Traveling with a Toddler on a Plane: Essentials and Tips

Laura Coppola // November 10

Any type of travel can be daunting with a toddler. There are so many items that need to be packed and scenarios that need to be considered. I recently traveled with a 2-year-old and 5-month-old on two 6-hour flights, one of which was a red eye.

If you are traveling with a toddler on a plane, here are some tips and essentials you must have and know.

1. Have your toddler help pack their backpack with activities for the airplane. This gives them a sense of importance and will hopefully get them more invested and interested in its contents during the actual flight. Their backpack also doubles as a “task” to give them at the airport. They can focus on carrying their backpack. When they refuse, have them hold one strap while you hold the other. 

2. Plan accordingly for the time of the flight. One of our flights was a red-eye. We purchased a blow-up footrest to wedge between the two seats. This provided more of a “bed” feeling. It worked pretty well and when she insisted on sitting in my seat and I moved to hers, I actually found it pretty nice. In hindsight, we could have lived without it, but it wasn’t too pricey and it was worth a shot. 

3. Find an empty(ish) place in the airport and let your toddler run around until their heart is content.

traveling with a toddler on a plane

4. Board last. There is no need to board early and sit on the plane for an extra 30 minutes while everyone boards. 

5. Have something for your toddler to suck on during take-off and landing. Landing is typically more intense with the air pressure change. We packed a couple of suckers that we gave to Amelia during take-off and landing. 

6. Having a pair of headphones that fit your toddler is a must. Amelia used them, even when she wasn’t watching anything. 

7. We packed an iPad with downloaded PBS kids episodes. One of the apps included a coloring pad which provided an extra outlet. TIP: Tell your toddler that all screens don’t work until, for example, you are up in the air or whenever you want your toddler to be able to watch something. 

8. A water bottle or sippy cup that your toddler can manage on their own is a must. We would get water from the flight attendants, or a little bit of juice, and add it to Amelia's water bottle. That way, we didn’t have to deal with cups and inevitable spills. 

9. Pack one or two extra outfits for your toddler in case of accidents, including motion sickness. 

10. Bring a change of clothes for yourself as well. If your toddler does end up getting sick, it will probably end up on you.  

11. Lower your expectations and go with the flow! If you are traveling with a toddler on a plane, you can be stressed about your toddler being loud or rowdy on the flight, but that doesn’t accomplish much. Do what you can to help them regulate themselves, but also let them be kids. 

Of course, no travel plans go on without a hitch. I hadn’t considered the screens causing such problems on our red-eye flight. Amelia slept the last 30 minutes of a 6-hour and 15-minute flight. That meant, she didn’t technically go to sleep until 1:30 a.m. We battled with her the ENTIRE FLIGHT.

Mind you, this is a red eye so my husband and I were also exhausted and would have loved to get some sleep. We reflected on the flight afterward and realized we needed to limit the screens. Prior to our next flight, we prepared Amelia beforehand and told her she would need to take a nap and then she could watch a movie and eat a snack. We boarded the plane last and told Amelia the TVs didn’t work until we were up in the air. This time, she fell asleep during take-off. I only mention this story because I don’t want to pretend like our travels were flawless. 

Traveling with a toddler on a plane is possible and isn’t anything to shy away from. With the right preparation, it is 100% manageable. 

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About the Author

Laura Coppola

As an avid outdoorswoman, I am always up for new adventures. When my husband introduced me to hunting, I was hooked! After six years and hundreds of hours spent hunting, I am now able to introduce our young daughter to all nature has to offer. My family is based on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi so we have the luxury of adventuring through four seasons and the opportunity to hunt an abundance of wild game. I’m excited to be here to take with me through the struggles and triumphs of motherhood and the outdoors.