How old is a Toddler? After all, they are named after uncertain steps and waddles. The general consensus led by the American Academy of Pediatrics  defines a toddler as your child after their first birthday.  Toddlerism ends someplace around three or four years old depending on who you reference.  The next title appears to be “preschooler”.  In any case, we’re going to use the term loosely on this website meaning the years when your child is no longer a baby but not quite a school-aged child.

  • Toddlers

    Toddler:   Toddlers, children two and older, require their own seat which may be purchased at a discounted fare.   Some of the large online travel ticket agencies don’t provide the child discount so be aware. Call the airline if necessary or go directly to the airline website. You might be traveling with a stroller for this age child so be sure to understand in advance your airline’s policy for strollers on board. Bulky strollers may have to be checked at the gate but small ones may be stowed on board. When traveling with a toddler, remember this is an exciting, maybe scary but definitely exhausting experience. Try to think how they are seeing everything and pack a little extra love and patience. If they bring that extra special toy or stuffed animal, guard it with your life!

    Car Seats: Toddlers may still need to use a car seat on the place. Book a window seat so the car seat doesn’t inhibit any emergency exit from the plane. You may not put a car seat in an aisle seat or exit row.

    Here’s what the FAA recommends for children riding on airplanes:

    —  20 to less than 20 pounds? Ride in a rear-facing car seat.
    —  21- 40 pounds? Ride in a forward-facing car seat.
    —  Over 40 pounds? Use the airplane seat belt.As always, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when strapping your child into the seat. The average weight of a four year old boy is 40 pounds.

    Activity levels:

    Children this age may get fidgety so plan ahead for that by keeping things simple and giving yourselves plenty of time. Not having to hurry reduces much of travel stress. Keep kids curious and in wonder of all the things. At your destination, understand in advance that you won’t be seeing everything so be selective which sites are most awe-inspiring and then allow plenty of time for kid-type fun. Plane flights are going to be long so have a game plan prepped in advance. Involve your child in the planning and packing. Read books about flying and talk a lot about how much fun it is. I like to dress my kids in some of the super-comfortable neon-colored sportswear so they are easy to spot.

    Fun on the Flight:

    Fortunately most long distance carriers now have very complete offerings on their in-flight entertainment which includes cartoons and children’s movies. These can offer hours of enjoyment. Everyone will say bring toys, games and activities which is mandatory. Our family always took it one step further. We would get a large or jumbo baggie and have a gift-wrapped surprise for every 30 minutes of the flight. If the flight was nine hours, that would be 18 little packages. Too many typically. We wouldn’t say every 30 minutes but would reach in or later let them reach in. The gifts would be small items from the party store: games, coloring books, dot to dot, windup animals, etc. You could also bring a super treat such as a Gameboy or Leapfrog. Try to find something that uses headphones!! Give them a special new toy bag to keep everything in.

    For after arrival, I also always packed two packages per child such as a small Hot Wheels track, floor mat with Thomas the Train, etc. When the kids were tired or crabby at the hotel or apartment, we’d pull one out, waiting until a few days into the trip but with enough time left they could play with them. Small box. Boy would they be surprised!! Also, I would bring extra large balloons, beach ball, pickup sticks, etc.

    Toddler Crying:

    Babies always learned that crying got their parent’s attention and soothing. Toddlers are transitioning to self-soothing but they are not all there yet. In the case of toddlers crying jags are usually triggered by one of three things according to Michael Potegal, a behavioral neuroscientist at the University of Minnesota Medical School: 1) when a tot craves attention, 2) wants an activity or tangible item, or 3) would like to escape a demand.

    Attention-seeking, as the term suggests, can begin when a child is playing happily, the parent’s attention is diverted and the child starts acting out to regain that attention. In this case, the demand should be ignored. When the toddler wants something they can’t have such as a new toy, the parent should not give in to the demand nor engage in a big exchange about it. When the toddler wants to escape a demand, you need to address the behavior. Discuss why it’s important in advance. If it turns into a tantrum, you need to gently be firm and make clear they will not get what they want. You need to speak directly to them and even takes their hands. Don’t give in.

    All that said, toddlers can speak and you do need to listen to them. If asking them what the problem is or why they need something, it acknowledges them and engages or validates them. Turning your back in this case is not positive. Help them understand their feelings by re-phrasing what they are trying to tell you. Don’t just tell them to stop crying. That doesn’t work. Finally, toddlers need to eat something every three hours so be sure they have had proper nourishment. Whatever you do, consistency is the key.

    Food on the Flight:

    Many airlines offer kids meals these days so be sure to inquire. If they don’t, most of the time they will offer a pasta dish that will work. Bring a supply of snacks ..the healthy kind that don’t get your kids wound up! Wheat crackers, peanut butter, bananas, blueberries, pre-cut veggies, nuts, oatmeal cookies. Gum would be a treat during takeoff and landing! Teach them to wrap it in paper before they throw it away because that’s how you do it on a plane!   Let them pick a special treat themselves for later in the Terminal before boarding. Vacation is Fun! You may have to buy juice after going through Security. Bring a sippy cup from home. Just stay away from processed foods. For the duration of the journey beyond the plane, I do pack a few things that they like from home. For example, I would bring the little packets of powder from Mac & Cheese, not the whole box. I could always find pasta …or a baggie of their favorite cereal. Exploring food in Europe is one of the most fun things to do but sometimes a touch of home is a comfort to a tired toddler.


    Talk to your child about what they are going to experience ….set their expectations … always in the positive. Sit down and discuss the trip in detail about a week before departure. Tell them exactly how you are getting there and where you’ll go when you arrive (hotel or apartment). Tell them that each day will kind of be the same as home … still have a bed with their favorite toy, still have to take a bath, still have to brush teeth! Some things will be the same. The family will be there. BUT, it’s vacation so you get to go have fun in the day! Talk about the different yummy foods they will eat and maybe try some at home before going. Maybe show them some pictures of where you are going. Definitely have them help pack their bag.

    Fear of Flying:

    Flying can be scary to kids.Takeoff and landing may be the most anxious part so tell them before how much you love that part … it’s the best! Act nonchalant and they will get the message that they have nothing to worry about. Only 7% of communication is verbal. The rest is unspoken cues and behavior so model relaxation and fun anticipation. Turbulence is just like being in their inner tube in a pool bouncing up and down. It’s the pilot’s favorite part! Tell your child that they are going to get sleepy on the plane so they shouldn’t forget to tell you when that happens so you both can go potty together. Maybe you’ll nap at the same time too! Go to these pages to learn about Fear of Flying.

    Setting Expectations:

    Something won’t go as planned. Know it’s coming and it won’t upset you as you won’t have unrealistic expectations. Be sure to have a spare set of clothes for your child, extra socks or slippers for the flight, and even a Pull-Up or two on board as a precaution if it makes sense. (I’ve even brought a cheap plastic mattress cover so I don’t worry about bed-wetting at our accommodations ..). Good to bring spare clothes for yourself as well. And, be sure to bring child medicines on the plane just in case.

    Finally, take advantage of opportunities prior to your trip to discuss what will be happening in age appropriate terms. Discuss going through Security. Have them help packing. Let them pick a special toy to carry on the place. Discuss good behavior and congratulate them as you go. Toddler age children can be terrific travelers if you are good at setting expectations, reduce stressful situations and educating them.