8 Tips for Flying with Toddlers and Babies

Estimated reading time: 13 minutes

Travelling with small people is no joke.

Since birthing my energetic child almost three years ago, he’s been with me on three trips overseas. Travelling by yourself is tiring, but add a small person (who needs to be fed, watered, entertained, rested and kept in confined areas for long periods of time) to the equation, and you might question whether or not you really ever want to go overseas again.

The first trip, I travelled with my six-month-old from Australia to Indonesia (approx. 12 hours with layovers), with no accompanying adults. I cried a few times.

On the second trip, my son was 1 and a half, and he, my husband and I travelled from Australia to Haiti (approx. 30 hours with layovers).

On his third trip, he was 2 and a half, I was six months pregnant and travelling with my sister and her 6 month old baby.

This combination was probably the best recipe for extreme exhaustion and emotional breakdowns, but from my previous two trips, I’d learnt some things which made this trip far more bearable.

So here I am to share some tips with you, which will hopefully help you have a great travel experience - even with little ones in tow!

8 Tips for Flying with Toddlers and Babies

1. Where possible, travel with another adult. The greater adult to child ratio, the better. This will mean toilet breaks are 100 times easier, and you can emotionally support each other when you feel like having a break down.

2. Get a toddler harness. I was concerned I might be judged for having my kid on a leash, but if I was, the judgment was well worth it. This was a life-saver. It meant Josiah could run around and burn energy, but also be restricted in where he could go.

3. Minimise carry-on luggage. Be brutal about what you’re packing. The lighter all your baggage is, the easier your travel will be. If you’re bringing a change of clothes, pack lighter/thinner clothes. If you think you might not need it, you probably won’t.

4. Book a night flight. If you can, book a flight over a period that your child is used to sleeping for a long period of time. It’ll mean you can get some rest, and don’t need to entertain them for so long. 

5. Bring some small, light-weight activities to introduce to your child at different points along the trip.

Here are some ideas for toddlers: pencils and paper for drawing, play dough (introduce one colour at a time), 10 pieces of Lego, magnets, a few books, small cars. Wait until your child is completely bored with something and getting restless before bringing out something else.

6. If you’re having a layover, check before flying if there’s a kids play area at the airport. If there is, as soon as you arrive and are washed and fed, go to the play area! You’ll get much needed sitting/resting time and your kid can run around and burn some energy.

7. Bring a stroller! And a carrier! Multiple ways of carrying a child are ideal. If you have a heavy/large pram like I do, leave that at home and bring a lightweight stroller. Bring it all the way to the plane door and ask the staff to have it there for you when you exit the plane. Depending on your kid’s age, a Trunki bag could be helpful (they can pull it, or sit on it and be pulled along).

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8. Bring a travel pillow! I’ve never been a travel pillow bringer - but it can make a world of difference for your child for when they want to sleep - whether on the plane or at the airport, and you might just be too exhausted to hold up their little heads.

What has your experience with flying with children been? Do you have any other tips you wish someone told you before you flew?