I was a bit nervous about flying with a toddler (16 months) but I made it through all 4 of our 2 hour flights mostly unscathed! I’ll share with you everything I took in my bag as well as what I learned along the way. Also, I’ll explain the things that worked, the things that didn’t work as well as the things I wish I would have done differently.
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Flying With A Toddler Vs. Flying With An Infant
I am not a rookie to flying, nor am I flying with an infant (see my post here with great tips for packing and security clearance). HOWEVER, flying with a toddler vs. flying with an infant is drastically different! Can I get an amen?!
First of all, an infant needs food, sleep, and love, end of list. Toddlers need entertainment every 5 minutes while they throw all of the said entertainment on the floor, which now has to be sanitized because ew…
If your toddler likes movies or music, this will be easier for you. Mine doesn’t. Screens do not interest him at all yet so I needed things to keep him busy along the way.
My Biggest Tips
The first tip is during your flight, while your little one is enjoying the moment with whatever they are doing, get ready for the next activity. The end of the fun will come swiftly and without notice. This will give you time to hand them the next fun item, sanitize the last thing they threw on the floor then plan the next round.
Second, toddlers on airplanes generally won’t sleep. Don’t get your hopes up for a nap. If the next item is handed to them quickly, there is less chance of a toddler meltdown followed by a mom panic.
Third, have them eating and drinking often but be aware of the landing time approaching. If they are full, they won’t eat or drink when it is critical for swallowing! Descent typically happens 35 minutes or so before landing. When you are descending is time to swallow until you are below the clouds. Typically, below the clouds, ears are ok.
Fourth, I changed my toddler’s diaper in our seat and avoided the airplane lavatories all together. I realize this might not be possible if you have a lap child or if they have a blowout. All I can say to that scenario is… God speed.
Lastly, have an emergency plan in place. If panic sets in for you or them, have something you know will work ready to grab. Whatever their THING is. For my toddler, this was juice. No matter what, he would calm down with juice, so I made sure it was already in the cup, ready to grab. Also, with emergencies, keep your sanitizing spray handy! This is what I use because it is non-toxic.
My particular toddler, like most, isn’t interested in familiar toys when he is in a new setting. I took one toy which he never touched. The rest of the entertainment I took were novelties to him! Tape, Post-it notes, window cling, a new quiet book I made, books, fake keys, water paint book, tissues to pull out, playing cards, and a pillbox. (I would not recommend making a toy out of the pillbox if you have one at home used for medicines. We don’t have any medications, and he will have this “toy” for this trip only.)
A lot of these you can get at the dollar store but I have provided links if you need them.
The things my toddler played with the most
Number 1, by far, Q-tips in the small bottle of water given by the flight attendants. This was a hit on all 4 flights! I had no idea we would receive water or snacks because of COVID, but he was entertained by this the longest. He dipped the q-tip in the water then sucked on it or painted the tray table. When we had an empty bottle of water, this was all new fun! He put the q-tips in, put the cap on and off (encourages with dexterity and hand-eye coordination), then shook the q tips out and started all over again! So much fun!
Next, photo pages in the quiet book. I spent a lot of time on this quiet book but he was only interested in the photos of our family. Had I known, I would have done an old fashioned small photo album.
Then, the pill box. He loved this idea! I put little pom pom fuzzies in a few of the spots. He was entertained for quite some time just opening and closing the lids!
Also, water on the tray table. The tray table itself was a hit! Lucky for me, we flew Delta in 2020, so the middle seats were open due to the social distancing. This was WONDERFUL because toddlers don’t know how to be gentle. Splashing water on the tray table, closing and opening a tray table 1000 times, as well as moving it back and forth were all on his top favorite things on an airplane!
Food And Drinks Bag
In preparation for flying with my toddler, I took WAY too much food and juice. However, I was scared of the worst-case scenarios since I was by myself. For instance, getting stuck on the tarmac for hours before takeoff, subsequently not being able to get lunch in between flights, or missing our next flight!! Scary with a small toddler!!
Also, since I was flying in 2020, I wasn’t sure if we would get water without buying it. So, I brought three 32-ounce containers of juice and water with empty sippy cups to fill along the way. However, the water bottle filling stations at water fountains were open. Knowing this, on my return flight, I only brought one 32-ounce bottle.
Lastly, I brought a variety of snacks. I did not stick to my sugar rule or have any specific restrictions. I just wanted to make it through our flights without my toddler’s ears hurting. My favorite snack I brought was mini Oreos. I had to use these a few times during landing because he wasn’t interested in eating or drinking at the time. But who can resist Oreos?! It worked perfectly!
Here is my post on packing for an airplane trip with an infant, but it is pretty much the same things you would need for flying with a toddler. You know what you need in your diaper bag, but I would add teething tabs if you need them, face masks, and printed birth certificates since we were now in 2020. I also added a small baggie of trash sacs which I loved having!
Another thing I did that I loved was nighttime diapers! I love Huggies overnight diapers. They are a bit expensive, so we don’t use them during the day. But on the airplane, I only used these. I was thankful I did several times because I couldn’t always change my toddler as soon as I wanted to due to too much going on or turbulence.
Things I Over Packed For Flying With My Toddler
Water, juice, and food. I took too many snacks, squeeze packs, and water on my first set of airplane rides. I wanted to be prepared for every emergency, but it also was too much to juggle. On my return trip, I packed much lighter. It made it easier to find what I was looking for inside my bag. It also helped with the load to carry on and off the airplane.
Sticky items. I took window cling, tape, and Post-it notes. To a toddler, it was all the same thing. Therefore, I only had one activity when I thought I had 3.
Books. Board books are heavy and take up quite a bit of space. Next time, I will take thinner books and fewer of them. I’m undecided about familiar books vs. new ones. Choose what is best for your toddler.
Things I Will Do Differently Flying With My Toddler
Take lip balm. For some reason, we felt dried out on the plane. I’m not sure if this is normal, but we were very thirsty with chapped lips on our return flights.
Take a shaker cup. A noisemaker, like a container with beans in it, can be more fun than music toys! Find what your toddler likes best and take it! Even deprive them of it the week before you leave to make it more desirable on the airplane!
Take construction paper. Colored construction paper changes color when it gets wet. Also, you can rip it up and dunk it in a cup of water! My toddler didn’t like the coloring with water markers, but I think he would have enjoyed water and construction paper.
I also took a small thick sheet-like blanket to tuck into the seat’s pocket in front of my toddler and change him on instead of my bulky changing pad. In all honesty, I never took this out of my bag! It seems like a genius idea, but my one-year-old was so busy, it would have never tucked in and stayed in. In the airport, I just changed him in his stroller.
In conclusion, remember to stay calm. It will all be over this time tomorrow! If you get desperate, push the call button and have the flight attendant talk to your toddler or bring them something new like a cup or toy. Good luck! You got this!
Share your favorite tips and tricks for flying with a toddler! Lets all work together to make our lives smoother.
Related Reading You Might Enjoy:
Your Complete Guide To Flying With An Infant