How to Survive Flying with a Toddler with your Sanity Intact

Posted September 26, 2016 by Julie in Parenting, TopPosts, Travel / 43 Comments

I just want to close my eyes and rest. But beside me, there is screaming. And kicking. And things being thrown at me.

I quickly realize that as a mom of a toddler, there will be no sleeping on the plane for me.

Flying with a Toddler has to be considered cruel and unusual punishment. And not just for the other passengers. Having to entertain a cranky, bored little human is not only difficult but exhausting.

Flying with a toddler is very different than flying with an infant. I recently had to fly with my little hurricane, and I wanted to share some of what worked, and what didn’t.

How to Survive Flying with a Toddler: Sanity Saving Tips

Tips to Survive Flying with a Toddler


If your child is over two, you are buying him or her a separate seat anyway. If your child is near the age of two, I recommend going ahead and getting that second seat. When I flew with my son over the Fourth of July holiday, I just got one seat for me, and he was a lap baby. Unfortunately, it was all I could do to keep him still and from thrashing about kicking everyone and throwing his head into the seat back tray. When I flew for my trip over Labor Day, I got him his own seat.

A friend of mine gave me the Cares Safety Restraint System harness and I am so thankful to have it. It attaches to the airplane seat and seat belt to provide shoulder restraints in addition to the lap belt. This not only increased the safety of my child’s flight but kept him in place. The only thing I wish it had was a bottom piece that also attached to the lap belt so that he couldn’t try to slip out of the bottom. It installed so quickly, and I was able to get it on by myself while still wearing my toddler (to, again, keep him from running off).

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I’d love to hear if you have any experiences with a car seat on the plane. I didn’t need to travel with one since both times I was being met by family who had one already, and I don’t even think my car seat would fit in the seat anyway (so I would have to gate-check it).


Wearing your baby through security means you get through so much easier. No kiddo to chase around, and you’re not forced to go through those scanning machines. They send you through the metal detector and then just test your hands for residue. Then, you’re free to go. And you don’t even have to wait in the line of people who are going through the machine since they send you through a different way. Though be prepared to wait for your personal and carry-on bags to come through the system.

Takeoff and Landing

The change in pressure that happens when an airplane takes off or lands is very painful to tiny ears. I learned the hard way that my toddler cannot be soothed and will not listen to reason or take any offered goods once the pain (and his screaming for the remaining 20 minutes of the flight) starts.

So my tip is to get him eating and drinking before these events take place. When we first get on the plane, I hand him snacks. I buy juice and water by the gate and serve him some of that in his sippy cup. He’s also a huge fan of Pringles (especially the BBQ flavor) and those small containers sold at the shops near the gate have been wonderful to keep him distracted.

You’ll know exactly when to start that again for the end of the flight because the captain or flight attendants will announce “we will begin our descent shortly.” Refill the toddler’s drinks and pull out fresh snacks. Now he is swallowing and chewing when the descent begins, and the pain won’t catch him by surprise. Now he sees that his chewing and swallowing is helping, and rather than throwing the sippy cup and all your snacks at you, he will accept them and it will be (somewhat more) peaceful.

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Entertainment during the flight.

I practically had to stand on my head to keep my toddler entertained and from getting too loud and squirmy. Strong, squirmy toddlers are bad news on a plane, even if restrained.

I brought a carry-on backpack just full of new toys to keep him busy and from getting too bored. I went to the dollar store and stocked up. I got little toy cars, tiny stacking cups, little containers he could open and close, etc.

I packed a tiny version of our fine motor straw activity – an empty spice container, with holes at the top, full of Q-tips. He could sort them through the holes, which is one of his favorite tasks.


I also brought some felt activities with me, like the Play-n-Go and a Melissa & Doug Soft Activity Book – Dress Up Bear.



Keeping his attention focused on a new activity kept him from crying and kicking the entire time, and I certainly didn’t want to live through that kind of experience again. I didn’t get a break or a chance to rest, but I kept the fuss monster at bay.

How to Survive Flying with a Toddler with your sanity intact


Share your tips on how you survive travel with toddlers!


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JuliepicI'm Julie, a new mom who works full time and blogs, all while wishing I had more time to read fun books. I write about being a first time working mom in order to help myself and other working moms in our journeys to find balance between family, responsibilities, and hobbies so we can thrive both at home and at work.
I can be found blogging at Fab Working Mom Life and Chapter Break, and hanging out on social media: Twitter ~ Pinterest ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

43 responses to “How to Survive Flying with a Toddler with your Sanity Intact

  1. This is so helpful! I can only imagine what it would be like to fly with a toddler. I know when I was little, popping ears were the worst – and for them and infants… that would be so hard to explain and deal with. Giving them snacks/drinks during those times is genius!

  2. Some great tips here Julie! Making sure they have snack and drinks for take off and landing and keeping them as occupied as possible are definitely things that have helped us over the years when we’ve flown with our kids. Thank goodness we’re out of the toddler stage now and they are more than happy to be glued to the in-flight entertainment system!

  3. It sounds like you did a wonderful job! I can barely keep myself entertained and not fidget much on flights, so it must be very hard to keep a toddler entertained.

  4. I have never flown with my son, but I can imagine the stress level! Great tips and if we ever end up flying somewhere I will for sure use some of your tips. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Great tips! We just took our boys on their first flight this summer. It actually turned out better than expected. They like to chew gum, so that kept them from having pain on take-off. They also ate a lot of snacks and played with toys. I love that bear! Such a great toy!

    • That’s awesome! Yeah my kid can’t chew gum or suck on a lollipop or any of those things so he is just a mess and having him start eating before the pain came on was such a game changer.

    • Thanks Candace! I’m not sure what we’ll do when he gets too big to wear. I hope he cooperates and doesn’t run off too much!

  6. I used to buy special toys or books specially for the trip to keep them occupied. If they like to draw, I can suggest our Feature with a Creature game download or our Tiny Forest of Wishes coloring download. Some friends liked to dress the kids up, as they believed it made them feel like they needed to be on their best behaviour (like in church).

    • New toys/books is definitely a good suggestion. I found he was more into toys/activities he was a little familiar with but still new or different than his usual toy.

    • Oh yea that activity bear would be great for long car rides too. He’s currently obsessed with the buckle and plays with it at home now that we don’t have any upcoming travel plans.

  7. I haven’t taken my boys on a flight yet and honestly, I’m totally nervous to do so. These were some really great tips! I really like the idea of that restraint harness for the seat and I know I would totally need that to keep my boys from wanting to explore the entire plane. lol! Thanks for sharing!

  8. I love the tip about wearing your baby. I don’t like flying, but these are good to know if I were to travel with my little ones. My kids would love it with all they eating I would let them do to avoid their ear pain.

    • Thanks 🙂 Yea babywearing through security is very convenient. I don’t know how long I can get away with this though, since my kid is already 30 pounds.

  9. Oh my goodness, that harness! I’ll have to send a link to my husband. That is brilliant! I have a three year old who has autism and doesn’t sit still. And a perfectly average toddler. Thanks for the tips!

    • Yes, the restraint system good for kids who are small and won’t sit still, and also adds the safety factor. I loved how easy it was to use and really made our trip better.

  10. YES to wearing your baby!! I slipped right on through LAX over Christmas while wearing my 9 month old. It was nice, to say in the least (: Having said that, flying with him at that age was, overall, pretty easy. I cannot imagine taking that flight now that he is 17 months old!! You make it sound so easy, but I’d be terrified, ha! Thanks for sharing <3

    • That was our experience too, at 8 months he was so easy to fly with. Then at 18 months? Awful. I was better prepared at our trip when he was 22 months but it still wasn’t easy. I didn’t expect I would remember the baby stage as easy lol

    • It just is faster since they don’t make you wait in line with everyone going through the scanner. They just call you over so you skip ahead a few people. When I was pregnant and didn’t want to go through the scanner I had to get the pat down, that took a while. But babywearing they just swab your hands and that’s it. Fast. Kinda surprising though.

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