Surviving Air Travel with Kids: Tips and Tricks for Flying with Babies and Toddlers

Surviving Air Travel with Kids: Tips and Tricks for Flying with Babies and Toddlers

Written by Kendra Koch, Rent-a-Romper Cofounder & Chief Creative Officer

As a mom of a toddler who's now been on over 30 flights, my travel advice boils down to: “Prepare as much as possible, then let go.” 

Like everything else in parenting there will always be something unexpected to figure out on the fly (excuse my pun 😉), but luckily, there's a lot you can do to set yourself up for a smooth trip.

Preparing ahead and knowing what to expect can help your trip be more enjoyable. Continue reading for my best tips! 

Rent-a-Romper Co-Founder Kendra Koch sitting on a flight with her baby in a carrier

Preparing to Fly 

Schedule smartly 

It’s much easier to fly with a sleeping baby than a super wiggly one. If you can, schedule flights around nap or bedtime to make it more likely your little one will sleep on the plane. Between the hum of the engine, dim lighting and gentle vibration, airplanes are actually great for encouraging sleep. Scheduling around times when your little one expects to sleep only makes it all the more likely they’ll doze off at take-off. 

Pack lightly

Keep it simple. I’m a big fan of packing just the essentials and then buying or washing whatever else you might need when you arrive. For example, at home I use cloth diapers but because they’re bulky, I opt for disposable when traveling. I’ll pack just enough diapers and wipes for the travel day, and then stop and buy more on the way to wherever I’m staying. 

Rent and return 

If you’re not already part of the rental revolution, travel is the perfect place to try it. I always pack my daughter's Rent-a-Romper 7-Item Essentials wardrobe which includes just enough clothes for a few days and lots of layers for various activities or climates. Everything in the set is mix-and-match which gives more options for looks without the bulk of packing lots of clothes and I know she’ll always be picture ready. 

In addition to our capsule wardrobe memberships, we also offer:

  • Winter Gear: Why buy and pack bulky coats and snowpants that they’ll definitely grow out of by your next trip? Rent them for the season instead and save up to 70% on retail—and a whole lot of space. 
  • Swim Packs: Going to the beach or somewhere warm? Rent rash guards, swimming suits and trunks then send them back when the season or your trip is over. 

Traveling domestically? We can ship directly to your holiday destination! 

Print out your paperwork 

If your baby doesn’t have a passport, you’ll need a copy of their birth certificate in order to pass through security and board the plane. Print ahead of time and tuck two copies away into different locations just in case one gets lost or damaged (hello, coffee spills!). 

At the Airport

Give yourself plenty of time

You know how it takes forever to get out of the house with kids? It’s the same thing at the airport. Give yourself plenty of time so you don’t feel rushed or stressed. Little ones pick up on our stress and get cranky when they feel rushed, so by adding a time buffer, you can also help keep them calm and happy. Leaving ample room also gives you the space to grab a coffee or get those bathroom breaks and diaper changes in BEFORE you get on the plane. 

Curbside check 

If there’s ever a time when you need more hands, it’s at the airport. Keep a small diaper bag or stocked backpack for the flight, and check everything else if you can, including the car seat (unless you plan to bring it on the plane). 

To make things even easier, use curbside checkout so you don’t have to drag everything into the airport and wait in a long line to drop off your suitcases. Many airlines offer this service for free, with the expectation that you leave a small tip for the person who handles your bag. 

Use family services 

Most airports have a family lane at security which in my experience moves a whole lot faster than the general line. Also, because you’ll be in line with other passengers with kids, you’ll be surrounded by a more understanding (and hopefully, more patient) group. 

When you get to your gate, don’t board with your boarding group. Instead, go when they call “family boarding.” This usually takes place in between business-class and general boarding. 

Babywearing for the win

The fastest and easiest way to get through security with a baby is to wear them. You’ll be ushered through the metal detector with baby undisturbed and your hands free. However, if your baby is in a stroller, you’ll be required to take them out as strollers also have to pass through the scanner. 

Keep moving

Once you get on that plane, your little one will be mostly confined to their seat or your lap, so it’s critical to give them as much time and space for movement before you board. If you take my first tip (give yourself plenty of time), and let them crawl around on a blanket or run laps (just be prepared to wash hands or use sanitizing wipes when they’re done playing since the airport is pretty dirty). 

Change diapers before you board

While you won’t have full control over the timing of their diapers, I highly recommend changing your little one’s diaper before you get on the plane. Add a big, thick layer of diaper cream and pop them into an overnight diaper just in case you’re unable to get up and grab a new diaper due to turbulence. The last thing you want is a leaky diaper and diaper rash. 

On the Plane

Use ear protectors for young infants 

Infant hearing is still developing and it's often quite sensitive. Ear protectors muffle some of the loud airplane sounds to protect hearing and prevent overstimulation. 

Adjust to air pressure 

For infants, try to time feeds with take-off and landing since drinking milk will help their ears adjust to the changing air pressure. If they’re not hungry, you can offer the breast, a pacifier, or teether to give them something to stimulate swallowing. 

For toddlers, you can offer a drink, a pacifier, or a snack to munch on. Lollipops are great for older kids, but avoid for toddlers as they can be a choking hazard. 

Snacks, snacks, and more snacks

The only thing worse than a hangry baby is a hangry baby on an airplane. We always bring a wide variety of snacks. Bonus points for crunchy snacks that offer a little calming sensory input. 

NEW toys and activities 

Novelty is your friend when it comes to traveling with babies and toddlers. Bring small, NEW toys or mess free art (like cardboard puzzles or reusable sticker books) to help hold their interest longer. 

Allow Media (with headphones)

If there’s anytime to allow screen time, it’s on a flight. But, if you’d really like to avoid screens, there are other options like digital or audio books. You can also pack storybooks, but just be mindful that they are a lot bulkier and heavier than their tech counterparts. 

If your little one is like mine and not that into movies, stick with toys and mess-free art materials, like reusable sticker books. 

Give yourself grace

Be gentle with yourself and your littles. Travel can be stressful but it can also be fun. If things don't go perfectly, that's ok, as long as you arrive where you're going safely. 

Family loading the truck of their rental car for a trip

For funny and relatable travel stories (and more tips!), catch me on the Unswaddled Podcast where I share my travel stories with host and NAPS founder Jamie O’Day.
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