Traveling With A Toddler: A Survivor’s Story

I recently took flight from Chicago to San Diego with my almost 2-year old and yes, I survived. I had nightmares for weeks…okay, months about this trip…agonizing over the extreme possibility that my little “angel” would go all Exorcist on me and freak out mid-flight.

Ya know what? It wasn’t so bad. I made sure to keep a few tricks up my sleeve, ones that I am GLADLY sharing with you today!

Here is the recipe for a more successful trip with your toddler:

Lap Child- To Pay or Not To Pay?

Yeah, I am cheap. I prefer the term frugal, but I will cop to being cheap. Since my son was 23 months old at the time of the trip, I thought it was a GREAT bargain that I didn’t have to pay for his ticket. Ummm…here’s the real deal- if your kid doesn’t have a seat and the flight is longer than 2 hours, you WILL PAY one way or another. Luckily we conned the flight attendants into locating an extra seat and re-locating some passengers for us. Otherwise? Exorcist re-enactment for sure.

TIP: If you do not pay for an extra seat for your lap child, ask EVERY PERSON in a uniform you see to help you try and find an extra one, and explain that it would make everyone’s life easier.


Here is my list of distractions:

iPad- fully loaded with apps that don’t require Internet access
Headphones- sound-limiting so you don’t damage their little ears
Laptop- including at least 5 DVDs that are favorites
Dollar Store Junk
Pen and paper
Markers & coloring book (the magic kind that only write on special paper otherwise write clear)

TIP: Buy everything from the Dollar Store that your toddler won’t choke on and don’t show it to them prior to getting on the plane.


Here are my must-haves:

Wipes, and not just for booties
Diapers- more than you think!
Changing pad (my plane had a changing table in the bathroom; amazed)
Paper towels or napkins
Plastic bag for trash or other issues
Empty sippy cup that won’t leak (ever try to keep a cup of water on your tray with a toddler? Good luck!)
Snacks. Every snack imaginable, new, old, whatever…just try not to get anything liquid.

TIP: Re-pack your snacks in resealable containers when packing your carry on.

Car Seat and Stroller

Soooo….United told me that I could only check my car seat OR my stroller. Huh? Really? You want me to pay $25 extra each way to ship a stroller that costs $30? I decided to just to to Target when we got to our destination and buy a $15 stroller, however on the way back they let me gate check both for free.

TIP: When checking your car seat, purchase a case to put it in and then stack diapers, wipes, etc… in the bag as well.

(If it won’t fit through the conveyor belt/scanner, you will have to unpack it but whoops! Too late for them to do anything about all the extra supplies you brought).

Hope this helps, let me know if you have any extra travel tips!