Tips on Flying with a Toddler

Hi friends, I hope everyone is having a great week.

This post was a request from the lovely Chelsea at The New Wifestyle. She also was the push behind my post on flying with a baby. As you may have seen, we recently returned from our annual trip home to Texas. The flight from Brisbane to Houston takes almost 24 hours total counting layovers, and I did the return leg solo with Leighton. I am not an expert by any means, but I did do some research beforehand and overall we had a successful trip so I figured I would share what I learned.

Snacks, Snacks, Snacks

I feel like 90% of being a parent is having snacks on you at any moment. I mean, I’m an adult and I love a good snack but toddlers take it to a whole new level. Some airlines are better than others about providing snacks (Quantas is great) and in general I feel like they tend to over feed on those long flights. I would still bring plenty of your own, some favorites and some new ones for excitement. They make for a great distraction, bribe, or meal if they don’t like what is served.

I packed more than enough and I thought Leighton was going to burn through them before we got through the first leg. I brought her normal snack cups plus I bought one of the cups with a snack cup on top before we left but didn’t show her until the flight. It proved to be very useful for car trips as well, because she could pass it to us and we could refill it (I didn’t link the one I bought because the straw was very hard to drink out of but these have good reviews and you get the idea).

The pressure on the plane, especially when taking off, will cause water to come up out of straws on cups, so you want to wait to put water in them. We used the 360 cups for the rest of the flight if she wasn’t using the snack part. Good snacks are easy to eat and not stinky or messy; cheerios, raisins, popcorn, and dried fruit were all winners.

Seating Arrangement

Even if your kid is under 2, for a long haul flight you will want them to have a seat for your own comfort and sanity. I know that is not always possible, and if you don’t have one you can always ask when you check in if there are any open seats or rows. I have read that most airlines will try and accommodate parents as much as possible.

If you are flying solo on a full flight I would ask for a center row so you aren’t constantly asking a stranger to get up or vice versa. I asked on the way home and luckily the nice lady at the counter said she could do better and offered us our own row since the flight wasn’t full. Different airlines have different rules on the bassinet, so if you have a small toddler on a long haul flight it wouldn’t hurt to ask if there are any available, the leg room alone is worth it.

Keep Their Feet Off the Ground

This is something I read right before we left, and worked like a charm. Leighton has been fully walking since just before her first birthday, but the minute we stepped on the plane we carried her. I have always seen parents chasing toddlers up and down the aisles on planes and just figured that would be us, but we decided to give this a try. We let her stand on the ground in front of our seats, but if we were taking her on a “walk” or to the bathrooms we still carried her.

On land she isn’t the best listener and thinks running away from us is hilarious, but somehow in the air she just assumed walking wasn’t an option. If she started to squirm while we were up we would just go back to the seat and let her stand up there. I think this might be harder with an older toddler once they understand more, but it worked both times for us.

On the flight home a woman even asked how old she was because she was guessing she was almost 18 months, but wasn’t sure since she wasn’t walking. In the airports I found safe places where she could run around and stretch her legs and she took full advantage.


When we flew, Leighton had never really played on an iPad and had very little interest in cartoons (that last bit has already changed quite a bit). I downloaded a bunch of apps on the iPad as backup, but never needed to get it out. If your kid loves apps or will pay attention to them at least, that is a great way to kill time on the plane. I feel like even the most anti-screen parents won’t disagree with that.

If you are on a long haul the in flight entertainment will have a whole kids section with movies, shows and games. She was very happy to watch cartoons with no sound (I bought toddler headphones and she refused to wear them) on and off during the flight, so the iPad wasn’t necessary. Other successful activities were coloring with the color wonder markers that only show up on their special paper, I found a travel kit one that folded up all together. These were great not only for mess free coloring but she loved just taking the lids on and off.

The second activity that was a hit, was an idea I got from Emi at Well Traveled Wife. I bought different sized pom poms and gave her an empty formula dispenser (that I used for snacks earlier in the flight- dual purpose!) to put them in. Emi used a blender bottle with a similar shaped opening. She loved pushing the pom poms into the container and seriously was content doing that for almost 30 minutes (which is an eternity in toddler world). The pom poms are great because they don’t really roll and they don’t make any noise.

Those two things, plus the cartoons and snacks kept her busy and quiet most of her awake hours. Other activities I have heard about were the window cling things and even letting them put post its all over the tray or window. I think the main thing is quiet and easy to clean up after. Pinterest is full of ideas.

Change of Clothes

Since Leighton has gotten older I have been a lot more slack about keeping extra clothes on hand (for either of us). Luckily right before I left a friend told me a horror story about her son throwing up on her on a long flight and she didn’t have a change of clothes. Since my sweet daughter has a history of getting motion sickness (in the car) I decided to make sure I had extra clothes handy in my carry on. I am so glad I did because the poor thing wasn’t feeling well on our solo travel day (cold) and within the first couple hours got sick all over both of us.

Luckily I had thought to put on a sweatshirt right before because I was worried about her spilling her dinner on my top (ha) so I was able to quickly (and carefully) pull it off and strip her down and give the flight attendant our clothes to dispose of. Moral of the story is even if you don’t think you need them, pack them and maybe don’t wear anything too precious to you.

I also always bring her pj’s if we are flying on a long haul/red eye and get her changed and ready for bed just like we would at home. She still struggled to fall asleep in the strange environment (no tips on that one) but at least by keeping their routines similar they at least know what they are expected to do. We also brought her stuffed animal she sleeps with at home.

Alright, I feel like that is a lot of information and I am sure there is plenty that I forgot. Let me know if you have any of your own tips I should try next time!

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12 thoughts on “Tips on Flying with a Toddler

  1. These are all such great tips! I have to admit the idea of flying with the girls terrifies me, but I’m hoping that we’ll be able to go on a trip soon! The pompoms being pushed into the formula dispenser is genius! It’s amazing what will amuse kids!

  2. Great tips… especially on keeping their feet off the ground. Seems like a good way to keep your sanity as the adult, lol. One of my friends talks about how she keeps certain toys held back at home for a week or two before the flight, then pulls them out on the flight so it’s exciting for her daughters to see a favorite toy (or play with a new one)! I thought that was a really good idea. As for a change of clothes, I know how much I enjoy that with a long-haul flight, so I expect kids won’t even know how much they would enjoy it… so that also seems like a really great idea!

    • Yeah the new toy thing is another good idea. I like the idea of hiding one of theirs though, so you know they will like it. I kept everything I bought hidden from her until the flight and tried to keep her away from them until the flight back.

  3. These are great tips! I obviously don’t have kids myself, but the only time I’ve been to Australia was when I was 3 and potty training… we flew from CA to Australia and I’m sure my parents could have used your tips 20 years ago lol!!

  4. I’m going to stock up on pom poms — that’s a great idea! We aren’t doing any long haul lights this year but Phoenix and I are taking several solo trips to see family. Now that he only naps once a day I can’t bank of him sleeping — especially for shorter 90 min flights — he’s up the whole time! I never thought about the keep their feet off the floor but that makes a lot of sense. Even now I don’t let phoenix walk on the sidewalk into stores. I always carry him into the library, etc. He doesn’t quite grasp the concept of holding hands yet.

    • We took an hour long flight while we were home and I found that way harder. It was too short for a nap and not long enough to really get settled and bust out all of the activities. Oh my gosh, Leighton doesn’t get the hand thing either but then she always wants to walk on her own and runs off. It’s always a battle. I need a leash. I’m sure Phoenix will do great!

  5. Keeping myself sane on these 24h flights is bad enough, I can’t imagine doing it with a kid as well! It sounds like you all did a great job at keeping it together, and pom poms in containers – who would have thought. Leighton snoozing with her stuffed animals is the cutest!

    • Looking back on pictures it would appear she just slept like an angel the whole time haha. But actually those are just the only pictures I took because when she was awake it was all hands on deck. I miss the days of trying to decide what books to read or shows to watch to entertain myself.

  6. These are all great tips! When we flew to Europe in 2016, our oldest was only 8 months old, but had just learned to crawl. Overall, it was a fairly decent experience. This year, though, we will have a 1yo and a 2.5 yo. I’m expecting to look pretty frazzled by the end of it!

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