Spring Travel

10 Tricks for Traveling by Plane With Toddlers

Hot List 51

girl on planeI can think of few times in my life that I've felt such anxiety and a sense of dread as I have when boarding an airplane with a toddler. From the nightmares preceding the trip to the flashbacks of trips gone wrong to the searing heat from the glares of the planeful of people watching you walk down the aisle willing you to walk past the empty seat next to them, it's a lot of pressure.

There are some things you can do, however, to help cut the chances that any of those nightmares will come true, and make those crabby passengers wish that you'd sat next to them instead of the drunk guy they got stuck with. Here are 10 ways to make traveling with toddlers less terrifying and more enjoyable for everyone.

1. Snacks

Rule number one is to have food on board -- and lots of it. Don't rely on picking something up in the airport or buying something from flight attendants. Delayed planes, turbulence, and other unexpected things happen, and no one wants to be stuck with a hungry toddler.

2. Plan trips around naps

The best toddler on an airplane is a sleeping one. If you can plan flights to coincide with naps, that may be your best strategy. Bring a blanket and small pillow or lovey if you can.

3. Lay out your expectations ahead of time

Talk about why it's not okay to kick the seat in front of you and how indoor voices are important on planes. Some of it may sink in.

4. Stock up on distractions

Hit a local dollar store for a host of distractions. Little toys, notepads, coloring pages, and stickers are all great. The more you have, the better.

5. Dress them for comfort, not a fashion show

I know it's fun to dress them up in their cutest gear, but itchy tights, too-snug waistbands, and frilly collars just make for fidgety kids. The more comfortable, the better.

6. Take up kind strangers' offers to help

If someone offers to help carry your gear or assist you in putting your bag overhead, let them. You don't have to be super mom.

7. One big Gun

Whether it's candy or a toy they really want, have one thing hidden away that you know will stop a tantrum dead in its tracks. Call it a bribe if you will, but if it works, everyone will be grateful.

8. Dangle a reward at the end

Start the trip by telling them if their behavior is good, they will get to do something special, or have ice cream, or whatever you can think of that you can remind them of throughout the trip.

9. Plan ahead for layovers

If you have a layover, check out what the airport may offer. Some have play areas and other kid-friendly attractions. Sometimes getting some energy out is exactly what they need to make the rest of the flight go more smoothly.

10. Relax and try to enjoy the ride

If your child screams, it won't be fun, but it's also not the end of the world. So do everything you can to try and make things go smoothly, but if they don't, know that you're not the first mom with a child who has misbehaved on a plane.

What tricks can you share for traveling with toddlers?


Image via Julie Ryan Evans

a mom's life, travel


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

Katy Khan

My son is 2 1/2 and I have flown with him dozens of times and he does really well. Perhaps if it were a one off or infrequent thing that he was not accustomed to, it might be more of an issue. I just lay out the rules and enforce them. You have to stay buckled during takeoff, if you make a fuss, you get buckled into a child seat belt on mommies lap. You kick the seat in front of you, I hold on to your legs until you decide itmommy means it when she asks you to stop. etc... I will say though, that I would never intentionally plan a flight around his naps, I just think that's unwise as it will likely end up with him just skipping his nap altogether because travelling is 'fun and exciting'.

sukainah sukainah

Those are great tips.  We went to California in 2009 and over-packed and had too much stuff to carry.  Less is best.

dusky... dusky_rose

These are some great tips! My suggestion is to ignore the looks that other passengers may shoot your way. Your child has just as much right to be on the plane as they do.

lalas... lalasmama2007

Good tips! We flew during my DD's naptime and it worked like a charm.

coppe... copperswifey

If needed I bring lots of diapers, bottles, snacks and stuff to keep them entertained :)

nonmember avatar American Expat

I don't see what the big deal is. I traveled with my parents when I was two. My brother, practically since his birth. We would go on multi-country trips too. My dad always managed to take us on round the world trips without any hassles or undue difficulties, even while my brother was an infant.

Bob192 Bob192

Good ideas!!  Pack a few small new toys that will hold their attention.

jessi... jessicasmom1

always something to keep her busy , snacks to help elevate ear pain , 

Miche... MichelleK41

Really great tips! Maybe gum for them to chew so their ears don't bug them at altitude?

Rushn311 Rushn311

I sometimes will do it around naps if  I have a youngster  with me, not during lunch because airplane food is little and pricey. But we bring snacks, new activities, new games etc.

1-10 of 51 comments 12345 Last