Make Flying With a 1-Year-Old a Breeze

Please remember that I am writing this from the experience of flying with a 1-year-old on a 1-hour flight. Our kids are all unique and so not all of what I write may be perfect for you.

People nowadays are in revenge travel mode. Our family? We don’t mind staying at home.

But then our travel fund from our canceled 2020 flights was about to expire. Kael hasn’t been to Boracay and we miss the beach. And we thought maybe we could break our toddler for a short-haul flight.

If you ever had a baby, you know how preparing for an outside trip can feel like a big production. And if you have a toddler, you know these cute creatures are always on the move and could be loud wherever.

flying with a 1-year-old
Tikoy busy playing with a C2 bottle

So how do you gear up for your tot’s first air travel? Do your research, prepare the pack, and let the adventure unfold.

Here’s how you can make flying with a toddler easier for your family.

Book your flight with the tot in mind

Already set on where you’ll go? It’s time to choose what time you’ll fly. Choose the flight where upon your arrival at your destination, you won’t have to wait for a long time to be able to check in to your hotel. You’ll want nothing but to relieve yourself from the weight of your baggage (and most likely from carrying your tot).

From what I’ve read, parents’ advice is to pick a flight when your toddler would likely be napping. I tried this but toddlers and timing don’t always jive and he didn’t nap on the plane. But because he fell asleep while we were on our way to the airport, he was in a good mood by the time we boarded.

Is booking an extra seat worth it?

For a 1-hour flight with a 1-year-old, let it go. Your toddler would prefer to sit on your lap. But if your tot is used to being in car seats, having his own might work.

Note: Contrary to what is popular, kids below the age of 2 aren’t always free of charge even when they sit on your lap. It might depend on the airline but with Cebu Pacific, they charge a minimum handling fee and it varies on your destination. If you purchased them their own seat, you should still bring an FAA-approved car seat.

Is the window seat better for a toddler?

It depends. My son didn’t care about the view. I believe older toddlers would be happy to have the window seat. Sure the view will mostly be clouds but they know enough already to recognize it from picture books.

Having a toddler on the window seat means he won’t be bumped at by passing people and carts.

Is the first row a good seat?

Yes. We booked the first row on our way to Boracay. The upside is having a bigger leg room and settling down sooner after boarding. I liked the first row because even though my toddler was babbling so loud, only the flight attendants were in front of us.

Of course, the passengers behind could hear my tot but I didn’t see them. It’s childish I know, but I don’t see their reaction because they are not in front of me. So if there ever were raised eyebrows because of the noise my son was making, it didn’t get to me. And so I was relaxed. And yes…I was still relying on everyone’s kindness and understanding.

What I don’t like about the first row however was you can’t pull up the armrest. The tables were built there so connecting chairs to stretch for sleep is not possible.

Be wise about what to pack

This will depend on how long you will be out and what kind of place you’ll be going to. Will you need a check-in suitcase? Also, it’s a combination of wanting to have your hands free and wanting to have everything ready for your toddler just in case. Here are some points to remember:

  • Regarding what to pack for a hand carry, there are non-negotiable items such as diapers, first aid kits, snacks, and water. Add in a few toys and a set of clothing for your toddler. A small plastic bag just in case your child vomits.
  • Childproof your bag. Make sure there are no pointy items that can puncture his hands or little objects he can unclip and put in his mouth. Medicine kits and bottles should be safely sealed.
  • Make travel documents easily accessible. It brings convenience that digital records are recognized almost everywhere now. Don’t forget the toddler’s birth certificate or passport.
  • Make umbrella, hat, and sunglass readily available for the kid.
  • Check on your airline’s policy about strollers. There are stroller models you can bring and place in the overhead compartments.

Dress your toddlers appropriately. Or at least be ready with a scarf. Airplanes can be cold but your destination could be the opposite.

I wrote about the essential items when traveling with a toddler. You can also download my free travel packing checklist there.

Are carriers needed?

If your tot is used to being in one, it’ll help big time. I saw a lot of parents using carriers.

Our son had been in his carrier a few times only. Still, we brought it because I planned to go island hopping and you know how it is climbing boats. We ditched the island hopping plan though and I regret getting his carrier.

Get to the airport early

You never know when an airport has long lines of passengers. If you can check in online, do it. Some airlines will allow you to just show a screenshot of your boarding pass before you take the flight.

If you do not check in online, be early so you can have enough time to go through the process and security checks. It is particularly challenging to go through airport procedures while carrying a tot.

Some parents swear by letting their toddlers run around while waiting for boarding. They say it burns their children’s energy making them calm and quiet during the plane ride. If you’re early, you may even have time to eat before boarding announcements.

Ease the ear popping

Changes in cabin pressure during take-off and landing ‘blocks’ our ears making it uncomfortable. Breastfeeding during these times can prevent ear pain. Drinking water with a straw can also do the trick.

Keep them entertained

What do toddlers do while in flight? Be anything but boring.

Food can already entertain toddlers. Bring familiar and unfamiliar snacks they can munch on. If possible, bring toys that are new to them. Although guaranteed to keep a toddler quiet, think hard about when you’ll resort to electronics.

When you’re out of other options, you can even read the in-flight magazine with your toddler. Singing songs together can prove to be a great bonding time. Be mindful of your volume though.

<3: Sometimes you don’t have to do anything. Sometimes other passengers offer themselves as entertainment. Just make sure your child is safe and those people won’t do harm when you’re not looking.

Safety first

Oh, how Covid-19 affected our lives up to the point where passengers are cleaning their airplane seats. Airlines heightened their safety measures by having extensive cleaning and disinfection protocols for all aircraft and facilities. Cebu Pacific operates with a 100% fully vaccinated flying crew.

Better bring your own disinfectant wipes and do a quick swipe on the table (or the seat, no one will judge you). Have alcohol ready as well as kid-safe hand sanitizers.

Also, your toddler may find a jampacked airport too much. Make him feel secure and don’t let him leave your sight.

Tip: Talk to your toddler about the flight beforehand. Board books usually have airplane pictures so use them as reference. It’s true they might not understand everything you say. But still, toddlers are unbelievably smart.

I don’t have advice when it comes to diaper changes while on the plane because we (luckily) didn’t have to do it.

Every kid is different and there’s always a first. Tikoy’s first plane ride went well and without a tear.

I thought we’d skip the crying altogether but it happened on our way home. He cried loudly while on the airport bus (after deplaning) after his nap was interrupted. My husband and I managed to stay calm and collected, showing Tikoy loads of affection.

He won’t remember his first flight, but we will. The experience is actually more for us, first-time parents.

How about you? Have you flown with your toddler already? How did it go?

how to make flying with a 1-year-old a breeze

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