9 Low-Stress and Low-Cost Ways to Fly With Your Toddler

Photo (cc) by indywriter

As the holidays approach, families begin to fret about taking their toddler on their next flight. Parents are in for a new set of challenges and experiences when they bring their little one(s) along for the ride. For the last two years, my wife and I have had the pleasure of taking our daughter, now 4 years old, with us on flights across the country and around the world. Here is some of what we have learned…

Pre-flight preparation

  1. Buy a seat restraint. Since children older than 2 years old must have their own seat, parents are left to provide a safe and comfortable arrangement. While you could bring an approved car seat, I have had great success with the Cares product, which is simple, compact, and FAA-certified. In addition to safety, the idea is that in a harness, children feel like they are in a familiar place (like their car seat), and they’ll more easily adapt to the airplane environment.
  2. Order the child’s meal. If you’re lucky enough to be on a flight with meal service, be sure to contact the airline well in advance to order a children’s meal.
  3. Try for an empty seat. When traveling with just my daughter, I’ll always reserve the window and aisle seats, leaving a middle seat open. At best, we have an empty seat between us, and at worst, we make someone’s day by offering them the window or aisle. This makes our seatmate happy and takes away a little of the apprehension other travelers might have about being seated next to a toddler.

Packing tips

  1. Get a duffel bag. Unless you’re assured of a safe car seat being provided at your destination, yours will have to go with you. Many parents just dump theirs off at the curb or carry it through the airport and check it at the gate. Either way, you’re at risk of it being soiled or damaged unless you pack it in a duffel bag and check it in the terminal. Fortunately, airlines don’t charge for a checked bag containing child safety equipment like a car seat.
  2. Check other stuff. Business travelers live by the mantra of carrying everything on, and so do most parents. But those with infants have to carry on quite a load of diapers, bottles, and other gear. Once your child reaches the toddler phase, it’s time to give it up, check a bag and let the airline’s baggage handlers do their job. To save money, we prefer to fly airlines like Southwest and JetBlue that don’t charge for checked bags.
  3. Use that stroller. We probably traveled with a stroller for some time after it was truly necessary. This allowed our daughter a place to take naps while enabling us to use it as a luggage cart. Strollers can be checked at the gate for no charge.

Onboard tips

  1. Make the effort. Every parent’s worst nightmare is the embarrassment they feel when their child acts up and disturbs passengers – at least, it should be. Before I became a dad, I was a frequent business traveler. I accepted that kids travel and act like kids. When a child is misbehaving, it’s the actions of the parents make the difference between understanding and annoyance. When parents ignore their unruly children – or worse, yell at them – they’re sure to raise the ire of those around them. The best move may be to take the child out of his or her seat, go to the back of the plane, and have that discussion there. This gives your seatmates a break and interrupts your child’s behavior.
  2. Bring distractions. Caring for a toddler is all about occupying them. You can do so with activities such as drawing a picture, reading a book, or watching a movie on your laptop (with headphones).
  3. Use the crew. Be polite and friendly, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. Flight attendants can offer you snacks, bring napkins, and help retrieve items from overhead bins. Don’t forget to use the call button if you can’t grab their attention. Although they are there for your safety, a good crew will recognize a parent in need.

The best advice is simply to arrive at the airport early and be sure to have fun. By taking the time to properly prepare for and manage your trip, you and your child can have a pleasant adventure.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
26 Work-From-Home Jobs That Pay $100,000
26 Work-From-Home Jobs That Pay $100,000

These lucrative gigs let you work in your slippers.

20 Great Part-Time Jobs for Retirees
20 Great Part-Time Jobs for Retirees

Maybe you’re not ready to leave the workplace entirely.

30 Purchases That Will Start Saving You Money Immediately
30 Purchases That Will Start Saving You Money Immediately

Sometimes, you’ve got to spend to save. These canny deals are a good bet for savings.

8 Ways to Slash Your Internet Bill
8 Ways to Slash Your Internet Bill

No matter what price you are paying for internet service, taking these simple steps can lower it.

This Is the Best Used Car You Can Buy
This Is the Best Used Car You Can Buy

This car combines reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020
The 15 Worst States for Retirees in 2020

Based on dozens of metrics tied to affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous
11 Household Items That Go Bad — or Become Dangerous

When you get the impulse to stockpile these everyday items, pay close attention to their expiration dates.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car
This Is the Cheapest Place to Buy a Used Car

Looking for a good deal on a set of wheels? This should be your first stop.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value
7 Surprising Features That Boost Your Home Value

You can add value to your home without hiring a contractor to do expensive renovations.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.