From a well-stocked nappy bag to a ready-for-anything first aid kit, you already know that being prepared is the best defense against the unpredictability of parenting. So, it’s no surprise that harnessing that same level of preparedness is also key to successfully navigating the often erratic world of family travel. While, sure, there’s no way to sidestep all travel snafus—like lost luggage or flight delays—there are plenty of ways to make each family travel speed bump less chaotic. Here, how to handle almost any travel problem like a pro!

Speed Bump: Ouchy Airplane Ears

Solution: Offer a bottle, dummy, or lollipop.

Have you ever noticed that babies often cry at the beginning and end of flights? That’s because the air pressure in the cabin decreases during takeoff and increases during landing, both of which cause a pressure imbalance and ear pain. To help restore equilibrium, have your baby suck on a bottle, dummy, or breast about 3 to 4 minutes after the wheels go up—and again when the pilot announces that descent is imminent. Have older children suck on a lollipop at the same intervals. Swallowing and sucking are great air pressure equalisers!

Speed Bump: No In-flight Screens

Solution: Bring your own entertainment!

Did you know that not all airlines offer in-flight movies, TV, games, or music? Even if your flight is supposed to have seatback screens, you can’t bank on them always working! So, it’s best to check ahead of time and come prepared. That means, packing chargers (wireless if your aircraft doesn’t have in-seat charging), headphones, and whatever tablet your kiddo might use. (Be sure to preload your devices with kid-friendly entertainment.) For some good old fashioned analog fun, steadily ration out a stash of quiet and mess-free games and activities, like Wikki Stix, inkless colouring, maze, or reusable sticker books…or check out these 21 toddler travel toy options.

Speed Bump: Mid-Flight Restlessness

Solution: Have a surprise ready for the middle of the flight.

Even the most well-behaved toddler or big kid can be struck with a case of ants-in-the-pants about halfway to your destination. Sitting still is hard…and boring, even if there are a zillion channels and games at your child’s fingertips. Keeping this in mind, plan to unearth a fresh, fun toy or activity mid-flight, just as the novelty of air travel wanes. This will help break up the monotony of a long flight and inject some excitement into your kiddo’s journey.

Speed Bump: No Food Served on the Plane

Solution: Pack snacks.

Don’t bank on your airline offering meals and snacks. That’s why it’s always a good idea to bring your own snacks from home. For items like yogurt, hummus, and peanut butter, that means nothing larger than 3.4 ounces. (Gel ice packs are a-okay as long as they’re frozen solid when screened, with some exceptions.)

Speed Bump: In-Flight Temperature Changes

Solution: Dress in layers.

No matter the weather outside, it’s a good bet that the temperature inside your airplane is on the cool side. It’s been reported that flight crews keep airplane temps cold, in part, to help stave off fainting and air sickness. (Heat worsens that queasy feeling.) To keep your family comfy on board, dress in layers, ideally sans buttons and zippers for easy-peasy bathroom visits. Consider keeping a thin blanket in your carry-on, too. Got an infant? Pack a Sleepea Comforter Swaddle, too. The super-soft 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton shell is lightly insulated to give your bub the extra warmth they need on a chilly flight.

Speed Bump: Potty or Puke Accidents

Solution:  Use waterproof bags and disposable training pants.

Accidents happen—even at 40,000 feet! If your child vomits, seal their soiled clothes in a plastic bag and trash their used airsick bag in the bathroom. If you’ve got an in-flight nappy leak or a potty oopsy, head to the changing table in the bathroom, place dirty clothes in a zippered wet bag, and dirty nappies in a plastic bag to dispose of in the restroom. (On a small regional plane with no changing table? Ask the flight attendant for the best area for a nappy change.) 

To help prevent nausea and vomiting, avoid greasy pre-flight food, choose a window seat over the wings where the plane will feel most steady, and keep your bub distracted with some of the quiet toys you brought on board. To help sidestep nappy leaks, change your bub right before you board and make sure their nappy sits just under their navel. Once fastened, you should only be able to slide two fingers between the waistband and your little one’s belly. There should be no gaps at the leg elastic. If your tot has recently graduated to the toilet, there’s no shame in reverting back to disposable training pants for the flight. 

Speed Bump: Airplane Tantrums

Solution: Use Toddler-ese.

Dr. Harvey Karp’s signature tantrum-taming advice works just as well in the air as it does on land! That means, the best way to nip toddler tantrums in the bud is to pair the Fast-Food Rule with Toddler-ese. Instead of rushing to quell their cries with “it’s okays,” you validate your tot’s big emotions with short phrases and repetition all while mirroring about one-third of your toddler’s feelings with your tone and gestures. (“You’re mad! Mad! Mad!” or “Candy! Candy! You want it…now!”)

This works wonders to help frustrated kiddos feel cared for and understood, which’ll quiet a meltdown. To avoid tantrums in the first place, make sure your bub is well rested and well fed before boarding. When on board, consider “gossiping” about what a good job your mini jetsetter is doing to your travel partner or a friendly passenger. (“I’m so proud of how well Oliver is behaving on the plane!”) When kids overhear whispered compliments, they're more apt to believe them and replicate the praised behaviour. (Learn more about encouraging good behaviour with gossiping.)

Speed Bump: Trouble Snoozing

Solution: Set up a familiar environment.

While sleeping on a plane is not the easiest, bringing key elements of your little one’s nighty-nighty routine on board can make in-flight ZZZs a reality. Dress them in PJs before boarding, read your go-to bedtime story, offer snuggles, fly with your tot’s favourite lovey, and turn on your travel white noise machine to help block out unfamiliar sounds and help your bub get into the sleepytime mindset. (SNOObear is a lovey and portable white noise machine, making it the ideal travel companion for your tot.) If your plane is bright, consider creating a “tent” with a light blanket or nursing cover. Simply tuck the blanket in the tray on the seat in front of your child and then somewhere on their headrest. 

Speed Bump: Lost Luggage

Solution: Use a tracking app.

Yay! The flight to your desired destination was a success…now, where’s your luggage? If your checked bag does not meet you at the carousel, try not to panic. If you placed your own Bluetooth tracker, like a Tile or Apple AirTag, inside your luggage, you can monitor your bag’s whereabouts via an app. Forgot that step? See if your airline offers a mobile baggage tracking service. Next, immediately file a claim at your airline’s baggage desk. Know that your airline is required to compensate you for “reasonable, verifiable, and actual” expenses that you may incur while your bag on the lam. If your bag is officially lost (still missing five to 14 days post-flight), your airline is responsible for compensating you for your bags’ contents, within certain limits. And if it’s your car seat that’s missing, know that your airline should be able to provide a loaner while they track yours down.

Speed Bump: Delayed Flight or Missed Connection

Solution: Expertly pack your carry-on.

Ease the sting of absent luggage, delayed flights, and/or missed connections with a skillfully packed carry-on bag. That means, stashing the following in your on-board bag:

  • Change of clothes for the whole family

  • Kiddo pyjamas

  • Baby swaddle and/or light blanket

  • Lovey and dummy

  • Extra nappies and wipes

  • Gallon zipper storage bag or wet bag

  • Changing pad

  • Extra infant formula, if applicable

  • Empty sippy cup

  • Snacks

  • Travel-size toiletries

  • Tissue

  • Hand sanitiser

  • Meds (fever reducer, antibiotic ointment, etc)

  • Chargers

  • Small toys, activities, books, and/or preloaded tablet

More on Traveling With Babies and Toddlers:

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.