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Toddler Travel Tips

Andrea Sanchez

Traveling with a toddler isn't always a super fun experience. They have their normal toddler rage about regular things only now you aren't in your home and it's hard to stay cool when a plane full of eyes are on you. For the last two weeks I've been out of state with D. My parents live in the Sacramento area of California so we travel west a few times a year. It's safe to say D has flown already about a half dozen times since he was born. As he approached 2 I did briefly consider not flying with him again until he was about 8. He's always been a pretty easy going traveler but the idea of being trapped in a plane (sometimes 2) with a toddler for hours on end and no where to go in the event of a meltdown terrifies me. 

Children's play area at SFO.

Children's play area at SFO.

However, with family out of state this is just not an option for us. So I've learned a few things in the past few years to make our lives a little easier on long trips. I generally do this for long car trips as well (10 hours to Rhode Island with a 22 month old? Sure! Why not?) and figured I'd share   some tips for you to try as well. 

#1: Snacks!

Bring more snacks than you think you could ever possibly need. Like, ever. If you skimp on the snacks there will be a moment around hour 7 of an 8 hour trip when your child hasn't slept and is running on crackers and applesauce alone. That moment will be when you run out. Don't let this be you! I back a big ziplock as full of crackers, fruit pouches, and whatever else I can. I've never had a problem getting the fruit pouches through security although I did notice today they are 3.2 ounces. 

A good travel helper pushes the stroller. 

A good travel helper pushes the stroller. 

#2: Novelty is key

Toddlers are all about novelty. This will be your golden ticket when sitting has started becoming uncomfortable. I love a good theme so I purchase a couple new books about plaines and airports (or whatever makes sense with where we are traveling) and don't pull them out until mid-flight. Some of our favorites are Amazing Airplanes, Little Airport Sticker Activity Book, Airport,  The Noisy Airplane Ride, and Planes (affiliate links). Around the holidays I even wrapped the books and would pull them out like I just found them under the seat. That just bought you 20 minutes per book!  

#3: Plan for sleep

There is a fair chance at some point your child will fall asleep. You want them to stay asleep as looooong as possible so make sure they are dressed comfortably. When we fly at night I bring jammies and D's special elephant. We read books, sing songs, just like normal. Then I cover him with a little blanket and pretend I'm going to sleep as well. Sometimes that works. Sometimes I knit! Normally I'm so exhausted I actually sleep too. 

#4: Plan for no sleep

Sometimes the above does not work. And your kid is awake for a 5 hour flight that left Cleveland at 7pm. In that case, make sure you packed all the snacks (that was the moment I ran out) and have a backup. I downloaded Frozen just in case and it served as a fair distraction for the last hour of our trip. Real life, people. Real life. 

In the winter some airports have reindeer!  @CLE

In the winter some airports have reindeer!  @CLE

At the end of your trip you may be pleasantly surprised. D traveled EXTREMELY well this last trip (and if was our first flight just us two and no daddy). But we've also had the so-exhausted-I-can't-sleep-so-I'll-scream-instead moments (in all fairness he was only about 14 months then). This time as we walked through the airport to our connecting flight I let him walk as much as I could, found an empty gate nearby to wait in, and dished out the snacks. Some airports are amazing and have kid play areas (San Fransisco and Las Vegas are two for sure) others you just ride the people mover for half an hour.

Is your toddler a frequent traveler? Share what things have worked for you! I'm dying to know. And wish me luck today and we travel home!

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