12 Tips for Flying with Toddlers

12 Tips for Flying with Toddlers
12 Tips for Flying with Toddlers

The idea of flying with small children has to be one of the the biggest causes of stress for parents. As much as I love to travel, since having children I can’t help but stress out at the very thought of lugging a bunch of suitcases through an airport or making flight connections with tired and unhappy children in tow, and the very prospect of keeping them quietly seated for hours on end is simply exhausting!

My kids are no strangers to flying and have been visiting family in Italy since they were born. The more we travel, the more they have grown accustomed to long-haul travel. Having said that, they still get antsy or have the odd melt down – but then again, don’t us adults get those too after hours and hours of restless travel? Simple tips and tricks can help reduce any unnecessary stress while traveling by plane with young children.

12 Tips for Flying with Toddlers

These tried and true 12 tips for flying with toddlers will hopefully ease your anxiety and stress over traveling overseas with your little ones.

1. Early boarding is not always beneficial
Speaking from experience, it is more ideal to board the plane early only when traveling with babies 12 months and under. Boarding the plane first, means you get to snag that much-needed overhead-bin space. However, early boarding has its downside since it means at least an extra half hour or more on the plane — which is not the best idea when you have a long haul flight and an antsy toddler who can’t sit still. Depending on our mood and the circumstances we sometimes like to divide and conquer: my husband boards the plane first with all of our carry-ons and I wait until the last minute to board the plane with the kids.

2. Allow each child to bring his/her own backpack (2+ years)
Have each child bring a small backpack filled with their favourite toys or pack some new toys that will capture their attention and maintain their interest. Fill each backpack with a variety of activities, for example, crayons or markers, post-its, a notebook, maze or dot-to-dot books, figurines or small toys and cars, puzzles, new soft-cover books, sticker puzzles, colouring books and sticker books, personal earphones, etc. Also, put tissues and antiseptic wipes in the kid’s backpacks so you don’t have to rummage through your own continuously.

3. Pack more diapers than you would usually use.
When my children were babies I packed one diaper for every 4 hours of travel, just to be on the safe side. Although my son is potty-trained he still wears a diaper overnight so I packed 2 for the long haul flight plus double the amount of underwear (you never know how long you might have to wait to get to a bathroom!). My daughter is still potty training so I brought extra overnight pull-ups for her.

4. Pack a change of clothes…and then some!
Children get dirty very easily while traveling so it’s a good idea to bring a change of clothes in your carry-on as well as a longer pair of pants (if you’re traveling in the summer) and a light sweater in case it gets cold on the airplane.

5. Have a variety of filling yet healthy snacks.
We all know that overseas travel can take a toll on our stomachs so it’s best to provide the kids with healthy and light snacks. Options can include dried fruit, organic puffed rice bars or granola bars, animal cookies, cereal, crackers, etc. Buying items that are packaged individually is a great way to avoid packages opening up in your bag during travel and reduces bulk in your carry-on.

6. Know the pros and cons of non-stop flights.
A non-stop flight means you get to your destination quicker however, it also means a lot more time confined to a seat. You know your child and you know how much they can bear when it comes to sitting still for long periods of time. Booking connecting flights allows your child to run around and ‘let loose’ as much as possible before having to board another plane.

7. Choose at least one aisle seat.
When traveling with small children it is inevitable that you will have to get out of your seat numerous times during the flight. Choosing an aisle seat means extra more leg room, easy access to the overhead bin (and the bathroom!) and spares other travelers the annoyance of having to move out of the way every time you need to get up.

8. Plan for the security line.
A light umbrella stroller is your best friend when going through security since it is easy to fold up at the last second and throw onto the X-ray’s conveyor belt. Avoid placing items in the pockets of the stroller in case you forget what’s in there-like a wallet that you end up running off the plane 5 minutes before take-off to search for-in the departure gate garbage, only to realize (after take-off) that it is safely stashed away in the stroller in the cabin.

9. Ease ear pain.
When appropriate, bring lollipops, crunchy snacks, a sippy cup or a cup with a straw. This will help prevent your child’s ears from hurting due to the air-pressure changes in the cabin during take-off and landing.

10. Be smart about medication.
People are always quick to resort to offering children gravol or Benadryl to help them sleep ‘better’ on the plane. On the contrary, they could have adverse effects and make your child even groggier than normal if they don’t get enough sleep (which they definitely won’t!). If you do want to give medication, be smart and try it out ahead of time to see the effect it has on your child. Also, ask your doctor about how to give the proper amounts, since they sometimes differ when flying, or speak to a naturopath about more natural sleep aids, such as melatonin.

11. Bring a dish towel
Seems like an odd tip however, it will inevitably save you a ton of clean-up and mess! When I first started flying with my kids I always brought a ton of paper towels in case of major spillage. This time I brought an over-sized kitchen towel, which proved helpful at meal times (on and off the plane) as a sort of lap ‘bib’ for my youngest who tends to get messy when she eats!

12. Make friends with the air crew.
Stewards and stewardesses can be your best friend (or your worst enemy). Don’t be afraid to make a reasonable request to make your travel time more comfortable or bearable. If you ask nicely, they are usually more than happy to help! Note: If you have to resort to threats to get your child to listen, you could (I might have done this once) tell your child that the steward or stewardess will put them in time-out at the back of the plane if they continue to misbehave! (Sometimes, you gotta do, what you gotta do!).

And just one final tip – or at least somewhat of a comforting thought, no matter how ill-behaved your child, or how bad the flight is, sooner or later, you’ll get to your destination and remember that chances are you will never see any of those annoyed passengers again!



75 thoughts on “12 Tips for Flying with Toddlers”

  • These tips would be very helpful for parents especially first time parents. I’m a frequent flyer and it becomes annoying at how a parent can’t make their children stop all the tantrums while on flight.

    Based on my experience as a child, bringing books and different activities help divert child’s attention. It will keep them busy and tire them so they can fall asleep.

  • Where were these tips when I traveled with my toddler 3 years ago! Haha great ideas!!

  • Katie Reed 3 years ago

    These are great tips. The last thing you need on a flight is an unhappy, cranky toddler. It always helps to keep them occupied as much as possible.

  • I remember the days of flying with toddlers well, you’ve shared some great tips! Layovers and delays were the worst, always had to have enough snacks and projects on hand to keep everyone happy…and zip lock bags in every size, so handy! 🙂

    • I agree…we had a 6 hour layover and it was LONG!! Sometimes being confined to a plane is easier because the kid sknow they can’t go anywhere, lol!

  • I think the backpacks are so cute, and you definitely included an entertaining variety of goodies in each one. Personally, I would much rather fly with a toddler than with a baby…I always worry about how it would feel to them to have their ears pop. : (

    • Actually, I found it easier the ther way around! We just planned the feeding times around take-off and landing and gave my son formula while we took off or landed!

  • Anna 3 years ago

    These are great tips! I don’t have kids myself but I know some of my friends were scaring me earlier saying it’s impossible to travel with kids and how much of a pain it can be. I think if you plan it out well and are well prepared than it shouldn’t be too bad right?!

    • Yes, exactly! We don’t really have a choice since my husband’s family is in Italy otherwise I might have waited until my children were bigger to travel. However, it does involve some preparation!

  • Gabriel Bregg 3 years ago

    The boarding late one is something so few people think of. Even flying solo, I always board last – I’ve never understood the rush to get into a tight space with 200 people packed around you.

  • Jessica Taylor 3 years ago

    These are great tips! It’s really smart to board separately, what a great idea!

  • mena & taty 3 years ago

    I agree, early boarding is not always a good thing. It just prolongs that flight a good 20 minutes more. Time to get those toddlers in the air with your tips

  • these are really sound tips to remember when flying with little children. traveling with toddlers is a feat in itself, so I can only imagine how stressful flying with them might be. my little one is way past the toddler stage, but i do love to experience flying with him very soon!

  • rosemary palmer 3 years ago

    Great tips – we didn’t fly that much when my son was young, but he was a great car traveler and this was in the days before all of the electronics.

  • CourtneyLynne Storms 3 years ago

    These are some fantastic tips! I’ve been flying with my daughter since she was a month old and I swear if you are prepared for anything and everything, you will be just fine!

  • Ann B 3 years ago

    These are great tips for traveling with young ones. I will have to share this with my friends.

  • Great tips! I’ll have to send this to my friends who have kids. There’s so much more to consider when flying with little ones!

    • Yes, there is! I’ve traveled for years and actually love the hustle and bustle of airports, etc. However, with kids, it’s an entirely different story!

  • These are seriously great tips! I really love the backpack idea! I’m definitely going to use these tips! Thanks for sharing!

  • Dogvills 3 years ago

    These are awessome tips. I always bring my kids with me when I travel. Candies work!

  • I love by those dollar fun packs. I keep a stack of them on hand at all times. They have helped keep my toddler calm and quiet in all kinds of situations.

  • Lynn Dee 3 years ago

    I’ve never experienced flying with a toddler. My son’s first flight was when he was seven years old and I’ve never had problems with him in any of our flights or travels. Those are great tips though.

  • mail4rosey 3 years ago

    I love when they let you board early. I have never had any trouble traveling w/the kiddos EXCEPT on airlines who want you to sit away from your child. I’d rather walk to China than sit away from my child on an airplane, so I always raise a stink when it happens.

  • Shirgie Scf 3 years ago

    I can’t imagine how hard it is to fly with a toddler, let alone the toddlers, I haven’t experience it yet but I am thankful for this tips. At least now I know how to handle if I get to experience it for myself.

  • Wow! You have it all written down! I have not traveled with my kids except by car and I tell you we pack everything and the kitchen sink, but on a plane, that makes me nervous. I hope to hit the skies one day when hopefully the airfare prices drop.

    • I actually think traveling by car would be worse because they are literally confined to their seats..but then again, flying with them is all I know!

  • Rochkirstin Santos 3 years ago

    We always bring chewing gum whenever we travel so our ears won’t feel so bad because of the air pressure in the plane. It’s also nice to bring some toys for the toddler to play with.

  • TheNewClassy 3 years ago

    I can’t say that I have ever flown with a toddler. I haven’t even flown myself much less with a kid. But, I have some friends who have. They would love to know these tips.

  • Jay Simms 3 years ago

    I was just discussing with my grandmother me bringing my kids to my home country soon, many of the tips your provided answered a lot of her questions and concerns. I love the last tip of comfort how you will never see them again. It’s very true and oh so comforting lol.

  • These are wonderful tips! I couldn’t travel with my toddler anytime soon since she’s capable of meltdowns when traveling. 🙁

  • I have three kids under 5 and so many of these tips are RIGHT ON. A backpack for each kid and TONS of snacks are crucial. We had a couple horror story meltdowns before learning those tips.

  • Jeanine @ sixtimemommy.com 3 years ago

    Great tips! I’ve always been scared to fly when my kids were toddlers because I hear such horror stories, but I don’t think it would be so bad.

    • I think people are quick to share their horror stories yet not so quick to focus on the positive! Ours had somewhat of a meltdown at one point but this was after over 15 hours of traveling non-stop!

  • Michele 3 years ago

    Those do sound like great tips when flying with a toddler even on a shorter flight!

  • There are great tips when traveling with a toddler! I must say, I have been challenged on many a plane when parents just ignore the simple signs of children having difficulties with flying!

    • I completely agree! Now that I’m a mom and see other parents flying with their kids I feel for them…especially if the parents are not well-prepared!

  • Robin Rue 3 years ago

    My boys have been flying since they were babies without issue. As long as I have plenty of snacks and entertainment – we are golden.

  • Ourfamilyworld 3 years ago

    These are great tips. My youngest was 3 when we started traveling. Bringing lots of activity books really help.

  • These are awesome tips. I remember flying a few times when my kids were younger before all the tight security changes. The umbrella stroller was a lifesaver at the gate. It saved my back.

    • Yes, the umbrella stroller is a life-saver! The only problem for us is that this time around we had to use a double stroller (for convenience going through the airport) so can you imagine what it was like at the security gate??!! lol!

  • These are awesome tips! I have to admit that my kids have never flown. However, we use a lot of these tips for longer road-trips!

  • chubskulit 3 years ago

    My kids are now 10 and 8 but I still feel stress when we travel. Luckily they are great t8ravelers. Thanks for the tips.

  • Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle 3 years ago

    These are all great tips. A bored toddler is a toddler that everyone on the plane wants to get away from.

  • Christy Maurer 3 years ago

    The times I’ve flown with my kids, they were at least 7, but they still got antsy! My poor son had the worst time with ear pain and landing. I wish I had had suckers with me at that time! These are great tips for flying with little ones!

  • Tracy Iglesias 3 years ago

    I don’t have children. But I can barely handle myself during long international flights so I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be to keep kids still for that long! Great tips, thanks for sharing!

    Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly

  • Jeannette 3 years ago

    These are some great tips! We flew with our preschooler a few months ago and him having his own backpack with his own stuff it it was such a lifesaver! By the time he had gone through everything he brought the flight was over!

  • neha sultan 3 years ago

    I do not have kids yet but these tips are awesome. Thanks for sharing. The backpacks are really cute 🙂

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