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Scared to fly with a toddler? ME TOO! Well, not anymore.

It’s that time of again. Every almost but not quite two years my wife and I relocate for her career. Philly, Chicago, Cincinnati and now…sunny Seattle! Yes, this is our third move in five years…and YES, it’s been a wild ride. Up until now we’ve been able to drive to our new location (Chicago to Philly may have been pushing it, but we drove it anyway). Needless to say, driving from Cincinnati to Seattle wasn’t going to happen. So we found a direct flight and everything was perfect, right? WRONGGG!

WE HAVE A TODDLER! Wait, scratch that.


There is absolutely nothing that she won’t climb or attempt to climb. By the end of our Cincinnati stint, I ended up moving practically everything but the couch and kitchen sink out of our lovely first floor for fear of my thrill seeking monster falling. Once she attempted scaling my pottery barn tripod lamp I gave up. Everything out!

But back to flying. HOLY. COW. How in the world can I get this girl to sit for 4+ hours? Well, here’s the plan we hatched to get our family out west…and it worked almost flawlessly.

1. Buy your toddler their *own* seat on the plane.

Yes, children under two years of age qualify as lap children. And yes, getting my daughter her own seat on the plane was expensive. But in my eyes it was non-negotiable and here’s why. When Ms. Independent wants down, she’s going to scream and squirm and kick and roll AND lean until she’s down. There’s no lap child left in my child. 🙁 But you know what? That’s alright. She’s learning and developing at an alarming(for me…lol) rate and I’m proud of that. I can’t want her to be ahead of the curve then get upset that she’s super curious! So we bought the extra seat.

2. Put your toddler in a car seat.

Did you see what I wrote about about Squirmy McKicknRoll above? There is no way she would sit in my arms for 4+ hours. She can’t even sit still for 4+ minutes! Unless…she’s in her car seat. Use what I call the car seat aura. Your toddler understands when he or she is in the seat that it’s travel time. Use this! Don’t be afraid of getting through security and all that other nonsense. Here’s what you do. Pack away your fancy Graco car seat with all the bells and whistles. Leave it at home! Order the FAA approved Cosco Scenera car seat. Why? It’s super LIGHTWEIGHT at only 10 pounds. It’s NARROW at only 17″ wide. And it’s CHEAP at less than $60 (some styles as low as $35!).

The Cosco Scenera is FAA approved, meaning you can use it on an airplane. It took me less than a minute to secure it (front facing only) to the airplane seat using the belt. It fits like butter through the security conveyer belt. AND you can easily carry it through the terminal since it’s only 10lbs. By not declaring a lap child, you have your hands free to entertain your toddler. This is HUGE!

3. Umbrella stroller it up.

Once you’re out of the car, set your toddler up in an umbrella stroller and get checked in. Make your way to security with your carry on bags and car seat. Unstrap your bundle of toddler terror, fold up and load the stroller onto the security conveyer and head on through the security check. Simple! Unfold the umbrella stroller and stroll through the terminal to your gate. Now here’s the secret to a smooth flight. Grab your toddler and explore the terminal until they’re EXHAUSTED! We walked to the newsstand, visited the toy store and chatted with the lady there. Get a healthy snack pack from Starbucks, run in circles…the terminal is your oyster. A tired baby is a happy baby (well, eventually)! I literally searched for the most inexpensive umbrella stroller I could find and it was worth it’s weight in GOLD! Check out the Cosco Umbrella Stroller for $20 bucks!

4. Pre-board to setup the car seat.

You may have to specifically request it depending on your airline, but do take advantage of pre-boarding for families with young children. This allows you to get your car seat strapped and in your supplies at the ready. If you’re flying with another adult, you can send them on to get setup while you finish running the toddler ragged and wait to load until the very end.

5. Drinks for the ears during take-off and landing.

Toddlers may have trouble with the pressure change due to the altitude when flying. We held off with the snacks and drinks until we were on the plane. My daughter actually fell asleep for an hour and a half as soon as we got settled on the plane, so she didn’t have any problems during take-off. As we were descending she was grabbing at her ear, so we pulled out her cup of apple juice and gave her a few sips to alleviate the pressure by swallowing. When she started to get fussy, hungry or bored, we had her snacks and food ready!

6. When the seat-belt sign is off, let your tyke stretch!

Pretty straight forward, but after her long nap we had her up and out of her car seat and took a few walks up and down the cabin. Not only did it pacify her curiosity, but we got to stretch as well!

7. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t stress over what you can’t control.

If it weren’t for an “intercom error” that set us back 40 minutes on the runway, our master plan to flying with a toddler would’ve been perfect! She only started getting fussy in the last 40 minutes of our flight! Figures, right? Well instead of stress out about it, we “let it go”. Don’t sweat what you can’t control!

I hope our experience helps with your upcoming travels! If you have any questions leave a comment below. And a BIG thank you to everyone who provided me with tips and tricks. Much appreciated!


One stay at home dad (to be) conquers DIY and Diapers

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Michelle Starke

    Welcome to Seattle. Hope you like it here. Great tips. I will add my own – bring out the smart phone or ipad (airplane mode, of course) for when NOTHING else will do.

    1. Rick

      Thanks Michelle, the weather this past week has been UNREAL! And great add, smart phones save lives!

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