Top 10 Tips for Flying with a One Year Old (Ages 12 months – 17 months)

Okay guys, so this post was an absolute necessity because if I can help any of you other mommas out there with flying with a one year old, then I am absolutely going to do it, by all means!

**If you are looking for information on flying with a baby (under 12 months), head HERE.**

So I personally, didn’t do a TON of research, but I did enough to realize that there is information out there on flying with a “baby” (under 11 months) and there is information out there on “toddlers” but what about that in between stage? Honestly, I think the time between them turning one to even up to 2 years can be very difficult flying. Clearly, I am only at the beginning of this stage and am sure it continues on, but there are a few things that are very critically different between this time and them becoming a toddler.

First, your little one is just learning how to walk and that is ALL. THEY. WANT. TO. DO. Like I am not kidding. They want to be on the move 24/7 which makes sense because they just reached a massive milestone and it is very exciting…except when you are stuck in a tin box for hours on end where walking up and down the aisles is barelyyyyy an option. Like one of the flights we went on, adults couldn’t even get by each other, let alone allowing my toddler to get up and move.

Second, is the fact that screens are not effective at this time. Maybe your baby is able to sit and watch a show or play on the iPad, but mine is not. All she does is touch it and then it closes and then she cries and or just walks away with it and carries it wherever she is headed next. I am a firm believer in doing anything to keep my babe quiet on a plane, so in my opinion, tablets are a great option for flying, but your child has to be able to actually sit and watch it.

Third is given your child’s age, they really want to exert independence, but they don’t understand just yet how the world functions around them, so for example, their desire to open and close the tray table 60,000 times might not be to the best interest to the person in front of you…just saying.

These three factors, among numerous others, are what makes flying with one year old, extremely difficult. BUT. I have news for you. It is going to be okay with the tips I give you. You will survive and maybe, you might want to do it again?!?!

You can see here, Arabella is reading a book and we have her snack box right next to her. I linked this one below!

Okay, let’s get into it.

  1. First and most importantly is to anticipate the worst. I truly don’t think it will be that bad, but if you just mentally prepare for a rough one, then anything and above that will be okay. This might seem a bit negative, but expectations and reality can really make a difference in your experience of the day.
  2. Try to schedule the flight or flights around naps. Hopefully this way you can knock out some time with them sleeping in your arms. Now, a few things to note about naps at this age- John and I learned the hard way on the way out on a flight, that given their age, they don’t really like to just fall asleep in your arms anymore like they did when they were under 10 months. Nowwww, they are going to be overly tired (most likely) and not want to sleep, so you MUST BE STRONGER THAN THEM. On the way out, Arabella fought us hard on naps. She cried for an entire hour on the first flight out, until we could get her asleep. We encountered similar issues on the second flight, as well because here is what would happen – She was tired, we would try to put her to sleep, but she is bigger and wants to move and be in a crib, so we would fight a little, she’s screaming, we are getting embarrassed, so we would stop forcing her and distract, but then she would start crying again because she was tired. We did this little back and forth until finally I just kept pushing. When she fought harder, I soothed stronger and would switch up my tactics a bit. Eventually, she tuckered herself out and fell asleep. Then, once she woke up she was SO much happier and it made the flight that much easier. Because we struggled with this on the way out of one flight, I was able to use what I learned on the way back and guess what? The second flight, for her nap, she didn’t fight me! It was GLORIOUS.
  3. Speaking of naps, where you sit on the plane is KEY. So, I am going to throw it out there and say if you can, sit in first class. I know, I know. This sounds crazy, but the extra space, getting a meal, and being able to drown out their crying is MONUMENTAL on you. We flew regular on the way out, but got upgraded on the way home for both of our flights and it was life changing. I sat by the window and any time Arabella would cry, I would just turn her into that space and it drowned her out significantly. Now, if that isn’t an option, then I would say do a window seat. You will have a little bit of extra space and they can look out the window or open and close the shutter or you can put stickies on it and use that as a distraction too. I personally, do not think buying a seat for them is necessary until about 18-19 months. If you are going to splurge on the money, I would upgrade to first class, first.
  4. Okay, so this tip is one I found while doing my research and I think it was SUPER helpful in creating a plan of attack – have a three step process that you just keep on repeat. For example: we used snack, book, other (which included iPad, singing, or a toy). For Arabella, we found these amazing activity books that she was super obsessed with. I will link them below for y’all, so those entertained her the most. It did mean we had some heavy books to carry, but it worked like a charm. So I would figure out what your baby enjoys best and just plan on switching every 3-5 minutes haha.
  5. Now, let’s talk snacks. So you are going to want A. LOT. OF SNACKS. I think I packed like 8 different kinds. Variety is key for sure and after our flight out there, I figured out a super fun way to pack Arabella’s snacks that protected them and made it fun for her. So I kept a big ziplock bag in my purse of all the options with a few cold ones in my cooler with her bottles. Then I took 3-4 and put a few of each into a small plastic Tupperware. When we came back to snacks she could reach in and CHOOSE which snack she wanted and then she could also play with the Tupperware. She really enjoyed taking off and putting the lid back on or shaking them or sucking on it. So it made for a good distraction. Once the snacks ran out or on our second flight, I would just restock them. Just be sure they don’t see you restocking because they are going to want someeeee.
  6. Okay, let’s talk toys. So I thought for sure Arabella would want a lot of toys. What I realized is that for her, they were a waste of space. I had even bought new toys specifically for the flight and she still wasn’t super interested. I do have a few I would recommend and will do so at the bottom, but for her, she personally enjoyed her books much much more. With that in mind, don’t waste space packing a ton of toys. If anything, I would focus on toys that she can do stuff with – so open and close, twist, etc. At this age they are more so figuring things out and how they work. They really want to put lids on stuff, etc.
  7. Bring a stroller to the airport. Arabella at this age was getting a little big to be carried in her carrier, so I started bringing her stroller. It made things so much easier to not have to carry her and then I could put things in the bottom of the stroller too. Then, when you board the plane, they just check it at the gate and you can pick it up when you deplane. Keep in mind your stroller has to be under 20 lbs (ours is two pieces and each piece is under 20), so if your stroller is super heavy, you might want to get a lighter one. But having the stroller was also really great for arriving at our destination too!
  8. Make sure to pack extra diapers and clothes. I like to pack a couple of change of clothes options and some extra diapers, just in case something were to happen and we needed them. You can also throw in an extra top for yourself if you can fit it! You never know what might happen and I like to be prepared haha.
  9. Know where everything is. It is super helpful to know where all the goodies are at a time. That way when you are searching for something, you know exactly where it is in your stuff. I like to keep toys/activities together in one bag and then food, water, and extra bottles/formual in another. At this age you will probably still be packing bottles, so I like to keep these in a lunch pail and have the amount of bottles I will need already made and ready to go. This lunch bag does not count as part of your carryons (nor does a pump bag if you were needing to pump), so don’t worry about that aspect. Just make sure when you pack it you put your ice pack in last thing before heading to the airport. Security will throw it out if it isn’t fully frozen.
Ms. Rachel and Cocomelon were Arabella’s favorite shows at this point, so we did download a few episodes for her to watch, but her attention span wasn’t long on them.

I hope these tips were helpful for you! I will definitely make another for Arabella’s current age (21 months), because things definitely shift from 12-17 months, versus 18 to now. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below and look forward to the next age one, soon!




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