How to: Fly Internationally With A Toddler

1801069_10203204346132156_104293651_nThere are a ton of articles out there talking about flying with a toddler, but what about flying internationally when you are faced with 12+ hours on an airplane? I have flown across the U.S. with Addison as well as back and forth to Korea and I can tell you from experience, entertaining a toddler for 5 hours is WAY easier than 14.

Our little world traveler has flown a total of 14 times in her short 2 years of life. That adds up to roughly 85 hours spent on a plane, trying to keep my kid occupied, traveling alone 80% of the time.


Addison’s first ever flight at 5 weeks old.

As we gear up for yet another long flight home, I thought I’d share my approach to flying with a toddler and surviving.

Here’s what I do to make it out alive.

First, you have to go into your flight calm and ready to just roll with the punches. Flying doesn’t have to be stressful and at the end of the day you WILL get to your destination. Even if you are covered in puke and the whole plane hates you. Try your very best to stay cool.


More diapers than you think you need. (my rule is 1 per hour, you just never know)

An extra outfit for both of you, each in their own Ziploc bag. This way you will have a place to keep the old (and probably wet) clothes.

A fleece sleeper. Planes can get cold and on long flights you will want to have a sleeper to change them into that signals “bedtime.”

A TON of snacks*. I try to stick to things that come prepackages and I can just throw in my bag, and I pack a lot. Our favorite are those squeezable fruit pouches, pretzels, gold fish crackers, string cheese, raisins, dried mango, and graham crackers.

An empty sippy cup. This will come in handy when the drink cart rolls around. The stewards will fill your child cup for you with water or juice and that is one less thing you have to carry around in your bag

A blanket that is light weight so you can roll it up and fit it in your bag. This comes in handy to tuck into your child’s head rest and into the tray table creating a little tent. That way when they unexpectedly turn the overhead lights on for food service you won’t want to punch anyone for waking up your sleeping beauty.

Meds. I learned on our last flight to Korea from the U.S. that you can leave one airport completely healthy, only to arrive on the other end with a full blown cold. It was awful and ever since then I have added cold medicine to our medicine pouch. I typically include a small bottle of baby Advil, baby Tylenol, and Benadryl. This is also where I keep hand sanitizer and lip balm.

Your iPhone/iPad/Laptop. Load that baby up with whatever kid show your toddler desires. Now is not the time to brag about your kid who doesn’t watch television. This device will become you life saver. I was on a military cargo plane last summer with Addison and she watched Backyardigans on my iPhone from Korea to Hawaii and I’m convinced it saved us a lot of tears.

I also HIGHLY recommend this baby if you are traveling alone with your toddler. The Roll n’ Go is basically a hand truck that attaches to your child’s car seat. I have used it on 11 of our 14 flights and I always get a ton of compliments. Once you are on the place it folds up and fits either under your seat or in the over head bin.


Addison’s 11th flight from N. Carolina to Seattle, WA (18 months old)


I have tried a few things that didn’t work for us but I am going to include them because I think they just depend on the kid. I try to limit what we pack to things I KNOW without a shadow of a doubt I will use, but here are some things to try if you’re interested:

Bring a small note pad and stickers. This is a fun activity that is cheap and keeps little fingers busy.

Something new. Bringing a new book or small toy along is a great way to occupy your child’s attention. Some people like to bring several small presents to give their child throughout the flight so that could be something to try too.

A baby carrier. I brought a baby carrier on 3 of our flights and only used it once. Now that Addison is too big for one I definitely won’t bring one again but if your child enjoys being worn this is a great thing to pack too.

* What is nice about traveling with a baby/toddler is you can pretty much bring anything on the plane with you. They may take an extra while going through security but breast milk, formula, water, juice, fruit pouches, snacks, etc. are all ok to bring with you as long as you are traveling with a child.


7 thoughts on “How to: Fly Internationally With A Toddler

  1. Eight hours to Hawaii was TORTURE. I never want to be on a flight that long with my kids again. I can’t imagine 12+.. We did everything that you suggested, and it was still tough. The sticker idea is great though! My girls got bored of coloring books, but I know they would love stickers.

    • To be honest I think I lucked out with a pretty calm child, though it was definitely not fun. The last couple hours are the worst and basically everyone wants to cry, but at the end of the day, you WILL get there and that’s what I tell myself :)

  2. I’m an army wife living in South Korea as well, and I was on Pinterest looking for suggestions about traveling back to the states by myself with a 23 month old and almost 7 month old when I stumbled across your blog. Thanks for the great advice! I’m scared out of my mind but tickets home were too cheap to possibly dream of passing up! Hope we can make it through next month without having an entire plane full of people loathing me!

    • You can do it! We have since added another baby to the mix and I will admit it has been an adjustment when it comes to flying. Luckily Koreans are SO KIND and generally love children so they are likely to be a lot more tolerant. Good luck! (And don’t forget about Space A, talk about cheap!)

  3. I’m so glad I came across your post on Pinterest. I am flying out shortly from Japan to the East Coast solo with a very energetic 2 year old. While he’s a total sweetie and pretty laid back, our flight here was tough, even with hubby to help soothe mom and tot’s frazzled nerves! I will definitely be trying the blanket tent and bringing his fave snacks and “squeezies” … one big mistake we made last time (I was convinced we couldn’t get through security with any food!). Thanks for posting! :)

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