Plane Travel with Toddlers – Tips

Plane Travel with Toddlers
By Contributor Carolyn Bechard

Traveling with young children can be stressful at the best of times. But when you are stuck on a full flight with an irritable toddler who doesn’t want to sit still, stress levels go to a whole other level! And boy have I been there!

So what should you do to best prepare your child (and yourself) for those potentially uncomfortable hours in the sky? Here are a few of my suggestions.

1. Pack a ton of snacks
Seriously, snacks will save your life up there! When my kids are about to lose it, the first thing I go for is that bag of cheerios or fruit leather. It quiets them down for a few minutes and gives them something to do with their hands. Make it extra entertaining by packing treats they don’t usually get. Hello character shaped fruit snacks and fruit puffs!

2. Over pack and be prepared for all circumstances
Yes, I said over pack. I get that before you had kids you were probably trying to travel as light as possible, but now is not the time! An extra set of clothes (or two) for baby and you will be worth it when your child gets nauseous and throws up everywhere. And nobody wants to deal with the smell of a poopy diaper for three hours because you didn’t pack extras.

3. Have some way to relieve the pressure
Take-off and landing can be hard on your little ones ears. The first time I flew with my oldest I refused to give him Tylenol because I didn’t want to be that parent who drugs their child. It didn’t end up being a pleasant experience. The next flight I gave him some and it made things so much better. If you aren’t comfortable with this, be sure to give your child a pacifier, bottle or something to suck on to help relieve the pressure. I have heard some airlines will let breastfeeding mothers nurse at this time, but I have yet to personally encounter that.

4. Entertainment
Collect a few new small toys during the weeks before you leave and don’t let your child see them until you are on that plane. Pull them out one at a time or as they get bored and be sure to save some for the trip home. The best purchases we made were $5.00 sticker books from Costco and a Color Wonder  from Wal-Mart. Lately more airlines aren’t giving you free movies, so it’s a great time to bring along your tablet with a few of your child’s favorite shows. Oh and don’t forget to bring along that stuffy or blanket they won’t sleep without in case you get lucky and they doze off!

5. Go for the extra seat
If your flight is longer than a couple of hours and you can afford to pay for your toddlers to have their own seat, do it! It makes a world of a difference when they are strapped into a car seat that they are used to and not free to squirm in your lap or take off down the aisle.
If you travel off season you can sometimes score an extra seat for free. Call the airline the day before and mention that you are traveling with a lap child. Ask them if the flight is full or if there is the potential for an ‘infant block’ seat. Usually they will take your name down or tell you to check in early on your day of departure. You will need to be prepared to carry your child’s car seat through security and up to the gate either way.

Ultimately, don’t let having young children discourage your from traveling abroad. It can seem intimidating and it probably won’t be the best day of your life, but try to focus on the positive. You will soon be enjoying that vacation you so longed for!

Good luck and happy travels!

Carolyn Bechard is a wife and stay at home mother to two young boys living in the Fraser Valley of Vancouver. In her free time she can be found sipping coffee, snapping pictures, traveling and writing over at momentsinmommyland.com

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Angela V

Founder and Writer at One Smiley Monkey blog
Hi, my name is Angela and I am a Canadian mom living in Vancouver with my wonderful husband and two happy little boys. I am the founder and primary contributor behind One Smiley Monkey. Welcome to my blog!
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43 responses to “Plane Travel with Toddlers – Tips”

  1. SusanVT — October 4, 2013 @ 8:54 am (#)

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  2. ItalianMama22 — October 4, 2013 @ 9:13 am (#)

    Going to Toronto next week, thanks for the tips.

    Reply

    • Carolyn — October 28th, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

      Hope they helped!

      Reply

  3. Jamie — October 4, 2013 @ 3:54 pm (#)

    Thanks for the tips!
    Wish I’d read this before we flew with our toddler two years ago 🙂
    We didn’t pack enough change of clothes on the carry on bags, and had a major poop accident during a layover… it wasn’t pretty (nor sweet smelling)…

    Reply

    • Carolyn — October 28th, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

      Oh no! The worst! Ill bet you were better prepared next time 😉

      Reply

  4. Kristen LaValley — October 4, 2013 @ 7:14 pm (#)

    YES to over packing. Absolutely. You can never have enough.

    Reply

  5. Stephanie @ From the Burbs to the Boonies — October 4, 2013 @ 8:33 pm (#)

    When my kiddo was a toddler and we flew, I had just read about a neat idea somewhere to make a photo album with pictures of some of their favorite stuff at home, some of their favorite people, funky pictures cut out of magazines. We did this and he loved it! Something fun for them to flip through.

    Reply

    • Carolyn — October 28th, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

      That’s a fantastic idea! We actually do have one of those – but use it for in the car or when going somewhere that requires the kids to sit quietly!

      Reply

  6. Jeannie — October 5, 2013 @ 6:18 am (#)

    Those are great tips! We are going on a trip in 2 weeks and I’ve been looking for tips to entertain the kids while on the plane. I’m a bit nervous about the trip. After reading the list, I don’t feel so bad about being an over packer.

    Reply

    • Carolyn — October 28th, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

      Hope your trip goes great! Definitely don’t feel bad about over packing. I’m sure everyone would prefer that you and your child are happy on the flight!

      Reply

  7. sarah j jackson — October 7, 2013 @ 5:09 am (#)

    I took my daughter on a plane at 13 months , it was a positive experience both to and from home , the flight crew really did go out of the way to make it that way , anyone who is planning a trip with a toddler should read these tips !

    Reply

    • Carolyn — October 28th, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

      Thanks Sarah!
      I agree… Anytime we have flown our flight crew was fantastic with kids. We love to stick wi family friendly airlines like West jet and Alaska if possible.

      Reply

  8. Bob Hobson — October 7, 2013 @ 8:08 am (#)

    Entertainment, entertainment, entertainment, you can never have too much when traveling with kids. Here is one more tip I would like to share that goes in a little different direction. We all know that there is extra commotion and distraction when traveling with kids which can lead to leaving things behind. I found this out while traveling to Canada with my son and my laptop got left behind at a cafe. Luckily for me I had a tracer tag on it. A waiter where I ate lunch found it and entered my tracker number on the website and I was sent a text message (and an email) before I ever even knew it was missing. I was able to recover it before leaving Toronto. I’m not sure what would have happened had I not discovered it until the next day when I was 400 miles away. The tags are available through Mystufflostandfound.com. They saved my trip and I now have them on almost everything that goes with me on a trip.

    Reply

    • Carolyn — October 28th, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

      Wow how cool is that!?

      Reply

    • kathy downey — February 24th, 2015 @ 6:03 am

      Thats great info,thanks for sharing

      Reply

  9. loriag — October 8, 2013 @ 10:53 am (#)

    #4 having small new toys that they have never seen before was always my trick for traveling. Thank you for sharing yours!

    Reply

    • Carolyn — October 28th, 2013 @ 1:52 pm

      You are most welcome!

      Reply

  10. Robin Wilson — October 11, 2013 @ 3:56 pm (#)

    When my son was an infant/ toddler we would request seats directly behind the first class section. They usually had more foot room and it made a huge difference! The tips you have offered are 100% spot on.

    Reply

    • Carolyn — October 28th, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

      Thanks Robin! We’ve tried several times for those seats and never been so lucky. Maybe next time though 🙂

      Reply

  11. fleur — October 16, 2013 @ 6:59 am (#)

    I like the toy tip. It’s a great idea to hide them until the day we travel.

    Reply

    • Carolyn — October 28th, 2013 @ 1:52 pm

      It makes the day even more exciting for our littles 🙂

      Reply

  12. Elizabeth Matthiesen — November 9, 2013 @ 8:01 am (#)

    Always over-pack clothes, toys, treats and remember to take lots of food for the child. I was once on a 8hr flight where they had no baby food at all, unusual but difficult for us. We had to share our food with a 9 month old who wasn’t accustomed to adult food. We were lucky she enjoyed it!

    Reply

  13. Toni Marie Caravello Feimer — November 10, 2013 @ 7:00 am (#)

    Wish I had read this last year when we went to puerto rico. Now she’s 3 – it should be easier when we go to Florida in December. Thanks for the tips!

    Reply

  14. Erika B — February 18, 2014 @ 10:12 am (#)

    Great tips. I fly with my kids 1-2 times a year and its so important to makesure to have snacks, things to keep them busy and especially something to relieve their ears. My daughter never took a soother or a bottle so I had her chug her water to help the pressure on her ears. She was only 18 months. Felt so bad!!

    Reply

  15. Laurie P — February 25, 2014 @ 5:12 am (#)

    I have never flown with a baby or toddler, and I doubt I ever will (probably will when my youngest is a little older), but this was very informative to read, at I’m glad I am aware of what to do, and what may work best!

    Reply

  16. Danielle D — May 7, 2014 @ 11:20 am (#)

    We love reading traveling tips for babies and toddlers! There are so many things that you can do to improve your chances of having a safe, enjoyable trip, thank you for these!

    Reply

  17. Darlene W — May 24, 2014 @ 4:05 pm (#)

    When a child is unoccupied on a flight things can start to get out of hand very fast. As a grandmother I sympathize with the parents, but some people just cant understand so now you have a peeved off person near you and a child who just wants to run and squeal. I pop my ear plugs in and close my eyes.
    thank you for the tips, they are very useful

    Reply

  18. Brittany — June 5, 2014 @ 9:03 am (#)

    My youngest sons has been flying since he was 8 months, we always breastfeed at take off and have never had a bad flight due to pressure. I always have people telling me as we’re getting off the plane, how well he behaved. Music to any parents ears!

    Reply

  19. Angie Andrews — June 11, 2014 @ 8:49 am (#)

    Great tips, I definitely think it is worth paying for the extra seat

    Reply

  20. Elaine Buonsante — June 30, 2014 @ 6:23 pm (#)

    Great ideas when flying with kids!

    Reply

  21. DARLENE W — July 26, 2014 @ 5:01 pm (#)

    I also took wet wipes, they can soothe a child as you wipe them down

    Reply

  22. Jon T — August 11, 2014 @ 3:35 pm (#)

    Had our first flight with our LO just a couple weeks ago – much worrying and preparing, and he sleep through the whole thing, both ways!

    Reply

  23. darlene w — September 1, 2014 @ 11:54 am (#)

    I have yet to take a flight with a toddler but expect to do that next year when our whole family goes to Disney, I expect it will be something I never forget

    Reply

  24. kathy+downey — November 13, 2014 @ 7:11 am (#)

    These are fantastic tips

    Reply

  25. kathy downey — January 1, 2015 @ 10:19 am (#)

    We will be travelling with the grandkids next week,these will help

    Reply

  26. kathy downey — January 17, 2015 @ 7:39 am (#)

    We found out a polly pocket done the trick with the little one while we traveled

    Reply

  27. kathy downey — April 1, 2015 @ 9:43 am (#)

    Lots of great tips thanks

    Reply

  28. kathy downey — June 20, 2015 @ 1:06 pm (#)

    After reading your list my friends believes she really to fly to Alberta with a 2 and 4 alone………………

    Reply

  29. kathy downey — September 22, 2015 @ 2:26 pm (#)

    Awe,your little one had grown since this post photo

    Reply

  30. kathy downey — November 18, 2015 @ 8:07 am (#)

    you really need all the help you can get when travelling with children

    Reply

  31. kathy downey — March 3, 2016 @ 10:00 am (#)

    Great post,entertainment for the kids is a must !

    Reply

  32. Darlene W — August 26, 2016 @ 12:13 pm (#)

    It is difficult especially when you are trying to keep baby happy and those sitting around you happy as well

    Reply

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