How to Travel with a Toddler on a Plane

Flying with a toddler can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few ideas to travel with a toddler that can help you wear that stress down. Yours and your toddler’s.

Travel with a toddler

Travel with a toddler
Exploring the world

Understanding their perspective is key

Crowded airplanes, lines for embarking and to go through security, many hours sitting, changes in air pressure. All these things can create difficult situation with a toddler who hasn’t managed their emptions yet.

Thankfully, though, if you plan and prepare for all situations, you can have a worry-free flight.

If you have a toddler or two, or more, you know how crazy, intense, and adorable this stage can be. But still, you decided to take them with you on a flight, and without screens. Oh, mom, you are a rockstar for even thinking about it. In this article, I’m going to give you some tips to make your flight a breeze and understand better how to travel with a toddler on a plane.

Remember who they are and what your magic role is

I love the toddler stage so much. Everything is a discovery. There’s a spark in their eyes every time they find something new. When they learn how to do something for the first time. When they show you proudly what they were able to do by themselves.

The stage between 2 and 4 years is a period of rocket-speed growth. Physically – you buy new shoes and by the time you are home they have already grown out of it. Intellectually – they start with colors, numbers, and words in different languages. Emotionally – they have strong emotions and need help to co-regulate them until they can understand even what the name of that emotion is. And much more we are not discussing here. The point is, there’s so much potential in a toddler. And it is our duty as parents to help them flourish respecting their pace, as an assistant or sideline cheerleader, sometimes showing them the way, some others leaving the lead to them. And if you take this concept out of simply discipline, it can help you in traveling on a plane too.

13 tips to travel with a toddler

Whether you are traveling for vacation, visiting family, or taking your kids to Disneyworld, traveling can be stressful for an adult so you can only imagine how much more intense it can be on the little ones. They are taken away from the house they know, to go to a place they don’t know, and were not questioned if they wanted to go in the first place. Knowing how to travel with a toddler can be difficult and easy at the same time. Close your eyes and try to get into their shoes. Try to see things from their perspective. This will help you get clarity on their needs and be there for them with what they need.

1. Use toy rotation at your favor

If you do toys rotation already you may know this one. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here’s a little prequel. When children have too many toys they get bored easily and always want more and more to keep their enthusiasm fresh. Toys rotation helps them in finding a way to better interact with what they have. You keep out let’s say 5 to 10 toys and every week you change them, either all or the majority. In this way, their playing is always fresh and new. If they have a favorite toy, make sure it’s not in the rotation the week before flying. If you take it out for the flight, they might be more engaged with that and keep busy playing with it, possibly the entire flight. You can even wrap it in some flashy paper that is fun to open. Take colors and paper, a blanket they love, and toys they can’t live without. And make sure they fit their backpack.

2. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. And oh, did I mention snacks?

If your kid is like mine, they could live out of snacks, so make sure to pack a good amount and variety. And always buy one in the airport treating it like a special snack and making a game around it when taking it out during the flight. Oh, and make sure they are low-sugar snacks, you do not want a highly energized kid with you on a flight. Fruit, veggie sticks, crackers, Pretzels, nuts, and granola bars, are good options and keep them all safely stored so that it is easy to take them out of your backpack during security check.

travel with a toddler
Pack healthy snacks

3. Don’t just book any flight

Depending on the length of the flight you may want to book in a different time of the day. If it’s a long flight night flights are better so they and maybe you can have some sleep and get well rested to your destination. If it’s a flight of medium length try their nap time, it will make it easier on them and you. If it’s a short flight book an early flight. These flights are usually the less crowded and people just want to sleep

4. Communication is key

Tell your children everything about what to expect so they are more prepared. Talk to them about what is happening and what is going to happen the entire time. How the plane works, what happens with the luggage you check in, how the job of pilot and hostess is called and tell them what they do, etc.

5. Make everything a game

Make them choose their seat, if they want to switch with you or not, or tell them which seat is yours so that they can check letters and numbers. Make everything a game. Passing through the metal detector and give them a high five for doing it so well. They love it when you praise and cuddle them, just do it more than regularly.

6. Layer up

Be aware of the possibility of cold or hot temperature inside the plane so layers it is. Let them choose their favorite clothes but layer up on clothes that are easy to put on and taken off, think zippers especially.

7. Wear them off

If you are traveling with your husband have him go in first, leave the stroller at the entrance, put all the bags in the cabin and keep walking and playing with your toddler outside. When the last passengers are embarking, proceed to embark too. So you don’t have a toddler sitting on a plane doing nothing while strangers stress around them trying to find a place for their luggage. The advantage of embarking last is that you sit and in a few minutes you are already up in the air, so not much waiting around. And all the walking and playing outside is a good energy relief for both of you. They might even fall asleep within a few minutes.

8. Keep your hands free

Don’t pack too much that your hands are full all the time and can’t hold your kid’s hand. Have them carry their backpack with their snacks and toys to give them some responsibility, they love it.

9. Be ready for the worst. Just in case

Sanitizers, wipes, and a plastic bag to put all the trash you may produce. A pacifier, diapers, art supplies, headphones against noise or for music, anything that you think appropriate for your kid. Just in case, pack a chocolate or a little treat for the crew, so that instead of a grumpy flight attendant frowning upon a screaming toddler you may have just found an ally.

10. Watch those ears

Make sure to check with your doctor if your child has recently experienced an ear infection. The change in cabin pressure can cause pain and you want to make sure you have their approval before flying. If everything is good, make sure you get some water after passing security and have enough for the entire flight. Swallowing (or sucking if your child using a pacifier) helps reduce the discomfort in the ears when the pressure changes. The change in pressure and then the discomfort during landing is longer than the takeoff, so make sure you still have some water, a low-sugars candy, or something to munch on during this last part of the flight.

11. Use the bathroom

How many times has your child answered no when asked “do you have to go potty?” for then wanting to pee at the most inappropriate times? I know, countless. I’ve found out that when I go to the bathroom, babygirl wants to go too. So even if I don’t have to pee, I go to the bathroom before the flight and 30 min before landing to make sure she goes too. Also, if your child is not a free spirit like mine that thinks clothes are just a very uncomfortable thing they do not need, you can try pull-ups. Some people swear by them

12. Don’t play all your cards at one

If you are ready for everything and your child is having a low moment, don’t take out everything. First, try to comfort them, and see what’s going on, if it’s hunger, cold, or heat. If it’s boredom you are dealing with you can tell them a story, show them around the plane, and look for some animal-shaped cloud. If it’s stress and tiredness a song, a hug, or a little dance can help. Then you have all your tools mentioned above, so try one at a time or just let them be. It might be just a few minutes of venting. Don’t we all need them?

13. Go with the flow

Everything and anything can happen. Your child might love or hate it. Breathe, mama, you can handle it. And do not worry about other passengers, most have children and understand tantrums. The others are not your concern, only your child is.

Happy traveling, mama. You’ve got this