For most parents with babies and toddlers, the idea of stepping on a packed plane full of people hoping to get some shut-eye before their holidays commence is somewhat of a nightmare. Tired toddlers, travel sickness, boredom and a lack of facilities can be a recipe for disaster. But with some careful planning and preparation, this doesn’t need to be the case. Instead, travelling with little ones can be a fun and exciting experience for all.
To make the idea a little less daunting, I’ve compiled a list of top tips for travelling with toddlers to get you well on your way to a successful family holiday.
1) Take your time – Plan ahead and allow plenty of time in order not to feel rushed or stressed when getting to and through the airport. Kids love to explore their surroundings, so allow extra time for them to stare out of windows or watch the bags on conveyor belts at the security check.
2) Invest in a Trunki – Get kids involved in the planning of your holiday by allowing them to have their own suitcase. It means they’ll also enjoy carrying it or riding it around the airport, so you don’t have to lug around their things too! Just make sure they don’t pack anything themselves – you don’t want to get pulled over by a burly security guard, questioning the soil and rocks in your kiddy’s case now, do you?!
3) Load up your phone or tablet – Download plenty of toddler friendly apps and games. It also helps to have a good supply of cartoons. Some people may frown upon kids being given tablets to play with, but kids love feeling like they’re doing things that adults do, so are much more likely to be kept entertained for longer if they’re using their mum or dad’s tablet. And for the sake of a peaceful journey, it’s worth it!
4) Plan in 15 minute slots – However long your flight is, try and have something different available for your child to do for each 15 minutes. Chances are you won’t need that many, but it helps to be prepared. And don’t forget the first and last part of the flight can be spent watching out of the window as you take off and land.
5) Pack snacks – Nobody wants a hungry toddler to become a grumpy toddler, so make sure you have plenty of snacks at the ready. Try and make them as healthy as possible – some fruit or some savoury snacks – and try to avoid sugary snacks at all costs! You don’t want to be dealing with hyperactivity followed by a come down in the confined space of an airplane cabin.
6) Comforters – When it comes to your little one getting some sleep on a long journey, make sure they have whatever comforters they like to help them settle. This could be their favourite blanket, a special cuddly toy or even just a dummy. If you have room, pack a small pillow to make it easier for them to nod off on a flight. Calmer flights are in sight!
7) Sleep patterns – This may be more difficult if you are going on a long-haul flight, but wherever possible try and keep to your child’s normal sleep pattern as best as you can. Try and book flight times that aren’t too antisocial so that your child will easily adapt once you arrive at your destination.
8) Medicine – If your child suffers from travel sickness or struggles to get to sleep when travelling, make sure you pack some medicine that will help them to feel better and also help to ease them off to sleep. Calpol is the perfect child-friendly solution to making little tots feel as good as new again if they’re feeling a bit under the weather.
9) Pack extra clothing – It’s worth packing a spare set of clothes or some extra pairs of pants if going on a long journey with toddlers, just in case your child has an accident or an in-flight meal is tipped onto a lap! Accidents happen, and they are much easier to deal with if you have some back-up clothes to tackle the situation, without your child having to walk around in soiled clothes. Not toilet trained yet? A few extra nappies are a good idea too! Thankfully, there are some extras you don't have to pack – add the extras that are right for you.
10) Baby wipes – The most important weapon for any parent, baby wipes are an essential item to always have close at hand, especially when travelling. If your child gets themselves into a mess, baby wipes are the solution to everything. It can be very difficult to clean up after toddlers on a flight where there are limited facilities, but baby wipes work a treat. Packing a small bottle of hand sanitiser in your day bag is also a good idea for cleaning mucky hands on the go.
11) Provide them with a camera – A brilliant way to keep kids entertained on holiday and whilst travelling is to provide them with a child-proof camera. They will have so much fun taking their own pictures of their adventures and it’s great to then look back over the pictures when you get home and see the holiday through your child’s eyes.
12) Kids’ Clubs – If you’re looking for a bit of extra special entertainment for your little ones, then be sure to book a hotel with an excellent kids’ club. The kids will have hours and hours of fun, you’ll have to drag them away at the end of each day! And what’s more, it gives you a chance to unwind and enjoy a bit of downtime by the pool.
13) Passport dates – It’s important to keep checks on the expiry date of your child’s passport as they run out a lot sooner than adults'. Children’s passports have to be renewed every five years, unlike adults, which are every ten years. The last thing you want is to have booked your dream family holiday only to find out that your child’s passport is no longer valid! Make sure you know the expiry date and apply to renew it in plenty of time before your next holiday.
Hopefully it all sounds a bit more appealing now? If so, it’s never too late to book a last minute holiday.
Written 2016. Reviewed and republished 2022
About the author
Sadie Geoghegan is a freelance travel writer who, when she’s not exploring the world, can be found writing at home with her dog in Cambridge.