Traveling with Children: How to Stay Sane

Temper tantrums at customs. A baby that screams for six hours straight. A toddler that won’t stop kicking the seat of the passenger in front of them. Strangers giving you the stink eye. Becoming a casualty of projectile vomit from your sick child. These are a few of my travel experiences that I hold near and dear to my heart. Let’s face it, traveling with children has its moments and can be tough on parents and children, but it hasn’t stopped my husband and our three young children from our globetrotting adventures. Here are some of my top tips to help you stay sane the next time you fly. Bon voyage!

For long flights, I always choose a red-eye. My kids (fingers crossed) always seem to fall asleep immediately once we take off—gotta love the white noise. When we fly to France, I make sure that Maeve, my 17-month-old, and Graham, my 3-year-old, skip their afternoon naps. I always pick flights with few connections—nonstop work best with my family. Do yourself a favor and dress for comfort on travel days for both you and the children. Pack an extra set of clothes for your baby in your carry-on. Wet clothes are no fun! Airplanes tend to be cold, so bring an extra sweater for the kids. Car seats may seem like a bulky carry-on and just one more item to add to the pile, but a car seat is much more comfortable for your tot than a seat designed for an adult.

A light umbrella stroller is a must! I’m still using my Maclaren Quest for Maeve—the same one my eldest son Liam used six years ago. It’s clocked some serious mileage and is still going strong.



I always throw my ERGObaby carrier into my suitcase for Maeve. It allows me the option of wearing her while keeping my hands free—perfect for subway rides.

Keep your children entertained with a bevy of options: portable DVD player, iPod or iPad, Nintendo DS (Liam’s favorite), books, stickers, crayons and coloring books. My clan enjoy the oversize headsets, plus they just look cool.

Be sure you’ve packed the “must haves” for your carry-on bag: a hearty supply of snacks that aren’t super messy, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, tissues, diapers, rash cream, ziplock bags, sippy cups, formula, extra bottles, pacifiers (a favorite in our home), Tylenol/Motrin and any special medications your child may need.

Do you have any travel tips to share with our readers? If you do, I’d love to hear them.


  1. 1

    with a 5 year old who has been in 60+ planes and a 2 year old in 20+, I agree with all of your recommendations above.

    In addition, I make sure that I have some “new” toys & books for the kids, keeps them entertained.

    we carry lots of water, planes can be de-hyderating. We have also got into the habit of taking some food that the kids like from our favorite restaurants or home to ensure that the first big meal before the plane ride is not the junk from airport cafes, but something they and their constitution is familiar with.

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    Ha! The projectile vomit is so true. A parents badge of honor. I use wicki stick for my kids. They love them.

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    Another great tip is sitting at the front of the plane. There is often more foot space for putting down a sheet and having your baby stretch out and get in some tummy time.

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    Great ideas and I agree, always bring food with you when travelling with kids you never know how long you could be stuck on a plane for and the food you buy on the plance is not that appetizing.
    My daughter has a life threatening Peanut and nut allergy. Since she was a baby I bring a lunch/dinner on the plane with me. When I set up our picnic most passengers wish they could share in our yummy meal (I bring plates napkins etc)
    I also bring a change of clothes for me and my husband. You can never be too prepared!
    Safe travels.

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    Such great tips. I am debating a trip to NYC with a nine week old baby (abt a 2 hr. flight), and just not sure if it’s feasible. He’s 2 weeks old right now, so I’m still at the “not sure” stage. Thrilled to find and follow your blog!!

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    We travel to Asia yearly. In a 20+ hr flight a baby needs more than one bottle, the Playtex Drop-ins come in handy. No need to wash the bottle (in the restroom) or no need to carry more than one bottle. Just bring 6-7 nipples and 10 dropin liners with the Playtex drop-in bottle…you are set. Having a good stroller definitely is a a MUST. Especially one that folds easily with one hand because they usually ask you to take your child out of the stroller and put the stroller through security.

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    At some point next year we are going to make a trip from NYC to Sydney, Australia, with our bub due in January. I am terrified. More about the other passengers’ reactions if our baby isn’t happy than actually dealing with all the logistics. I am bookmarking this for when we actually make the trek!!

  10. 10

    My wife and I are taking our kids to Tampa this weekend and you have some amazing ideas. We are now packing our portable DVD player for the plane.

    Thanks for the tips!


  11. 11

    Great tips! I will definitely use them on my upcoming trip.

    I always bring special snacks that my kids are not normally allowed, but that they love (Goldfish). I keep them hidden until we reach a crazy or stressful point in the trip and then I put pull them out, crisis obverted.

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    Oh, the vomit? I hope I can get used to this. I have had my share of vomiting toddlers, and it still sucks every time. I just make sure my toddler doesn’t have a really full tummy before getting on a plane or on a boat/ship. And a spare plastic bag or two always come in handy…. For the dirty clothes and as a sick bag.

  13. 13

    We’re heading to London soon with a 3 and 1 year old so this will come in handy! The portable DVD player is a life saver. Not all airlines let you bring your own car seat into the cabin so – be sure to check with the airline.

  14. 14

    Good reminder for the extra clothes and sweaters! I will keep this as a checklist for our next family trip! Thanks :)

  15. 15

    Kid car seats are great for safety, but what about keeping the littel ones occupied on a road trip? My daughter gives my grandsons small video games to play with on long trips. Not a very family oriented activity in my opinion as I still remember the days when my mother would play a variation of games with me on a road trip where I would have to find so many license plates from a particular state or count a number of trucks of a certain color. The games were simple, but they kept me occupied. Nowadays you have to have gadgets, like video games and a DVD player (which now can be purchased as an auto accessory). It would seem that technology has robbed us of our close family relationships.

    Dan Annweiler
    Owner of

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    1. The iPad or DVD player is a MUST for a sane flight – sorry, not going to worry about family bonding at that time.

    2. Pirate’s Booty – seriously this snack keeps toddlers occupied for way longer than any other!

    3. GoGoKidz Travel Mate – wheels for your car seat. Whenever we travel with these, tons of passersby always comment on what a smart idea these are:

  17. 17

    We traveled quite a bit via airplane with our twins when they were smaller and we’ve taken quite a few long road trips with all 4 of our kids who currently range from 2-9.

    What worked best for us was collecting little toys from friends in the weeks before the trip. These were often Happy Meal type toys or just little toys people were eager to get rid of. Friends have always been eager to rid the house of some little toys. We made a point of asking for no toys that made noise (they’re a pest on flights or in the car) I hid them away from our kids until we traveled. Then, once we were in the plane or on our way in the car, we gave them different bags of toys. They were able to swap when they wanted.

    We also always pack big bags of a variety of snacks. We made a point of staying away from sugary snacks since we were going to be in confined spaces. I second the Pirate Booty recommendation up there. That’s usually one of our favorite snacks for the kids. A flight attendant once came over and thanked us profusely for packing snacks for the kids. She said she saw quite a few parents who didn’t pack snacks and what little they give on the flight is rarely enough for the tiny travelers and then they get antsy very quickly.

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    Oh, just a note because I see someone mentioned them, be careful with those wiki stix (wax-covered yarn) in the car. The colored wax melts. If you’re traveling by car, make absolutely sure every one of them is accounted for and packed away or else you’ll have a huge mess on your hands. It doesn’t take long in a hot car (or even in direct sunlight in a cold car) for them to become a huge mess. On a plane, though, they’re much less of a problem.

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    I agree with Sabrina but we use the Childress car seat travel bags to bring the car seats onto the plane. I love that my husband can wear the backpack and still have his hands free for pushing the stroller. I’ve seen strollers get wrecked after checking them at the gate and the Gate Check bags have always kept our stroller clean.

    I also wrap little gifts for the plane. Keeping organized with lots of bags keeps everything in its place so I know exactly where to go when I need something…. or if I’m tied up, I can “yell” to my husband where to get something. :)

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    Taking off and landing can mess up their little ears because of the change in pressure, I normally breastfeed at those times as the sucking will keep the ears from ‘popping’, older children can sip water, suck sweets … even older they can chew gum. Also carry everything the children need in an open top sturdy shopper bag or tote. In the UK supermarkets do a jute bag for £1 that is perfect for easy access. Last but not least, forget any round toys or those with wheels because invariably they would roll off the fold up table and go to the back of the plane!!

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