How to Survive International Travel with a Toddler

One thing I’ve learned through my post-baby travels is that flying with a little one is quite different at every age. If you read my blog you know that I just returned from a trip from Tanzania to Texas ALONE with my 15-month old. The trip included one 5.5 hour flight, one 16 hour flight, and another 1 hour flight— and that was just the way there. Aside from the obvious issues like passports and vaccinations (some countries will not let you in and/or out of them without them), I thought I’d put together a little post with tips that I have from my experience this time around.

Booking the Flight

-It’s worth spending a little extra money for less layovers/time in the airport. If you have a super energetic walker sprinter like I do, the most difficult part about flying with a toddler is the time spent in the airport. It is much harder to control a child when you can’t create boundaries, etc. Evita is not one to sit still in a stroller or even my baby carrier if we aren’t moving around. She spent our layovers running around everywhere, peeking into other people’s luggage and just being a terrorist in general. It was awful. At least I only had two layovers to deal with, unlike the 4 or so I had on the way to Tanzania.
-It’s worth spending money on an extra seat. Evita is not 2-years old yet, so I had the option of keeping her on my lap during our travels. No way. She weighs 25lbs now and my legs cannot handle her being on my lap for 16+ hours at a time. It was much better having her own seat, with her own tray table to play on, etc. When she wanted to to go sleep, she easily laid down with her head on my lap and I was able to get sleep as well. We couldn’t afford to purchase an extra seat for Eva on our trip to Italy next month, but those flights are only 5 hours a piece so I’m hoping it won’t be that bad. I might even have my husband on the same plane as me this time.
-Book your toddler’s seat next to the window. I remember being concerned about this when my toddler was a baby, but at this point the window is the only option in my opinion. That way she isn’t seated next to anyone but you and she can’t take off running down the isles at a moment’s notice.

What to Bring


1. iPad. The iPad was a must for me. I would have bought one just for this trip if I knew how much it would help and didn’t already have one. Evita is not yet at an age where a movie or T.V. show can entertain her for very long, but the endless capabilities of the iPad made up for it. An awesome accessory for the iPad is the Laugh & Learn Apptivity Case. It weathered the storm of traveling and eased my worry of dropping it or scratching the screen. I’d like to invest in the Lifeproof case for the iPad eventually, though, because Eva is not the only one prone to dropping things. 😉 Here are the apps we used:

  • Basically all the free Fisher Price apps.
  • Dr. Suess collection #1 and the Dr. Suess ABC book.
  • Elmo Calls
  • Kids Doodle (this one is free and awesome)
  • Phone4Kids
  • Toddler Teasers Shapes
  • Tiny Hands Sorting Game and Tiny Hands Building Game
  • and a bunch of different flashcard type of apps

2. Stickers. What is it about kids and stickers? Evita is definitely not too young for sticker fever. She will never turn down a sticker. For this reason, I kept a stash of stickers for when she became especially antsy. They were my secret weapon. When all else failed, I busted out the stickers and I bought myself at least 20 minutes.

3. Snacks. I don’t mean to insult your intelligence, but don’t forget the snacks. Puffs are my daughter’s favorite snacks, so I brought a huge ziploc bag full of them.

4. Disposable Diapers. I’m a cloth diaperer, and really had no clue how many disposable diapers I needed for the trip. I ended up bringing 40, which was WAAAY too many and took up way too much room in my carry-on. Sorry for you, but I forgot to count how many I actually used. They were the “Extra Protection” kind, and I want to say I used about 15 in about 36 hours. I know I used less than half of the 40 I brought. On the way back, I brought 1 diaper for every 2 hours of traveling.

5. Wipes. I brought one pack of wipes. I didn’t use the whole thing, but they don’t take up all that much space and it’s always great to have extra wipes.

6. Hand Sanitizer. There will be on-the-seat diaper changes and other yucky situations you’ll need it for.

7. Extra Ziplocks and/or Plastic Bags. You can put the dirty clothes, etc. in them.

8. A travel-size bottle of Dishwashing Liquid and a Sponge. I brought this so that I could wash Evita’s sippy cups.

Things I Brought but didn’t Use:

  • Books– I wish I wouldn’t have brought these, because they add quite a bit of weight to the carry-on and the iPad is an acceptable substitute in this situation.
  • Toys– I read somewhere that I should bring a new toy on the plane to entertain Eva, but she wasn’t really interested in toys on the plane. She was way too intrigued with the remote control for the built-in TV, the seat belts, the magazines, the paper cups, etc…. I ended up buying her one toy in the Dubai airport just because she loved it and I thought it’d be a cute souvenir, but she ignored it the entire time we were on the plane.
  • Baby Tylenol- This is something I really thought I’d use but never did. I’ve heard of giving toddlers Benadryl but I have never given her that before so did without it on the flight as well.

Other Issues

Stroller or Baby Carrier?
This was the first trip I didn’t bring the stroller on. Since I was traveling alone with my toddler, it was much easier to wear her so that my hands were free to pull my suitcases, carry-on, etc. It was also much easier to go through security and board the plane. There were times when my back was tired and I wished I had it, though. If I let Evita walk on her own she’d run all over the place. If you’ll need a stroller at your destination, you might as well take it on the plane, I guess. I think that’s what I’ll do on our trip to Italy next month.

Car seat or no car seat?
I did NOT bring a car seat on the plane with us. There is nothing Eva hates worse than a car seat; instead, I checked it under the plane. All toddlers are different, though. There was one 23-month old a few rows ahead of us that did alright staying in the car seat for the entire 16-hour flight. It just depends on your child’s demeanor, I guess.

Tips

  • I brought one big carry-on and one diaper bag. Right before boarding each plane, I reloaded my diaper bag with everything I thought I’d need on that flight, that way I didn’t have to hassle with getting things out of the carry-on overhead. 
  • If you do have a layover, wear your baby out at this point. I chased mine in circles around the seats until it was time to board the plane. It was tiresome, but worth getting all her energy out.

I feel like I’m leaving stuff out at this point, but if you have any tips to add or questions to ask, the comment section is below!

Comments

  1. Thanks for the list of apps – we’ll be flying with a two year old from DC-Bangkok and we are hoping to use a tablet as her primary entertainment.

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