Travelling with a baby can be hard.
Travelling with an active toddler can be exhausting.
When you’ve got both in tow it can feel a bit like taking a herd of wild goats on a journey with you.
The very thought can make you feel like cancelling your much needed break because it’s just too daunting.
But it is possible to make it work, and some prep and planning can help things go more smoothly. It can also help you cope with (almost) every set of tears and tantrums you might encounter along the way.
Together with our guide, we’ve also provided a FREE PRINTABLE PDF PACKING CHECKLIST for your air plane hand luggage when travelling with baby and toddler.
Within this guide we have included links to travel products that we recommend, some of which are affiliate links. If you click them to make a purchase, Mas & Pas will earn a commission at no additional cost to you. We include the products because we have found them to be useful for travelling with little ones.
Planning your journey
Pick the best flight or journey times
When booking your journey – be it a flight, a train or a drive – ask yourself:
- what time will you have to leave the house?
- what time of day will you be flying or travelling?
- what time will you land and eventually reach your destination?
These are all things that can make a big difference to your day and how smoothly things go, and how tired your toddler and baby are.
If you can, choose flight or journey times that fit around the needs of your children.
For example, you might want to avoid those early morning flights where you have to wake everyone up at 4:30 am and rush out the door to get to the airport in time for an 8 am flight. They can end up being a stressful panic as you try to get everyone and everything together in time and toddlers can end up very tired later in the day as well.
Instead, (for flights that are a few hours long) consider booking a 12 noon flight. This will allow you enough time to get everyone awake, fed and dressed AND be able to gather together some last bits and pieces of luggage before heading off on holiday.
A flight at 12 noon or lunch time will probably also overlap with your toddler’s nap time. Meaning that you have a good chance that they’ll sleep for a while on the plane. And if it’s a few hours long, chances are you will arrive with enough time to reach your destination and get settled before bedtime.
If you’ve got a longhaul flight ahead of you, then you might prefer to travel overnight so that they can sleep as much as possible while on the flight.
You could to pop the kids in their pyjamas, or to pack a pair of pyjamas for them to change into on the plane, so they can (hopefully) sleep on the journey.
Give the timings some thought and choose those that work best for your family’s routines.
If you have to transfer trains or flights during your journey, it can be a good idea to leave a chunk of time in between. That way you’ve got a chance to feed your children and let them have a play or run around, before they have to sit down on the next leg of their journey.
Allow 30 minutes extra for everything
Pre-kids it was easier to just grab your bags and waltz out of the door. Post kids everything takes so much longer.
No matter how much you organise the night before there are bound to be delays in getting your kids changed, dressed, fed and ready to go.
Someone will always spill something down themselves, have an accident, need a poo right before you go out the door. So our advice is to add 30 minutes allowance just for getting everyone out of the house.
At the airport or station your toddler might then again need the toilet, and your baby might need a feed or a change. So allow another 30 minutes – 1 hour over your usual time there too.
By leaving enough time for every part of your journey for those last minute delays that babies and toddlers tend to bring, it can help make your trip a lot less stressful.
Try the airport valet parking service
If you’re driving to the airport then a valet service can give you one less headache to have right at the start of your holidays.
You can just drive up to departures, offload all the baggage and your children and then hand over your keys for them to park for you. On the way back they’ll meet you at arrivals.
It doesn’t cost much more than the parking fees and is so much less stressful. It might just get your trip off to the best start for very little extra cost.
Pack extra clothes for everyone in your hand luggage
Who knows if your baby or toddler will have a messy blow out (from either end) during your journey.
Be prepared and have extra clothes for your baby, your toddler and for you in your hand luggage. And pack some extra ziploc bags to bung soiled clothes in as well.
For a full check list of what to pack in your hand luggage see our FREE pdf packing checklist for your air plane bag when travelling with baby and toddler.
Pack an everything-towel
Pack a Hammam towel in your hand luggage.
They’re big, lightweight, soft and absorbent while also taking up hardly any room in your bag.
They can be used as a blanket for sleeping children, a changing mat, a play mat – somewhere clean to lay your baby while your toddler plays – a breastfeeding cover-up, or even a make-shift sling, if you know how to tie it securely.
If you want to use it as a beach towel as well, we recommend getting a hammam towel which has some towelling on the inside, like this one photographed here, so that they’re more absorbent.
Invest in the right travel equipment
Getting around the airport: travel buggies, backpacks and luggage scooters
When you’ve got two little ones in tow you’ll need somewhere for them to rest when their little legs get tired.
You can take a lightweight buggy for your toddler and pop your baby in a sling or carrier.
Or you could opt for a lightweight buggy suitable for your baby, which has a buggy board attachment for your toddler to ride on too.
One of our favourite travel buggies is the Babyzen YOYO+ stroller that fits into overhead compartments of airplanes. Check your airlines’ policy regarding which buggies they allow in overhead compartments. However a number of airlines allow the Yoyo brand as they are familiar with it and know that it is compact and light.
Depending on how old your toddler is you might also want to look at these new kids’ luggage scooters. Luggage scooters are carry on bags which sit on wheels and have a bar handle for kids to hold onto. They also have a scooter element which can fold down when needed, and up to be stored. That way your toddler is can scoot through the airport on their carry on bag!
These ones by Zinc Flyte are a good size for 2-4 year olds as they aren’t too big.
But there are a few brands of luggage scooters to choose from. They have the advantage of being an easy way for young kids to get through airports as well as being a handy wheely carry on bag. .
A further way to travel through the airport, which works especially if you’re travelling with your partner, is by packing two baby carriers. That way you can both carry one child and be hands free to pull the rest of your luggage.
Wheely suitcases make all the difference
Make sure ALL your luggage is on wheels, ideally 4 wheels, so that they can just slide along. Your hands are going to be pretty full and you don’t want to have to drag a heavy suitcase or wear a heavy backpack as well as carrying a baby and holding your toddler’s hand.
Luggage which is on 4 wheels doesn’t need to be tipped to roll it along and instead it can just be pushed along by the handle. Sometimes you can even balance your hand luggage bags on top of it, so it can help a lot to minimise what you’re carrying to the check-in desk.
There is a large range of 4 wheel luggage products on the market. We like this Samsonite S’Cure Spinner suitcase.
How to survive the journey itself
You don’t have to board flights at family boarding time
Families with small children will usually be given the chance to board a plane early, which gives you loads of time to get settled. But it also adds to the time your children have to sit in a confined space before the flight even takes off.
You know your child well. If you think they’ll cope better boarding a little later, with the rest of the passengers, so they have a little more time to burn off energy before they get on board then take it.
Bubbles might be the best things you pack
A bottle of bubbles can distract a bored or tired toddler and baby. And they’re small enough to pop easily in your hand luggage too.
They’re the perfect thing to pop out when you need some distraction and easy entertainment most.
Remember to keep them in containers under 100 mls for hand luggage and in their own plastic resealable bag.
Keep the activities coming
Pack plenty of toys and activities in your hand luggage and bring them out one at a time. Your baby might be easily amused with a toy to hold and a rattle to shake.
Your toddler will probably need a constant array of little things to keep them busy during a long journey. Colouring and sticker books are always good distractions. Little sets of animals or figures or cars that they can play with work well too.
It’s a good idea to have a mix of toys with a few familiar toys – maybe 3 or 4 of their favourite little toys. And then 3-4 small new toys that they’ve never seen before and are more likely to be fascinated with.
For an added extra, you can wrap the new toys. That way you make them even more of a treat for your toddler.
For a full list of what to pack in your hand luggage see our FREE pdf packing checklist for your air plane bag when travelling with baby and toddler.
Avoid hungry toddlers at all costs
One thing guaranteed to increase the chance of meltdowns is if either your baby or your toddler gets hungry mid-journey.
With your baby it’s a little easier as you can whip out a boob, bottle or pouch of baby food almost anywhere. But it’s not always as easy to feed your toddler when you’re out of the house. Especially if they’re a bit fussy and prefer mummy’s chicken nuggets to this ‘funny food with bits in’.
Do a little search online to find out kid’s menus at the station, airport or service station to check if there will be a meal that your toddler can happily eat.
Pack snacks to keep them going or even full meals that you know they will eat, in your hand luggage.
If you’re really stuck, then just relax all your healthy eating ideals and there will probably be somewhere you can buy chips or breadsticks for them.
Give your toddler important jobs
One way to keep your toddler engaged is to give her important jobs to do. It could be riding on her own Trunki or pushing the carry-on bag on wheels.
It might be as simple as being in charge of looking after the toys.
It makes your toddler feel an important part of your travelling experience and helps you out too.
Give your toddler a camera
Another handy tip is to give your toddler a camera or your camera phone and ask them to be in charge of snapping photos of your journey.
You’ll be amazed by how they take this job seriously and snap away. You might even cherish some of their knee-high views.
There are a few different ‘first cameras’ out there that young children would love. V-tech have created this kids digital camera with zoom features, both front and rear cameras for selfies and five games, three of which are motion controlled and ideal for younger kids, VTech Kidizoom Duo Selfie Camera.
Go back to pull-ups
If your toddler is still potty training, a journey might be the time to relax the rules and pop them in a pull-up.
You’re going to have to change your baby’s nappy anyway and dealing with a wet or poopy pull-up at the same time is easier than dealing with any full blown accidents that a newly toilet trained toddler might make.
Relax screen time rules
One thing almost always guaranteed to hold your toddler’s attention (no matter how busy you are feeding or soothing your baby) is screen time.
At home you might have strict screen time limits. Now’s the time to relax them.
If 5 back-to-back episodes of Peppa Pig keeps your toddler occupied while you’re dealing with your baby’s poop explosion or crying fit then so be it.
Remember yourself as well
You’re so wired trying to keep two little ones calm, fed and soothed that it’s all too easy to forget about your own needs. If you’re on your own then it’s even more important to keep these in mind.
Go to the loo and empty your bladder before you set on board a train/car/plane. It sounds like such a small consideration but once you get on the plane your baby might fall asleep on you and you might be faced with the choice of sitting uncomfortably in your seat while bursting for the loo, or waking your baby to go to the toilet.
Keep drinks and snacks for yourself, for a much needed energy boost, at arm’s reach (especially if you’re holding onto your baby or toddler).
And, if you feel frazzled – ask for help. Lovely fellow passengers and staff will no doubt help you out carrying things and entertaining little ones. But only if you ask.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
The ‘hope-for-the-best, prepare-for-the-worst’ mindset is the best one to adopt when you set off on a journey with a baby and a toddler.
Think through all the nightmare scenarios that may happen and pack and plan for what you’ll do if they happen.
Don’t expect any help from anyone but you might be genuinely surprised by how many people offer to lend a hand and make things a little easier along the way.
Hope that everything will go swimmingly and your children will be angels. Prepare for them to be whining and crying the whole way. Chances are your journey will involve a bit of both.
Whatever happens your baby and toddler are not meaning to annoy anyone and you’ll get through the journey. If you’re prepared to go with the flow and roll with the punches then you’ll feel a whole lot more relaxed while you do.
Just do it
The idea of travelling anywhere further than the corner shop with a baby AND a toddler might be overwhelming. But you will get there. All journeys come to an end.
If it’s a real nightmare then at least it will be memorable! You’ll probably look back and laugh about it one day. ‘Remember the time we thought it was a good idea to fly to Rhodes with a baby and a toddler…’
You will survive and the memories you make when you get there and begin to enjoy your holiday adventures will last much longer than any stress of travelling there.
So just do it and have a great holiday break!