How to fly with a toddler

I was recently talking with a friend who was getting ready to fly across the country with her one-year-old.  I have been on many flights with a toddler or two and she was asking me for my tips on how to fly with a toddler.   After I gave her my list of ideas and what worked and what didn’t I thought  “Hey! This could be a blog post! “.  

My first flight with a toddler was 11 years ago with our oldest child and she was my easy going, easy to please, but still 18 months old and a prone to tantrums if she was tired or hungry- like any 18- month- old.  She also loved movies and cartoons.  So I packed a portable DVD player, some snacks and we were on our way.  She did well the first three hours before we switched flights for the last leg of our journey.  That’s when she had a complete come apart.  It was way past her bedtime and she was just tired so it was a battle to try and get her to sleep.  So lesson learned- try to fly during happy hours- not night time!  

Our second flight with a toddler occurred when we took our three children to get their new baby sister that we were adopting.  The flight was 2- 2-hour flights with a layover in between.  We had a nine-year-old, a four-year-old, and a 16-month-old.  The flight there went beautifully and all my tricks worked.  Even the flight attendants commented on my amazing snack trays each of the kids had.  On the flight home, we also had our new baby who was 2 months old.  We were a crazy lot traveling through the airport and all the people there were giving us crazy looks because I think most people with that many kids and those ages just stay home!  But we managed to get all our car seats, two strollers, and baggage checked in and all 6 of us through security.  Oh man, it was exhausting.  Once on the flight, we were doing pretty good until my 16-month-old lost it.  He was tired and it was at night, and unfortunately we had to have the later flight home.  He screamed for what seemed like an hour while my husband tried to quiet him.  As soon as the seatbelt sign went off he stood up and walked him down the aisle where the flight attendants gave him some candy and a kind passenger rubbed Lavender oil on his back.   I am not sure if it was the candy or the Lavender oil, but he was happy and quiet after that!  

We have since flown with our youngest baby when she was 14  months old and here’s our list of what has worked and what hasn’t.  

A variety of snacks, some old favorites, and some exciting new ones.  Have salty, and sweet.  You never know if a child will be motion sick and salty snacks tend to help nausea.   We put a variety of snacks in these craft boxes that you can buy pretty much anywhere, this one is from amazon and I love the handle!  I packed fruit snacks, crackers, pretzels, cereal, dried fruit, granola bars and some candy.  You can have a variety of old favorite treats and some fun new snacks. 


They each got a water bottle or a sippy cup (depending on age) which you can go through security with if it’s empty and the lid is off.   Baby bottles can go through full, but they will test it.  Also, do not use the soft form ice pack, use a hard pack.  They gave us an exception on this but they almost took away my ice pack for my bottle of milk.  




New toys!  This one is a hit at our house and was perfect for long hours on the plane.  


These last two tips were a serious favorite!  If I could only pick three things that you should bring, it would be the snack case and these games below! 

You just take a cheap container cut a small hole in it that is big enough for buttons to go through.  This provided long term entertainment for my toddlers.   When you’re done, you just store the buttons in the container and if you want you can add tape to the hole but our hole was just the perfect size that nothing fell out. 








Take an old spice bottle with the large holes in the lid and cut pipe cleaners to fit.  My 16 month old loved this!  I was surprised at how long it kept his attention.  

















If you have a layover, find a quiet place open place for them to run around and get their wiggles out.  Some airports have kid zones and even mother’s lounges with changing stations and rocking chairs.  Bring favorite blankets and get a window seat so that they can’t easily escape and the window shade makes for great entertainment.