Taking a toddler on a plane: expectation vs reality

rose and rosie barcelona

by Rosie Daughton |

Hi Guys! I’m Rosie, I am Mummy to 15 month old Ziggy, I live with my wife Rose and together we make YouTube videos – I love to put it all out there on the internet! People often ask me what we make videos about and I tell them 'everything' – there’s nothing I can’t talk about, so here I am tackling the topic of our first holiday abroad with Ziggy!

We made it! I’m writing to you today from the other side. I HAVE TAKEN MY BABY ON A PLANE. And I’m here to share my wisdom.

Before our first holiday with our nearly 2-year-old son Ziggy, I was absolutely petrified of taking him on a plane. The only thing that kicked my arse into gear was the fact that he will turn two in July and if I take him on holiday after that I will have to pay for his ticket!

I hadn’t flown anywhere since 2019, pre-covid and pre-baby. I was really, really nervous, mainly because I’d just heard so many horror stories involving babies and planes, I’d even had my own family members moaning about babies being on planes.

Caveat – here’s my hot take, so listen up airlines because I know a thing or two about marketing and I’m also a genius. I think airlines should sell two types of tickets; child-free flights and family flights. It’s a fabulous idea – the child-free flight can be a relaxing, quiet affair, and the family flights – well at least we’d all be in this together!

Seriously though, I’m not so sure why people seem to forget that babies, toddlers, and all children are members of society too. They deserve to take up just as much space as everyone else. We were all children once and I’d like to think we can give them grace for poor behaviour – besides is it really poor behaviour or just big feelings? Anyway, back to it.

Before I tell you my expectation vs reality of my toddler plane journeys, here are a few titbits of info and some unexpected things I found:

1.) Baby privilege at the airport

Maybe this has been going on for years, or maybe it’s brand new, but we totally got better treatment by having a child! Security guards at both airports consistently saw the child and the buggy and pointed us to our own queue which was shorter and quicker. Excellent, as no one wants to be stuck in a queue with a screaming child, least of all the parents! In Barcelona (our destination) there were even family signs on certain queues, so we skipped all the crowds! We flew Ryanair on the way there and it was only £5 to upgrade to fast lane security which we felt was well worth it. It wasn’t an option on the way back with Vueling, but again, we had our own queue. This was even the same going through passport control.

2.) Checking items

I’d researched online and you can usually check two or sometimes three baby items for free (depending on who you’re flying with). We only took a travel stroller I bought secondhand from a friend, and they took it off us at the very last minute before we boarded the plane and we got it back when we collected our luggage. More on this later.

3.) Triple check hand luggage allowance

My dentist, who had taken his toddler on holiday before me, highly recommended I buy my son a toddler suitcase called a Trunki. A Dragon's Den invention, it’s a fun-looking tiny suitcase on wheels for tired toddlers to be wheeled around on. It is marketed as perfect for cabin size, meaning it can be taken on board. I bought my child the Trunki, and FILLED it with toys and entertainment for the plane journey (more on this later). Ziggy LOVED the Trunki and had fun at home with me pulling him around on it. I actually hid the Trunki for a while once he’d got used to it, so when I pulled it out at the airport it was a fun novelty again! All was going swimmingly until I’d got to boarding and was charged an extra £60 by Ryanair as it didn’t fit their cabin size. Even more infuriatingly, it would have fit if it wasn’t for the darned decorative horns on my Trunki. So, check those hand luggage sizes and check again.

The plane ride there

rose and rosie on plane


My expectation of the plane ride was fearing the worst, and hoping for the best. I had spoken to my mummy friends and listened to all of their advice, and I bought everything they mentioned; puffy stickers that peel off for plane windows, watercolor pens that ONLY colour on the special paper you buy so as not to colour all over the plane seats. An iPad with pre-downloaded shows to watch, some kinetic sand and play-doh (this was for if we got desperate), some favourite books, and a few cars and animals.

My plan was to wake Ziggy up early, allow him to walk as much as possible and tire him out in the airport, and then let him sleep on the plane.

My fear was that I would be constantly walking a very awake Ziggy up and down the narrow plane and trying to prevent him from touching angry strangers.


Due to the early start, walking, and stimulation, I did think he was going to crash in the airport cafe before we boarded, but he made it to the plane. And you know what? Ziggy slept the entire plane journey!

Although initially there was a bit of fuss at being strapped to Mummy’s lap and being unable to run around, and lots of opening and closing the plane blinds that are meant to stay open during take off. I breastfed Ziggy as soon as possible and he immediately crashed. The downside was having to stay very still holding my heavy child for two hours, and I needed a lot of painkillers the next morning, but I’ll take that over a screaming child any day!

While he didn’t touch any of the Trunki toys I had spent so much money on, that just made them all the more exciting when we got to the hotel room and needed a break. I also get quite hung up on how much screen time Ziggy’s having, so because he didn’t watch the iPad on the plane I didn’t mind him watching it in the taxi later.

The holiday


The game plan was to stick to our routine as much as possible, as Barcelona only had a one-hour time difference. Ziggy also fell asleep on the plane bang on his usual nap time, so we thought we were off to a winning start! We imagined walking around Barcelona, taking in the sights with Ziggy, popping back to our hotel for a lovely rest during nap time, then off out to explore when he woke up!


Why oh why did we not learn our lesson from the clocks going forward, that a one-hour time difference completely messes up your child’s routine? We got to the hotel and Ziggy had loads of energy after being stuck on a plane and then a taxi ride. So we decided to explore.

I’m not going to lie, I panicked. I didn’t know the local soft plays or parks, how were we supposed to entertain our toddler in another country! After the initial panic and some Googling, we found lots of mini playgrounds that we took Ziggy to and we started to settle in. Despite him being knackered it took a while to get to Zig to sleep that first night, but that could only be expected In a new environment.

The next four days were filled with excitement, firsts, fun, and some tough times. Our hotel was extremely child friendly and had a little play area in the breakfast room which was fantastic, as we just got a table near and watched Zig play while we had our coffee. We also learned that Ziggy loves Panna cotta, so he had that for breakfast every day.

rose and rosie toddler reins

We had a lot of battles around the travel buggy. Ziggy hates being strapped into anything; highchair, car seat, buggy, you name it. I don’t blame him, he wants to run around! I brought toddler reins with me to allow him the freedom to run and explore without getting run down by a motorbike or falling into the (very busy) roads. But he has a habit of wanting to be carried, only by Mummy (me) and specifically only on my right hip, which meant I was slowly melting in the heat and under his weight walking around Barcelona.

I am only slightly embarrassed to admit that sometimes I just had to let him watch a bit of YouTube in order to get him to sit in the damn buggy. I'm still really glad I brought it with me, even if sometimes we only used it to push our bags around with us. For travel I would highly recommend getting a secondhand or inexpensive buggy that you don’t mind getting bashed around and mucky.

Obviously holidaying with a child is very different than without, and you can’t leisurely do your own thing, wandering around and taking in the sights, without considering naps, nappies, snacks, breaks, and entertainment. We did miss out on a few tourist hotspots, for example, the Sagrada Familia, due to us considering the queues, the airport-style security, Ziggy’s attention span, and deciding that it wasn’t worth it this time around.

rose and rosie holiday

Ziggy absolutely adored the beach! He ran around, by some miracle he did not eat the sand, then crashed and took a massive nap in the shade while we hung out with our friends. Pure bliss. Another big hit was when he refused to nap, so we took him to the ‘Big Fun Museum’ with a quick pitstop for some cherry ice cream before we went in. Fantastic and lots of fun family photos!

In Barcelona it is not a legal requirement for babies and toddlers to sit in a car seat. So, for this reason, I paid extortionate amounts of money pre-booking taxis with car seats in. On the final day, on the way back to the airport, not only was our taxi almost an hour late, but when it arrived it didn’t have a car seat and I absolutely lost my mind. Next time I would absolutely check my own car seat as a baby holiday essential, and that’s something I regret not doing, but the lesson was learned.

The plane ride home


We’d got lucky on the way there… but would we be so lucky on the way back?


The airport boarding was very slow and Ziggy was stressed out, full-on red-faced screaming. I felt that everyone was looking at us and thinking how much they didn’t want to be sitting near us. I knew that as soon as I could board and breastfeed that he would relax and settle, but the queueing took forever and then we had to get a bus! But eventually, we made it on and once again, he fell asleep during takeoff.

The flight attendants were extremely kind and immediately asked if they could get us anything from our overhead lockers like a bottle, but he was out like a light. I even managed to pass him over to Rose so I could nip for a wee and he stayed asleep. And my wife Rose, who is afraid of flying, even managed to sleep too. Coming home I felt extremely proud. And it can’t have been that bad, because we’ve already booked our next trip!

Key takeaways

rose rosie and ziggy holiday

We discovered on this holiday that Ziggy loves hugging trees, loves chasing pigeons, loves Pana cotta, and hates being restrained. It was wonderful enjoying being outside so much, enjoying the weather, and watching him take everything in and all of us thoroughly enjoyed Barcelona.

However, our general consensus would be if we were looking for a relaxing holiday with a child, next time we would consider going to some kind of family resort that was set up for children. I don’t know how I would feel about leaving my child at a kids club, I have a hard enough time dropping him off at nursery, but it would be wonderful to have the option.

The idea of stepping out of my room and having pools, beaches, playgrounds, and children’s entertainment now sounds like a dream holiday. Anywhere I can relax knowing my child is prioritised and catered for sounds well worth any kind of plane journey, horrendous or not.

Like many families, we have now been abroad, taking our child on a plane and living to tell the tale. My advice is that if I can do it, you can too – good luck!

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