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Flying With An Infant or Toddler? How to Arrive with Your Sanity Intact

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Is the thought of taking your infant or toddler on a long flight keeping you earthbound? Don’t let it ! With a little preparation and a stocked carry-on bag, you will be armed to handle any situation that arises. I should know: when my babies were just two years old and three months old, we up and moved across the Atlantic for four years. So we have made the 12-hour trek back and forth over the ocean many times.

Here are some of the tips for flying with children that I have garnered in the friendly skies:

Self sufficiency = peace of mind

Being self-sufficient is the key to low-stress family travel. Don’t rely on the airlines for food and drinks for your kids – you may need them before they’re available to you.  Bring fruit pouches, crackers and even special treats like lollipops as incentives for good behavior.  Kids’ meals are available on many international flights, which you can order when booking the flight.

So, do you have everything you need?

  • The obvious: Diapers, wipes, a fresh change of clothes (for you and them), snacks, toys, blankets, spit-up cloths, and pacifiers.
  • Not so obvious: Don’t forget your own snacks and water – you need energy to handle whatever your baby throws your way.  I always bring some dark chocolate that gives me something to look forward to during the layovers and unexpected delays.

“Bodily fluids happen”

And really, isn’t that what we’re most afraid of when flying with an infant or toddler – the notion that some of our babies’ “fluids” will offend the hapless passengers who have been seated next to us?  Well, fluids ARE going to happen, sooner or later, and by knowing that, you have the tools you need to deal with any situation will lower your stress level. I always carry with me one or two empty plastic grocery bags. They take up no space and can be invaluable for containing wet clothes (spilled drinks) or removing odiferous items (the biggest, poopiest diaper in the history of aviation, right here on Flight 258!). I also keep one container each of hand sanitizer and tissues in both my purse and carry-on for easy access. And a little Citrus Magic or Poo-pourri does wonders for making bad smells (and your guilt) dissipate.

Essential Diversions

Remember that every plane is different, and while the newer ones have individual screens at every seat, many older ones don’t. Bringing your own (charged) DVD player, DVDs, headphones and chargers ensures a couple of hours of peace for everyone. As well, the film being shown might not be interesting or appropriate for your child. Lastly, I like to surprise my little ones with a new activity/sticker book for each flight.  This delays the eventual screen-time a little.

A (calm) attitude is everything

If you are calm, your babies (and others around you) will usually follow your lead. They will sense and react to your stress, so try to maintain a “go with the flow” mindset. And you CAN go with the flow because – you are completely self-sufficient and have everything you and your baby need for the next four, six or ten hours.

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Erin is a native Floridian who has resided in Atlanta since 1995. Her husband Mike and she have two funny, smart, active girls and two cats.


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