When it comes to travelling with a toddler on a plane, you might spend weeks having nightmares about what can go wrong. That is if you’ve decided to take the plunge, because how many parents prolong their travels until the kids are a bit older.
Knowing that you will be locked in a tin box for X-number of hours with no way out, freaking out is not uncommon. Because: will they stay in their seat? Will they take a nap? Or on long-haul flights: will they sleep at all? Will they eat something? Will they annoy the passengers next to us? Will they scream the whole flight? The list can go on and on and on.
Fear not, most people travelling with a toddler on a plane don’t think it’s the worst experience of their life. Phew! That doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and rainbows either. Putting a toddler on a plane can be hard work at times and there’s no guarantee they will act the way you want them to. There are however quite a few things you can anticipate to make your
We flew quite a few times with our daughter during toddlerhood including long-haul flights from Europe to Malaysia and Colombia. Even though we feel like we have a decent base to give you information, we believe that you could use all the intel we could provide. Just to be sure you’re well prepared. That’s why we’ve asked 20 experienced family
TIP: If you would like to read more tips for flying with a toddler, click here! And check out this blog if you want to start planning a trip with little ones.
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WHAT DO I REALLY NEED TO BRING WHEN I’M TRAVELLING WITH A TODDLER ON A PLANE?
Don’t start panicking when you see the list below, we’ve made a selection of items that would be useful but we don’t expect you to bring them all!
So, what do you really have to bring on that toddler airplane trip?
Sleeping: make sure you’ve got the sleeping part covered with at least one item that will help your little one get comfortable for the night. That might be something small like a blanket or pillow (read more on the best travel pillows for toddlers here) or can go as far as
Toddler plane activities: you want your little one to be as calm and quiet as possible when you are
Things that will make your life easier: there are a couple of things that will make
COMFORT & SLEEPING ON A TODDLER AIRPLANE SEAT
The main point of concern for a lot of parents is the sleeping part. On a red-eye flight you really really want your little one to sleep, for a variety of reasons (not disturbing the other passengers and their need of sleep as the main ones). But even on a short(er) flight, you will all benefit from a good nap (yay, movie time!).
The bright plane lights, the new environment, people passing through the small airplane isles, chatter and just the whole excited feeling of going on a trip and being in a plane might be too much for a toddler.
You can help your little one relax in two ways: habit & comfort.
Habit: sticking to your bed or naptime ritual is key. Implement the things you do at home on the flight. Bring a sleeping bag if they’re used to sleeping in one, brush their teeth and read a bedtime story. Toddlers love structure and they will benefit greatly if their usual ritual is applied, even if it’s in a
Comfort: your kiddo isn’t going to sleep if they are not comfortable. If they’re under two and you have them on your lap, you
favorite of Carrie from Flyingwithababy.com
We love taking our Travel Snug with us on flights.
It is essentially a padded cushion with sides and a back which slots onto an airline seat making it very comfy for toddlers. There are loops so the seatbelt can be used normally and securely.
It is a bit bulky to pack and needs to be carried in addition to hand luggage, but we found the benefits far outweigh the cons. Our youngest quickly snuggles into it and falls asleep comfortably. It definitely is a great
You can find a full review of the Travel Snug on Carrie’s blog.
You can buy the Travel Snug online, but only on the website of the brand itself. The Travel Snug comes in 2 sizes (15 months-3 years & 3-6 years) and in 2 models (with or without shoulder slots to use with a harness). Designs include (among others) dinosaurs, zebra stripes and brightly coloured dots.
favorite of Frankie from Asthebirdfliesblog.com
When we were preparing to fly to Australia from Amsterdam with a short layover in Singapore, one of the first things I did was investigate ways to help our 18-month-old son sleep on the flight.
One of the options I kept coming across was the JetKids BedBox. An expensive piece of kit, yes.
We were ultimately sold on its versatility as a toddler suitcase he can ride on through airports which not only stores his toys and
I’ll be honest and say my son didn’t sleep for hours and hours on the BedBox but he did stay put in his chair as it gave him extra space and blocked the escape. It was also the perfect size to store a wide variety of
We have used it on every long-haul flight we have done with him since and will now also use it for his younger brother who is coming up to toddler age. You can read a full review of the JetKids BedBox here.
Toddler travel pillow
favorite of Diana from theelusivefamily.com
You can buy the Sleepyhead pillow (and pillowcases!) with a discount for the Prime Day Deals!
Toddlers nap. Most of them anyway, and sometimes they can be picky about comfort depending on whether they are in the car, on a train, plane or public transportation.
A small child size pillow is a great solution. Toddler pillows can be stuffed into backpacks easily and their size makes it easy to squeeze the pillow in small spaces.
It’s perfect for traveling on a plane when your toddler wants something under their head, or they simply want their own pillow from home.
It has always been one of our top travel items whenever we fly anywhere and since it is washable, it is never an issue to get it cleaned at our final destination.
Read more about Diana’s traveling family on her blog The Elusive Family!
TIP: check out our extensive article on the best kids travel pillows here!
Sometimes flying with toddlers can be an adventure and I know as a parent it is a bit daunting.
My son and I have flown all around the world for the past few years and when it’s time to pack the carry-ons and get prepared for a long flight, a thin blanket is always an item that we grab.
It is super versatile and doesn’t take up a ton of space like some other items. We use the fabulous thin muslin blankets made by the company Aden and Anais.
My son loved to create forts with the blankets, which also helped him when nap time rolled around. We also used them on overnight flights to help keep the overhead lights off his face and create a place of slumber. They are also great for rolling up and shoving on the sides of your little one to keep little toys from falling into the cracks between the seats, snuggling up as a comfort item and to be used as a nursing cover for privacy. In an emergency, it can also be used to clean up spills! An essential item to toss into the carry-on.
Check out more ideas on items we deem essential for traveling with kids!
For us, the most indispensable travel item for flying with a toddler is a car seat! With our first, we never really thought to bring our car seat ON the plane, and it was only with our second that we tried this option.
I will tell you, using the car seat on a plane is a total game changer! Not only is it safer for your little one, but it makes the plane ride so much smoother!
Our little ‘wild child’ would have been climbing all over the seats and into the aisles, but with the car seat, he very happily stayed put!
It’s also really convenient for a nap on the plane as our kids are both already used to sleeping in their car seats.
If you’ve already got a plane seat for your toddler, I would definitely recommend bringing your car seat along!
TIP: if you’d like to learn more about travelling with a car seat, read this article.
favorite of Diana from Theelusivefamily.com
Sometimes it isn’t entirely possible to travel with a car seat on the airplane, but having a toddler also means you want to keep them safe.
The Kids Fly Safe Cares harness is the perfect option for creating a safer way to travel on planes. As the only harness approved by the FAA for use on the airplane, it is a good option for children 1 year or older who weigh between 22-44 pounds.
It has a simple belt and buckle design system and can easily be adjusted on any airplane seat. It is lightweight and can be brought on board without any hassle. It provides safety and security when traveling on a plane, and is a wonderful alternative to a car seat.
Read more travel tips and stories on Diana’s blog The Elusive Family!
AIRPLANE TOYS FOR TODDLER
If you are wondering how to entertain a toddler on a plane, this section of the article is just for you! We’ve selected the best travel toys for toddlers on
Flying with toddlers is hard. Trying to get toddlers comfy to sleep on a plane is even harder! As much as I’d love to leave the precious soft toys at home (so there is no chance of them getting lost) we really can’t do without them.
The kids’ soft toys give them something to play with, something to snuggle up with and can also work quite well as a pillow against the
The soft toys are also something really familiar for the kids in what can sometimes be an unfamiliar environment. As soon as my kids have their
Amber shares her love for family travel to far away places and music festivals on her blog Hill Tribe Travels.
Etch A Sketch
favorite of Mary Beth from Areluctantmom.com & MBsees.com
I love my toddler’s Etch A Sketch for travel.
In an effort to minimize electronic screen-time as much as possible (
My tip would be to get one with an attached stylus instead of the turning knobs (knobs don’t seem to be very user-friendly for kids that age). My son has a ball drawing dinosaurs, making smiley faces, tracing his hands… the list goes on. For such an inexpensive contraption, this airplane toy toddler has been worth its weight in gold!
Mary Beth also has some great tips for traveling with babies!
favorite of Sharee from Inspirefamilytravel.com.au
When travelling on a plane with children, we always ensure we take in our carry-on luggage some special items from home to help entertain the kids on the flight. Some of these are hand picked by us, and others we allow our girls to choose.
We are avid readers, and our girls have loved books from a young age, which is what makes them the perfect travel accessory as they enjoy sitting with us to read a story.
This becomes extremely handy on a flight if you have a restless child or when the seatbelt signs are switched on. They are a practical travel toy as they are mess-free, can be stored easily in a bag or the seat pocket of the plane and there are lots of light-weight options.
We find they are even useful when we were in a queue or waiting to board as the girls could flip through the pages looking at the pictures.
If you are
Sharee shares the best travel tips about the Australian Gold Coast and more on her travel blog Inspire Family Travel.
favorite of Keri from Ourglobetrotters.com
One of the easiest
We quickly discovered that chunky triangle crayons were one of the most genius inventions and best
Get more tips on flying with kids here!
We never travel without a bag of Lego pieces and it might be one of the best toddler toys for
It does not make a noise, will not roll away down the aisle, it does not make a mess and the tough, durable pieces won’t break easily. Best of all, once you have finished playing with it, Lego
To use on an airplane, bring a small baseboard and attach it to the seat tray with a dab of sticky putty type adhesive. This stops models from sliding around during the flight and will keep young toddler hands happy!
Toddler noise cancelling
Screen time for children is a contentious issue, but even if there is only one situation that you’re willing to give in to technology, flying with a toddler should be it! When a meltdown is imminent and distraction is critical, pre-downloaded television shows and podcasts, or the onboard entertainment system will be a lifesaver.
In order to be prepared for this moment, make sure you pack toddler headphones in your little one’s carry on. These should include a safe maximum level of volume and be comfortable for them to wear. The right headphones will also help to block out surrounding noise which can be scary for small children – especially if they haven’t flown before.
Our son thinks it’s a real treat to wear his special headphones on flights. And when he is drowsy but finding it difficult to sleep in the unfamiliar surroundings, we will sometimes find a guided meditation for him – the soothing voice and music relaxes him, while his headphones reduce other distractions which could disturb him, while he dozes off.
You can follow Stephanie’s adventures on her blog Navigating Adventure.
Water wow writing pad
favorite of Diana from Theelusivefamily.com
One of the best toddler toys for airplane that has proven to be used time and time again with kids is the Melissa and Doug Water Wow writing pad.
The painting with water book has a hard-cardboard backing and
When the page is filled with color, they move on to the next page to start all over again. Each page dries in the air in just a few minutes, even when closed!
There are numerous themes to pick from and it can also easily be brought on the plane for hours of entertainment!
Get some travel inspiration on Diana’s blog The Elusive Family!
favorite of Catherine from Wegowithkids.com
The Boogie Board LCD eWriter tablet is an indispensable item for flying with toddlers.
We particularly love the Boogie Board Jot 8.5, which serves as an endless notepad that can be used for doodling and erased up to 50,000 times.
The Boogie Board Jot 8.5 is sleek and compact and easy to throw into a carry on or handbag. The stylus is easy for little hands to manipulate, and our kids love the bright screen. This is one “screen” that kids can use while still remaining unplugged.
The Boogie Board Jot 8.5 encourages hours of creativity without WiFi.
Imagine Ink Books
favorite of Bethany from Wavesandlilacs.com
Whether you are flying or driving with your kids, we all know just how challenging it is to keep track of markers and crayons from falling all over the place. Not to mention the child who likes to get extra creative and draw on things around him!
That’s why our family loves to travel with Imagine Ink Books. These books are coloring books designed to only work with the special marker it comes with.
My kids love seeing the pictures
There are so many different kinds available from Disney characters to kids’ favorite
You can follow Bethany’s adventures on her blog Waves and Lilacs.
favorite of Chris from Morelifeinyourdays.com
Of course, you want to take a range of toys and books to keep your little one entertained on a flight. But I am not sure that I would get on a plane with toddlers without an iPad or tablet. And many parents would agree that when they think about the best
In one small package, you can carry their
Our girls also really love looking at photos and videos of themselves so why not relive your holiday on the flight home?
Make sure that you charge the battery before you go (don’t forget that powerbank that is mentioned below!) and it is a good idea to add a couple of new games or apps for your little one so that they have something new to play.
If you are looking for a tablet for your child, you can check out Chris’ review of the best tablets for toddlers.
OTHER ITEMS THAT WILL HELP YOU TRAVELLING
WITH TODDLER ON PLANE
There are definitely other items on your traveling with a toddler on a plane checklist than a airplane toddler bed set and a selections of the best toys for toddler on plane. Toddler airplane tips include a big bag full of snacks and keeping your hands free at all times. Read on to discover more essentials on how to travel with a toddler by plane and keep your sanity.
Before traveling with a kid, I certainly didn’t worry as much about germs. Things have certainly changed since flying with a baby and now a toddler.
One item we don’t fly without is Sanitizing Wipes.
Right when we sit down, we wipe down everything with the sanitizing wipes: the seat, the tray, seatbelt, armrest and everything in between. The last thing you want to do is pick up all of those airport germs when your little one is touching and even biting everything.
Sanitizing wipes are a great way to help combat germs and sickness during travel, and the little travel packs make them easy to throw in a carry-on when flying with a toddler.
favorite of Frankie from Asthebirdfliesblog.com
Once my son was too heavy (and mobile!) to be contained in a carrier, we knew we would have to invest in a good collapsible stroller that ideally could also come on the plane with us for long layovers in airports.
After a little
The reason this is such an indispensable piece of kit when
We’ve had ours over two years and it’s still going strong even after taking it with us on over twenty flights with our toddler
Frankie also has a great article on how to survive jetlag with a toddler.
TIP: Check out our article on the best travel stroller here!
favorite of Babs from travelgearforkids.com
If there is one item we call indispensible when traveling, it is a baby carrier. Actually, make that one item for life with kids in general.
Wherever we go, the travel baby carrier comes with us. Ever since our daughter was 3 days old, we’ve been carrying her and it’s only now at 3,5 years old that it’s occasionaly left at home.
A toddler carrier is useful both on the airport and on the plane. When you have to manoeuver through customs and security, you need your hands free to grab all your stuff. You often don’t even have to take your toddler out of the carrier, which is even more convenient. Putting your toddler in an ergonomic baby carrier allows you to cross the airport quicker as well (because we all know how slow and/or distracted a toddler can be if you are in a hurry). And while you can keep your lightweight stroller with you until the gate, you don’t have one on the other side. With a travel baby carrier immediately have something to transport your toddler when you arrive at your destination.
A toddler baby carrier is great to use on the plane as well. When they won’t calm down or if they have a hard time settling to sleep, you can put them in the carrier and rock or walk around a bit at the back of the plane (yes, we’ve been there!).
I feel well qualified to comment on this as I had twins and another baby two years apart meaning for a while we had three kids under three!
The most important travel tip for me is to always use a rucksack as your hand luggage so you can keep your hands free for toddler-wrangling.
My twin boys used to run in opposite directions so wearing a rucksack for
Rucksacks also usually squash under the seats on planes, so you can get to your bag easily mid-flight rather than needing to stand up to access the overhead compartment plus they tend to unzip all around giving you access to everything from nappies to wipes quickly.
We always take our water bottles when flying with toddlers or small children.
First, having cups of water in the small space of a plane seat and tray table is a recipe for disaster and the last thing you want is wet clothes if the water gets spilled.
Bottles of water are also really expensive and we find airline staff
Remember to keep it empty when going through customs and fill it up either in the departure lounge in one of the restaurants there or on the plane. It’s great to have when you get to your destination too.
You can find more travel inspiration on Nichola’s blog Global Mouse Travels!
Battery back up
favorite of Natalie from Blissmersion.com
Have you ever been delayed once you’re already on the airplane?
It has happened to us while traveling. I was so thankful to have my Anker PowerCore portable charger with me!
My kids’ tablets don’t hold their charge very long and I was able to hand over my fully charged phone to help keep them entertained during the unexpected delay. I also use my phone as my main camera, but the battery gets depleted quickly. Again, my portable charger to the rescue!
I always throw it into my purse before a trip and I always end up using it. Whether it helps to preserve memories or makes a travel delay tolerable, it’s my
You can find Natalie’s great article on car seats here!
favorite of Katrina from Mamasorganizedchaos.com
There are some items that are just indispensable while traveling with a toddler. Whether your child is in a growth spurt (which they seem to always be), or simply food motivated, snacks are key to having success with travel!
Giving your little one some snacks is one of the best toddler
I’ve always found that snacks are also way better than activities with keeping toddlers occupied.
For infants and younger toddlers, we love the oxo tot snack container because it does not spill when dropped! And for those food pouches that are super handy… we love these pouch toppers to prevent squeeze overflows.
For longer trips, bento boxes are amazing to pack all sorts of fun snacks in. Our toddler loved all the compartments!
akit or other First Aid kit
favorite of Carlita from Themamapirate.com
It is a
The kit contains Kids bandages, Fabric bandages, Large fabric bandages for knee or elbow, Fabric fingertip bandages, Sterile gauze, Hydrocortisone Anti Itch Cream and Burn Cream packets, Antibiotic Ointments, Swabs / Cotton tip applicators, Lip Balm, Alcohol Free Antiseptic Wipes, Antibacterial Wipes, Thermometer Strips and Safety Pins, Tweezers, Nail Clippers and Bandage Scissors, Roll of adhesive medical tape and Stickers to soothe away tears.
Contents may vary depending on the manufacturing company. But a
This small kit about the size of a purse has everything to provide first aids if your kid gets an injury.
On her blog The Mama Pirate, Carlita shares stories about traveling, parenting
What is the favorite item on your flying with a toddler checklist?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barbara Rodrigus is passionate about travelling – especially with her wife and daughter. She loves to show others that it’s far from impossible to travel with (young) children. A big part of that is spent on making travelling easier by bringing the right travel gear for kids.
Babs loves animals, chocolate (what did you expect from a Belgian?), reading & writing and glorious mountain views.