It’s every new parent’s recurring nightmare.

It starts out pretty benign. A 747, jam-packed with cranky, delayed passengers. But your toddler is bubbling and smiley, playing peek-a-boo with the good natured, former preschool teacher behind you. Bouncing up. Bouncing down. Cheerio? Sure.
Then your told you’ve been cleared for take off. Jumping is not so ok right now, so you try to restrain said toddler. The strong little body turns into a flapjack, flopping all over the place like a fish out of water. The person next to you (who was cooing at your youngster a second ago) throws visual darts at you over his or her novel, and takes over the prime armrest real estate. The plane ascends. You hit 10,000 feet and the screaming starts. Shrieking really. The sides of the plane start caving in, and you like that oxygen mask might come in handy even without a fall in cabin pressure. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Nightmare sound familiar? Has it extinguished your travel bug?
Thankfully, we’ve never lived this in reality. And Lila’s a frequent flier – – eight roundtrips since she was three months old. We are actually loving traveling right now because Lila is considered a ‘lap child’ until she’s 2. Two tickets for three passengers = economic.
We’re not going to pretend to be some sort of toddler-toting travel expert, but we do have a few tricks up our sleeve we thought we’d share:
1) Activate the Co-Pilot Parent Support Network. No, it’s not a Facebook group or Twitter list. It’s the other parents on your flight. Use them. Be used. We met a mom-on-the-go with her 14-month-old cutie waiting in line for family boarding on our Southwest flight yesterday. She was headed to Baltimore solo, with two bulging bags, a stroller, and an adventurous kid. She shared cheerios with our Bug. Pat carried her kiddo on the plane so she could collapse the stroller and manage her bags. These parents are your best allies – – especially when you realize you only have two wipes and a diaper situation that requires far more…
2) Starbucks. Not only do these airport staples have healthy (gluten-free, nut-free, sugar-free – – whatever you need) portable meals and snacks, they are a Godsend since you can no longer (easily) bring liquids through security. Lila is now on whole milk – – and $1 got us a tall, warm latte-sans-coffee. Pour into bottle. Zzzzzzzzzz…… You can get your caffeine fix, too.
3) Drinks. Are. Very. Important. To keep your little one’s ears in the clear, make sure they drink one take off and landing. The swallowing motion helps them equalize the air pressure and alleviate discomfort. That warm bottle or milk at take off? Super helpful in equalizing pressure and soothing to sleep. Make sure you have a cup or bottle they are familiar with – – and you might want a cup with a lid for you, too! (Easier to juggle with lap child).
4) Entertainment. This is tricky. You need toys and activities for your child that are both engaging AND won’t annoy your fellow passengers. We’ve found that touch and feel books are always a good bet – – and if they’re new (or just previously undiscovered on the bottom of the gift pile) even better! Don’t bring more than you can fit in the diaper bag because you’ll just end up having to juggle like a circus clown. The iPad is a great portable “toy”, too. Load up on a few fav kid-friendly shows and apps. You’ve got entertainment that’s easy to manage when your tot dozes.
5) Smart Packing. Seriously, everything you need CAN fit in a large diaper bag. Here’s what was in ours: Ziploc bag full of snacks, spare ziploc bag, bottle, juice box (purchased at Starbucks), change of outfit, sweatshirt, 3 diapers, wipes, birth certificate, 3 books, stuffed animal, blanket, changing pad, kiddie cell phone, iPad, wallet, phone, and spare socks. Oh – – and a magazine for me, too.
6) Dress Intentionally. Those pesky security rules you have to follow? They apply to your tike, too. Yepp – – that means coats and shoes have to come off. Keep that in mind when you’re packing. Leave the cute restricting clothes home too – – comfy, yoga-inspired looks work best for Lila. And go from playtime to sleeptime.
7) Less is Best. Your favorite jogging stroller that would be perfect for cruising the boardwalk at your next destination? Pack with caution. If you’re using it at the airport, too, it’s going to have to fit through the X-ray machine. So does your infant carrier or carseat if you’re carrying them on the plane. You can check these things at the gate – – so don’t worry if you need to bring them! Just remember they do have to collapse and fit through the machine.
8) Consider packing a spare outfit for yourself in your carry on, too. I’ve made the mistake of not packing a spare outfit for me twice. And on both occasions, I found myself in a situation that could have used it. Your child will be on your lap for an extended period of time. Diaper malfunctions do occur. Enough said.
We’re curious – – what are your air travel toddler tips?