5 Tips for Traveling with a Toddler

We’ve all been on a plane with a screaming kid. Sure, it’s terrible. But when you’re that screaming kid’s parent, it’s literally THE WORST.

Last week we spent a grand total of 30 hours in airports, on planes, and road tripping — with a TWO YEAR OLD. Before we even left the house, I felt anxiety over the day of travel ahead. I noticed the irritated stares when people realized our family was on their flight. I saw the relief on their face when they realized we weren’t sitting in their row. Can I blame them? Absolutely not.

Luckily our 30 hours of travel were TEAR-FREE! After flying with Nolan 10+ times, I think (fingers crossed) we’ve officially mastered our travel routine. Here are five tips I’ve picked up that make a HUGE difference:

1) Burn Energy with Every Opportunity

Sure, it would be ideal for Nolan and every other toddler to quietly sit in the airport terminal like angels and then continue to do so for the next four hours on the plane — but let’s be real . . . that is not real life!

Having learned from our mistakes, as soon as we get to our gate at the airport, Justin and I find a space and get Nolan running, climbing, jumping, you name it — whatever it takes to get him moving. The kid is a little ball of energy, and it’s impossible to make him sit still unless he gets some of that energy out.

And this could be (definitely is) my motherly bias speaking, but I’m pretty sure he wins over the hearts of our fellow travelers with his adorable giggling as he plays. That probably doesn’t hurt either! 🙂

2) Pack Purposeful Snacks

Having snacks is KEY when traveling with a toddler because swallowing helps them pop their ears. When too much pressure builds up in your little one’s ears, that’s when you’re really in trouble. Here’s my rule of thumb: If I have to work to actively pop my ears, then it’s time to start serving up the goodies.

I pick snacks strategically. Here’s what we used for our last trip:

  1. Water: He chugs juice so it’d be gone in a couple minutes — meaning we’d have nothing to drink AND a loaded diaper. He drinks water more slowly, so it helps pop his ears throughout the ride while keeping him hydrated.
  2. Goldfish: I’m the keeper of the crackers and hand them over one at a time when I think his ears may need to pop. These also double as a game when we make the fish swim into each other’s mouths.
  3. “Cookies”: Really they are just organic fruit bars, but in our house they are “cookies.” We use these as a special treat to bribe Nolan into sitting, being quiet, etc . . . which is obviously handy on a plane!

3) Entertainment is a Must

As exciting as we think we are, Justin and I are just not interesting enough to entertain Nolan on our own throughout an entire flight experience. And I’m sorry to tell you but odds are you aren’t either!

Our best in-flight ally is my iPod with a few Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episodes downloaded to it. We hooked Nolan up with these awesome headphones and he was able to hot-diggity-dog all the way to our layover.

Another thing Nolan loves right now is small animal figures, which worked perfectly for our flight because they don’t make any noise. I played “Sophie” the giraffe while Nolan was “Roar” the tiger and it made for a quiet (enough) game. 🙂

4) Never Underestimate the Power of a Pillow & Blanket

When we first started flying with Nolan I thought a pillow and blanket would do nothing but add to the amount of things we had to carry through the airport. I was SO WRONG!

A pillow and blanket makes any area more comfortable, even the lap of your mom or a hard plane seat. We owe almost every in-flight nap Nolan has ever taken to this cute pillow & blanket combo. It folds up easily and fits nicely in a carry on. Plus Nolan seems to be immediately more relaxed when we bring it out, so it’s a win for us!

5) Warn Your Fellow Travelers

If you’re still not feeling confident about your little one’s behavior after reading my first four tips, try giving a proactive warning to your fellow passengers.

Confession: This isn’t something I’ve actually done myself, but I’ve seen it done and think it’s literally genius.

Put together small bags with a set of ear plugs (and maybe some candy for good measure) and a note from your little one. The note should apologize for any disruption, as well as ask for patience and understanding. Pass the bags out to the people sitting closest to you and cross your fingers that it lightens the irritation they feel when/if your kid starts to scream.

I wish I’d thought to do this myself for Nolan’s first few flights and definitely will when we fly with a baby in the future! Here are a couple examples:

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14 thoughts on “5 Tips for Traveling with a Toddler”

  1. I have two toddlers and man they are a bundle of energy. I have tried all these tricks and they tend to work but sometimes i have to get more creative and this is when i pull out the trolls movie.


  2. I have a toddler of my own and cannot imagine traveling distances with her. She would be so wiggly! These are great tips though, if I am ever brave enough to take her on an airplane then I know where to look!

    Liked by 1 person

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