Flying with a Toddler…


I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how we handle flying with a toddler. We are no experts but we have flown quite a few times (even a few by myself) with Rowan. I thought I would share what has worked for us and give you a little peak into what our carry-on bag looks like for her.

Aside from the normal necessities (diapers, wipes, sippy cups) here are the special goodies I include to help pass the time with Rowan. I find the hardest time is that 35+ min. window when you get on the plane till just after you take off and you can’t get up and you can’t turn on electronics. It feels like eternity. That is when you need all the small toys. I feel like I go through all my tricks in a matter of 30 mins and then have to start repeating. Once we are up in the air it goes smoother. You can turn the Ipad on and you can get up and walk if you really have to.

Tip: I don’t let Rowan sit near the aisle. She sits on my lap in the middle or next to the window. The temptation to get up and run the aisle every two seconds is too great when she sits on the aisle.

1. We never give Rowan candy EXCEPT when we fly I bring nerds. Judge me if you want but someone gave me the tip a few trips ago and it was awesome. The little halloween packets work the best. It takes her 10 mins to open the thing then 20 or so mins to eat each individual nerd. In all honesty she doesnt even end up eating very many. They make for the perfect distraction. Tiny, easy to eat, tastey. I can’t blame her. I love nerds. She eats each one individually. I just give her a few at a time. This time I brought our super handy little Boon snack catepillar holder. It stacks snacks! (Say that 10x fast!) The top one I left open for nerds, then I filled the other ones with goldfish, fruit and raisins (her more normal snacks).

2. Rowan loves stickers. I went to the dollar store and loaded up on stickers I knew she would like. Plus some other brand new little toys to bring. New and exciting really help engage them on the plane. The pipecleaners worked great. We made little bracelets.

3. We brought her favorite books that I know when we read at home catch her attention for more than a few mins. Very handy

4. These magic Crayola markers are awesome. The color only shows up on the special paper. Perfect for a kid that draws everywhere. Also great to use with the stickers. We drew little pictures around the stickers and drew lots and lots of kitties. We also brought some cute Sesame Street flash cards to play with.

5. When all else fails and the screaming starts and the evil looks start glaring the iPad works wonders. Rowan isn’t allowed to watch much tv at home so getting to watch any show she wants on the plane is pretty darn special. If it means we can all sit in peace for a while than I am ok with it. We just loaded it up with some of her favorite shows from itunes and we’re set to go.

Have any special tricks that work good for you? Leave a comment and let us all know!!
Later this week… Traveling with a toddler: Staying in a Hotel & Eating Out.

  1. When I was a kid, we’d go on trips with my grandparents in their RV to Houston to visit my aunt (I assume this took 2-3 days?). My mom would buy me little toys ahead of the trip and then put them all in a brown paper bag and at the end of each day I’d get to pick one out. The one I remember most was a yellow comb that had a lion on the top of it. I thought it was the greatest!

  2. My daughter is the same age as Rowan. We’ve had a couple of flights this spring and in addition to the books, coloring, and stickers, I would also add:

    The Lauri Toys Traveler Tote: this occupied for 20-30 minutes at a time, a couple of times per flight, which is pretty awesome. We’ve also gotten a lot of use out of them at home.

    Blue masking tape: a friend turned me onto this. You can use it to make shapes and build pictures on the tray table. put lines around snacks or drinks, you name it. It is also great to tape down pages of a coloring book to make it more manageable/ stay in one place. It all comes up easily at the end of the flight. plus you probably already have some and it’s small.

    A doodle board: yes, even the travel ones are kinda bulky, but my daughter loves to draw on this and have me draw for her. And it’s hers to handle as she wishes, unlike an ipad.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas and I look forward to reading other comments too- we’ve got a LONG one coming up in July (yikes!).

    On a related note, I am in the market for some new apps before our flight- any you recommend for this age?

  3. iPad + toddler = lifesaver (works every time for Naja!)

  4. wish I could find that boon snack holder in the UK! that looks very handy. We flew (on just a short 1ish hour flight) two months ago when our little was 18 months and I felt like I was dropping/spilling/losing all the stuff I brought for her everywhere! And she still had a bit of a paddy… when the iphone had to be turned off! >.<

  5. This makes me smile. I’m a way away from my own kids yet, but seeing posts like this I often wonder how on earth my parents kept their sanity whilst we were little- we used to take 13 hour car journeys to get to our house in france with me and my sister in the back seat. I remember mum used to pack so strategically- snack, books, pillows, audiobooks! Sounds like you’ve got it wrapped up Jen!

  6. Danielle •

    When you use the iPad do you put headphones on her or do you just let it play quietly? This is something I’ve been wondering about for our own upcoming flight.

  7. I’m still traveling with a baby but someone gave me a suggestion for when she is older… Buy a couple of little toys or even some you already own and wrap them in tissue paper. They will have fun unwrapping each one and then will have a couple of little things to play with after!

  8. Thanks for this post. I haven’t traveled in a plane with my 15 month old yet, but it makes me nervous just thinking about it!
    I’m going to try those markers too.

  9. travelling with kids sounds so crazy-hectic! every time I see parents with their babies on airplanes I feel like they deserve sainthood for all the patience they have. it’s good that you’re getting her used to it early, I’ll bet travelling will be a breeze when she’s older!

  10. What awesome ideas! I am going to file these away for when I have children 🙂

  11. Thank you so much for doing this post! My friend and I just had lunch today and we were talking about this. She’s flying with a two year old and a 2 month old!! YIKES!! As someone who doesn’t have children, I thought these were genius and very useful. Thank you Jen!

  12. Hilary •

    Great post, Jen! We’ve flown with George a bunch, but it’s getting harder and harder now that he’s 2. We ALWAYS sit in the aisle (which makes him want to cruise the plane at all times) so your idea NOT to is something I’ll try next! And pipe cleaners! GENIUS! I’m curious to hear about your hotel visits with kids post. Our last trip, George learned how to climb out of the hotel-provided crib which made for no naps and him ONLY falling asleep on our chests while watching Happy Feet ($4.99 hotel special! ha!). Next time, I’ll bring a travel crib that he can’t climb out of. By the way, I’m loving all your pictures from vacation! You three make quite the adorable family.

  13. awesome sauce! Great post Jen!

  14. I consider myself somewhat of an expert when it comes to flying with babies / toddlers, having made upwards of 16 crossings trips between Asia / North America / Europe with my girl (24 mo), all but two being solo. 24 hours in airports / airplanes, and one memorable trip where my kid did not sleep for 36 hours. I am not kidding.
    Anyway, these are great tips, especially the stickers. That one works wonders for my girl too.
    We also do a lot of singing (sorry neighbours) and finger puppet games and clapping games and stuff. It’s a lot of work, but it keeps her occupied. Oh, and never underestimate the hilarity of taking off her sock, making an impromptu sock puppet, and pretending to “eat” her with it. Ha.
    On longer flights I usually do let my kid wander up and down the aisles, (accompanied, of course) it’s just too much to expect her to stay seated for 14 hours.
    Another thing that I do is anticipate a major major major horrific flight, and then I’m surprised and happy when it turns out to be only mildly annoying.

  15. I totally agree that the first stretch between boarding and airborne is the hardest- toddlers can’t understand why they need to sit down, not touch the window shadow or tray, etc. We survive with mountains of snacks. Those markers are one of my favorites too.

  16. I love the pipe cleaner idea, and will definitely use it for our trip this weekend!

  17. We’re flying at the end of the month with our 20 month old and I am dreading it. I wish she liked coloring more – she mostly likes taking the tops off the markers. I feel like it would be a mess on the plane, trying to find the caps after they’ve been flung.

  18. Shannon •

    Great travel tips Jen! Thank you. I went out and purchased the Mess Free Markers/Paper to see if my son likes them for when we travel. My son will be 2 in August (very close to Rowan’s age) so I know what is like. He does not like to sit still or be confined. We have not flown yet, but have taken long car rides (8 hours) and these will come in handy for those trips. I am looking forward to hearing more of your traveling tips with a toddler 😉

  19. Oh wow, I grew up on Richard Scarry’s word books! They were awesome! I flew a lot as a kid (but within Europe so they were short and easy flights) and my parents always had me drawing or coloring, that was the best way to keep me and my brother to sit still for a while. And I remember some flight companies even had little stuffed animals or other gifts they would give kids…after a while we had quite a collection!

  20. Thank you for this list. I found you via Pinterest and it’s calming my nerves about flying from Denver to New York on Monday alone with my almost 21 month old. We flew from Denver to Ireland when he was 11 months old for my 30th birthday and it was a long couple of flights but he was still crawling at that point. And I had my husband with me for that one! I just keep telling myself that if I could survive 11 hours in flight to and from Ireland, I can survive 4 to and from NY. I bought all the good snacks, a few new snacks, have the iPad loaded with his favorite shows and apps, bought crayons and paper (tucking in some tape thanks!), and lots of new Hot Wheels to pull out one at a time.

  21. Kriszta •

    I am soooo happy to find this post again Jen 🙂 Now I have a 16 months old baby, we will fly soon and I remembered to read this when I was with no baby at that time. I am getting prepared with all your tricks!

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Hi, I'm Jen!

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