Solo international travel with a toddler

When it came time to fly back to the US from Australia, we decided it would be best for me to just go with Juliette and leave Justin at home with Ariana. So, began the mental pump up to remind me I could handle it.


It was INCREDIBLE! Juliette was a champ, I was a champ, and we had so much fun. On the way there she stayed awake for 14 of the 15 hours, only to fall asleep for the last hour. Here is how it went and some tips for traveling with a 3.5 year old.

TIP: Don’t do check in alone

We obviously had tons of luggage, so it was super helpful to have Justin drive us to the airport, park, and help us get checked in with all of our (tons of) luggage.

Tip: Pack tons of FOOD. FOOD. FOOD. FOOD.

Traveling with a toddler is ALL about the food. Food solves most problems. I packed A TON of food and she ate through almost all of it. Special small bags of puffs, pouches, little ice pack of string cheese, sandwiches, apple slices, edamame, pretzels, cheerios…so much food. We started even in line to board.

Juliette loved the airplane meals and even the snacks they handed out.

Juliette also was given a little welcome pack and play kit when we boarded, which was really fun.

What do to on the plane

I had brought so many little gifts. In our family we call them “mileage gifts” and we used to get them while on long car rides to help keep us entertained. So I wrapped up abut 20 little gifts, thinking we would fly through them. I packed small, lightweight and clean gifts 🙂 I packed little magic pen books, water painting booklets, crayons and activity books etc.

But at the end of the day, the iPad was the ultimate winner. Juliette had never watched tv or used an iPad before so I wasn’t sure how it would go but she was totally captivated — for 14 hours!

And then, 14 hours later…she finally passed out 🙂

Tip: Utilize your layovers

On the way to the US we had a 9 hour layover which gave us time for our dear friend to pick us up, go have a shower, go to a playground to meet up with a bunch of SF friends, eat some food and then head back to the airport. It was great to run around and get fresh air after the long flight.

On the way back, we only have 5-6 hours so we stayed at the airport and got creative exploring around. Don’t underestimate how long it takes to get food at a restaurant and eat with a kid. We definitely were sprinting to the gate after a quick bathroom stop to change before our flight.

Tip: What I learned

  • Keep everything handy. I had one big bag organized with everything I needed. I had water bottles and sanitizer always handy. I knew where the chargers, snacks and activities were and of course our passports/wallet. Being organized reduces a lot of stress. Have a place for everything.
  • We brought an inflatable footrest to fit in front of her seat. She didn’t use it but if a kid was willing to just LIE DOWN it would have been great in turning a single seat into a bed (without needing my lap).
  • Download way more shows to the iPad than you think you’ll need.
  • Ration the activities and the food. It is a long trip. Anything you don’t use will feel like a pleasant surprise.
  • If they are still potty training (or if they have occasional accidents), don’t chance it and just put them in a pull up.


It was far easier and far less intimidating than I thought it would be. At 3.5 yrs, she was happy to be glued to the iPad the whole time and also eat a lot of food, so the time went by surprisingly quickly and I got to watch a lot of movies myself. It was totally worth it. Can’t wait to do it again!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s