Traveling with Toddlers: Tips & Must-Have Items

Traveling with young children is a great way to create long-lasting memories. But as a parent of a 2 year old, I know that the travel journey rarely goes according to plan. Toddlers are fully mobile, totally opinionated, and incapable of all reason and logic at the most inopportune moments. Plan for what’s probable, not what’s possible — and then just roll with it. After all, the difference between a fiasco and an adventure is just state of mind. But you know that. You have a toddler. 😉

Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks for smooth traveling with a toddler:

 

1. Pick the right flight

Is your toddler super-cranky during the pre-dinner witching hour? Don’t pick a 5 pm flight. Does your little one really need a full night of sleep to make it through the day? The 6 am flight is not for you. I happen to think that mid-morning flights are just about right for many toddlers. They give you enough time to wake up at a reasonable hour and get to the airport but they are still substantially before nap time meltdowns start. Also try to book a direct flight. If you must book a flight with a connection, book one with a longer layover. (Two hours is probably ideal, unless your flight is delayed quite a bit.) You don’t want to be running through the airport with a baby, diaper bag, car seat and other travel paraphernalia. You can use the time in the airport to grab some non-airplane food, change a dirty diaper, and most important for toddlers, let your child run free for a while to burn off energy!

2. Snacks. Snacks, snacks, snacks…did I mention snacks?

For toddlers, food is entertainment too. Snacks are how you keep a child busy and happy during travel. A few important criteria: 1) low mess factor and 2) last for a long time without refrigeration. Raisins, carrot sticks, string cheese, pretzels, apple slices, cheerios, gummies….. there’s really no end to the snack rainbow that I can pull out of my carry-on at any given moment. Bring a wide variety and bring out new items at strategic moments to avoid meltdowns. Note: crunchy snacks are great for helping relieve ear pressure discomfort.

3. Electronics are a must

Yes, I know. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for little ones until their second birthday. But I recommend leaving your perfect parenting pride behind on the jetway. My mantra is that normal screen-time limits do not apply when we are in-flight (or on the road)— a little screen time can definitely be a lifesaver with any toddler. Like most traveling parents, an iPad is my go-to device. Don’t worry, you won’t wreck your toddler’s development by allowing some videos or apps in-flight.

4. Other in-flight entertainment

Although electronics can be amazing distractions, toddlers have the attention span of a goldfish. Bring tech-free entertainment to keep little fingers busy: toys, search and find books, coloring pads with triangular crayons (so they don’t roll off the tray table), matchbox cars, stickers, flash cards. Avoid toys with tiny pieces (Legos). Otherwise, there’s no counting how many times you’ll be practicing your yoga poses as you strain to retrieve them from underneath the seat.

5. Dress in Layers

Choose attire that is cozy and easy to change. Layers help with drastic changes in temperature aboard the plane. Wearing layers is also helpful for breastfeeding moms. I suggest wearing a wrap of some sort that can double as a baby blankie, or bringing along a nursing cover.

6. Pack an extra change of clothing

Of course, you will want to pack an extra change of clothing in your carryon for your toddler in case of an unfortunate blow out mid-flight. A leaky diaper can leave mama sticky and wet for the duration of the flight too. To avoid this inconvenience, toss a compact outfit for yourself into the diaper bag.

7. Ignore the haters

Flying with a toddler and afraid of being “that parent” on the airplane with the screaming baby? You are not alone. Sometimes, no matter what you do, your child is going to have a screaming fit in the air. As someone who has been that mom, despite all my preparation and attempts to soothe my child, I understand. The most important thing is that you try (and that other passengers witness that effort). You have enough to worry about without concerning yourself with every cranky pants on the plane. Take care of your baby or toddler, and ignore the haters. Soon enough, your plane will safely land and your family will be ready to explore together.

My Must-Have Items:


Babyzen YOYO+ Stroller


White Noise Machine (for when you arrive at your destination).
This portable one by LectroFan is fantastic for travel.

Black garbage bags (In case there are no window treatments at your destination)


Spill-proof, Leak-Proof Sippy Cup


Snack cup. Skip Hop Baby Zoo Snack Cups are adorable. Available in seven charming creature designs, ranging from a dog to a unicorn, it’s something your kiddo will want to hold onto. The top shuts securely and won’t spill, even when upside down.


Infants Tylenol