How to travel on a plane with kids of any age

baby smiling on an aeroplane

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted February 25, 2021

Whether it’s your first trip with a baby, toddler, or young kids, here are these handy tips to surviving a plane trip with young travellers.

There comes a time in every parent’s life when wanderlust strikes and the urge for a trip to the Great Barrier Reef, Japan, Hawaii, or New York sets in – but then you remember, there’s children to consider.

Sometimes, even just the idea of long-haul plane travel with babies or children is so exhausting that some parents believe it's not worth the hassle. However, with careful planning and preparation for a plane trip with kids, there’s no reason to miss out on your dream family holiday.  

Network Director Derek McCormack from the Australian parenting website Raising Children has tips for travelling with children of any age. From getting a baby to sleep to keeping toddlers occupied from Melbourne to Marrakech, here’s how to plan and what to do on a plane with children of any age.  

Tips for flying with babies and children

Can you fly while pregnant?

If you are in the safe flying range and have the go-ahead from your doctor, you should be able to get to your destination – and you may as well enjoy your babymoon and your last trip child-free. 

The Better Health channel advises that the safest time to travel is during the second trimester, however, it is best to always consult your doctor before flying and to carry a letter from your GP showing you have been cleared to fly. 

It is also worth investigating the medical facilities of your destination, as well as checking the airline and travel insurance policies when travelling while pregnant.

On the plane, consider an aisle seat or even an exit row for extra legroom and quicker access to the toilet. You may also want to consider a carry-on kit of essentials, such as medications, multivitamins, pillow and blanket. 

To try and avoid issues such as deep-vein thrombosis, it is advised to: 

  • undertake frequent leg exercises such as stretching, turning feet in circles or walking around the cabin (if permitted)
  • stay hydrated
  • minimise caffeine intake

Flying with a baby (0 to 1 year old)

Before planning a flight with a baby, the best thing you can do is plan ahead. McCormack suggests getting in touch with the airline early, where you can look into booking a seat with a bassinet and getting a stroller at the airport. If possible, try to look into a flight time that matches your baby’s sleep schedule, and get on the plane early so you have time to set up and get comfortable. 

For quick access, “remember to bring things your baby will need in your carry-on luggage,” he advises. This can include: 

  • formula or expressed breast milk (check with the airline to see restrictions on liquids)
  • food
  • dummies or bottles
  • medications
  • toys
  • nappies
  • change of clothes
  • baby noise-cancelling headphones
  • sleeping bag/blanket
  • water (if at water-drinking age)

If possible, try a quick nappy change before boarding where you’ll have more room. McCormack also notes that “breastfeeding a baby can help ease the discomfort some babies feel in their ears during take-off and landing.”   


Toddler watching tablet on a plane

The key to travelling with children of any age is to plan ahead. Image: Getty. 


Flying with a toddler (1 to 3 years old)

Just like being on the road with kids, if you can handle getting there, you can definitely manage the holiday! The key to plane travel with a toddler is planning, planning, and more planning. 

Park at the airport early to avoid feeling frazzled and to ensure everyone has had something to eat, has been to the toilet, and is safely checked in. You can also check with the airline to order a child meal ahead of time, and have strollers waiting for you at your destination. 

Before boarding, try to find time for little legs to walk or run around the airport (safely!) to let out some of that toddler-energy. 

When it comes to packing, McCormack recommends having everything you will need easily reachable in carry-on luggage. To make it even easier, put in separate zip-lock bags, labelled for easy and quick access. Toddlers will need to be entertained, so some items he suggests are: 

  • a change of clothes 
  • a pillow and special toys 
  • nappies, wipes, and tissues
  • rubbish bag
  • dummies or bottles
  • medical kit (note what you can bring in carry-on)
  • extra sick bags 
  • drink bottle 
  • extra snacks – avoid sugar for the inevitable sugar high and crash 
  • entertainment items like books, pencils, paper, stickers, colouring, and playdough  
  • toddler headphones

In terms of the flight, if possible, McCormack suggests booking a time when your toddler will be “well-rested,” and aiming for the toddler to get an aisle seat so they can get to the toilet ... quickly.


Kids and luggage at airport

Getting to the airport early with all the essentials ready to go will save stress later on. Image: Getty. 


Flying with kids (3 to 12 years old)

At school age, your child can gain a larger understanding of what is happening, and what will be expected. McCormack explains that you can describe the airport scenario with them. “It is a good idea to talk with your child ahead of time about things like going through security,” he says.

“Explain that they might have to take off their shoes or anything that has metal in it, like a watch. And that they won’t be able to carry their toy or backpack through the security gates.” 

If it is an evening flight, consider dressing kids in PJs to reinstate that it will be time to sleep, as well as pre-organising child meals, flight times and seats that work best for your family. 

If you’re looking for some quiet time, remember to pack the essentials like those listed above. Entertainment items such as books, toys, and a tablet can also provide refuge – McCormack just advises to remember the headphones and note that “the change in air pressure on planes can give some children sore ears, particularly during take-off and landing.”

If this occurs, a drink of water or a chewy lolly to suck on can help ease the tension. If ongoing post-flight, seek medical assistance. 

While you can do your best to plan ahead, parents may feel conscious of children who do not cope well on the flight. However, the Better Health Channel advises that this is normal, and most other parents will be understanding of your situation - so give yourself a bit of a break! 

Flying with teenagers

Congratulations. You have beaten the hurdles of plane travel with babies and toddlers who need your constant attention. It may now be you vying for your teen’s attention who is more interested in watching the movies on their in-flight entertainment or having a snooze. So sit back, relax and take a break – you earned it! 

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The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit RACV Travel Insurance issued by Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd ABN 80 000 438 291 AFSL 246 548. Terms & conditions apply, refer to the PDS. Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) Ltd AR 001243563 is an authorised representative of the issuer and receives commission for each policy sold or renewed.