How to Travel with a Toddler Like a Pro

The idea of travelling with a toddler can seem daunting, considering these little balls of energy can be quite unpredictable. If you’re planning to travel with your little one, you’ve probably already asked all of your friends who have kids for advice, and Googled things like, “How to Keep a Toddler Occupied on a Plane”, “What to Buy for Toddler Travel”, and even “How to Prevent Toddler Meltdowns on an Airplane”. I get it – you don’t want to be that mom or dad on the plane with the kid who won’t stop screaming, so I’m here to tell you that you (hopefully) won’t be.
I’ve travelled a few times both alone and with my husband with my now two-year-old son and, being that I’m the type to research everything before I go on a trip, I‘ve rounded up a list of the things I’ve found most helpful to bring on a plane with your toddler.
sticky notes

1. Post-it notes & stickers

Bring Post-it notes and thick, puffy plastic stickers from the dollar store or a drugstore and let your toddler stick them on the tray, seat or window (Post-it notes don’t leave behind a sticky film and are easy to remove).

2. iPad with toddler videos & games

Load up your iPad or phone with some videos (Sesame Street and the Wiggles are great options. Amazon Prime also has a selection of short age-appropriate videos as well).
I read somewhere about an app suite called Dr. Panda, which has an array of interactive learning apps. I downloaded one called Dr. Panda Bath Time and was impressed by the level of interactive learning features it has.
As the App Store description states, “In Dr. Panda Bath Time, help Dr. Panda’s friends get cleaned up and watch them express their bright personalities—all while learning about hygiene routines and having lots of fun! Go on snorkeling adventures in the bathtub, give the animals a colorful, soapy beard or dry off with a magical blow dryer!” It says it’s for 3-5 year-olds, but my two-year-old is able to use it and he really enjoys it. It’s worth a download, in my opinion. Try it on Android or Apple devices.

3. Straw cup, not a sippy cup

Having something to suck on during takeoff and landing will help your toddler’s ears regulate. Nurse your toddler during these times if you can, but if that’s not an option, give them a cup with a straw that doesn’t pour out too easily and fill it with milk so that they suck on it.
special snacks for airplane

4. Special toddler snacks

Load up on special snacks that your toddler doesn’t usually get, along with his favourites. I try to avoid sugary snacks in general, and especially on a plane to prevent my son from bouncing off the walls, but some bloggers recommend giving these as a last resort.

5. Colouring books

Dollar stores and drugstores usually carry a variety of small colouring books with “mess-free” felt pens. These are great because they only show colour when they touch the paper. Washable crayons are a good option as well (I bring both). Bring these everywhere you travel with your toddler!

6. Play-Doh & Lego

A small container of playdoh and a few pieces of Lego are always a great idea! They’ll come in handy (along with colouring books) at restaurants as well.

7. Bring your toddler’s favourite stuffy for comfort

If your child has a favourite stuffy or doll that he or she sleeps with, bring it on the plane! This, along with the next tip, is worth bringing with you because it’s familiar and will help your toddler feel more secure on the airplane, as well as during naps and nighttime sleep at the hotel.

8. Sleepsack or blanket

Bring it for the same reason as above. Also, it can get cold on some planes, so this will come in handy.

9. New toys

In general, it’s best to bring a bunch of small, new toys your child has never seen before. A few blog posts I’ve read recommend wrapping them individually and presenting one new “airplane gift” every time your toddler seems bored. I personally don’t think wrapping your new toys is necessary, so I didn’t wrap mine. Regardless, new toys always help keep my son occupied.

10. Rain suit (if you think it might rain)

The last two times I’ve travelled with my son were during the spring in San Fransisco and fall in New York. Both destinations were expecting rain and I didn’t want to risk sacrificing our walks around the city just because my son was going to get cold or wet, so I bought this A-M-A-Z-I-N-G little rain suit for my son and it saved us on both trips. (Hint: They seem to have a limited selection on Amazon, so if you don’t see a colour or size that you need, try a Muddy Buddy and add layers underneath if it’s going to be cold when you travel.) It rained a lot during our New York and San Francisco trips, but because I had brought my son’s rain suit with us, he was kept warm and dry as we explored on foot.

11. Umbrella stroller

Rather than lug your massive stroller through the airport and onto the plane, I recommend you bring an umbrella stroller because they are much lighter and easier to pack and fold. I have the Summer Infant 3D Lite Stroller and I love it! It weighs only 12 lbs and has an adjustable seat that lays almost flat so your child can sneak in a nap while you’re out and about, making travelling with your toddler a breeze!

12. Leave the diaper bag at home

I have a pretty large diaper bag, which I find to be cumbersome to bring on trips. On my last trip to NYC, I brought the Herschel Novel Duffel (featured in our holiday gift guide for travellers) as my carry-on and that was all I needed both for myself and my son. Once we arrived in the city, we used a small backpack to tote around our toddler supplies.

13. Layers

While you can review weather predictions for where you’re going in advance, it’s best to bring extra layers for your child both on the plane and in your luggage, and bring more clothes for your child than you think you’ll need. I’ve found that a good rule of thumb is 2 outfits per day (that’s if your child is no longer a young infant who spits up, in which case you would need more).
The idea behind my “more is better” mantra is that you don’t want to be unprepared for a windy evening in a hot destination—or an unusually hot day in a cooler destination—and have to revise your outdoor plans because you didn’t bring the right clothes for your kid. This has happened to me, and trust me, it’s not fun.

14. Toddler headphones for the plane

Bring a set of age-appropriate, volume-limited headphones with you so that your toddler can use apps or watch a show without disturbing other passengers on the plane. We use LilGadgets Kids Premium Limited Wired Headphones and they’re fantastic!

15. Snack cups and containers

Take a variety of snack cups and containers with you on your trip so your child can hold snacks in the stroller and on the plane. I prepack all of mine with snacks to optimize space in my carryon bag. These are my favourite no-spill cups and these containers are good options as well. I’ve also heard that you can use a tackle or pillbox to put a bunch of small snacks in, which is a cute idea I have yet to try.

Pro Tip: If you didn’t buy an extra seat for your toddler on the plane, you might still be able to get some extra room. At check-in, ask the airline agent if there’s any row you might be able to move to with an extra seat next to you. They might just give you that row if they can (and you’re polite). Another tip: don’t forget to buy travel insurance!

Over to you–do you have any tips for how to travel with a toddler?

Now that you know how to travel with a toddler like a pro, do you think I’ve missed anything or do you have any questions about the list? Share them with me in the comments below–I’d love to hear from you!
Happy travels,

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