Taking the Plunge: Our Successful Journey with a Toddler on a Plane

We did it! I'm writing to you today from the other side. I have successfully taken my baby on a plane, and now I'm here to share my insights.

Before our first vacation with our nearly 2-year-old son Ziggy, I was extremely anxious about taking him on a plane. The only thing that pushed me to do it was the fact that he would turn two in July, and if I waited until after that, I would have to pay for his ticket!

I hadn't flown anywhere since 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic and before having a baby. I was really nervous, mainly because I had heard numerous horror stories about babies on planes, including complaints from my own family members.

Now, here's my hot take: airlines should offer two types of tickets—child-free flights and family flights. It's a fantastic idea. The child-free flights can be a relaxing and quiet experience, while the family flights would create a sense of togetherness.

Seriously though, it's important not to forget that babies, toddlers, and all children are members of society too. They deserve to have their space just like everyone else. We were all children once, and we should show them some understanding for their behavior, which is often driven by big emotions. But let's get back to the point.

Before I dive into the reality of traveling with my toddler on a plane, let me share some useful information and unexpected things I discovered:

Taking the Plunge: Our Successful Journey with a Toddler on a Plane

#1: Baby privilege at the airport

I'm not sure if this has always been the case or if it's a recent development, but having a child definitely comes with certain advantages at the airport! Security guards at both airports we traveled through consistently directed us to shorter and faster queues after seeing the child and the stroller. It was excellent because no one wants to be stuck in a queue with a screaming child, especially the parents! In Barcelona, there were even family signs on certain queues, allowing us to skip the crowds. We flew with Ryanair on the way there, and for just £5, we could upgrade to the fast lane security, which was well worth it. The same applied to passport control.

#2: Checking items

From my online research, I learned that most airlines allow you to check two or sometimes three baby items for free, depending on the airline. We only brought a travel stroller that I purchased secondhand from a friend. They took it from us right before we boarded the plane, and we received it back when we collected our luggage. I'll provide more details on this later.

#3: Triple check hand luggage allowance

My dentist, who had traveled with his toddler before me, highly recommended a toddler suitcase called Trunki. It's a Dragon's Den invention—a fun-looking tiny suitcase on wheels that tired toddlers can ride. It's marketed as a perfect carry-on size, so I bought one for my son and filled it with toys and entertainment for the plane journey (more on this later).

Ziggy absolutely loved the Trunki and had a great time playing with it at home. I even hid it for a while so that when I brought it out at the airport, it became a fun novelty again! Everything was going well until boarding when Ryanair charged me an extra £60 because the Trunki didn't fit their cabin size requirements. To make it even more frustrating, it would have fit if not for the decorative horns on it. So, make sure to check the dimensions of your hand luggage and double-check.

The Plane Journey

Taking the Plunge: Our Successful Journey with a Toddler on a Plane


I had mixed feelings and hopes as I anticipated the plane ride. Gathering advice from fellow moms, I prepared with various items like puffy stickers, watercolor pens, an iPad with downloaded shows, kinetic sand, play-doh, books, cars, and animals. My plan was to tire Ziggy out at the airport before the flight and let him sleep on the plane. However, I feared that I would end up walking up and down the narrow aisle with an awake Ziggy, trying to prevent him from bothering other passengers.


Despite the early start and activities at the airport, Ziggy managed to stay awake until we boarded the plane. Surprisingly, he slept throughout the entire journey! Initially, there was some fussing when he had to be strapped to my lap and couldn't roam around. Opening and closing the plane blinds also caught his attention. I breastfed him, and he fell asleep quickly.

Though it was challenging to hold my heavy child for two hours and resulted in discomfort and the need for painkillers the next day, I preferred that over dealing with a screaming child. Although Ziggy didn't play with the Trunki toys I brought, it made them more exciting when we reached the hotel. As he didn't use the iPad on the plane, I didn't mind him watching it during the taxi ride.

The Holiday


Our plan was to maintain our routine as much as possible, considering the one-hour time difference in Barcelona. Since Ziggy fell asleep on the plane during his usual nap time, we thought we were off to a great start. We envisioned exploring Barcelona, taking breaks for Ziggy's nap at the hotel, and continuing our adventures when he woke up.


Underestimating the impact of the one-hour time difference, we arrived at the hotel and Ziggy had a burst of energy after being confined on the plane and in a taxi. Despite our initial panic and uncertainty about how to entertain our toddler in a foreign country, we managed to find mini playgrounds through some online searching. Ziggy was exhausted, but it took a while for him to fall asleep in the new environment.

The following four days were a mix of excitement, new experiences, fun moments, and some challenges. Luckily, our hotel was child-friendly and had a play area in the breakfast room, allowing us to enjoy our coffee while watching Ziggy play. We discovered Ziggy's love for Panna cotta, and he had it for breakfast every day.

We had some battles concerning the travel buggy since Ziggy disliked being strapped into any kind of seat. We used toddler reins to give him some freedom to explore safely. However, he often wanted to be carried, specifically by me on my right hip, which became physically exhausting in the heat while walking around Barcelona. To encourage him to sit in the buggy, I resorted to letting him watch YouTube occasionally. Despite some challenges, I was glad we brought the buggy along, even if we sometimes only used it to carry our bags. If traveling, I recommend having a secondhand or inexpensive buggy that you don't mind getting dirty or damaged.

Vacationing with a child required more consideration for naps, snacks, breaks, and entertainment, altering our ability to leisurely explore and visit tourist attractions. We had to skip some popular spots like the Sagrada Familia due to factors such as queues, security measures, Ziggy's attention span, and our judgment that it wasn't worth it this time.

Ziggy absolutely loved the beach! He had a great time running around, miraculously avoiding eating sand, and eventually taking a long nap in the shade while we spent time with friends. Another highlight was when he resisted napping, so we took him to the “Big Fun Museum” with a quick stop for cherry ice cream beforehand. It was fantastic, and we captured many memorable family photos.

In Barcelona, it's not mandatory for babies and toddlers to use car seats in taxis. For this reason, I pre-booked taxis with car seats at a high cost. However, on the final day, the taxi arrived almost an hour late and didn't have a car seat, which made me extremely frustrated. In hindsight, I regret not bringing my own car seat as an essential item for a baby holiday. I learned a valuable lesson from this experience.

The plane journey back


After our successful journey there, we couldn't help but wonder if our luck would continue on the way back.


The boarding process at the airport was slow and Ziggy was visibly stressed, crying loudly and attracting attention. I couldn't shake the feeling that everyone around us was hoping they wouldn't end up sitting near us. I knew that once we boarded and I could breastfeed him, he would calm down and settle, but the queue seemed never-ending, and we even had to take a bus! Eventually, we made it onto the plane, and just like before, Ziggy fell asleep during takeoff.

The flight attendants were incredibly kind and offered to fetch anything we needed from the overhead lockers, such as a bottle, but he was fast asleep. I even handed him over to Rose so I could quickly use the restroom, and he stayed asleep. It was a proud moment for me, and it couldn't have been too bad because we've already planned our next trip!

Key takeaways

During this holiday, we discovered that Ziggy loves hugging trees, chasing pigeons, enjoying Pana cotta, but strongly dislikes being restrained. It was wonderful to spend so much time outdoors, enjoying the weather, and witnessing his curiosity. We all had a great time in Barcelona.

However, if we're seeking a more relaxing vacation with a child next time, we would consider staying at a family resort that is specifically designed for children. I'm not sure how I feel about leaving Ziggy at a kids' club since I struggle to drop him off at nursery, but having that option would be wonderful.

The idea of stepping out of our room and having access to pools, beaches, playgrounds, and children's entertainment now sounds like the perfect holiday. Anywhere that prioritizes and caters to my child's needs would be worth any challenging plane journey.

Like many families, we have now experienced traveling abroad with our child, surviving the adventure and living to share our story. If I can do it, so can you—best of luck!

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