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How Can I Survive Airline Travel With A Baby or Toddler? “Ask The Baby Expert” #22

December 3, 2016
How Can I Survive Airline Travel With A Baby Or Infant?

Hello, dear readers!  I want you to meet Melissa Ricker!

Melissa RickerMelissa is a mom blogger and creator of  She is a great writer, mother, and nuclear engineer! It just goes to show, you can be really smart and really dedicated but still not have all the answers. 😉

A while back, Melissa asked me about her 12 month old’s new hitting habit that was causing her so much duress! She was told by others (well-intending veteran moms) that it was too early for him to be exhibiting that type of behavior, which was not helpful at all! It just made her feel like she was doing something wrong or her baby might turn out to be a “bad” boy!

I was so grateful she reached out to me for my advice, and so was she! I reassured her that she wasn’t doing anything wrong and it wasn’t that unusual for a one-year-old to start showing some frustrations because of his lack of communication skills.

She was able to implement my suggestions for behavioral intervention and teaching sign language, and has seen a dramatic reduction in her son’s hitting and frustration in only a couple of weeks!

The post she wrote about it has turned out to be very popular and useful for so many of her readers! 

Read: My Baby Is Hitting Me! Expert Advice”

Today, Melissa asks, “How can I survive holiday travel with my baby?”

More specifically she asked me these questions:

1) “When traveling by plane, what are your top suggestions for both an infant and a toddler?”

2) “What should you do if your toddler has a full on meltdown on the plane?”

3) “If you are going to a different time zone, what can you expect from your baby/toddler? Should you attempt to adjust them or let them stay on their time zone?”



Baby expert to the rescue!! 

Thanks for asking, Melissa! To keep it simple, I will limit my advice to airline travel, specifically. My daughter has flown on a plane at least 3-4 times a year since birth, so we’ve had a lot of trial and error!  I hope these suggestions help you, dear readers. If you want to know more, just ask in the comments below.

(Disclaimer: I have a doctorate of physical therapy, but I am not a medical doctor. Nothing offered here should be considered medical advice. Ask your pediatrician if you have questions regarding these suggestions. See my full disclaimer here.)

Ask the baby expert, question #1:

“When traveling by plane, what are your top suggestions for both an infant and a toddler?”



When traveling by plane, it is absolutely necessary to PLAN AHEAD.  Get out your pen and paper and start making two lists for your carry-on “must haves.”  You have to be equipped with everything you need plus emergency supplies in case of delays or, well, emergencies,  and EVERYTHING on those lists has to fit into tiny carry-on bags. But don’t pack too much, because you will also be toting the children, their car seats (if under 2 y.o) and possibly strollers, too!  Are we exhausted yet, just thinking about this? Argh!

Ask the baby expert: "How do I survive airline travel with a baby or toddler?"

But don’t worry, good preparation goes a long way. By the time you pull up to the curb to unload your posse, you will be confident and ready to take on any challenge that lies ahead! You’re SUPER MOM!  Or you can pretend to be exasperated and on the verge of tears and you will likely get offers to help from total strangers.  Don’t turn down any offers to help!




Since you will be limited to the number of bags and space for your carry-on must-haves, you need to prioritize what you pack to bring on to the plane.  

MEDICINES should be your top priority.

Particularly during the holidays, It is very common for checked luggage to get lost or sent on a different airplane and may not be available to you for a day or two after you arrive. You need to make sure you have your and your child’s medicines on the plane with you.  Trying to find a pharmacy in an unfamiliar place that’s open during the holidays is a huge stress that you don’t need to experience. If you suspect your child is getting sick, go see your pediatrician. You may want to have some Benadryl or prescription antibiotics on hand. Do NOT use either one without having them prescribed by your doctor in safe doses.

FOOD is a close second on the list, of course! Large airlines do serve snacks and sell food, but most of your options like peanuts, pretzels, and grapes are choking hazards or top-5 allergens like nuts, dairy, and gluten. An airplane is the last place you want to be if your child has an allergic reaction. You really need to pack enough to feed your children without the help of the airline.  

Keep in mind when packing food that you have to get everything through security.  No liquids of more than 3.5 ounces are allowed in carry-ons except for breast milk/formula and medicines. has a feature on My TSA called “Can I bring it” where you can search by item to see if it’s allowed on board.

Insider tip: Squeezy pouch foods are great for travel, but most of them are 4 ounces. Plum Organics makes 3.5-ounce pouches. Avoid things that don’t have lids or are difficult to clean up, like fruit cups in liquid, yogurt (unless in squeezy pouch), crackers, etc.  

Check out this post to see all my favorite foods to bring on an airplane:

My Top 20 Must-Have Items For Airline Travel With Babies and Toddlers

Ask the baby expert: "How do I survive airline travel with a baby or toddler?"ENTERTAINMENT is the third priority. Absolutely. Do not expect your infant or toddler to sit still for hours in their seat without kicking the seat in front or playing with the tray table and annoying the person in front of them.  I like to bring low noise, low mess toys that are less likely to roll of tray tables or fall under seats. Baby toys that have leashes and teethers are best. Toddler toys like books, magnetic dress-up dolls or magnetic drawing pads minimize the number of pieces getting dropped or lost.  My sister always brings soft-cover books to save space and weight. From the time my daughter started walking, I put her toys and books in a small backpack that she is responsible for carrying (or pulling if on wheels). 

Some more obvious necessities are diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, empty ziplock bags for stinky stuff, puke bags (the ones at the doctor’s office are the best!) empty kid-sized, spill-proof water bottles and extra clothes (full outfits for the pukers and you). Check out for more comprehensive packing lists.



The larger the airport/city, the earlier you need to be, especially during the holidays. Leave enough time to check bags, get through security, go potty and fill water bottles. Then make sure you have 20-30 minutes before boarding to wear them out! I don’t recommend early boarding unless you are just traveling with an infant that isn’t mobile yet.

And the last, but no less important…



Make sure your children have identification and happy-asian-baby-mom-shoulder-graymedical records on hand like immunizations and allergies. My daughter has always worn a name tag (dog tag) on a necklace with her name, my name, and my cell phone number on it. My favorite tags and ID bracelets are here. (link) I also recommend a toddler backpack with a harness and leash if your child is the wandering kind.  He can still explore but his territory is limited so he can’t sneak away the second your turn your back.  Don’t worry about what other people think about toddlers on leashes.  Keeping him safe and close to you is most important.


Ask the baby expert, question #2:

“What do I do if my toddler throws a tantrum on the plane?”

You can PREVENT tantrums by allowing him good sleep and a consistent routine several days before the trip, and a good meal the day of your flight if possible.

Dress him in very loose, comfortable clothing. Slip on shoes and a cute pajama set is perfect. Don’t even think about trying to impress other people with your sharply dressed and groomed children. Would you rather them look good or behave well?

When you get to your gate area, do a last-call (mandatory) potty stop. Give him at least 5 minutes on the toilet to encourage a good poop. Then, let him run around everywhere like a Golden Retriever puppy before you get on the plane.  I’ve had races and dance parties with my daughter during boarding and waiting times to wear her out.

I prefer to take one-stop flights on long trips with a layover of about 1 ½ hours.  Anything under an hour is too rushed and over 1 ½ hours drags on the trip too long. But I’d rather take a little longer to get there and have time to let the wild one run around midway than to sit on a 5-hour flight with a wiggly, fussy, bored toddler!

But if he does throw a fit, here’s what you should and shouldn’t do:

First and foremost, don’t panic!  Your children are very in tune with your moods and cues. If you panic, get anxious, get angry, etc. it will just make the tantrum worse. Remember, you planned ahead and packed emergency supplies just for this situation. 🙂

Secondly, you need to figure out what the tantrum is about. Is he hungry? Bored? Tired? Too hot? Does he need to poop? (I’m serious about that last one…a belly full of poop makes for a very grumpy child!)

Ask the baby expert: "How do I survive airline travel with a baby or toddler?"Third, you need to have bribes! Yes, bribing is absolutely acceptable and encouraged for these type of situations!  Wrap a new toy or book for them to open. Don’t give them the tablets or iPads right away. “If you stay in your seat, you can watch Dinosaur Train…If you get out of your seat the movie goes off.”  I allow very limited amounts of screen time day-to-day so it’s really a treat on long trips. They’ll be hypnotized by the flashing lights and silly voices, and everyone else will enjoy the silence for as long as it lasts.   Have toddler earphones if possible. My daughter loves wearing her Hello Kitty earphones

When flying with babies, most of the preparation is the same, but your main goal is to get him to sleep on the plane.

Play with him and let him move around on a blanket on the floor before boarding. Then right before you board, wrap him up in a swaddle blanket (if you regularly use one at home.)

As soon as you get settled in your seats, offer him a boob or a bottle to help him drift off to sleep. If this doesn’t work, just play quietly with him and sing lullabies, then try the bottle/breast again later.

Make sure he has a pacifier to suck on or his favorite teethers if he isn’t a fan of the binkie. Most babies cry during takeoff and landing because they can’t clear their ears.

Other top tips to keep little ones happy and busy on the plane:

Honey sticks are the greatest invention for the munchkins over 12 months old on airplanes (Do NOT give honey to babies under 12 months!) Give them out when the captain announces preparation for landing or if someone is complaining about their ears. Sucking and swallowing help keep the ears clear. The honey comes out slowly and will last the whole 20+ minutes of the descent and landing.

Bottles and pacifiers
have the same benefit for babies under 12 months.Ask the baby expert: "How do I survive airline travel with a baby or toddler?"

Suckers are good for ear popping, too. So save the candy for emergencies.

Sing songs in whisper voices.

Do a finger puppet show! Save her favorite book for emergency situations.

Make sure you have her woobie, ie “security blanket” or favorite stuffed animal, easily accessible.

Let him sit by the window.

Give him a magazine or safety information pamphlet from the seat pocket in front of them. Ask him to point to or count the airplanes, or the color red, or whatever! These seek and find books are perfect!

Give him a snack that takes forever to eat. Beef jerky? String cheese? Apple?

Let him wander in the aisles. Ask him to help you look for the letters and numbers to find your seats. As long as it’s not the middle of the night, the other passengers won’t mind if he’s not throwing a fit!

Take some clothes off (of the child, silly.) 😉  Young ones get overheated very easily on airplanes.

Decrease the stimulus if they’ve been bouncing off the walls or watching a screen for a long time. Turn off your overhead lights, close the window and give them their favorite cuddle item.  Soft, slow music is OK to help settle down. 

Ask the baby expert question #3

“If you are going to a different time zone, what can you expect from your baby/toddler? Should you attempt to adjust them or let them stay on their home time zone?”

We all know how daylight savings completely throws off our children’s schedules for days or weeks, so you can imagine how traveling through different time zones can be challenging.  We fly a lot from the west coast to the east coast, so adjustment is tricky.  I try not to switch her over all the way, right away, especially if you are only going to be away for a few days or a week.

sleeping-girl-bear-creamShe will typically be exhausted from traveling, so the first night is easy to get her down earlier.  Then, I can
wake her up maybe an hour earlier than west coast wake-up time each morning. Early wake up helps ensure a good nap, too.  

I make sure she is home for a nap before she gets over tired and over stimulated…and sometimes that means announcing to your hosts that you will need to be home for naps at a certain window of time so you aren’t tempted to drag them around town all day long.  

Figure out a way to make her sleeping area dark, cool and quiet, with something familiar in her crib (if she’s over a year old.) Bring your sound machine if that’s what she’s used to. Keep the bedtime routine as similar as possible to your home version.

Bonus tip: Do not allow her to stay up late! You do not want to spend your vacation time with a monster, do you?

These simple tweaks are usually sufficient enough to allow my daughter to make small adjustments to the new time zone without having to completely undo everything when we get back home.



That’s all I’ve got for now!

When I showed the post to Melissa, she said “Really good tips Wendy! I’m feeling less anxious about our plane ride already! ”

I hope this post helps you as well! Good luck with the mayhem of traveling over the holidays. Remember, it’s about love and spending time with family….it’s worth it. 

Please give your feedback in the comments below! Was this helpful to you? Do you have some good tips to share with other moms?

Did these questions spark any concerns of your own? Just ask! 

Is it your first time flying with kids?

Check out

And don’t forget to check out my post on My Top 20 Must-Haves For Airline Travel with Babies or Infants

I can’t wait to hear back from Melissa about her first trip!

How Can I Survive Airline Travel With A Baby Or Infant?
How Can I Survive Airline Travel With A Baby Or Infant?
Ask the baby expert: "How do I survive airline travel with a baby or toddler?"


Ask the baby expert: "How do I survive airline travel with a baby or toddler?"

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  • Reply Fazeela Ibrahim December 19, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    Omg I love all your’s great to meet you dear. Will check out more later.

    • Reply December 27, 2016 at 9:39 am

      Thanks for commenting Fazeela! I’m glad you liked this post. I would love to learn about what it’s like to be a mommy in Arabia. 😉 Let me know if you have any mommy questions at all. I will answer them promptly and possibly write a post about it!

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