Flying with Kids! Two Under Two

By The Flying Pinto

Dear Flying Pinto,
I just stumbled upon your blog and I am fascinated!  But as a mom of two-under-two I don’t have the time I’d like to scour your old posts.  My husband and I are planning a trip in a few months from Denver to Green Bay.  Our daughter will be 23 months old and our son will be 9 months old.  I am panicking!  What on earth are we going to do with two babies for the duration of these flights?  We are going to book a seat for our daughter and probably put her in her car seat, but any sort of advice you could offer would be so greatly appreciated.
Thank you!
P.S.  Thank you for what you do.  Dealing with a happy flight attendant is one of the great parts of traveling.
Hi Nichole,
I posed your question to my followers on Twitter and Face Book and the overall consensus was, “Don’t do it!!”
They were kidding…well, at least most of them were!
Ok, in all seriousness: Fear not! I have been a Flight Attendant for eighteen years, and as well as observing families all those years I have a three year old of my own who I really enjoy traveling with. Here are my tried and true tips:
  • Give yourself oodles of time. Your kids feed off of you, if you’re stressed they will be stressed. Have enough time to be able to get on their level and let them know what is ahead of them. Involve them in the planning as much as possible.
  • Bring what you need. Your carry on should have: healthy snacks. I pack a cooler with frozen veggies, fruit, nuts, peanut butter and jelly etc. Pack reusable empty water bottles and fill them once inside security at the water fountains, enough diapers for every hour of your trip (door to door) plus a few more, a change of clothes, small blankets, toys/activities, ear plugs for your neighbors, a small first aid kit, disposable place mats, and ziplocs for wet clothes and/or dirty diapers. You may bring a reasonable amount of breast milk or formula through security. To read more of what’s allowed through U.S. security check out
  • Sling ’em! Forget strollers! Carrying your kids in slings, leaves your hands free. You can purchase a cheap umbrella stroller at your destination if you really need one and leave it for future guests or visits. If your two year old is too big for a sling buy “this” inexpensive strap so she can ride through the airport in her car seat.
  • But, I’d still ditch the car seat at the gate. I’m serious. I know some people disagree with me on this, because they worry about damage. I have checked my daughters expensive Britax Car Seat about eight times a year for the past three years and there hasn’t been any damage. I’ve also never seen a car seat come up to the jet way after a flight, damaged. I’m not saying it can’t happen, I’m just saying it’s rare. (Don’t bring a booster seat, they’re not FAA approved.)
  • What will you do without a car seat? Order the C.A.R.E.S. (Child Aviation Restraint System) If you fly once a year this product is worth the investment. It is safer than the aircraft lap belt, much easier to travel with than a car seat, and will give your child room. (You won’t have to spend the flight telling your daughter not to kick the seat in front of her)
  • Speaking of kicking the seat, if this is a real issue for you, you can request to have your  husband sit in front of your daughter’s seat. (or if it becomes a problem during flight, offer to switch with the person who’s seat is getting kicked)
  • And, about those seating arrangements. Be prepared to be separated if you bought the cheap seats. More and more the airlines are giving the middle seats to the lowest bidders, (discount travel sites) The flight attendants will work with you to get at least one parent with a small child, but may not be that helpful to get all of you together if the flight is full and there are many families separated. They do what they can. When I travel with my family, I try to ask my neighbors myself, I’ve been known to buy drinks, headsets and even pay cold hard cash to bribe people to trade seats.
  • Use night time diapers while on the airplane. This way your kids can sleep in peace or it will buy you some time if the seat belt sign is on.
  • You’re lucky to be traveling with your spouse, take advantage of the extra adult by having one of you board the airplane during pre-boards. You’ll be able to get  your gear on board and your area all settled and ready while the other stays in the boarding area with the kids. This will allow your two year old to get out some extra energy and not be confined for an extra forty minutes.

Here are a few Dont’s:

  • Don’t hand the flight attendant a dirty diaper. We are not being rude when we don’t accept them in our trash, we just can’t bring them into the “kitchen” (galley) where our trash is stored for sanitary reasons. (same goes for throw up) Put it in a ziploc and dispose of it in the lav on your next visit.
  • Don’t change diapers on the tray table, also for sanitary reasons. (This does happen though as well as finger nail clipping, and feet resting, and is why I always bring above mentioned disposable place mats)
  • Don’t place any child on the floor to sleep. The thing about turbulence is sometimes it comes without warning and that is usually the worst kind. Always make sure your kids are buckled even when sleeping.
Here’s what some folks via twitter and FB had to say:
@andybiggs Alcohol. And tons of it;-) (I’m pretty sure he’s being funny at least about the “tons of it”), but he’s right if you need a glass of wine to unwind go for it!) He’s also a dad and an amazing photographer…check out his site at

@FHxoxo give them something sweet/chewing gums before taking off because they’ll focus more on enjoying it than the take off itself.
@rward75 Bring toys, dvd player, snacks. Ask FA for trash bag, don’t change kid on seats or tray table. Be OK with kid crying!@qfamily Read other family blogs (including this great one by them…The Q Family Adventures Travel Blog)

Christy on FB (flight attendant) They may not put the car seat in an aisle seat and hold one of the children. It does not matter that the car seat is empty, it can not be in the aisle seat (this was a recent incident for me)
Above all don’t worry about the other passengers. If you’re relaxed your kids will be relaxed. You can also check out an article I wrote for Travel Mamas blog “here” and a few pointers from Travel Mama herself “here.”

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  1. Charter Flights @ 2010-09-03 10:04

    This is great advice for me as I also have a young family and we have lot of family holidays from the UK to the US each year and this advice is priceless the bit about not using car site and order the spicily bit of it that you mention

  2. Anonymous @ 2010-09-03 12:36

    there are 2 kinds of flights with children (and this as a passenger without children):
    1) great flights, where everyone is busy playing and napping
    2) hell, with a dozen screaming infants all over the cabin.

    Individual parents and flight attendants can do very little about it, but type 1 can quickly turn into type 2.
    For some reason crying seems infectuous. If an infant in the last row starts crying, pretty soon every child on board will be crying as well and try to stop it then, you're not going to succeed.

    Candy helps, kids love it and if they've got a mouth full of lollypop they quickly forget (if they ever knew) what the crying was all about 🙂

    Parents, keep your kids occupied. Keep them from being scared. The pressure changes during the flight are unnatural and can upset them.
    If they're old enough, explain beforehand what's happening, make a game of it. If not, try to distract them with candy and stories, picture books and cartoons (don't rely on that portable DVD player, you won't be allowed to use it during the most critical times of the flight).

    If you're (even if not their parent) sitting near a child, please relax. Don't appear tense or apprehensive, it radiates and children pick it up more readily than do adults.
    That can be enough to upset them and start them crying.

    For everyone, noise cancelling earphones or earplugs can limit the hearing damage from a dozen wailing children, but not eliminate it.
    All you can hope for is that it stops or the flight ends. Getting angry or visibly upset about it will only make it worse.

  3. Hey all, rward75 here from twitter 🙂

    I'd also like to add that young children will cry during take off and landing (pressurizing / depressurizing the cabin) to help them avoid the pain that we all feel sometimes only, we as adults understand why this happens, and can clear our ears. Small children, toddlers and infants can't.

    To prevent this, offer the child a bottle, pacifier, or sippy cup during both phases of flight. The sucking / drinking action will help keep their Eustachian Tubes open in their ears thereby relieving the painful pressure. If you forget these, you can always give the child something to drink with a straw. I'm always on the look out for parents who are new to traveling with children and I'm always ready with cups of water with lids and straws to help during those times.

    As mentioned in the blog post, children absolutely feed off of your mood. If they're crying and you become upset because they're crying because you just know they're "annoying" people around them, your upset mood will further upset them and it becomes an endless cycle.

    First, children especially infants and toddlers cry. You know this as parents. Second – screw the jerk across the eye glaring at you. IGNORE THEM! Kids cry because travel is far more strange, tiring, stressful and boring for them than it is for us. Sometimes, they'll be cranky. Well I encounter that situation, I'll usually say something silly to the child like, "are you laughing at me because you have more hair than I do??" and the parents laugh, the kid stops crying and sometimes they'll even laugh as well. When that doesn't work, I just tell the parents it's OK, and I'll even offer them a free glass of wine.

    Different airlines have different policies, Flight Attendants are happy to explain what is and isn't permitted on their carrier. For example; at my carrier it's ok to hand us diapers as long as we're collecting trash and are wearing gloves (not all airlines are allowed to, we're encouraged to actually). Don't hand us a diaper while we're doing drink and snack service. DON'T put it under the seat, or stuff it in the seatback pocket. Seriously, why do that?

    I can tell you that I'd rather take it from you during the flight than find it simmering in a seatback pocket later.

    We're here to help, and we want you to have an enjoyable experience! 🙂


  4. Arrows Sent Forth @ 2010-09-04 02:27

    Loved these helpful tips (and those in the comments too). One of my favorites from the week. Thanks for sharing your expertise with all of us parents new to flying.

  5. Anonymous @ 2010-09-05 02:02

    At Thromby Air we will gladly accept your used diapers. Where do you think we get the ingredients for our flight catering department?


    Robert E. Coli
    CEO Thromby Air – Lowest of the Low

  6. Jet Set Betty @ 2010-09-06 00:55

    Here is a link to a blog I wrote about kids on planes if you're interested.

    Sorry it's so long.

  7. To prevent ear pain we always give our kids lollipops for takeoff.

    They cannot take their first lick until the pilot says we are cleared for takeoff.

    The kids love the anticipation (even when packing the night before) and love the lollipops, too. And, their ears don't hurt! 🙂

  8. Nichole Dick @ 2010-09-08 18:44

    I can't thank you enough for all the helpful info. I'm feeling SO much better about this. We can do it…we can do it….we can drink if it all goes wrong.

  9. To be honest, as both a Flight Attendant and as a mom who flies alone with three kids between Europe and California about twice a year, plus other flighst, I rarely saw ear problems working and never had them with my kids. My son had a real history of ear infections but we passed by the ped a few days before flying and made sure his and his sisters' ears were clear and they were fine staying in their seats for take-off and landing. Two never had bottles and none took a paci so there was no "sucking" during those times!

    Yeah for mentioning the dirty diapers! Please, in the trash folks! Also changing in the seat, often given as a "tip".

    Yes, a two year old can fit in a sling. A good one should go to at least 3 years. Avoid horrible front packs like the Baby Bjorn and get something comfortable.

    Please though use the car seat if your baby has a seat or you can use an empty seat. Safer for the baby, easier on the parent! Trust me, 11 1/2 hours, I'm GLAD they have a seat of their own!

    The CARES harness is a good option but please NEVER CHECK A CAR SEAT AS LUGGAGE. Gate-check if you have to but never check it at the gate. Ask that they "hand carry" it down (some airports use a chute).

    Here are my non-commercial flying tips;

  10. You can use the pacifier to reduce pain in the ear of your beloved child. It helps, I prove it.
    here is the article link

  11. That’s the perfect ingisht in a thread like this.