Travelling with a toddler
Toddling around with a toddler? Prepare yourself with these tips for travelling with a tiny human.
At a glance
Distraction is key – pack a ‘bag of tricks’ for when you really need to keep them occupied.
Cartons of drink or milk, as well as food pouches are handy on the move – they’re portable and stay fresh for longer
If possible, let your toddler burn off some energy before they’re confined to planes or trains
Nappy changes in public are harder with bigger, wrigglier toddlers – so prepare as much as you can but be ready to improvise
Just as you’ve mastered the art of baby travel they go and grow up – bringing a different set of challenges for getting around. But fear not, we’ve got lots of helpful tips on travelling with your bigger, wrigglier, cheekier toddler.
Trains and planes are a little trickier now that your toddler has found their feet and wants to use them as much as possible. But with a bit of planning and a touch of luck you’ve got this. It’s all about distraction tactics and bringing some of the comforts of home with you. Take a look at each section below for specific insights and advice to keep your toddler happy in the air and on the ground.
Keeping them distracted
Sadly, the trusty rattle’s probably lost some of its previous appeal. Entertaining a toddler is a fine art but it can be mastered. When you’re travelling with a toddler it’s worth having a ‘bag of tricks’ or even their very own diddy backpack full of fun bits and bobs.
Ideas for bag of tricks:
- a small book or two – cloth books are good as they’re easily folded and washable or else try board books with lots of pictures
- a small tub of play dough
- washable crayons and colouring books
- flash cards
- their favourite cuddly toy
If the bag of tricks loses its magic you can always take your toddler for a walk - down the aisle of a plane or train – even looking out of the window is usually a winner for a while.
We’re not sure what your stance on screen time is, but as a last resort you may want to have some nursery rhymes, movies or educational games loaded and ready to go especially if it’s a long flight. Don’t forget over-ear headphones for your little munchkin – most of the passengers won’t want to hear spoilers for the next episode of Clifton The Small Blue Cat.
When you don’t have to worry about others, it’s good to have kid-friendly music for the road. Sing along now – you know the words!
Here’s a lifesaver for the airport: if there are two adults travelling, have one board the flight right away to set up camp while the other stays with your little ball of energy. There’s way more room for your toddler to tire themselves at the gate before they’re confined to the plane.
Feeding when out and about
Snacks are a good shout. You might want to peel and slice fruits and veggies before you set off. Apples and carrots are relatively mess-free and good if they’re still teething and should keep those little hands busy.
You can take food and milk through airport security when you travel with toddlers, they will have to be checked though.
A beaker of milk can be comforting for your toddler – it’s nice for them to have their familiar drink in an unfamiliar place. If you give them toddler milk, individual ready-made packs, such as our SMA® PRO Toddler Milk are handy for their carry-on bag. It’s also worth knowing that products aren’t always the same abroad so you may want to pack the kind your toddler’s tummy is used to.
Another thing worth noting is that ready to drink toddler milk has a long shelf life, so it’s great to have in the bag and you don't have to worry about keeping it refrigerated.
Sleeping on the move
Hopefully your toddler is able to sleep while you’re out and about and still likes a snooze in the car or buggy. If not, where possible plan around their nap times – so you’re packed and dressed ready to move as soon as they wake up. Just make sure you’ve got those snacks and drinks ready for the journey.
If you’re on a long flight or train journey it helps to set the scene for bedtime. Change them into their jim-jams and try and keep things dark if you have any control of the nearest lighting or window blinds. A softly spoken bedtime story might give them the right sleep cues.
Since they’re no longer a little bundle they probably won’t fit in the bassinets that flights provide. If you’re flying with a toddler under two then they’ll most likely be on your lap – so, time to get cosy. Or if they’re older they’ll have their own seat which should be quite roomy for them. Check with your airline to confirm what their policy is, as it varies between different companies. During the flight you might be able to raise the armrest so they can stretch out next to you. If your toddler has a comforter or teddy it can come along for the trip, there might be tears if you forget it. Maybe pack some muslins as a makeshift blankie?
Your toddler probably can’t yawn on demand yet so try a beaker of drink or a breastfeed during take-off and initial descent. Even if they’re not due a drink or don’t use a dummy much, this can help their little ears when the air pressure adjusts.
Nappies all over the place
The nappy-changing situation on planes and trains doesn’t improve once they’re toddlers. The changing tables are often too small, too flimsy and the rooms are pokey for one and titchy for two. It’s still do-able but you might have to get creative and improvise.
The air stewards might not allow you to use the galley floor for safety reasons, but if there’s room it could be worth asking.
If your little one is able and if you can master it, a stand-up nappy change might be best. Pull-ups can be good to use in a cramped space. Distracting them with a favorite toy, book or singing a song often helps to stop some wriggling. Some people take disposable changing pads if they know the facilities aren’t going to be great. Obviously this isn’t ideal, but it’s preferable to your poor toddler sitting in a soiled nappy and having a sore bum for the rest of the journey.
Travelling with a toddler checklist:
- Baby wipes
- Nappy sacks
- Changing mat
- Ready-made toddler milk
- Prepared snacks
- Bib or muslin
- Spare clothes for toddler
- Spare clothes for you
Bag of tricks
- Paper or colouring book
- Play dough
- Flash cards
- Favourite toy
- Favourite teddy
IMPORTANT NOTICE: The best way to feed a baby is to breastfeed, as breast milk provides the ideal balanced diet and protection against illness for your baby and also many non-nutritional benefits for both baby and mother. We recommend that you speak to your healthcare professional when deciding on your choice of feeding your baby. Professional guidance should also be sought on the preparation for and maintenance of breastfeeding. If you do choose to breastfeed, it's important to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Infant formula is intended to replace breast milk when mothers choose not to breastfeed or if for some reason they are unable to do so. A decision not to breastfeed, or to introduce partial bottle-feeding, will reduce the supply of breast milk. If for any reason you choose not to breastfeed, do remember that such a decision can be difficult to reverse. Using infant formula also has social and financial implications which must be considered. Infant formula should always be prepared, used and stored as instructed on the label, in order to avoid risks to a baby’s health. SMA® PRO Toddler Milk is suitable for young children from 1-3 years, as part of a healthy balanced diet and it is not a breast milk substitute.