I’d like to think I know a little bit about traveling with a toddler. I mean, in the past month alone we’ve gone from Florida to California (with Alex) and then shortly after, up to Massachusetts (just M and I) and back. Last year I made my first flight to Massachusetts alone with Marlowe and then made a twenty three hour journey to Hawaii with her. On the way back, we flew into California and then had a nightmare experience from hell with a 12+ hour delay, overnight in an airport (think: everything closed, no food available for purchase, out of diapers, no sleep til’ West Palm). Before that, I’ve flown with her to Atlanta as a little nursing baby as well. We’ve had pretty shitty experiences while flying… but never, not once, because of her. To Hawaii, she was just under two and able to travel on my lap. Would an extra seat have been nice? Totally, but under two and no extra seat means one less ticket to buy. If your kid sleeps well in a carseat, that’s completely an option. I’ve always opted out of the carseat option, because I’ve wanted to carry as little as possible, especially when flying alone (with kid).
No kid is the same. Obviously. And some kids are crazy and wild and some are timid and shy…. and then there’s a million kids in-between. I think a lot of Marlowe’s easy flying is because she is a mostly mild and upbeat kid… but not completely, because believe me, I’m not the biased type, I know my kid isn’t perfect. She’s an awesome kid, but just like most others, we’ve have our cringe worthy public meltdowns too (yesterday, over a shopping cart? check). Each time we travel, I try to plan as best we can to have a smooth flying adventure. So far so good. Some of it is incredibly simple and basic, but here is what works for us:
We treat like flying a big deal (because it is). The kid has gotta know that not everyone is lucky enough to go on planes. It’s a big deal to climb on board, sit in a seat, and go somewhere awesome… and she has to act like it. If she can’t act like a big girl, then she shouldn’t be flying. Of course, we’re going to fly anyway, but she doesn’t know that. If she wants to go to California or see her Abu(ela) in Massachusetts then we have to behave.
We have a few mottos in this house.
If you want good things, you have to be a good person. 
And kids have two jobs: to be nice, good people and to have fun and be happy. 
That’s it.
And it applies for travel as well.
SLEEP. As best you can, try to base your travel around a well rested kid. Marlowe is a good kid, but once the over-tiredness hits, witching hour starts. If you’re kid turns into a punk close to sleep time and you’re not sure if your kid will sleep on a plane, don’t risk it. We’ve done a few overnight flights and she’s been up for a parts of a few of them, but as long as she has something to watch and/or a bottle, I know she’ll be mostly okay. Let’s be honest, even adults are happier when well rested, make sure sleep happens!
Avoid sugar. Bring snacks. I’m not sure about you guys but I can see a MAJOR mood change anytime Marlowe (or myself) indulge in sugar. When traveling to Hawaii I brought a bento box ++ extra bags of snacks for travel. Rice and beans, chips, fruit, cereal, cream cheese sandwich. check. Not only do you want a well fed kid, but snacks are distracting and take time to eat. Cookies, candy (see below), juice? No. Other snack foods? Yes. Butttt here’s a contradicting tip: one extra special treat to bring out on approaching meltdowns isn’t a bad idea. It’s helpful for delays and other desperate moments.
Lollipops. I know I just said no sugar. But we travel with vitamin C pops. When she was breast-feeding it was easy to avoid ear popping and such. Now, she’s too young for gum, but a lollipop will def. help during take off. And one that has vitamin C in it? Even better.
Distractions. I’ve got major flying anxiety, so even I prefer a tv in front of me to fly. And obviously, Marlowe does too. We don’t watch much of anything at home because I don’t like the zombie she becomes once the tv turns on, but during travel, zombie mode is key. We fly Jetblue a lot for this reason (and because it’s direct into boston from our local airport. And because their customer service has been better than a lot of our other airline experiences). If you’re preferred airline doesn’t have a tv, bringing a laptop (as heavy as they can be) or an iPad or smart phone of some sort, packed with movies is an amazingggg help. Besides a movie, I like to pack as many lightweight activities as possible for Marlowe to fly with…. Things that I can be certain will hold her attention:
Panda headphones for movie time.
A very large sticker book If you can only bring one thing, I recommend this for little toddlers and some bigger kids. I’ve left the plane with notebooks filled with stickers and with myself covered in stickers, but it works.
A reusable sticker book same, but maybe more eco-friendly 😉
Magnet board similar to the sticker books. Make sure you spend your time taking each piece out and putting it back in. Clean up time is also time used on a plane to distract.
Lego storybook once the story is done, kids can still play with legos.
Playdough kit Recommended for neat and tidy kids. Parents of messy kids: beware.
Favorite books.
Also helpful: if your kid isn’t potty trained, bring A LOT of extra diapers and pants. I can’t stress this enough. A one hour delay can turn into a 10 hour delay and you don’t want to get stuck without diapers.
*photos are a collection of our traveling over the past month west, east, north, and back.
*marlowe’s dresses c/o mason and the tambourine


  1. Any tips for traveling with an 8 month? Mexico trip planned for December, Puerto Rico trip January. My baby is breast feeding and so easy. I think it should be a breeze, but tips and tricks are nice to have up my sleeve 😉

  2. Thanks for this! We are taking my 20 month old to Italy in 3 weeks! Aah!! It's nice to be reminded that other people accomplish long flights with little kids successfully. Our son has a good temperament and is pretty low energy (on the continuum of toddler boys, so still pretty on the move, but not too crazy :)) so hopefully our experience is like yours with your daughter. Fingers crossed.

  3. All great tips! Traveling alone can be stressful enough-this is hard work, but seems like you have it down!

  4. I'm ALWAYS impressed by your travels with Marlowe in tow. Travel is hard enough. Btw when you mentioned diapers, brought to mind a family legend my dad will NEVER live down: In Dec 1991 my family immigrated from the former USSR to America. My dad put the bag with ALL my mom's family jewelry and my diapers into into checked luggage instead of carry-ons. Sadly, this bag was lost. Maybe even more sadly, my poor mom was then faced with an international flight with a 1 and a half yr old with no diapers. We only had cloth diapers to begin with, so luckily babies are usually potty trained the moment they can walk. I had *zero* accidents the entire flight. One of my most impressive feats yet! Sad about the jewelry though . . .

  5. We took Audrey across the ocean to Europe and it was a nightmare 🙁 She napped 2hr of the 8 hr trip. She was only 15 months at that time. Since then, we've taken her to Guatemala and Mexico and she has napped the whole way there and coming home. We also do lollipops to help with the popping ears. I recently purchased those headphones for our train trips, since she takes the train with me every Wednesday to downtown Chicago and we seat in the quiet cars. We will use them for the first time this coming Wednesday!

  6. "Make sure sleep happens" — I cannot, CANNOT sleep on flights. This made our 18 hour trip back from Europe last month REAL INTERESTING. By the end of it *I* felt like a 3-year-old.

  7. Thanks for sharing tips I'm going on a 12 hour flight to the Philippines next month and I really have no clue on what to bring/do on the plane with my 14 month old daughter. This is also our first flight together.

  8. Thanks for this! We are taking my 20 month old to Italy in 3 weeks! Aah!! It's nice to be reminded that other people accomplish long flights with little kids successfully. Our son has a good temperament and is pretty low energy (on the continuum of toddler boys, so still pretty on the move, but not too crazy :)) so hopefully our experience is like yours with your daughter. Fingers crossed.

  9. I love your tips, Drea and the way you guys travel.

    I don't travel long distances (not that I don't want to but it happens our families live only two hour flight away) and happened kids upon kids of different ages being bored, shouting at take off, kicking seats while their parents sat frozen or impatiently waiting for that food trolley to arrive and stuff their kids without second thought. Not once I found myself asking a child sitting in the seat in front of me simple questions: if this is his first flight or if he would like to be a pilot and not once I was horrified of the amount of toys they had with them (one to none or just a bottle of water/juice).

    Nadia flew only once so it is difficult for me to be pretty sure what kind of a flying babe I'm raising. But even then occupied with sticker book (Toy Story was a big hit) and cartoons on our smartphone she didn't make a sound we were surrounded by by other children. It is so sad that their journeys weren't planned so that the whole family experience could be recreated with excitement. And it's so fun to take some surprises out while on board and entertain this little mind even for a little while.

    Have a great day, girls! x

  10. hey, that's a very nice post! thank you.
    i've travelled once 11 hours with a 3 years old boy and a 4 months baby and it was ok most of the time. but i had to prepare myself in many ways, specially emotionally, it was a big thing.
    lu x

  11. Oh God – I really dislike flying. I don't hate it…..but I get no enjoyment from it. It's a means to an end – if you want to go places.
    I've never taken my kids on a plane, the main reason? It's all too expensive right now for us all to travel together – but I'd like to take them somewhere one day.
    But your right, preparation is key, especially when you have young children 🙂

    (Dear Thirty)