Traveling Internationally with a Toddler

Things to Have in Your Carry-on When Traveling Abroad with a Toddler

It is summer, the time for holidays and summer vacations. You so much look forward to that long awaited break from all liabilities at work, as well as home. Whether you have a short road trip planned to your parents who live in the neighboring state or a long international travel to the destination of your dreams; either way a good preparation can help alleviate the difficulties of traveling with a small child.

Children are unpredictable so any trip, short or long, can become a big struggle if things go wrong. I myself had travel plans that involved crossing an ocean and international borders this summer. My parents live in Armenia and I hadn’t seen them for two years. So this was a trip I was ecstatically looking forward to and dreading at the same time.  An international travel of two flights and around 20 hours in transit can drain any adult, let alone a child. In addition, I was going to travel without my husband so I knew I had to prepare well.

Here are important things to include in your carry-on when traveling with a toddler. I have included Amazon links for most of the items for your easy shopping.

Important Documents

Passport – Everyone traveling abroad needs travel documents – even newborns. So plan your international travel well ahead as it takes from two weeks to two months to get a passport. Plus depending on which country you will be traveling to you might need to get a visa. Thus do your research well before your trip.

Child Travel Consent Form – Today many countries are very sensitive to the possibility of child abduction and trafficking so if you plan to travel with your child alone, depending on the country of your destination, it might be a good idea to get a signed notarized note from the other parent giving you permission to take your child out of country. While the US do not have exit controls or require two-parent consent for a minor to leave the country, other countries do. And you certainly do not want for your onward travel get impeded because of one missing piece of paper. U.S. citizens traveling outside the United States can check this information here.

Travel Insurance Card – International medical expenses is the last thing you would want to be worrying about during and after your vacation. Make sure you find out before your trip what kind of health insurance coverage you and your child will have while traveling. Most insurance companies provide travel insurance cards with international phone numbers that you can call in case of emergencies.  

Main Necessities

Overnight diapers – Bathrooms on planes are small and there are always lines to use them, so you would do yourself a great favor if you could get away with fewer diaper changes. I’d recommend taking overnight diapers instead of regular ones as diapers meant for sleep can be worn for up to twelve hours without being changed. Again always take extra so that you do not run out of the most important item in your bag in case of delays.

Kalencom 2-in-1 Potette Plus Red – If your child is fully potty trained, you might want to have this portable potty training seat with you so that he can easily use the bathroom on the plane and at the airport.

Wipes – Do not forget to take a pack of baby wipes. Not only did I use them to wipe my son’s hands and mouth, but also for disinfecting everything around him. It also helped me a lot to have some zip bags in my carry-on. These were great for trash, food leftovers and dirty wipes: toddlers are so messy.

Pack 2 to 3 changes of clothes for your little one in a case of air sickness or diaper accidents. My son does not normally get motion sickness but because he sweated a lot during his sleep, I did end up putting fresh clothes on him at the end of the flight. I had changes of clothing for myself too. So we both left the plane smelling good and ready for lots of hugs with the big crowd of relatives meeting us at the airport 🙂

Taking off and landing is the hardest in terms of air pressure and your child might even start to cry because of the ear pain. Do have a pacifier, a bottle of water or just something to suck on ready to help him ease this discomfort.

Another great tip I received is playing a yawning game during the take off when their ears start popping.

And of course most importantly do not forget to take your child’s sleep toy, blanket, pacifier or whatever it is that he sleeps with. I once forgot my son’s sleep toy and his pacifier so putting him to sleep became the hardest thing during our short trip. Now it is always the number one item in my packing checklist.

Also, check out 10 tips for having a great family holiday when traveling with baby and toddler.


Most airlines offer plain meal options which are quite suitable for toddlers. However, you do need to have extra food with you in case there are delays or your child refuses to eat what is offered in the airplane. You are the one who knows your child the best, so a good rule of thumb is to take his favorite snacks. Fruits and berries are always a good choice as not only are they refreshing but also hydrating, and you will need to keep your child well-hydrated on the plane. Here is what I prepared for my travel:

Thermos – For the main meal I used this thermos to keep the food warm. I made my son buckwheat with chicken and vegetables. It’s important to go with light, easy-to-digest food.

Lunchbox – My friend gave me this lunchbox for the trip and it made snacking so much easier for us. The good thing about this lunchbox is that it has divided sections so you can put berries and cut vegetables separately. I also had my son’s favorite whole wheat bread with butter and honey as a treat in the largest section.

Instant Oatmeal – Also I’d highly recommend having a couple of packets of instant oatmeal with you. If you are stuck at the airport during a layover, or even if your child feels sick on the plane and you just need a very light plain meal to offer him this can become a lifesaver. All you will need is to find or ask boiled water to pour onto one packet and you will have a quick meal.  

First Aid Kit

You might want to consult with your pediatrician for the contents of a carry-on first aid kit. And not only is this a big necessity for your flight but also for your entire trip. I myself learned it the hard way. To my biggest regret, I forgot to put together a first aid kit for our trip and unfortunately, the second day we arrived in Armenia my son got a high fever. Of course, we have pharmacies in Armenia, but I really wish I could have my baby thermometer and the medicine recommended by my own pediatrician at my disposal here. These are some of my first-aid kit must-haves:  

Baby/child thermometer – I have been using this one since my son’s birth and I like it a lot. Due to its small size, this thermometer is perfect for traveling, testing takes only 8 seconds and it is for oral, armpit and rectal use.  

A pain- and fever-relieving medication. Children’s Tylenol and Ibuprofen are the ones most commonly recommended by pediatricians. Make sure you know your child’s weight since doses are based on weight.

Saline spray and nose suction device. Even if your child’s nose is fine, you might want to use some saline drops on the plane to keep his nose from getting too dry. Saline can become a real lifesaver if your child can’t sleep due to a stuffy nose.

Antibiotic Ointment for cuts and scrapes. Normally the over-the-counter ones work fine for minor cuts. But if you are one of those worrywarts, you can get a prescription from your pediatrician for stronger options.

I also normally include rubbing alcohol swabs, adhesive bandages, baby scissors, weather protection cream, and aloe vera gel in my kit. Have I forgotten anything essential? Please let me know in the comments.


A set of his favorite books. New books work best with my son. He loves to look through the pictures so I had a handful of new books for him. Paper books take less space and are lighter so you can have a couple in your carry-on.
My son does not watch cartoons yet but I did have a couple downloaded to the iPad. This kept him entertained and occupied for about an hour or so.

Melissa and Doug reusable sticker book was also a big hit with my son. We enjoyed peeling the stickers of different animals and placing them on the tray table, learning new animals all at the same time. We don’t normally do this at home so this was a great new fun activity for him.

Melissa & Doug water coloring book is another excellent way to have some fun with your little one. The page becomes colorful when it gets wet and there are hidden objects to find. A little water pen that can be refilled with water is attached to each book. The book can be used multiple times before the colors stop disappearing when the pages dry.

Small puzzles – my son loves everything that is animal related. Although these puzzles were a bit too difficult for him to make on his own. He did enjoy watching me put the puzzles together resulting in different animals.

P.S. If at all possible purchase tickets for an overnight flight. If you fly at night your child will sleep for the majority of the flight, which means you will need to worry less about entertaining him.

P.P.S. Just one day before my flight I broke my foot. We were considering to change the tickets so that I could travel at a later date but I did not want to delay seeing my parents and friends in Armenia. So right out of emergency the next day my son and I embarked on our 20-hours journey. I have to say though that with the wheelchair service that we reserved for me, my son being exceptionally understanding, and my preparation, the trip went relatively easy. I am now safe at home with my dad and mom, putting together this checklist of tips.

There are affiliate links in this blog post. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. 

Is there any other essential item that you include in your carry-on when traveling with kids? Please let me know in the comments.


7 thoughts on “Traveling Internationally with a Toddler”

  1. Pingback: 15 Of The Internets Best Tips For Flying With Kids - Mad Mommy Travel

  2. Wow!! You were definitely more prepared than I was. I recently went to Reunion Island (French island off the coast of Madagascar) from Los Angeles and it was two 11 hour flight to get there. I mainly took red eye flights so he slept most of it. I made sure to get him to rum as much as possible before going on the plane. The only day flight I had was terrible. How do you ask a 3 yo to sit for 11 hours straight?? Lol anyways red eye flights at my go to flights for long flights now. 🙂

    1. Wow, two 11-hour flights! You are a hero! Yes, definitely red-eye flights are a great solution when it comes to traveling with kids. They are just so unpredictable that you never know how things might end up going. Thanks for the great tips, L.M. 🙂

    1. So true, Shayne! I was skeptical myself and even wanted to postpone the trip until next summer, but then I did prove me wrong. You just need to be well prepared for everything to go smoothly 🙂

  3. Wipes are the best thing since, well, since the proverbial sliced bread. I don’t go anywhere without them – and I don’t have kids!

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