10 helpful tips for travelling with toddlers

Tips for travelling with toddlers
Please note: this is not reflective of the huge amount of luggage you will need for travelling with a toddler!

If you’re getting ready to travel, maybe for the first time, with your little one, you might feel apprehensive. You’ll need these tips for travelling with toddlers! The idea of being stuck on a plane trying to entertain your toddler at a very tricky stage of their lives is indeed terrifying. But maybe you really need a holiday, even with them! Or perhaps you are travelling to visit family so they can meet your toddler for the very first time.

Get prepared and face your fears! Here is a list of top tips for travelling with toddlers on a plane with as much confidence as you can muster. You will be distracting and entertaining like never before…

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1. Plan ahead and think about the practicalities

Go through all your options before booking anything. Will you be self-catering or staying in a hotel? Self-catering is great for prepping your own food and having space. However, a hotel buffet is amazing for options when you have a fussy toddler and don’t want to be stuck with the washing up.

Will you travel alone, as a couple or as a group? Will you be going somewhere new or visiting friends and family? If it’s your first trip or your last one went badly, think about what will make things as easy as possible as travelling with toddlers is hard enough.

2. Plan some more and make a list

Ensure you have everything you need before you pack for your trip, so you don’t have a last minute panic. It will also give you time to test drive the options and accessories. There will be heaps of stuff you need besides the obvious clothes and things. So depending on your holiday location, carefully consider what’s needed.

As well as their usual bits and bobs, you’ll need a lot of extras. Consider what you can buy more of when there (nappies, wipes etc.). My list below is examples of some items I needed for a holiday in the sun. But you’ll need very different gear if it’s a cold or more adventurous trip. Let’s be honest, it will be a very long list wherever you’re going, so this is just a few ideas.

3. Start talking to your toddler about your holiday

In the lead up to your trip, start talking to your toddler about going on a holiday and what it involves. This will get them excited but also help ease any anxiety they have about travelling or being somewhere different. Talk about the adventures you’ll have and the chance to experience things for the first time like the sea and sand. Read stories or find kid’s shows about going on holiday, travelling by plane and so on.

If your toddler is too young to explain things to, show them some picture books on holidays or re-enact scenes with their toys. Sorry to bring it up (as I know some families can’t stand her) but we used the book Peppa Goes on Holiday. Travelling with toddlers means using all tools and tips necessary!

4. Consider travel times for minimum disruption

If your little one still naps, then think about whether it would be advantageous to travel during that nap, if they pass out easily. But if you know they can fight the nap, then be too overstimulated or hysterical, then try to fly outside of that time. And if you’re travelling long haul, would it work well to travel overnight so they sleep through most of it?

Try and factor in these issues depending on your little one’s sleep needs when you are booking flights and working out transfer times. My daughter conks out in the car, so I know if she fights the nap on the plane, we’ve got a chance on the travel to or from the airport.

if you are going to nap them on the plane, have the tools handy such as a blanket, white noise machine (on low) and their comforter/soft toy. Or if it’s my daughter, then the only tool she’ll need is me, attempting a rocking motion with her while sat in a plane seat, which is not easy, but definitely possible.

5. Pack strategically

You will have your main bag packed to the brim and checked in but your cabin bag needs to be strategically packed for the plane. This will include snacks, drinks, an Ipad/tablet (if you allow it), non-noisy toys (let’s not make everyone listen to loud, annoying songs or sirens), wet wipes, nappies, change of clothes etc. Accessories galore was always going to feature on tips for travelling with toddlers!

If you’ve read my other post on travelling with a baby, then you’ll know I love my Babyzen Yoyo Stroller which I brought in Mamas and Papas for travelling. It packs up small and fits in the overhead compartment! But there are other options available and some airlines provide their own if you have to make a stopover and have checked your buggy.

Tips for travelling with toddlers

6. Remember your own comfort and needs

Even if your toddler has their own seat, they will still be on you a lot of the time. If they are under two years old and travelling for free, but definitely sat on you, make sure you consider your own comfort. Even a short flight (and I do recommend as short a trip as possible, if you have a choice!) is going to be intense and exhausting.

Make sure you are wearing comfortable clothes and can easily access your own drink and snacks. If you can do some leg stretches or stand up by your seat, take the opportunity. If you are travelling as a couple or group, then definitely share the load. Take turns so the other one can stand, walk a little and visit the loo.

7. Have your snacks and screen tools ready

You might be strict about snacks and screen times at home, but ease up on yourself for the flight as these are desperate times. Load up a device with your little one’s favourites and some new shows/films too. You can get some special volume protected toddler headphones so you don’t enforce their (probably) annoying favourite shows on the other passengers. If you’re not keen on that, or your toddler is too young, then just have the volume off or very low.

Also, bring other toys, books, sticker books and colouring books etc. depending on their age and ability. And think about quieter games you can play with your child. If there are two adults, then share the load as the level of entertaining will be exhausting. If you are travelling alone, don’t be afraid to ask for help with your bags.

Try to bring healthy snacks rather than sugary treats which will make them extra unbearable. Bring a spill-proof sippy cup or two, to top up with water or milk. And of course, have wet wipes handy.

8. Prepare for messy times

As well as your trusted wet wipes, pack tissues and muslin cloths for all possible accidents. Have bags for rubbish and chucking soiled bits into and have a spare change of clothes, or two. You know how it is with your toddler so be ready for anything. Pack more nappies than you think they’ll need too.

I’ve travelled a couple of times with my little one and not had problems with her ears hurting/popping due to cabin pressure. Some friends have reported it’s been awful for them though. Ear plugs aren’t an option for toddlers for safety reasons. Perhaps they have a dummy or sippy cup/bottle teat to suck on which could help. Otherwise, it’s going to be about distracting them and preparing for their discomfort with cuddles and reassurance.

9. Try not to stress

I know, easier said than done, but you can only do your best. And if your toddler throws a tantrum or ten, well, that’s what they do. Try not to feel bad or self-conscious when you get the side eye or blatant dirty looks from other passengers. You will make it through this and live to tell the tale!

I don’t recommend walking up and down the aisle with your toddler which some people go for. It seems like a good idea, but if your toddler is anything like mine, she’ll want to do this endlessly. This will be annoying for you, other passengers and the flight staff. I keep my toddler in the window or middle seat too, so they don’t get any ideas about moving around the plane.

As mentioned before, don’t be shy about accepting offers of help or outright asking for it. Especially if you’re travelling alone or have more than one child between you.

10. Go easy the first day you arrive

You’ve made it! They will probably be exhausted and over-stimulated when you arrive, so take it easy the first day. Don’t plan anything ambitious. Instead use the time to introduce them to their new surroundings and where you will be staying and sleeping. Unpack their toys and comfort items so they feel more at home. Show them how happy and excited you are to be there, so it rubs off on them too.

You probably have your some extra tips for travelling with toddlers now yourself…

Final thoughts on tips for travelling with toddlers

Pat yourself on the back, you’ve made it and you’ll be even more prepared for the dreaded return trip home! I hope these tips for travelling with toddlers are helpful and leave you feeling confident and prepared. I’d love to hear your top tips for travelling with toddlers too?

And do read the post on baby travel too. You might find there’s some crossover advice that will be relevant, particularly if your little one is a very young toddler.

Tips for travelling with toddlers by plane


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