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  • Writer's pictureSophie Schillaci

7 Tips for Traveling With a Terrible Toddler

Living her best life on the beaches of Cape Cod

I kid, I kid.

Everly is far from being a terrible toddler -- she's actually quite wonderful -- but try telling that to anyone unfortunate enough to be on our recent red-eye from Los Angeles to New York.

I was flying solo with her about a month ago and hoped that a nighttime flight would allow her to sleep on my lap while I quietly watched a few movies. (According to some friends, it worked great for their babies!) But despite her best efforts to get comfortable, Ev just couldn't do it. So she cried... and cried...and cried. For hours.

Not only did I feel sorry for putting her through all that, I felt helpless and humiliated. Every single person who side-eyed us in the airport, hoped not to be seated near us, had their fears and judgements completely justified. The flight was a miserable experience for everyone. Which leads me to my first piece of advice...


If your kid will sleep through a hurricane, by all means, go for the red eye! But if you have a light sleeper on your hands, it may be safer to opt for something in the daytime. Everly can tolerate a skipped nap with relative ease, but I've learned not to mess with her bedtime routine. Even with special white noise headphones, her cozy blanket and lovey, she just flat out refused to drift off to sleep.

Flying back to the west coast, our daytime flight went much more smoothly. Sure, it was wildly demanding having to entertain her in a confined space for several hours, but I'll take that over inconsolable screams any day.


Pouches and puffs are our best friends, so I stocked up on plenty in our diaper bag. It was no problem getting baby/toddler food through TSA Security and if your child enjoys formula or breast milk, those can also go through without a problem - in “reasonable quantities.” (For formula, just fill a bottle or two with water and let them know what it's for. The screening agent will wave a little paper strip over the top of the bottle, and off you'll go.)

That said, there are some rules and regulations that may or may not be enforced. I’ve found them to be wildly inconsistent in practice. To be safe, read the full TSA guidelines on traveling with baby food here.

Once you’re off, the novelty of having the same old snacks tends to wear off after a few hours.

Everly's favorite part of the flight was getting to try tasty (less than healthy) new treats that she never has at home. I'm talking in-flight Cheez-Its and mini cookies, Chex Mix and French Fries at the airport, a little dried fruit to balance things out. For just one day, all bets were off and let me tell you... keeping her happy, intrigued and occupied by all these new tastes and textures was worth every bit of sodium.

She hasn't and won't have most of those things again... until our next flight.


Speaking of new and novel, we stocked up on a few books and toys that she had never seen before. Giving her something new to explore occupied much more time than offering an item she's played with many times at home.

If you aren't in the market for purchasing something new, you could try hiding away a few of your babe's favorite things for a few weeks prior to travel, giving them time to forget about them and be surprised and excited all over again at the re-introduction.

Once you arrive at your destination, hide the toys and books away again until it's time for your return flight.

For Everly, lift-the-flap board books are always a thrill and ate up plenty of time on the trip.


At some point, iPads and headphones come in clutch and I am not here to judge any parent who uses them. I think they can be an absolute sanity saver.

Unfortunately, Everly just isn't old enough to care too much about them just yet. At her age (early one-year-old), I have found the Netflix Kids' music series "Little Baby Bum" and "Lou Lou Kids" will hold her attention for the longest span. Both can be downloaded via the Netflix app and are also available on YouTube, if you've got WiFi.


Sometimes the seat just isn't going to cut it. During our red-eye, the only thing that would soothe Everly was being carried up and down (and up and down) the aisle of the plane... so that's what I did. Turbulence be damned, not one single flight attendant asked me to sit down -- even when the seatbelt sign was on. It was best for everyone's sake.

On the way back, Everly was more keen to do the walking on her own. I held on to her little hand and she paraded up and down the aisles endlessly, waving and smiling at all the passengers. She was much more popular on this flight than our previous one.

It goes without saying, just wait for beverage and snack service to be over before doing this. In the meantime, some kids will enjoy standing and moving around a bit on the floor directly in front of your seat, between your legs.


Sure, kids under two fly free. But if you can afford to buy that extra seat, it is guaranteed to make both your lives so much easier and more comfortable. Even if babe doesn't sit in it the whole time, at least you'll have space to spread out a bit.

If you can't buy the damn seat, try this: book yourself an aisle seat and, if traveling with someone, have them book the window. If the flight's not full, hopefully you'll score an empty middle seat between you. Worst case scenario, the person in the middle will likely be happy to swap seats with your partner.


Not all strollers are created equal. I love our UppaBaby Vista, but it's not exactly compact. For traveling alone, I purchased a sturdy but lightweight umbrella stroller that can easily fold up for dropping at gate check.

After researching and sourcing recommendations, I opted for the Summer 3Dlite+. I like it just fine for the price.

But if money were no object, I definitely would have bought the Babyzen YOYO+.

If you're traveling with an infant, I have plenty of hot tips on that, too. Luckily, it's much easier to fly with a freshie than a toddler -- so enjoy it! And squeeze in those visits while you can. It's absolutely worth it.

Anyone with more words of wisdom about making travel with a toddler tolerable, please hit the comments and share them!!


Mom Needs Merlot

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