Now that we’re planning our next vacation, I want to share some of the tips that worked for us while flying for the first time with a baby and a toddler in tow! For our last family trip, we went to Alaska in July. We honestly don’t travel a ton and a lot of that is because I am the worst traveler. I am petrified of flying, scared of cruise boats and I get sick on smaller boats and in cars – I’ve even made myself car sick while driving! However, I don’t let it completely stop me from leaving town. I’m just rarely the one who suggests a trip or vacation.It probably goes without saying that traveling with two under two doesn’t make for the most relaxing vacation (I’ve heard people say that when you have kids, it’s called a trip, not a vacation) but the kids did really well and, if I didn’t have so much travel anxiety, I think it would have gone even smoother.
Disclosure: I include affiliate links in this post which means, at no additional cost to you, I make a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Here are a few things I learned on our trip and my top tips for traveling with a baby and toddler and please share your tips with me too!
- If you have two lap infants, you cannot sit in the same row, even if you’re allowed to book your seats this way online. We didn’t find this out until we arrived at the airport and got our boarding passes. This led to us not even being in close rows. I had everything for both littles in the same bag and the thought of not even being close to my daughter while we flew meant my anxiety really spiked. Luckily, after some rearranging, we ended up in the same row and with an extra seat so I really calmed down.
- Look into Air B&B or non-traditional room options. Our trips have been a night and day difference when we stay somewhere that includes an actual room or some kind of separation in the living space. If you are all in literally one room, you can’t even watch a movie after your kids go to bed unless you use headphones. Also, my daughter is a great sleeper but she’s used to falling asleep in her room alone so it was super distracting for her to have us all there when she’s trying to fall asleep. She ended up going to sleep super late each night and probably would have had a little more fun if she was able to stick closer to her schedule so a room separation would have been for her benefit and ours. Our son was still sleeping in our room at the time (and still wasn’t sleeping the best anyway) so he didn’t mind.
- Baby items check for free. I did know that car seats and strollers check for free at the ticket counter or at the gate but we were also able to check our Pack n Play for free, which I did not expect. Also, note that a car seat will check free whether it’s alone or in a bag which leads me to…
- Get a car seat bag! It will keep your car seat clean and you can fill the rest of the space with other baby/child necessities. I use duffel bags for diapers and baby clothes and threw them in the car seat bag after the car seats were loaded. I also packed my toiletries in here so I wouldn’t have to deal with them at security or check another bag. If you’re renting a car, you can often rent a car seat too but its likely to be a model or brand you’re unfamiliar with and usually costs an additional $15-$20 per day.
- Ziplock everything. I learned this tip from my best friend and from the cookbook Giada’s Feel Good Food. I get a bunch of Ziplock Gallon Slider Storage Bags and pre-determine outfits then label each bag. Since I like the kids to match or coordinate and I try not to clash, I planned out all of our outfits together and bagged them up by day, complete with a bow for my daughter and sometimes my outfit even fit into the same bag! (That probably only works in the summer though.) I also use Ziplocks for toiletries and for anything I want to separate but still be able to see the contents. It may not be the most environmentally-friendly but you can always save and re-use the bags for future travel, crafts, etc. I have a stack that I’m saving from this trip and planning to re-use instead of throwing away so that’s not too wasteful, I guess.
- Wear baby. I did this when my daughter was a baby and again with my son. It frees up your hands and I think you get through security a little easier. I tend to bring both my Ergobaby Carrier and a wrap carrier (I have this one) on trips. I like the wrap carriers for a flight because, in a small airplane seat, I think they are more comfy than my structured Ergo, easier to roll up in luggage when not in-use and can double as a nursing cover for the plane and/or airport.
- Get to the airport 3 hours early. This might sound excessive but if you are working with a 1:1 adult to child/baby ratio, you will need the time, especially if you’re unloading car seats, Worse case, you enjoy some time to relax or let your little one run off some energy before your flight. We had 2 hours for a domestic flight and it was not enough time to unload car seats, load car seat bags, check bags, go through security, get snacks for everyone, change diapers and use the restroom. And we even had my father-in-law there to help us unload car seats, babies and luggage and get into the airport! However, if you have an extra adult traveling with you or only one child, it’s way easier to accomplish all of these tasks more quickly but I’d still give it 2.5 hours.
- Bring your stroller to the gate. Even when we just had our daughter and I was wearing her, we still brought the stroller through security because then she had a place to sit that wasn’t the gross airport floor and it worked as a bag carrier right up until we got on the plane. Our single stroller (Baby Jogger City Mini) folds up very easy and quick and it’s pretty compact so we don’t bother with an umbrella stroller. For this trip, the two took turns in the stroller since a toddler’s little legs get tired even after they’re a great walker. For the next trip, I’m hoping to get the skateboard that attaches to our stroller.
- Most hotels have cribs. Often, they have Pack n Plays but, in Alaska, they provided an actual crib (a travel-size rolling crib) but, since we still have two in cribs, we still had to bring our Pack n Play. For smaller or younger babies, I’d recommend a travel crib instead but my son is huge and super tall so he grew out of that long ago, haha. We used this one for ages with my daughter – for travel and for regular sleep when she grew out of her bassinet but wasn’t yet in her crib in her own room.