Checklist for flying with a toddler + tried and tested ways to keep a toddler busy when flying. Sanity saving toddler travel checklist. Updated Dec 2019.
Air travel with a toddler is hard work but there are ways to make it better for you, them and the other passengers.
We have traveled by plane with our toddlers extensively, and while we did not get it right from the very start, we surely learned from our mistakes and ended up being pretty good at it.
While long haul flights with a toddler can never be guaranteed to be a walk in the park, we found some preparation, gear and patience went a long way.
Here is our tried and tested checklists for flying with a toddler!
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Flying with a toddler checklist: before you go
Flying with a toddler comes with a lot of worries.
Will their ears hurt? Will they be able to sleep?
What if they cry and the whole plane hates us and thinks we are terrible parents (they won’t, and even if they do, you have a battalion of parents who 100% support you, we are all here for you, never think you are alone!!).
This checklist won’t be able to rid you of all your worries.
However, we found that checking and double-checking the following things really helped us make the journey easier on us and on our children so I hope it will be the case for you too!
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Check that you have seats together
It may seem a given that airlines put parents and children sitting together, especially when the children are very young, however, this is not always the case.
The web is full of horror stories of parents separated from their toddler and subsequent arguments once on-board and the only way to truly make sure this doesn’t happen to you is to check, double, check, triple check your booking and the seating arrangements.
Never take for granted that you will be sitting together and do not expect other people to be understanding and move to facilitate you.
While many will, many will not and it is, ultimately, their prerogative to do so, especially if they paid for their seat.
To take the stress away from boarding, make sure you plan your seating in advance and bring proof of it with you, should there be any doubt.
Check that your car seat is air travel approved
Talking of seating, if you are carrying a car seat on-board, do check in advance that it meets safety regulations for flying.
Not all car seats are allowed on all aircrafts: you can find an overview of regulations and resources for flying with a car seat here.
Check if you can carry your stroller to the gate / on board
To limit delays and stress when boarding, check-in advance that you can wheel the stroller up to the gate (usually no problem), put it in the overhead bin (only some models) and what the arrangements are on arrival.
Will the stroller be waiting for you at the aircraft door? Will it be at the luggage belt?
This usually depends on the airport but you can normally get info from your airline and prepare accordingly.
Check that you have twice as many diapers / milk / formula/ changes of clothes as needed for the flight
Airline regulations usually state that you can carry the ‘appropriate amount of food for your child’ and the appropriate amount of food in my experience is: ore than you think!
While you don’t want to overload yourself with stuff, always consider that delays happen.
Have a little more in your diaper bag so if you have to wait on the tarmac or the random tummy bug hits, you are ready!
This is the case for your toddler but also yourself…. Stick an extra top and pair of leggings in your carry on bag, just in case!
Check that you have a teething toy
In case take-off and landing make their gums hurt
Check that you have medications and aids should they get unwell while flying
I am an anxious parent and always keep my first aid kit in our carry on bag.
You do not need to go overboard with stuff but Paracetamol/Ibuprofen/ teething gel always feature on my flying with a toddler checklist and I highly recommend you get them on yours too!
Check that your diaper bag is fit for the job
a diaper bag works double duty when traveling: it is going to be your baby bag, your carry on luggage and maybe even your own handbag!
To make sure it is the right size and doesn’t let you down at the worst moment, pick one from this selection of the best diaper bags for travel chosen from the experience of many family trips!
Make sure you have all you may need:
- Diaper disposable bags
- Nappy cream
- Hand sanitizer
- Portable changing mat
- Extra tissues
- Muslin cloths
- Sippy cup
- Toddler toothbrush, toothpaste basic toiletries
- Extra socks /shoes for walking up and down the plain aisle
Check that you have a toddler-sized travel pillow to help them sleep on the plane
Travel pillows are not a necessity but a real nice to have for flying.
My kids always adored them and they made a world of difference when it came to helping them fall asleep.
Depending on the airline and age of your child, you may opt for neck or leg rest cushions: you can find my selection of the best travel pillows for toddlers and kids here.
Check that you have an extra blanket
The temperature inside the plane can be funny, often swinging from hot to cold.
I always bring an extra cover for my toddler that I can easily put on / take off while they sleep.
I prefer to bring my own for hygiene reasons and also as comfort.
Having a favorite blankie can be soothing for a small child in an unfamiliar environment like a busy aircraft.
Check that you have a comforter or a teddy they know
Maybe the most important item in this whole checklist: the favorite cuddly!
Check that you have the right type things to keep toddlers busy on the plane
It took me a good bit of time to figure out the best toddler toys for the plane but I am very happy with the resulting list.
The winners for us were quiet toys, reusable toys and things without small parts and in particular:
- Reusable stickers
- Magic drawing board
- Aqua doodle
- Coloring pens and coloring paper
- Stackable cups
- Pipe cleaners in multiple colors
- Books / sensory books
- Magnetic puzzles (so the pieces don’t fall on the ground all the time)
Check that you have some toddler-friendly apps
While we don’t like the idea of screen time for a toddler, I find apps on the phone or Ipad ar a life-saver on long haul flights.
Our kids adore Starfall ABC and Petting zoo but new ones come out of the time and for different age ranges.
I recommend you download two or three for variety.
Check that you have toddler headphones
Toddler headphones are not a must but they go a long way to help both your toddler and the other passengers enjoy the flight. Peppa Pig on repeat for 8 hours will make you no friends!
When choosing the best model, opt for those with built-in volume control: you can find a selection of the best headphones for toddlers here.
Check that you have snacks
Plane food can be hard to take for toddlers so packing up extra snacks can be a lifesaver.
I usually bring rice cakes, breadsticks, fruit and water, to keep both hands and mouths busy.
If you are flying long haul, you might be given the choice of pre-booking children meals.
I strongly suggest that you do and also you check again with the airline that they have your order: I know it sounds obsessive, but it makes life on board a lot easier!
You can read here 5 other tips well-traveled parents shared with me about lessons learned on the move
Check that you have a bag for the toys
Children are allowed to carry their own luggage on board and I found giving my kids a bag of toys gave them a huge sense of control.
I give one bag to each child and put them in charge of it (under very strict supervision).
I find that the kids are very responsive to being put in charge and if they feel that bag is ‘their thing’ will more willingly play with what is inside and put things away.
So this is my checklist for air travel with toddlers! I hope you found it useful: safe family travels!