Flying with Toddlers: 7 Survival Strategies

Taking a road-trip with toddlers is one thing, flying with them is a completely different ball game. My husband and I recently took our 14-month-old twins to Kauai for a week. I turned to the internet and other moms for travel tips weeks before the trip. The second we arrived at the airport, everything went wrong. 


1. Find out in advance if your airline has stroller restrictions. If your stroller is over 20 pounds, American Airlines will not let you bring it to the gate, you must check it with your luggage. That was not the news my husband and I wanted to hear 20 minutes before our flight took off with 3 carry-on bags and 2 toddlers in tow. 

2. Purchase a stroller bag. I've heard hundreds of horror stories from other moms about airlines damaging their strollers. JL Childress makes a durable stroll bag large enough for double strollers that worked great for our trip, especially after learning we had to check it as regular luggage instead of bringing it to the gate. Remember to put your name, address, and phone number on the stroller and the bag too.

3. Arrive at the airport 2 1/2 hours in advance. Map out where to park and where to check in prior to arrival. We arrived at the airpot 1 hour in advance in rush hour traffic on a friday morning. Due to construction and misleading signs, we parked in the wrong terminal, checked in at the wrong gate, and almost missed our flight. 

4. Bring 3 carry-on bags. Pack one bag (preferably a back pack for better support) for snacks, sippy cups, and other liquids that TSA can quickly sort through (keep in mind they have absolutely no sense of urgency even when you have a toddler in each arm). Pack another bag with toys (new ones always help), pacifiers, an i-pad, airplane pillows, blankets, nighttime diapers, wipes, and clothes. My husband and I put our belongings into a third bag, but once the kids were on our laps, it was non-existent. 

5. Hold off on the Benadryl. I bought children's Benadryl and tested it out on the kids prior to the trip. It worked great! My experiment made me overly confident that my kids would sleep for the entire 6 hour flight. I even had my husband convinced. The Benadryl made them drowsy alright, but also cranky. They fought sleep and screamed for majority of the flight. The flight was also during their awake time and because we have twins, they are on a sleeping schedule, but this was the one time I was wishing they weren't. Our kids haven't fallen asleep in our arms since they were newborns, so why would I expect them to do that on a flight of all places?! 

6. Make sure the car rental is at the airport. We arrived in Hawaii, sweaty and exhausted, and found out that the car rental place was off-site and we needed a shuttle to get there. A crowded shuttle was the last place I wanted to be with unpredictable toddlers. I waited behind with the kids and the luggage while my husband took care of the car. 

7. Rent baby gear. We stayed in a condo so I contacted Kauai Baby Gear prior to the trip. They had everything from diapers, wipes, pac-n-plays, highchairs, a diaper genie, sand toys, beach chairs, and baby gates and set it all up before we arrived. 

Written by, 

Dawn Antis 

Written by, 

Dawn Antis 

Dawn Antis is a mom of twin toddlers and stepmom to 3 adult children. She is the founder and blog writer for Mom & Tot OC, a mommy & me group for toddlers in Orange County, California. Dawn is the Chair of Communications for Valiant Women of Mission Hospital. She was the Associate Editor of Orange Coast Magazine and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from California State University, Fullerton. Dawn resides in Irvine with her husband and little ones.