Where’s the Exit? Traveling With A Toddler

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a jet setting but very tired toddler

“Please note where your “Exits” are located.  All “Exits” are clearly marked and are located at the front and rear of the plane.”

I have read so many articles and blog posts on how to travel with your toddler and they are great in theory but I really wish one person had given it to me straight.  Chris and I have decided that traveling to the US from Asia will be awful with our toddler and if it isn’t then we are really pleasantly surprised. I am normally a glass half-full kind of person but this is one scenario I go into with a pessimistic attitude.

So for the moms out there that really want to know what is like to travel around the world with a toddler (My experience thus far has been 17-22 month old.  I’m sure the older they get the easier it is.) the following “tips” are the honest truth without any sugar coating.

1. Just bring the essentials, which would be your kid’s favorite toys.  Do not pack a bag with tons of toys thinking you will break out a new toy every meltdown and your problems will be solved.  I am the fool mom that bought new toys and LOADED the book bag full of fun stuff. Mid-freak-out, the last thing your kid needs is a new toy.  He doesn’t care, HE’S PISSED!  This new toy has now become ammunition and is either being hurled at your face or the head of the poor person that is sitting in front of you. I understand the toys are supposed to be for when your kid is happy and sitting calmly in the plane but honestly there was never a point when my kid was happy.  He was uncomfortable, wanted out of his car seat, tired because his schedule was completely shot and just completely out of sorts.

2. Do not pack milk and juice just buy it once you are through security.  It will save you a huge headache getting through the TSA check.  (If you are the mom does all organic, chances are you aren’t going to find organic in the airport or the plane but I could be wrong.)

3. Invest in one of the thermos brand straw cups.  We have two, one for milk and apple juice.  These are awesome because if your kid does sleep on the plane the drink will be cold when they wake up.  I recommend just filling them up whenever it’s time for drink service and your getting your wine… I mean coke.  WARNING: If you use this cup at 30,000 feet please be cautious.  Although the cabin of the plane is pressurized, it is not as high as the ground pressure.  Meaning your higher pressure cup becomes an apple juice super soaker.  Twist the lid open very slowly and let the cup adjust.  Do not do what I did and hand the cup to your son, hit the button to flip the lid open and apple juice goes flying in his face as 100mph. That move comes with a 100% guarantee to piss him off (later we had a good laugh about it).

4. Only bring the pull-up type diapers!  The lavatory on a plane is basically big enough for one to person to turn around.  Changing your child on the 1×2’ changing table is a joke! It takes two to do diaper duty.  Have one parent holding the child up and the other slip off the dirty diaper and slip on the clean one.  If you have a soiled diaper, good luck.  We had to change my son with him standing up on the counter top and then he decided he wasn’t finished and popped in my hand.  I am guessing it was his payback for the apple juice in the face (the next day we had a laugh about this too but at the time it was a disaster!)

5. Pay to upgrade or book your seats early so you can get a bulkhead seat.  This will save you such stress, as you will not have to worry about your angry or bored toddler kicking the seat in front of him.  This unnerves me because I feel so helpless in the situation.  You can tell your child “no” but he doesn’t understand why not and what’s going on.  When it comes time to book “the perfect seat”, there isn’t really an ideal spot.  If you sit in the front, your husband doesn’t have to carry the car seat as far through the narrow aisles.  The back of the plane is the best place to try to calm your screaming toddler.  I think the middle of the plane is the best option. One reason being, the bulkhead seat option and the second reason would be because you can’t hear the cries over the sound of the engines.

REMEMBER:  Do not panic!  Yes, traveling around the world is hard but it’s harder for your child.  He has no idea why he has to sit in the car seat for that long and why he can’t be in his bed taking a nap.  Yes, the getting over jet lag will be even harder, since it lasts for longer than a week and your child will be waking up at 3/4am every day.  I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that while trying to calm my son down at the back of the plane I looked at the emergency exit lever and thought to myself “I wonder if I am strong enough to open that sucker”…  Just remain calm.  Say a prayer and remember this too shall pass. God Speed!



  1. Sounds like fun. Ask Chris about the Football Hall of Fame trip he had when he was small with may Dad and me. It was a real experience of a toddler on a trip. John

    • Ooooooo I feel your pain! And we get to do it all over again on Tuesday with a 12 hour flight to France! Ahhhhhhhh this time I am packing much differently and I already feel more prepared and in charge of the situation!! 🙂

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