Traveling with a Toddler – My Top 5 Tips!

Hey Luvs!

As many of you know, Kevin and I flew cross country with Molly last week. It wasn’t our first time, we’ve actually made the cross country trip four other times with her as well as a flew shorter flights. She’s quite the jet setter! However, in the past when she was an infant, it was such a different experience flying with her. I remember thinking that nothing could be harder than flying with a baby. But I soon discovered how wrong I was because I had my first experience flying with a toddler! Ha! And I can only imagine what it’s like when you throw multiples in the mix!

But we survived the trip and are here to tell about it. So today in the blog I want to share with you my top five tips for flying with a toddler!


Disinfectant Wipes

My first tip for flying with a toddler is to make sure you pack the disinfecting wipes. Your child is not only going to touch every single thing they can get their hands on on the plane, but they’ll probably try to put their mouth on every single thing they possibly can too. Really I think everyone should fly with disinfectant wipes to wipe down the area around their seat before the flight. But you especially should if you’re flying with a child. It will not only help keep your child healthy but will also kill a lot of the germs to keep you from getting sick as well.

Lots of Snacks!

You’re going to make need to make sure you’re stocked up with milk and food for your flight. Not only because your baby will get hungry on the flight, but most importantly so they are eating or drinking something during takeoff and landing. When Molly was an infant I would nurse her for take off and landing, but now she’s not on as strict of a schedule so it’s harder for us to time out everything. However, we just did our best to keep her from eating or drinking too much a couple hours before the flight so she was good and hungry come time for take off. Then we gave her a snack cup full of her favorite puffs and a sippy cup with milk (or water). The action of swallowing helps their little ears pop, so this is a very important step. If their ears don’t pop on the take off, you’re in for one long miserable flight. For both you and your little one. Plus it would just be so heartbreaking to see your baby in pain. THIS is the sippy cup we use. Many of you ask my on instagram so I’m sharing!

Educational Toddler Apps

We certainly aren’t the type of parents that put our child in front of the screen when we want to keep her occupied. In fact, Molly doesn’t watch TV at all at home and very rarely will we break out our phones for her to play an app. We usually reserve them for times when she’s extra fussy. So maybe once a week for 5 mins. But on the airplane she can have all the screen time she wants! Ha! Some parents might judge me for this one but I will do absolutely anything in my power to keep her happy on a long flight. So we broke out her favorite app (Peekaboo Barn) and got a few other cute educational apps that she had never seen before so they would keep her attention longer. And by longer I mean five minutes instead of three minutes. She has a very short attention span, as most toddlers do. But we found that having these apps bought us a few minutes here and there when she started getting fussy on the plane.

A Box of Surprises!

Kevin had the idea to hide some of her favorite toys a week or so before the flight so that she’ll be super excited to see them going on the plane. I personally think it was a brilliant idea! So he got a big box full of goodies including some of her favorite things that she had been missing, and a bunch of other new toys that she had never seen. And by toys I mean things like a mini flashlight, a deck of cards, a deflated balloon (that we blew up a little after take off) a pair of my headphones and other interesting things for her to explore and learn about. She’s a toddler after all and she’s constantly learning about the world around her. I was especially surprised at how long the deck of cards kept her occupied. For some reason she loves playing with cards. Including the credit cards out of my wallet. Is that a sign of what I’m in for in the future?! Ha! She’s sure to be a shopper just like her mama!

Baby Carrier

This might be my most important must-have for the plane. In fact, if I could only bring one thing from this list it would be a baby carrier. That’s because your little one needs somewhere to nap. Let’s face it, airplane seats are super small and nearly impossible for a toddler to sleep in. So when Molly was ready for a nap, I just strapped her to me facing in, put a light blanket over her head to block out the light and bounced up and down the isles so she could sleep. Granted, if the fasten seat belt light came on I had to sit down and it definitely through a few kinks in our nap plan. But at the end of the day I was able to get her to sleep on the flight for almost 2 hours going to New York, and a little over an hour on the way back. If you don’t have a baby carrier there’s no way for your baby to nap! Unless they’re just an all star sleeper and will fall sleep sitting up or with you holding them. Molly is just not the type of toddler that will fall asleep in my arms. The only way she’ll do it is if she’s in a carrier. We use this one btw (It’s outward and inward facing).

Hope these tips are helpful for anyone flying with a little one! Oh and I did a similar blog post of tips for flying with a baby/infant HERE. A couple are the same, but some are different!

56 Thoughts

56 thoughts on “Traveling with a Toddler – My Top 5 Tips!

  1. Thank you for these! My daughter is just a few days younger than yours and she’s just a little wild child- love the idea of hiding her toys a few days prior to the flight. We flew from London to Chicago when she was an infant, but we are about to make that trip again so these are super helpful! You rock mama!

  2. Playdough is my saving grace!!! It is a super treat for both my kids – under two. We travel the same flight three times a year to see family. Anything that makes the experience exciting!

  3. Thanks for the tips! Flying for the first time from LA to Boston next week with my 15 month old. I’m definitely nervous. Thanks again!

    1. You will survive!!!! Kevin didn’t sleep for 2 days before we left. Ha! He was SO nervous but it wasn’t as hard as we thought! Hard…but nothing we couldn’t handle.

  4. I have flown a number of times with my son as well and he just turned a year old. Snacks are definitely a must and I found that the window seat also kept him very occupied. He would open and close the blind for a good 30 minutes yay! Also bizzy bear books are a huge hit with him.

        1. We flew from Los Angeles to Turkey at 5 months and was super tiring as expected. Bassinet was given to us but my girl wouldn’t stay in it for more then 2 seconds.

  5. When my daughter was 12 mos she was already a size 2T. So at 9 months that was out last flight with her as a lap baby. So our next big flight was 5 hr flight and We purchsed her a seat and brought her car seat on board. It was the big car seat too not a carrier. It was great and she was able to sleep in it. I bought Gogo Kidz Travelmate Car Seat and wheeled her car seat like luggage. A must have. That might work for you later as Molly grows.

  6. Great tips!! I flew by myself with my 5 yr old, 2 yr old and 9 month old(at the time) a couple months ago, I was so nervous but they all did amazing!! Like you, I don’t love screen time in general but we are all about it for plain rides, which help the older 2 so much!! We definitely go into survival mode 😉 You have a beautiful family!!

  7. All good ideas!

    We flew only a couple hours with my son this spring, and he was such an angel on the way to Toronto, but on the way home our flight was cancelled and moved to a 10pm flight.
    I’ll give you one guess how that went : (
    He screamed for an hour straight, nothing would help. Once he finally fell asleep, I just sat there with tears streaming down my face.
    Flying is so stressful with a toddler.

  8. Thanks for the great advice! Molly is adorable! Just a few weeks older than my daughter. I really enjoy following your blog and love your style! I’ve been loving your bedding since your first blog about it. They only think holding me back from purchasing it is being able to wash it. I usually buy duvets, but can’t find anything I like. How do you keep it clean? I’m assuming it can’t fit in the washer? Thank you!

  9. I totally agree with what you said Ali! We’ve taken our son on a few flights and new toys and an iPad with educational apps is a lifesaver! It’s not something he plays with at home but on a flight I find it a necessity! Thanks for sharing your experience since I know this is a common question among lots of mamas! ❤️

  10. Hello,

    Thanks for the tips. We will be traveling to Africa and my little
    One will be 11 months. What did you do for sleeping arrangements?

    Thank you,

  11. Seriously love your blog and this travel one!!! We just flew to Hawaii with our 4 year old and 16 month old and oh man was he so busy on the plane for 6 hours!!!! So much harder with two for sure!!!

  12. Thanks for sharing your tips, Ali! My daughter is just a few days younger than Molly and we’ve only flown with her once about a month ago. Our saving grace was her car seat. On the way there, she wouldn’t sleep at all even if we walked her in the carrier, but on the way back I asked the gate agent if there were any free seats and she said yes! My kid slept from before takeoff to after landing (very unusual for her). So, my advice is to always bring your car seat to the gate and ask. If they say no, you can gate check it for free anyway.

  13. This is just the post I needed to read! We’re flying with our 13 month old next week to NY! Our daughter also has a very short attention span and I’m so nervous that she’s not going to be content just hanging out in our seat and playing. I’ve already been looking up some good toys and ideas for distractions on the plane. You mentioned one name of an app, but what other apps did you use? Our daughter also doesn’t get any screen time at home, but I’ll do anything to keep her happy on the flight. And my daughter also sounds just like Molly in that she won’t just fall asleep on us when she’s tired – she’s used to sleeping in her crib, but I’m hoping she’ll nap in the carrier if we are able to get out of our seats and walk/bounce. 😬 Thanks for all the tips!!

  14. Taking my 5 and 7 year old from LAX to Dubai next week for a family wedding. 16 hours straight flight! I’m a bit nervous to say the least but I have iPads, coloring books, and plenty of snacks ready! Hope they behave 😉

  15. Haha, screentime becomes way more frequent when you have more than one kid, all are very small and have no help. My son never watched tv until he was 2 and suddenly I had a baby home that I nursed and pumped milk for around the clock and suddenly my 2 year needed a distraction so I can keep my sanity. Perhaps other parents had better ideas.

  16. I just flew with my 14 month old last weekend and say a big fat YES to everything in this post! Especially the snacks and unlimited screen time. My daughter slept for an hour on the flight there (in the carrier!!!) but refused to nap on the way home. Thank god the flight home had tvs in the headrests. We put Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on, gave her as many puffs as she wanted, and she was happy as can be! 😂

  17. Great tips Ali! We are traveling with our little boy this weekend ( he is 17 months) actually so thank you for the tips. We went to Poland when he was 12 months old and he was so good but now that he is older so my husband and I are nervous.

    Also what camera your friend is using taking your photos. I need to buy a good one and I want to invest in a great one. Plus lenses etc. that would be so helpful.

  18. This is so helpful! I’m about to take my 13 month old on her first flight and haven’t flown with a toddler in 7 years!

  19. I’m soooooo nervous to fly from Nashville to Phx for Thanksgiving. I have a 4 yo (not worried at all) and a 15 month old (terrified). He just wants to move all the time! I cannot imagine him sitting for 4 hours, so I’m thinking about canceling 😕. Some of my family still hasn’t even met him bc I’m so afraid to fly! Did Molly want down a lot?

  20. When your little ones are big enough the CARES airplane seat harness is great, found through kids fly safe. Easy to install, makes them feel protected when too big for a carseat on the plane.

  21. Hi, Ali.
    When she gets into her own seat look into the Cares Airplane Seat Harness, can find on kidsflysafe website. It makes my little guy feel so safe and we made sure early on that he u derstood the importance of the seatbelt signs, so he actually never tries to get up unless it is off. Also, we have foiund that the pilots are so cool, if she ever expresses interest ask when boarding if she can meet them, we have so many awesome shots of him flying the airplane or even wearing the pilot’s hat

  22. I totally agree with what you said Ali! We’ve taken our son on a few flights and new toys and an iPad with educational apps is a lifesaver! It’s not something he plays with at home but on a flight I find it a necessity! Thanks for sharing your experience since I know this is a common question among lots of mamas!

  23. Our 3 kids are very close in age, so when we traveled our # 1 rule was it was always a surprise! We packed a backpack for each child and we packed it with small toys, magnetic game like checkers, a few new treats, favorite snacks, books – including coloring book with a small box of crayons, and when they were old enough a small handheld electronic game with NO SOUND. They were so excited to be on the plane that the first part was full of questions and taking it all in. When that passed, they could check out their packs and see what each held. Since each had different items, they were interested in each others and could pass things back and forth. Our kids are 26, 28 and 29 now and still remember how much fun they had discovering what their backpacks held! Not saying it wasn’t a bit of extra work in preparation, but totally worth it as it made the trip an adventure before we even got there. Whatever works!
    **Observations from recent international flights – parents beware that when you and your kids have headphones on your voices are raised when you talk and can disturb others who don’t use headphones – which may surprise many, but not everyone, especially older travelers, use them. It is nice to be considerate as a traveler to ensure everyone has a pleasant trip.**

  24. Rabbia so mica for this, Ali! I am about to embark on a 12h flight with my 6 month’s old baby. To say I’m nervous about it, it doesn’t even come close. We’ve flown locally a few times already but this is going to be a loooong one!

  25. I am traveling with my 9 month old this Christmas. What do you bring for Molly to sleep in while away from home? My son has been sleeping in his crib for the last 2 months and I’m worried about how he’ll sleep without it and his own room.

  26. Would you recommend bringing a lightweight travel stroller when flying (like an umbrella stroller) or a larger heavier stroller that can accommodate the car seat. I’ve heard mixed reviews. The lighter stroller sounds easier but then it also seems more convenient to have one where the car seat snaps into since we have to bring the car seat as well. Our kid will be 1 when we travel.

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