Top 5 Tips On How To Survive Flying with a Toddler and a Baby


Flying with your baby or toddler soon? Stressed to the max? I hear ya. We’ve flown to Europe and Japan from Canada with our 2 little children (ages 1 + 3) a few times now and, although it’s getting easier (woo hoo), it still sends me into instant mom sweats when I hear my baby crying on a plane.  We’ve just come back from a wonderful trip to Portugal and Spain and I took notes along the way so that I could share all my best tips and tricks for surviving that dreaded plane ride. Here are my go-to activities and tips to keep little ones happy and busy on the flight!

1. Wrap a variety of small toys and activities for your child to open during the flight.

This is my favourite tip for long flights. Go to the dollar store and load up on office supplies, and then grab a few special items you know they’ll love. Let them open about one per hour or whenever they need a little distraction. They’re great for diffusing tantrums or when they’re starting to get a little antsy. These ones are my favourites.

  1. Melissa & Doug Water Wow – This is has been a huge hit for our toddler and worked great as an activity for the plane and when we reached our destination. It was also small enough to keep in her backpack and bring out while waiting at restaurants.
  2. Sticker books– this one was a fave on our flight to Japan.
  3. Post It Notes – fun to pull apart and stick to things or to write on
  4. Chalk Board + chalk
  5. Dry erase board –
  6. Cars
  7. Playdough
  8. These flat magnetic blocks are great because they pack up small and the building possibilities are endless.
  9. Jelly Window Decals – these are usually a seasonal find so if you see some, grab ’em for your next flight!
  10. Commercial colouring books + crayons – get these triangle crayons so they don’t roll off the tray table
TIP: Don’t forget to get your toddler their own backpack to carry these things through the airport and when you’re out and about at your destination.  Check out this post if you want more tips on the best travel gear for getting around when traveling with little kids.

Flying with a young baby is a dream because they sleep so much!  My favourite age to travel with a baby is around 3-4 months.  If you have an older baby that is a bit more active, you’ll need to create a bag of distraction activities more appropriate for younger toddlers.

Our youngest just turned one, so she needs a different set of activities and distractions than our 3 year old. Here’s what we packed for her on our most recent trip.

  1. Buy containers with easy to open lids and put small animal toys inside.  Your toddler will enjoy simply pulling them out and putting them back in the container.
  2. Teether – sometimes they just want to hold something and chew.
  3. Pipe cleaners – this was our favourite!  I cut up small pieces and put them in a container she loved pulling them out one by one and giving them to me.
  4. A slinky
  5. Magnetic Building Tiles – I just packed about 6 of them, which was enough to entertain her grabbing, pulling and sticking them together.
  6. Sticker Dots – we would stick them to her arm and she would pull them off.
  7. Post its – we get the mini page flags and she loved pulling them apart and sticking them to the tray.
  8. Paper – to rip or to put the stickers on

2. Pack lots of snacks

Like, I mean lots. You can never underestimate the power of snacks.  I have a whole arsenal of food that I bring on a plane, ranging from “Oh here, have a sensible banana” to “OMG, please stop screaming.  Here, have a rainbow chocolate chip cookie!”   Do your best to avoid too many sugary treats. Instead, opt for small things that take a long time to eat and don’t need refrigeration. If you’re traveling to international destinations, these snacks will also come in handy once you arrive when you haven’t had an opportunity to get food yet.  These are my faves:

  1. Goldfish crackers
  2. Yogurt covered raisins
  3. Mini Ritz Sandwiches
  4. Fruit –  grapes, blueberries, banana, apple slices (avoid anything that stains)
  5. Carrot and celery sticks with single serve hummus
  6. Granola bars
  7. Mini rice cakes
  8. Veggie Straws
  9. Fruit leather
  10. Squeezable fruit puree pouches
  11. Graham Crackers
  12. Cheerios
  13. Pretzel sticks
  14. Craisins
  15. Dried fruit
Most of these are small or bite size snacks so unless you want the floor underneath you to be littered with crushed crackers and raisins smooshed into the carpet, get your kids this Munchkin Snack Catcher cup. We also always travel with this cup because it doesn’t leak!

We always have a stash of treats for emergencies…

  1. Jelly Beans
  2. Gummy bears
  3. Twizzlers
  4. Mini Marshmallows
  5. Fuit Loops
  6. M&M’s
  7. Mini chocolate chip cookies
  8. Rice Krispie Teats

3. Don’t sit with your partner!

This sounds counterintuitive, but it actually works out great.  Sitting in front of your little toddler is great because then no one will complain about them kicking the seat.  Even consider sitting in different parts of the plane completely.  This allows you the opportunity to move whenever your little one needs a change of scenery to spend some time with the other parent. If you’re traveling with one kid and two parents, it’s also great to give each parent a break to sleep or catch up on the latest movie.

4. Pack a whole set of clothes for everyone in the family

I’ve heard it all.  Baby had a diaper explosion on mom’s shirt.  You just spilled an entire cup of orange juice on yourself trying to feed a toddler while trying to stop baby from grabbing your hot food. Or maybe your toddler forgets to tell dad she has to go to the bathroom while she’s sitting on his lap. Whatever the horrific scenario, be prepared.  We pack an entire change of clothes for the whole family and bring it in our carryon.  It’s also a good idea to make that change of clothes practical for your destination just in case your suitcase gets lost!

5. Technology

You guys.  I get it. Too much screen time for little ones is bad and blah, blah, blah.  But, I honestly don’t know how parents flew before iPads. Our little ones don’t get much iPad time at home, so when we loaded it up with their favourite shows, movies and apps, you can believe it was a big hit and offered HOURS of distracted entertainment!  My rule is this: Anything goes when you’re on vacation…and especially when you’re on the airplane.  Think of it as a gift from Steve Jobs to you and the other passengers on the plane.

My biggest tip is to buy a refurbished iPad on Amazon! Our kids use our old iPads but I’m so glad I know about this option now. It’s ideal if you want the convenience of an iPad but don’t want to spend that kind of money on a kid. Also, do yourself a favor and get a shock proof case for it.

TIP: Disable the touch screen and home button so your little one will stop exiting those amazing apps and videos you just uploaded for them! It’s called Guided Access and can be changed in your Settings. 

Priscilla Locke

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