Flight Survival with a 1 Year Old

Fresh off the tarmac of LAX from NYC and while the chaos is still churning in my mind I felt obliged to write my five tips for flying with a toddler (one year old). This was Audrey’s 9th flight and by far the worst. Picture it, 5.5 hours of screaming, whining, up and down on my lap, snacks were thrown, water was spit, to the point that other passengers began volunteering to take turns holding, walking, and entertaining her. Today tested our patience but we survived and despite Jamari’s threats to never fly with her again (he says that every time) once the anxiety from this flight subsides we will be on to planning our next trip.


1. Board Last- When the announcement sounds for “families flying with small children” blares over the sound system restrain your desires to board the plane. Sure, it’s exhilarating to board first knowing you are Group 5 and to think of all the overhead storage options you’d have. No! Go do a final diaper change when they start boarding and organize yourself. If you are traveling with someone, they will likely allow for you to let that person on to get situated with your things but if not…no worries I have a hack for that. The last thing you want to do is board the plane and attempt to entertain your little minion for an additional 45 mins while all other passengers board. You won’t want to sit on the plane any longer than absolutely necessary so get on during final boarding call. Remember the chocolate for the flight attendants I mentioned in my previous post? They will find you room for your things, I promise.

2. Last Seat is Yours- Ideally the bulk-head seat is best when traveling with kids, but I have found that most airplanes now use that as an exit row which means no children can sit there. For this reason, there is only one other option to give you sanity on the flight, the very last seat of the plane. The one that doesn’t recline, is noisy, next to the bathroom, and is usually empty? That’s your seat! No one likes this seat and you will want to use this to your advantage. If you are flying solo, then book the aisle seat for easy access to get up and move. I no longer sit next to the window with Audrey since she disassembled a window in-flight when playing with the window shade. If you are lucky enough to be flying with someone, have them book the window and you book the aisle. I’d bet that 9 times out of 10 the middle seat will be empty, giving you some extra space. Now, why this seat? My kid is loud, SUPER loud. This seat allows for some of her noise to be muffled. Not sure about you, but I don’t like to have to wave every 3 minutes when the kid in front of me pops up to play peek-a-boo. Out of concern for other passengers sanity, Audrey can pop up as much as she wants and entertain herself with the wall behind me. The seat not reclining doesn’t phase me when I have her on my lap, I am not going to get any sleep anyway. And the bathroom traffic is free entertainment. Sure, you will have the random buffoon who doesn’t want to smile at your child, but most people will entertain her as they wait in line for the bathroom.

3. Schedules Keep you Sane- This isn’t for everyone, but Audrey is very regimented with a schedule. Consistency is key in our household. Even though we may be out and about or traveling, we attempt to maintain her schedule. When picking a flight we try our best to avoid a red eye because we know she isn’t a plane sleeper. Daytime flights are better for us and we try to keep our flights like our days at home. Eat, play, watch a show, read a story, attempt a nap, repeat. Your energy is contagious, so remain calm and hopefully your little one will be calm. Writing this section is a complete joke for the flight we just got off. NOTHING would stop her from fussing/screaming. That’s when you just take a deep breath, turn on the flight map, and repeat, “this will end” until you are in a better mental space.

4. Accept Assistance- If you know me, then you know that no where else in the entire world would I accept assistance from a stranger with Audrey. But, at 35,000 feet, on hour 4.5 of screaming, when I am at my wits end; I will accept the help. There are good people in this world and most are parents themselves. Travel is hard for anyone and it is especially hard to a one year old. So, when that passenger who you have never seen before and will never see again comes along side you and offers to hold your kid to give your arms a rest…let them. As long as they are in your eye sight, and you don’t get the creepy vibe, then go for it! Use your Mommy-sense and your child’s creep-a-meter on this one. Sometimes a different person is exactly what Audrey needs for 5 mins to distract her from her previous meltdown. I’ve had my share of stares, huffs and puffs, and comments from passengers less than thrilled to hear her on a flight. I get it, it is annoying to hear a crying baby, and I am as annoyed as the other passengers but I promise that I am trying everything I can to make it stop. Jamari has taught me that I could spend all my energy fighting the negativity I face on a plane or I can put that energy into surviving the flight. Every now and then “NJ Maureen” slips out with a response to a comment I overhear but I TRY to tell myself that those people are miserable and probably had no fun in their childhood which trickled into their adult life. The flight will end, all the crankys will get off, the nice people will tell you that, “you did great”, and everyone will continue with their day.

5. Organization is Key- Keeping yourself organized will prevent YOU from having a meltdown. I am big fan of packing cubes to keep things organized. When you are traveling alone it is a completely different experience than traveling with someone else that can help. Regardless, being organized helps either way. I use carabiner clips to connect things to the seat in front of me to avoid things from falling into the black hole (aka the floor). I wrote a post about how I keep my diaper bag packed for travel but I unpack it and put the cubes under the seat in front of me to be able to grab things easily. Her toy cube, the diaper/wipe cube, snack bag, and I attach her water bottle to the seat in front of me. It prevents rifling through the bag, pulling everything out, and stuff getting lost. Do yourself a favor and keep a small plastic bag for your trash so you can easily hand it to the flight attendant.

Another flight in our books and more trial and error. Do you have any in-flight travel tips?