Skip to Content

Flying With A Toddler Tips: EVERYTHING you need to know

Sharing is caring!

Travelling with a toddler on a plane is often the trickiest stage, definitely harder than traveling with an infant in some aspects. But these practical tips on flying with a toddler will help with sleep, snacks, meals, activities, toys and more so even if you are flying with a toddler for the first time, you will feel more prepared! As an ex flight attendant of 12 years and a parent who has flown 24 hours with toddlers and over 60 + flights I have lots of travel hacks and tips for you!

Flying with a baby is easier in comparison because little ones are usually less mobile, smaller and can usually fit in an airline bassinet. Once they start to crawl and toddle –  travel gets a little bit more complicated.

My youngest decided to learn to crawl just a week before we flew on another trip to Australia from the UK. Long haul travel with toddler who is moving – perfect timing – not!!! I found flying with a toddler under two the biggest challenge – just because it is harder to reason with that age. Flying with a two year old and three year old was pretty similar! However, don’t despair, a bit of preparation and research can make it a lot easier whether you are flying with a two, three or four year old. These toddler airplane tips will help you!

Flying With A Toddler Tips Everything you need to know

I can’t promise every flight will go well, but I can definitely pass on my tips and tricks for flying with children which have worked for this stage – which haven’t put us off long haul flights with a toddler! This list is by no means definitive and I go into a lot more detail in other posts, but hopefully this  ‘How to Fly with a Toddler’ information is handy if you are in a hurry.

Flying With A Toddler Tips – Toddler Travel Tips That Really Help

Pick the right flight time for you.

  • Is your little one a night owl or an early riser? Can you pacify them with snacks until you can heat up a meal for them or be given a baby/toddler/child meal (if your airline provides). You know your little one the best, so try and time a flight that works for their schedule, especially if you are taking a toddler on a plane which goes into nap time.

If flying long haul with a toddler – aim for a night flight.

  • Travelling with toddlers on long haul flights is daunting, possibly the trickiest stage of flying with kids! Therefore, we try and aim for a night flight. Even if you have to put them down for a little nap before you head to the airport- it’s well worth doing.

If you are flying short haul, avoid night flights! From experience, they fall asleep just as you land and are very, very grumpy. This means unless you have a cabin sized stroller, or baby carrier, then you will need to carry your little one, and the bags whilst queuing for immigration etc.

Check in Early When Flying With a Toddler

  • and leave plenty of time for security. Prepare your child and explain that teddy will have to through the x-ray machine but they will have him back. Check the airport website and see if there is a family line or whether it may be worth buying a priority pass (if available.) Have liquids already in clear ziploc bags to avoid leaks and to whip out quickly for security. 
  • Generally, if you are travelling with children aged three and under you are allowed to bring liquids over 100ml. However, the very odd airport may say the age limit is two. I’ve had a few airports that have let me take a filled water bottle for a six year old, but this is not common. Usually, this information can be found on the airport website in the security section. Whether you are flying long haul with toddlers or short haul, it’s a good idea to have a water bottle that you can easily refill at the airport or on the plane so they can easily have a drink when needed.
Bugaboo Butterfly travel stroller
The new Bugaboo Butterfly Stroller is great for toddlers and babies over 6 months!

Tips on Strollers

  • If you are planning on travel by plane with baby or a toddler, decide whether to gate check your stroller or check it in immediately. Gate check is when you keep your stroller until you board the plane. I’ve done both, and I prefer gate checking if it’s a really easy stroller to pack away – unless it’s a small cabin sized stroller that meets hand luggage conditions. In that case, I take it on board with me and use at the baggage reclaim and immigration. These are just brilliant and one of the best inventions for travel with kids! Here are some travel strollers for toddlers that might help with your journey!

If you are checking in your pushchair or stroller, then use a stroller bag to protect it. You can usually sneak a few extra things in like diapers/nappies, clothing etc to provide extra padding to protect the pram and secure some additional baggage allowance for free!

strollers on airplanes, baby zen yoyo plus stroller pushchair in airplane, best stroller for travel as it fits cabin sized overhead lockers? #familytravel
The BabyZen YOYO is a popular stroller for air travel

Tips for Getting Through Airport Security Quicker

When traveling with a toddler, queues are the one thing that can make them get cranky. Have some easily accessible snacks and drinks, and a toy or two to distract them if needed.

  • Plan to leave extra time for the airport- especially for security. An extra 30 minutes is ideal if flying with infants or a toddler. Plane travel with kids takes longer than you think when you are trying to move through an airport!
  • When traveling by plane with a toddler, pack any liquids in an easy place to access quickly. If you have a clear small single, transparent, resealable plastic bag, which holds no more than a litre and measures approximately 20cm x 20cm, use that to save time at the airport. Everyone in your booking, including kids under two are entitled to a liquid bag.
  • Look out for a family line at the airport or ask if there is one.
  • Clear security in plenty of time. Be prepared to take your toddler out of the stroller or carrier if you are using one.
  • Baby milk (pumped breast milk, powdered or readymade) water for baby, baby food, travel snacks, are all allowed over the 100ml /3-1-1 liquid rule if you are travelling with your baby.  It’s often worth asking the cafes airside (past security) for ice to replenish your Ziploc bags if you have any perishable goods on you for the flight. Ice packs are often not allowed through security in some countries, so check your departure airport site in the security section first.
flying with a toddler tips #familytravel child reading airline safety card
Window seats are great for toddlers on an airplane

Be airline seat savvy: Window or aisle seat with a toddler?

  • Choose your seat carefully. They vary so much which means there are quite a lot of factors to consider which suit your circumstances, especially whether it’s a short or long haul flight. Toddlers may be fine in an aisle seat for a short hour flight, but a window seat is a better option generally.
BA chair style bassinet
BA reclining bassinet chair for older babies under two.
  • If bringing one, do check that your airplane approved toddler car seat will fit into the airline seat. Some cannot be used on certain seats if the seat belt has an airbag built in. I go into more detail in the previous highlighted link. I always recommend having a look at seat guru and checking out the airline seat map on the website. An alternative, is using a CARES harness suitable for over ones.
  • Whenever possible I opt for the window seat when flying with kids. It gives them something to look out of and a place to put travel toys such as window gel clings. The window seat also contains them a little bit more and helps prevent them from running into the aisle.

Know your Baggage Allowance Rules for Flying With a Toddler

  • Airplane travel with a toddler usually involves traveling with a bit of gear. If you are flying with car seats and strollers and not using your car seat as a restraint device, these can normally be gate checked for free in addition to the normal allowance. More on this below.
  • If your toddler has their own seat. (They must once they turn two years old), then they automatically have the same baggage allowance has adults. Additionally, and free of charge, a stroller and car seat is permitted too. However, do check, as some airlines will only permit one or the other for free. (A way to get around this, is to pack your toddlers clothing in your suitcase and use their allowance for any extra things you need).

What to Pack if Flying With A Toddler

  • Dress you and toddler in comfortable and easily removable layers. Crammed in a refined space with a toddler asleep on you when you are feeling hot will require some Houdini moves, so easily removable layers can help. Aircraft cabin temperatures do fluctuate, so whilst you may feel hot on the ground, you may feel chilly after a couple of hours.
  • Pack an extra change of clothing for you and your toddler in your carry on. We have to rely on this several times, and once we went through our changes of clothes and my daughter ended up wearing an over sized pyjama top from first class! You never know when someone will feel poorly or an accident can happen! My husband got covered in puke on one long haul flight and no he didn’t have a spare change of clothes!
  • Don’t forget to pack any essential medicine in your carry on. If it’s over 100ml or breaks the 3-1-1 liquid rules, ask your doctor for a note and check with your airline. Liquid medicines are exempt from TSA limits in the USA, but this is not always the case in other countries.
window gel cling travel toy for toddlers and kids on an airplane window
Window gel clings work well on an airplane window

How to entertain a toddler on a plane.

  • Flying with a toddler means a little more planning when it comes to entertainment. Pack some new travel toys just for the flight. Packing them into a small backpack that they can manage helps too. We choose a couple of favourite toys and some new ones. The newer toys we wrap up and hand out every so often throughout the flight.
Buckle Toy Whale- ideal for keeping toddlers and older babies busy on a flight or long car journey.
Buckle Toy Whale is great for toddlers on flights!
best toddler toys Tomy mini water aqua doodle mats, We have covered below how to entertain a baby from a few months old, to how to entertain a 1 year old on a plane, older toddlers who are more energetic and every age in between.
Tomy Water mats are a great activity for toddlers on flights.
  • Bring your own toddler headphones for the plane, unless you are travelling with an airline that has some good family friendly amenities onboard. Here are some good apps for toddlers. Now is the time to forget about a limited screen time – they do really help keep little ones busy when travelling. Toddlers have a limited attention span anyway but a screen time treat may buy you 15-30 minutes or stop a meltdown. Don’t forget a fully charged power pack!

Why Zip-loc bags are an essential item for flying with a toddler.

  • Whether you are flying long haul with a toddler or a baby or short haul, ALWAYS pack spare changes and extra clothes in ziplock bags in your hand luggage. This makes it SO much easier to grab if any accidents happen. If you are flying with a toddler and a baby, then having separate bags makes it easier to distinguish between  – especially with the dim light of a night flight. Ziploc are also useful to fill with ice and keep any milk or food chilled or to have essential medicine in. For more packing tips, have a look at my packing checklist. For more tips for flying with babies see here.
jet lag children on a plane. toddler sleep on plane
And fast asleep to Thailand using a TravelSnug

Bring something comfy to help your toddler sleep on the plane.

  • What to bring when flying with a toddler, will vary from person to person. Usually a comfort item will feature. Having a toddler sleep on the plane is always a bonus! Bring a pillow or something like a Travel Snug for your toddler. They really do help to settle little ones, especially on long or late flights.
  • When flying with toddlers on long haul flights, use the airplane blanket to make a cover over the seats to shield from the cabin lights too.
blanket covering a seat on a plane to sleep.
Blanket covering the plane seats so the girls can sleep on a long haul flight.

More Sleep Flying Tips with Toddlers

Plane Pal and Flyaway travel bed to help kids sleep on a flight
Gadgets to help kids sleep on a flight!
Plane Pal and Flyaway travel bed to help kids sleep on a flight,  makes air travel with toddlers a breeze
Gadgets to help kids sleep on a flight! Makes air travel with toddlers a breeze!

BUT do check if they are allowed on your airline as all have varying rules on this. This post details the airlines which officially allow toddler inflatable travel pillows and similar products.

Tips For Flying With A Toddler, Travel Snug
Flying long haul with a toddler from the UK to Thailand using the travel Snug as THAI do not allow other sleep devices.

Pack ALL the snacks!

  • Don’t underestimate how much toddlers will snack on the flight! Bring what you think and double it! Raisins, bananas, apples, breadsticks, mini sausages are all good. Frozen yoghurt pouches work well too and help keep everything cool. Avoid sugary sweets as all that pent-up energy will have nowhere to go. We do save a lolly for the descent though- just in case the change in pressure irritates their ears. Some more easy travel snack ideas are here.
  • One of my favorite tips for air travel with toddlers is request a child meal. If your toddler is over 2, then you can order a child meal on most airlines (long haul flights). These are less spicy and generally more appealing to kids, and sometimes come with an activity. There are a few airlines which offer toddler meals too. This must be done a minimum of 24 hours before the flight departs. More details are on my ordering baby and child meals post.
Ordering baby child meals, emirates airline. airline meals
Emirates child meal

Can I take milk on a plane for my toddler?

  • Travel with toddlers on planes, means you still need to think about food and drink for them. And yes, you can still bring milk or water on board for your toddler. It’s usually advised to bring water in a sippy cup rather than a normal water bottle. Milk & water for toddlers is also exempt from the 100ml or 3-1-1 liquid rule.

Wear your toddler out pre-boarding.

  • When travelling with a toddler on a plane, especially if long haul, make use of the airport soft-play, if they have one. They certainly help with toddler travel! Here is a list of airport soft play I’ve compiled for all over the world. Please let me know if I need to edit!
sairport soft play at capetown airport
Airport soft play at Cape Town Intl airport

Board last when flying with a toddler.

  • If flying long haul with a toddler or with young children, and it’s a day flight, consider boarding last with your tot and have your partner board a bit earlier with all the travel gear you have.
  • When taking a toddler on a plane, there is really no point in keeping them restrained with a seatbelt on a plane longer than necessary! With a short-haul flight- it is often a bit easier just to get them on and settled, and this can be the case for a very late flight too.
  • Visit the airport restroom before you board your flight.

Make use of the space on a plane.

  • Try at first to hide the fact that you can get out and walk the aisle. However, if you have a determined child or one full of beans during a long flight then stretch your legs and walk around the plane if need be when traveling on a plane with a toddler. The larger A380’s have a lot of space! Try to time these walks around the beverage and meal service to avoid getting stuck between carts and the flight attendants working.
  • If you have a young toddler, bring a toddler/baby carrier with you, in case you do need to pace up and down a bit longer than expected or you want to settle them on you. Bear in mind, that baby carriers can not be used for taxiing, take off or landing. If it is turbulent, you will have to put a seat belt on them if flying with a non USA/ Non Canadian based airline.

How can I help my toddler’s ears on a plane?

  • Air travel with toddlers can mean they are very vocal with ear pain! The change in ear pressure can be uncomfortable during plane travel with a toddler. And toddlers still find it hard to yawn or move their jaw to help relieve the discomfort. We usually pack a couple of sweets/candy for this purpose and have a drink handy too. The swallowing action can really help.

Flying with a lap toddler?

Up until your little one’s second birthday, your child can fly as a lap child, saving you an extra air fare. Depending on where you are flying too, you may just have to pay local airport taxes.

Choosing to purchase a seat or flying with a lap toddler is entirely up to you – although aviation safety experts agree that using a car seat or a CARES harness is the safest option in the unlikely event of an accident.

I have flown with mine through all ages and stages as lap babies and lap toddlers, with infant seat belts. However, on a couple of flights we were offered a spare seat which was greatly appreciated. Flying with a toddler on your lap like my wriggly 19 month old is tough, it was SO much easier when she had her own seat! When you are traveling with a 2 year old on a plane, they must have their own seat.

Infant lap belt CRD baby in lap belt
An Infant lap belt is a must on some airlines for kids under two.

Flying With A Toddler Under 2?

Flying with a toddler under two or an infant, gives you the option of flying with your child as a lap baby. ie you pay either a reduced fare or free fare for them to sit on your lap for the flight. For further tips on flying with a newborn, see here.

Obviously, the older the baby/toddler then the more uncomfortable this is going to be – especially as airline bassinets are made for smaller babies, and generally fit little ones aged one and under.

If you are travelling with toddlers on long flights then you have a few options:

  • Alternative options are limited in terms of airline provisions e.g Air New Zealand have the sky couch which you can purchase.
  • The other option is purchasing a seat for them. This will obviously cost more and regulations on airlines vary.
  • Some will require you to bring your own airline approved car seat to use and others will allow you to use the infant lap belt (if applicable) and sit your toddler on your lap for taxi, take-off, landing etc. However, for taxi, take-off, landing  you cannot fly with a two year old on your lap.
  • Consider the sleep travel cushions and gadgets mentioned above. These are great for plane travel with toddler, but especially useful for those with their own seat.

Let me know how traveling with a toddler on a plane goes for you. Have you any more tips for flying with toddlers?

Don’t forget:

If you are planning on going out and about or traveling with toddler, you may find these other travel gear recommendations for kids useful too. These great travel toys and activities for toddlers are also handy – for days out, to trips on planes, trains or even cruising or camping.

Pin tips for flying with a toddler later?

Tips For Flying With A Toddler | Flying with a toddler is the trickiest stage I've found. My eldest (born in 2011) had completed over 40 flights before she four and my youngest is attempting to catch up! #familytravel #tmom, #jetsetkids #flyingwithkids
Traveling with toddler tips

If you have enjoyed this post and found it useful, here are some ways you can say thanks and support Flying With A Baby 

1. Click here to buy me a virtual coffee (thank you so much!)

2. Join our  Family Travel Forum: TRAVEL WITH KIDS WORLDWIDE Facebook Group here which includes lots of ideas & tips for things to do, places to visit around the globe and more with input from members who live or visit these places regularly.

3. Click here to sign up for the latest family travel tips, guides and competitions. 

3. Share this post with your friends. 

4. Follow Flying With A Baby on the following platforms for exclusive content :

Thank you for your support as always. 

Sharing is caring!

19 − 12 =


Monday 16th of March 2020

Amen to the Zip-lock bags! They've saved us more than once!


Monday 16th of March 2020

I'm flying with my two-year-old niece for the first time next month, so definitely bookmarking this for that trip! Luckily, it's only a 90-minute flight each way ;-)

Catherine Brady

Monday 16th of March 2020

Love all of the tips and ideas, I think you covered any and all questions that I had! I am definitely going to pick up one of those full body pre-school pillows-what brand are they?

Lisa Goodmurphy

Sunday 15th of March 2020

These are great tips! When my kids were little it was impossible to find any information online about travelling with young kids - I love that there are so many great resources now!!


Thursday 12th of March 2020

Great list of tips! We have just moved out of the toddler phase, but we certainly still do "pack all the snacks"! Both for our kids and us of course. :) Cheers to more happy flying.

5 Secrets to
Flying with a Baby


Tips to make travel with your child easy and stress-free