toddler looking at airplane before flying

Flying with Toddlers: 20 Tips For a Stress-Free Flight

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It can be a challenge to fly with toddlers, especially when they are not sleeping. That is why we have compiled some tips for parents who need to fly with their toddlers. Not only will these tips make flying with your toddler easier, but they’ll also help your little one fall asleep on the plane.

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After nearly 50 flights, we have some helpful suggestions on how to keep your toddler entertained while you’re in the air. Our son has been traveling since he was 8-weeks-old, so we’ve learned a few hacks along the way.

This post will give you all the information that you need so that you can make your flight as smooth as possible!

Related Post: Best Toys to Keep Toddlers Busy on an Airplane

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Air travel with toddlers is no joke. If you ask me, traveling with a baby is a lot easier, they don’t move around as much and haven’t learned the word “no”.

Now that we’ve started traveling again, we’ve had the interesting task of flying with a 2-year-old. Honestly, it was a lot easier flying with a 1-year-old, before he discovered running.

Reading the safety cards before takeoff.

Now that he’s been on upwards of ten flights during the pandemic, here are our tips on how to fly with a toddler. I know it’s easier said than done, but if you follow our trips flying with your toddler will get easier.

1. Book a Direct Flight (if possible) or Opt for a Long Layover

Having direct flights makes it easier for everyone. The less you have to get off and then back on the plane, the better it is for your toddler.

If a direct flight isn’t available, I recommend a flight with a (longer) layover. You may think it sounds crazy, but I have a reason.

I know what you may be thinking. Why would I choose a long layover if flying with a toddler? Wouldn’t that make it more difficult? The answer is no. Having a long layover gives your little one time to release energy, eat, take a nap, play, or be a kid.

It’s less stressful having a 3-hour layover than a 1-hour layover. It is hard getting your toddler packed up, deboarding the plane, getting the stroller from gate check, then racing to the next gate.

We’ve had to do it a few times, and it was not fun, well he enjoyed the running, but I didn’t. Of course, he didn’t have to do any of the hard work. He got the chance to hang out in his stroller while I ran through the airport, like a crazy lady.

Related Post: 9 Tips for Flying Budget Airlines with Kids

2. Get Your Toddler Excited About Flying

toddler looking at airplane before flying
Watching the airplanes before leaving Guatemala City, and going back home to Mexico.

I’ve found it helpful to talk to your little one about airplanes before the trip. Every time our son hears a plane, we look in the sky to try to find it.

The more comfortable they are with airplanes, the less likely they are to be scared or bothered by the sound. It also prepares them for what’s coming if they are not frequent flyers.

Travel Books for Toddlers

Last update on 2024-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Related Post: Travel Books for Toddlers

3. Get to the Airport Early

The airport can be a confusing place, with so many lights and people everywhere. If you want to avoid any meltdown at security or on the plane, try arriving early to allow your child enough time to adjust.

Every time we go through security our son has a fit because we have to take his blanket away. You will only make yourself, and your little one more upset if you are in a hurry.

Get to the airport early, so you can take your time at security. Trust me, you will save yourself a lot of frustration and aggravation.

4. Let them Play

We took a break from running to check out the airplane before flying from Ft. Lauderdale to Cancun.

One of our favorite things to do before boarding a flight is to let our toddler run. He’s always full of energy, so we want him to release as much of that energy as possible.

We let him run back and forth in the terminal, take long walks through the gates, play hide & seek, and do whatever else to get him tired. He gets to release a lot of energy, and time goes faster while waiting to board the flight.

I let him walk as far as he wants and explore different terminals and gates. When we are at larger airports, he likes to get on the tram, especially in Atlanta. He has fun, and it keeps him occupied without a screen or toys.

Read More: Best Travel Beds for Toddlers

5. Bring Snacks & Drinks

We never leave without a snack cup

One thing you do not want when flying with a toddler is for them to be angry.

Make sure you have filling foods – like macaroni and cheese bars or crackers – which are easy for little fingers but will keep their belly full. These should help keep them calm during the flight as well as reduce meltdowns because of hunger.

People ask us all the time if we can bring food, and the answer is yes. You can pack food in your carry-on or backpack and get through TSA, or any security for that matter.

Note: Make sure you pack all food together in a Ziploc bag, so if security wants to check, it’ll be easily accessible and in one place. We’ve been doing this for years, even before our son was born. We use reusable bags to pack our snacks.

Our Favorite Toddler Snacks while Traveling

Last update on 2024-07-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

6. Board the Flight Last (if you aren’t flying alone)

He has snacks, window clings, a drink, and Cocomelon, what more could he ask for?

One of the ways we make it easier to fly with a toddler is by dividing and conquering. I know several family travel bloggers recommend boarding first when flying with a toddler, but I don’t think that is always the case. In my opinion, you should only pre-board if you are flying with a toddler by yourself.

The ultimate toddler flying tip is to divide and conquer. We want to set the tone of the flight, in the beginning, so to make it easier. One person boards the flight early, while the other continues to play with the little one.

This strategy gives the parent that is boarding time to get everything ready. My wife usually gets settled in the seats, installs the car seat, stows our bags, and gets his tablet ready.

By the time the other person gets on the airplane with the toddler, everything is ready, and he can sit down and watch PJ Masks. He is usually so tired from playing that he relaxes, eats his snacks, and watches his tablet.

7. Change their Diaper before Boarding

Changing our toddler’s diaper in the airplane lavatory is always an event. It’s too small, and our son doesn’t make it any easier by fighting us. If possible, change your little one’s diaper before boarding the plane.

Changing your toddler’s diaper with more space will keep everyone from getting frustrated and allow you and your toddler to get comfortable on the flight. Well, maybe not comfortable, but at least sitting.

Read More: 10 Reasons to Travel with Toddlers

8. Bring Headphones

Try giving children age-appropriate headphones or earphones to drown out the noise from other passengers – especially if they’re sensitive sleepers!

A good playlist is always helpful too because their minds won’t wander as much thinking about what song might come on next.

If your toddler is sensitive to noise, having toddler headphones will help drown out the noise. Even if they are not watching a screen, listening to music or a story can be helpful.

Best-Selling Headphones for Toddlers

Last update on 2024-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Related Post: Best Headphones for Toddlers on an Airplane

9. Pack Toys & Activities

We couldn’t find his crayons, so a permanent marker will have to do.

There are a lot of ways to keep your toddler entertained while flying. Our son is a busy body, so it can be difficult to keep his attention.

We use a lot of different things to keep him in his seat. The most convenient way of keeping him in his seat is with his tablet. Although it doesn’t always work, it usually keeps him busy for at least 45 minutes to an hour.

Another way we keep him busy with different activities for toddlers. He likes to color, paint, draw, and play with his toys.

Since we usually have the row to ourselves, we can bring different types of toys. The best travel toys for toddlers on an airplane are quiet, portable, inexpensive, and keep their attention.

Last update on 2024-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Related Post: Best Travel Toys for Toddlers

10. Bring a Blanket or Jacket (Wear Layers)

It can get cold on the airplane, so bring a small blanket to keep your child warm and cozy. Your toddler is more likely to sleep if they are comfortable.

You may want to consider dressing warmer, just for the flight. Our toddler usually wears pants on the flight, even if we are going somewhere warm.

This way, he isn’t cold on the flight and keeps an extra pair of shorts in his diaper bag to change after we get off the flight.

Toddler Games/Toys: These toys should pack easily into carry-on bags:

Playing with window clings on a flight when our son was 18-months-old.

Although we covered this briefly above, this section will go more in-depth about how to keep your toddler entertained while flying. Here are some of the things we use to make flying with a toddler easier.

  • Puzzles/busy boards
  • Books with simple words and pictures that your toddler knows well, like a favorite book from home
  • Small toy cars or mini dolls
  • Coloring pages where they can doodle their own designs (try to find paper without lines) or
  • Stickers or window clings, are usually a big hit
  • Sensory toys are a great way to keep an active toddler busy

Read More: Best Crayons for Toddlers

Sensory Toys for Toddlers

Last update on 2024-07-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Tips to help your toddler sleep on an airplane

Everyone was asleep, except for me

One of the ways you can make long-haul flights with toddlers easier is by getting them to sleep. Nothing’s easier than flying with a sleeping toddler.

Here are a few tips for getting your toddler to sleep while flying on an airplane.

11. A Full Stomach

Bring milk or water to drink along with snacks that contain protein. This will curb your toddler’s hunger and help them stay hydrated and sleepy longer on the plane.

We try to avoid sugary drinks, so we usually opt for flavored water, with no added sugar. It helps keep our little guy hydrated, and he sleeps longer. We’ve started doing this at home and there was a noticeable difference in his sleeping patterns.

12. Bring Something Familiar

Pack items they are familiar with, such as their favorite toy, blanket, stuffed animal, etc., in their bag so you won’t forget them.

Our son has a blanket that he has to have to sleep on. If he doesn’t have his blanket, there is nothing but crying all night.

Having a little familiarity will make your toddler more comfortable, which will increase the likelihood of them falling asleep on the airplane.

13. Make them Comfortable

Went to sleep on mommy’s lap.

We all know sleeping upright on an airplane is uncomfortable, so giving your little one space to stretch and lay down will make it easier for them to fall asleep.

We like to put him in the middle, so we both have access to him, and he can stretch out. If you purchased a seat for your little one, a different arrangement may work for your toddler.

I don’t recommend putting them in the window seat because it is the coldest seat in the row. Our son doesn’t like to be cold, so we avoid putting him in the window seat, but your toddler may be different.

Travel Foot Rest & Kids’ Bed

Last update on 2024-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


The tips in this section are for parents. I know you may be stressed about an upcoming flight with a toddler, but it’s not as bad as you think it will be.

If you follow our toddler flying tips, your next flight with your toddler will be easier than your last. The more you fly, the easier it will get, I promise.

Here are tips for things parents can do before flying with a toddler.

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14. Stay Calm

Parents do not realize that kids pick up on their energy, so if you are anxious, your little one will be anxious. If you are relaxed, they are more likely to be relaxed.

Be confident and give your little one the benefit of the doubt. Your toddler may surprise you.

15. Interact with them

Play with your toddler while you are flying. Most of the time they are acting out because they are bored.

Imagine being a curious toddler, and being relegated to a seat on a plane for hours at a time. At least in a car, they have more space.

If you interact and engage with your 2-year-old, they are less likely to have an outburst. Activities and toys are fun but giving them attention will make them happy.

If more than one parent is flying with a toddler, take turns and interact together. You’ll be surprised how happy your toddler will be playing with both of their parents on a flight.

Read More: Fun Travel Activities for Toddlers

16. Let them be curious

Checking out the clouds, on our way to Cabo

There is nothing wrong with your little one being curious. Their brains are still developing, so they want to touch everything.

As long as it isn’t bothering anyone else, why not? As a parent of a stubborn toddler, I’ve learned to pick my battles. Who is it going to hurt if he is playing with the seatbelt or reading the menu?

17. Restrict access to their favorite things before the flight

One of the hacks we do before flying with a toddler is restricting his access to some of his favorite shows and toys. Since he loves the Minions and PJ Mask, we do not allow him to watch the show for 4 – 5 days before the flight.

We do this so he is excited to watch the show or movie on the flight, so he’ll more likely to pay attention to it, although he’s seen it 2394 times.

You can use this technique with a toy. We usually pack his favorite toys a few days before the flight, so when he gets to play with them during the flight, he’s more excited and will play with them longer. Although it isn’t full proof, it’s been working when we fly with our 2-year-old.

20. Ignore Snarky Comments

I can’t tell you how many times people have rolled their eyes or made rude comments when we’ve gotten on a flight with our toddler.

We aren’t bothered by the comments at all. Like everyone else on that flight, you paid your money, so you are entitled to be there with your little one. Do not let anyone make you feel bad for traveling with a baby or a toddler.

Of the 50 or 60 flights we’ve been on with our son, he only had 2-3 not-so-good flights. Even those flights weren’t that bad. He was a baby, and the only way to communicate with us is to cry. What else do people expect from someone who can’t talk?

Don’t stress yourself out worrying about what strangers have to say. If they don’t want to be around on a flight with kids, they should make enough money to fly on a private jet. Until then, they have to deal with it.


Sleeping like a little angel.

There are many tips for parents flying with toddlers in this article. Even if these tips do not work for your toddler, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just one flight, plus you’ll never see anyone on that flight again, so no worries.

The most important thing to remember is, that toddlers are toddlers. You can only do so much, so don’t stress yourself out, stay calm, and enjoy the ride. If all else fails, we turn to PJ Masks.

2 thoughts on “Flying with Toddlers: 20 Tips For a Stress-Free Flight”

  1. My son turned 3 yesterday. We’re trying to decide whether to follow through with some travel plans now that covid is back on the rise. This is really helpful. I just spent a few minutes exploring your site. Wish I learned about you 3 years ago!

    Thank you

    1. Thank you for taking the time to check out our site. Happy Belated Birthday to your little one!! Maybe an alternative can be a staycation. We were going to go to Disney for our son’s 3rd birthday but decided with the rise in cases in Flordia we should pivot. We’re going to stay here in Mexico and spend 2 days at a resort with a small water park. IT’s not Disney, but he’ll enjoy the endless fries and cupcakes nonetheless. Maybe that could be an option for you.

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