few times, so I like the tip about flying early in the morning. :)

  3. Flying with toddler is such a pain! We did it in July. I thought Graham would sleep the whole time but I agree with you I think he was too stimulated. On the flight home his ears were bothering him and he screamed at the top of his lungs the entire decent. On top of that he some how scraped my nose and I had a massive nose bleed. Talk about disaster! Thankfully my husband was there to help. I think you summed up flying perfectly!

  4. this gives me anxiety and I don't even have kids yet haha! when we flew to Disney with my niece and nephew (3 and 10 months) my sister had a carry on full of nothing but food. My niece had a lunchable at 8am and thought she was something else. maybe because my family loves food so much but that definitely did the trick for them... feed them the entire flight!

  5. We are those crazy people who have taken out three year old on 40+ flights (yep, you read that right). Blame having family all over the U.S. and a cross-country move when he was a baby. Lots of those flights were "freebies" before he turned two, holla! Anyway, I totally agree about morning/early day flying (there's nothing worse than being the last flight out of somewhere for the night, having the flight be delayed and the possibility of the crew timing out which means you'd be stuck there for the night). One note on birth certificates - if you are flying Southwest they actually do always ask to see is for under twos, so I just made a copy and always kept it in the diaper bag when Sweet P was a baby :)

  6. Perfect timing! We are flying with Logan in November and I am SO nervous! He'll be 19 months, so it's that in between age where you don't know what to expect! Thanks for the tips!!!

  7. Love this! Silver lining is that you had your MIL and SIL with you to help keep spirits up, bc if I was alone in your shoes I would have cried!!! I think your advice for flying in the morning and just doing it (the good, bad, and ugly) is spot on!

  8. Oh man!! Y'all had a rough trip out there - I would've been a mess and I don't have kids! lol So glad the flight home was super smooth!

  9. Flying with kids is NO JOKE! I used to fly with Avery as a baby every single month cross country so I got pretty decent at it, but Benadryl is a life saver!

  10. I'm thankful we never had issues when my daughter was little. She's been flying since 6 months. I always pack extra snacks, new snacks, extra bottles. As a toddler the new and different snacks and toys always won. Plus she was a great sleeper so the airplane didn't bother her. If it was nap time. she just got her little blanky and self-soothed right to sleep. Flying is great!