10 Top Tips for Flying with Toddlers

The thought of taking a toddler onto a plane for a 2-hour flight, let alone 20 hours, is enough to make you reconsider your need to travel. But don’t do that!

Whether you are flying to go on a dream trip, visit friends or relatives, or are moving to a new country, the small amount of pain of spending time in a confined space with an active toddler, will be worth it in the end.

To help you get there with minimal meltdowns, we have brought together some brilliant frequent flyer mums from around the world, who work hard to make it easier for families to fly and travel. Here are their top tips.

1. Mobile toddlers can be a handful on a flight!  Don’t be put off though, you just need to pack carefully and ensure you have lots of snacks, toys, sticker books etc. to entertain them.  Preschoolers and older children are easier again as they are generally happy to sit and read a book or watch cartoons. Lisa from Travel Loving Family

2. Eat before you get on the plane, especially if your toddler is under 2 and doesn’t have his/her own seat yet. Trying to eat in a confined space with a wriggly child on your lap who wants to grab everything off your tray is no fun! Marianne from Mum on the Move

3. Make and pack your child’s favourite snacks in an esky bag and carry it onboard with you. You can avoid the preservatives in airline food and have snacks on-hand throughout the flight. Evie from Mumpack Travel

4. Board last but have the other parent board earlier to secure space for baggage. There is no point in keeping little ones on board even longer. Carrie from Flying with a Baby

5. Even a toilet-trained tot can suddenly develop an aversion to using the plane toilet mid-air – I’m scared of that horrible sound! Make sure you bring nappies and a spare change of clothes in case they develop a sudden phobia. Some airlines do carry spare nappies but they tend not to fit larger sized toddlers. Keri from Our Globetrotters

6. ‘Distractivies’ – bring enough distracting activities in your toddler’s carry-on (which he is fully in charge of by the way) to keep them occupied for 3 times longer than required. Colour wonder, tablets, tic-tac-toe, stuffies, lovies, anything that will keep them calm and in their seat. Food can also be considered an activity, just be sure not to serve it all at once, or while they are playing with something else – spread the wealth. Christine from Tapped Out Traveller$

7. Take the toys your child loves so they feel safe and calm. Evie from Mumpack Travel

8. Wrap toys for them to unwrap during the flight. This has always worked a treat for me. Grab a bunch of cheap toys like little figurines and wrap them up in coloured paper and sticky tape. When your child is bored or clingy or whiney, whip out a present for them to unwrap. It could take them hours depending on how well you wrap it. Evie from Mumpack Travel

9.  If you don’t have one already, invest in an iPad for parent rest time and load it up with apps and movies. Don’t forget to pack earphones! Evie from Mumpack Travel

10. Help your toddler to sleep and rest easier on long-haul flights by investing in a product such as Fly Legs Up that will elevate their feet and legs. Nicci from Travel with Boys

Take a look at our comprehensive guide on flying with kids long-haul on Trip Chiefs. There’s even a free downloadable guide with my top 20 strategies to make it easier to fly with babies, toddlers and kids.

Toddler travel gear

  • Chances are you’re going to want to take a travel stroller with you. Take a look at these budget-friendly stroller options from Hannah at Adventure Travel Family
  • Consider taking your toddlers car seat on the plane for improved comfort, sleeping, and safety. – Melissa from The Family Voyage – How to Travel with Car Seats
  • One thing you’ll need to take with you is a travel pillow. Take a look at this review of the best kids travel pillows.
  • Are you considering flying with a car seat for your toddler? Take a look at October Acres guide to airplane travel and car seats. Everything you need to know from choosing the right seat to the best way to transport it through the airport.

Just breathe!! Your toddler might have a trantrum, spill milk everywhere, wee on the seat or puke on your shirt, but then they’ll turn around and give you the most beautiful hug that will make all the other stuff seem irrelevant.

Wonder what it’s like to travel with a toddler? Take a look at this interview from Adventuring with Shannon about Travelling with a Toddler.

Jet lag is something you’re going to want to minimise as much as possible so here is an article on Top 10 tips on fighting jet lag from Travel for Difference.

If you have kids of other ages you’ll be flying with, the following articles might help you.

Happy travels

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