Tips for Airplane Travel with a Toddler

Flying with a young child can bring a whole new level of challenges to air travel. Having the right documents, ensuring you have the right snacks packed in the right way, as well as having the toys and distractions you will need to keep your child content during the long waits before and during the flight, are just some of the hurdles parents face. Having a plan before you leave and knowing what to expect when you get to the airport will help you and your toddler get to your destination with relatively little stress.


If you are traveling internationally by air, even toddlers and infants require a passport. Depending on the country you are visiting, you may also need a visa for your child. If you are traveling domestically within the United States, toddlers don't need a passport or even a photo ID, but you should bring your child's birth certificate. If you are traveling alone with a child, you also need a notarized letter from the absent parent giving you permission to travel with the child. If you are a single parent, you will need documentation of this, such as a court order indicating that you have sole custody.


A new toy or storybook is a good way to keep your toddler occupied on a flight. You shouldn't bring the new distractions out too early though, and it's always wise to have a couple favorites on hand in case your child gets bored quickly with the new surprise. Even if you don't normally let your toddler play with your smartphone or tablet at home, an airplane is the one time to consider bending the rules. Load a few apps designed for toddlers and, if your child can wear headphones, you might want to add a couple of favorite movies as well.

Snacks & Beverages

Airport food can be expensive and you can never be guaranteed that your toddler will like what is on the menu once you get on the plane. Bringing your child's favorite snacks, like granola bars or dry cereals, is a good idea, but it's important to follow regulations regarding food and beverages before heading to the airport. Liquids and gels—that's anything you can pour, pump, squeeze, spread or spill—can be brought in small containers no larger than 3.4 fluid ounces in size and no more than what can fit into a single clear quart-sized zip-top bag. Formula, breast milk and medicine are exempt from this rule, but you need to present them for inspection when you go through security.

Reducing Your Toddler's Stress

Arriving early for your flight will help keep your own stress levels down and give you the presence of mind to manage your toddler's emotions before boarding the flight. Children 12 years old and younger don't have to take their shoes off to go through security, but their toys and favorite stuffed animal will have to go onto the x-ray scanning belt alone.

Photo Credits: Anne Dale/Demand Media

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