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Toddlers On A Plane: 7 Tips & Must Haves for Traveling with Toddlers

Heather van Mil10 comments7931 views

Samuel L Jackson and his snakes have nothing on toddlers when it comes to striking fear into the heart of any traveller. There are few things that parents dread more than boarding a plane with a child between the ages of birth to 4 years old, but the crawling through bribable ages seem to be particularly difficult. Having logged many miles with my 2 girls (now 5.5 and 1.5 years old), I’ve discovered a few tricks that work well for keeping even the most tyrannical traveling toddler tied up for hours.

7 Tips For Traveling With Toddlers

Food: Choose snacks that are treats for your child – ones that are out of the ordinary from their dietary routine. No mess is also definitely a must so we pick things like dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots), cereal sized nibbles (Cheerios, fruit and veggie bites or puffs), and mini babybels. Everything can be a game, and food is no exception. I packed just a few pieces into several small containers and kept the sources hidden. I chose containers with different styled lids – pry lids, snap lids, twist lids etc. The small amounts kept mess at bay and kept her entertained opening each new container!

These containers make for a great 'Tops & Bottoms' game with fun food treats
These containers make for a great ‘Tops & Bottoms’ game with fun food treats

Fine Motor Play: Toddlers go through a significant fine motor sensitive period so you can use this to your advantage when choosing those few brand new toys that everyone recommends for travelling with children. I found a second-hand Mr Potato Head and an inexpensive shape sorter at Wal-Mart that were both big hits with my daughter. That they both self contain their pieces was a traveling bonus!

Fine Motor Fun!
Fine Motor Fun!

Books: Books are always a big hit in our house and are relatively compact for traveling purposes. I lucked out finding an awesome Curious George book full of mirrors, as well as a lift the flap book that fit right into the fine motor theme. Toddler Jackpot!

We love life the flap books!
We love lift the flap books!

Seats & Aisles: If your toddler is anything like mine, making time and space for gross motor movement is essential – even on a plane! Since our youngest is still under 2, and we’re cheap, we don’t pay a seat for her so we play the lottery. We check in online right at the beginning of the 24 hour window and leave an empty seat in our row, hoping no one else books it. We have been lucky so far, and that gives our climber space to go up, down and around without disturbing others. We also take opportunities between food/drink service to take little walks up and down the aisles to stretch her legs and give a change of scenery. Often we’ll find other munchkins the same age which gives us another way to pass some time!

Comfort Items: Our oldest was a boob girl so her comfort items were always packed (ha ha), but our youngest is a bottle and soother kiddo so I make sure we have an empty bottle packed and 1 or 2 packages (2-4 soothers total) on hand as they do get dropped and I refuse to put anything in my child’s mouth that has touched an airplane floor. Blech. Most airlines will give you free milk for a bottle and even warm it up for you. My youngest really prefers to sleep in her bed so if we’re travelling over a nap or bedtime, I also bring her blanket to help her understand bedtime signals even when in a chaotic environment. Sometimes it works, sometimes she only falls asleep 10 minutes before deplaning.
Creature Comforts when traveling with toddlers

Electronics: I save the iPad and phone as last resorts partly because they don’t always need them to make it through a trip, but mostly because I know once they come out, they won’t be given up without a fight. My toddler is in a big animal phase right now, so I found some great, free apps that have real animal photos, say the name and make the sound. She was in love. My kids have also been in heaven exploring Netflix since I recently joined the #StreamTeam. They are easily entertained on the go, and I love how much Canadian content they have that doesn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out. Many of their favourites like Team Umizoom and Super Why! not only have great educational content, but were also filmed or produced in Canada or feature Canadian talent. Win-Win! While WiFi is slowly coming to airlines worldwide, we also love catching up on shows during those long airport layovers!

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Extra Clothes: Despite the most meticulous planning, things happen. And usually they will happen all over you. I never travel without a change of clothes for the girls and for hubby and I. There is nothing worse than being trapped on a long flight with a miserable baby while you are covered in milk, puke, pee or fill-in-the-blank. Even just a spare shirt can mean the difference between hardship and utter misery.

These are my tips accumulated over many many trials and errors. Tell me what helps you to survive traveling with toddlers?


Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam program, and receive special perks for sharing all my family’s favourites with you, dear reader. I was not financially compensated for this post.



  1. Oh wow, I could have used some of these ideas when I took my toddler on a plane a couple months ago! I love the idea of multiple containers, so clever.

  2. I once had to change my toddler’s entire outfit because of a diaper blow-out in an airplane bathroom, while 8 months pregnant with my second child! Why are those washrooms so tiny?? We alm

  3. This is great- I was trying to pass on some advice to a friend with toddlers on what I had learned when my children were younger- now I can just share this instead! Thank you!

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