Toddler Travel: Lessons Learned

We're flying again today and I'm unusually nervous about it. Not because I'm afraid of flying, but because Olivia was such a hot mess on our last flight that I'm a little traumatized.

I wrote a post last month about my traveling tips with toddlers and I'll admit I was a little smug as I wrote it. I've flown solo with Olivia over a dozen times and never had a problem. I foolishly chalked this up to my being so prepared and skilled at flying with a little one. 

Well Karma learned me good.

Long story short, but Liv didn't get much sleep the night before or during that day so she was incredibly cranky, wouldn't nap on the plane, and more or less cried for the 4 hour flight. Poor little lady.

So I'm coming to you today, tail between my legs, with some revisions to my toddler travel spiel now that I've had some experience with rough travel times. 

My bottom line is that I'm bringing more stuff. Not so much more that I'm like a bag lady in the airport, but more to keep her entertained. Part of the problem on the flight from hell was that she got so bored with the same 3 things, that nothing was interesting enough to stop the crying. I was dumb to think that the iPad would be enough so I won't be making that mistake this time. 

Yes, that's candy you see. I'm going to save that for a seriously desperate situation. Judge away, I can't say I blame you, but I'm not taking any chances this time. I know that sugar could will probably totally backfire, but when the decibel level ramps up, I'll do anything to buy 10 quiet minutes. Let's just hope I can keep that buried at the bottom of my bag until we hit Boston.

There are a couple cool things I'm packing this time that we didn't bring last time, that I'm hoping will  keep her happy and a few things that have stayed the same. I still highly recommend a linen blanket for diaper changes, cool planes, etc. and diapers and wipes obviously. The iPad is coming with us like last time, but with some new apps. Disney Jr. has a free app that has most of the popular shows on it, so if you get a flight with wifi, that could be really fantastic.

Crayola has a dry erase travel kit (the blue square thing) that comes with 4 dry erase crayons you can color and then erase for mess free entertainment. We're going to give that a try and it's really thin so it fits perfectly in this ($1!) tote from Target. 

The Water Wow pad is Melissa and Doug and has a little paintbrush with an empty handle that gets filled with water. When it touches the paper, it turns into watercolor and after drying, goes back to blank. I think this will be a favorite and I love that it's a mess free way of painting, since coloring isn't anything new.

Sticker books, regular books, all old standbys. These Magformers were kind of a gamble, though. I'm not sure if she's going to go for them or not, but they're something she's never seen or played with before, so at least they'll be new and different.

Finally, I threw some chapstick and hand sanitizer in there because she loves them and the chapstick has been known to turn into a snack when my back is turned. They'll be a small distraction in desperate moments, just before the candy comes out. I'm also packing a ton of snacks, plus our favorite spill proof sippy cup in my bag.

I think I mentioned this in my last post, and I believe it more than ever: make friends with the flight attendants. They'll let you hang out near the front of the cabin sometimes, bring extra cups (somehow those are wildly entertaining), and just generally be really nice to you. They rock.

I also found that trips to the bathroom for hand washing, looking in the mirror, playing with a couple squares of toilet paper, etc. were also good distractions and provided some temporary relief. This is when I should add that Lysol wipes aren't a terrible thing to bring with you. 

I also tried to remember that she sounded loudest to me, though I did absolutely cringe when the man in front of us took out his hearing aide

BUT. It ended. It didn't last forever, and I've learned a trick or two, so not a total loss. Any other tips are more than welcome, because I now know that no matter how much you fly with kids, it's a crapshoot and I'm probably never going to be an expert on this, so send your strategies (and happy travel vibes) my way!

If you don't follow on Instagram, you don't know that Olivia whipped off her diaper from under her dress (even with a diaper cover on somehow) when we arrived in Boston last month and peed all over the floor of the baggage claim area before I had any idea what she was doing. Probably my proudest parenting moment to date and her greatest victory. The current theory is that she was marking her territory like "Hey, I was born here. This is my town". Regardless, let's hope for a dryer touchdown in New England this time.


  1. here's to hoping this travel day goes better for you! I'm sure it will! And you are SUPER judgment from me on the candy...Elyse enhaled an entire bag of animal crackers (and it wasn't a single serving bag), on our last trip...whatever it takes to make them happy is my mantra!

    1. Thank you!! I like your mantra...I'm stealing it :)

  2. My daughter loves the Dover sticker activity books from Amazon, they're about $1.50 each, dum dum lollipops are a favorite, travel doodler, little free board books from Chick-fil-A kids meals to read, a new toy, like Minnie Mouse Bow-tique figurine or figure set from her favorite show or movie. And of course, iPad and snacks, lots of snacks. Good luck on your flight!

    1. Thank you! I need to check out those sticker books - we're big sticker fans recently!

  3. Toddlers can be quite a handful when they're on a plane, especially if it's their first time. It's good that you were well-prepared, as there are dozens of scenarios that could happen, even on a four-hour flight. I'm at least glad that you downloaded a few of Disney Jr.'s shows on your iPad, so Olivia could keep her mind off of the whole flight. Kudos to you for a great job, Megan! All the best! :)

    Lillian Walker


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