How to Deal With Long Journeys With a Toddler

Toddler - Rainer Sturm  /
About a year ago I wrote up a post about the best strategies to deal with long journeys by plane or bus. That post mainly dealt with issues that concern solo travelers. Since I've made the transition into family life, the troubles with long flights have changed. My main concern is not if I will be comfortable anymore but rather will my child be comfortable which in turn will make the journey more pleasant for myself and everyone around us as well.

Almost every traveler you'll meet will have a story about that one nightmarish journey with the baby or toddler crying and screaming relentlessly. Rest becomes impossible when you're sitting close to whining child! Personally, I've had my share of those trips and I must admit, I wasn't always very understanding with the whole situation. "Just make them shut up already!" has crossed my mind on several occasions.

Now, I find myself on the other side of the problem. Suddenly its my child that might cause the commotion. I know that sometimes you simply can't avoid a bit of noise but I also know that there are a lot of strategies to help prevent the total breakdown aka temper tantrum.

Stuff to bring along

Remember: You know your child best so you know what things she'll need during the journey. There is a tendency to overpack your hand luggage with things for your toddler. Don't! Bring the essentials! Traveling with a small child is tiring enough so you don't need to lug around heavy carry-ons!
  1. CHANGE OF CLOTHES: Accidents happen. You should bring along a change of clothes for your child and for yourself. 
  2. FOOD/DRINK: Bring along plenty of water and snacks for the journey. Remember that not all airlines have meals for toddlers traveling on your lap! Thankfully, there are special regulations concerning food for babies and toddlers so you are allowed to bring food and even liquids! For details, consult with your airline or airport. 
  3. BOOKS: If your child likes books bring along one or two of his favorites. You might have to tell the same story 20 times during the flight but if it keeps him occupied it is worth it!
  4. ACTIVITIES: You know your child best. If he likes coloring bring along coloring books and pencils. If he likes music bring along a suitable mp3 player and head phones. Anything that will keep her busy for a while!
  5. SMART PHONE: Yes, it's generally frowned upon to give a smart phone to a toddler and it probably isn't a good habit. BUT I believe that very long journeys should be an exception to this rule. Parents need a rest too and if watching a few videos or playing a simple game will get you some much needed break then do it!
  6. BLANKET: Nothing worse than traveling with a toddler who is cold. Airlines and some busses provide blankets but your child's favorite blanket will probably be much better as it not only provides warmth but also the comfort of a familiar object.
  7. FAVORITE TOY: This helps to feel comfy in a foreign and strange environment!

Before/after the flight or bus ride
  1. MOVE: This is important for you and your child. You need to move to relax and your child to get all excessive energy out. After all you'll be confined to a very small space for quite a long time after that! Go for a walk before your flight. Stroll around the terminal rather than sitting in the waiting area for example. Some airports have also play areas for children.
  2. ARRIVE WITH PLENTY OF TIME: Yes, you'll need it! Security procedures can be quite tricky with a small child on your hip and a heavy backpack in your hand! You don't want to get stressed out because you're running late!
  3. DRESS COMFORTABLY: Pijamas are a great travel option for children. They are comfy and children associate them with sleep so they might sleep even easier. For yourself, choose something loose and and comfy.
  4. AISLE SEAT: Request an aisle seat when booking your trip. This will allow you to move more freely during the trip!

During the flight or bus ride
  1. HYDRATE: Drink a lot of water and offer your child plenty of liquids. Water or unsweetened herbal tea is best!
  2. SLEEP OR NAP: If you can, make your child nap and sleep as much as you can. As soon as he dozes off, take a nap yourself to recover your strength!
  3. MOVE: walk up and down the aisle or to the bathroom with your toddler. Try to be quiet though, especially during night flights! 
  4. FUN: Talk and play with your child! If a neighbor is trying to be nice and talks to your child, let them! It will distract them and help pass time!

What are your best tips for traveling with toddlers? Please share!


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