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How to Survive a Flight with a Toddler

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If you’re about to set forth on a flight with a tot, you’re probably NOT thinking, “Now, that’s going to be a breeze!” Here’s my mini survival guide for how to survive a flight with a toddler. It really is very doable – if you’re equipped!



9 Tips for surviving a flight with a toddler:


1. Ignore the neighbors.

With all those stories circulating about parents giving out candy to their seatmates on flights, don’t feel obliged to do so. The more I heard about it, the more I felt I had to do so. That led me to think I have a responsibility to shut my kid up.

Kids are humans with needs and can’t just be “shut up”. Toddlers throw tantrums – that’s who they are! Especially after missing two naps, plus a night of sleep. You don’t need to apologize, nor should you feel guilty when your kids act like kids.

So ignore your seatmates, and tend to your child as needed.

Hey, as a bonus, we had one who got up and moved to another part of the plane, leaving us a row of five seats for ourselves!


2. Switch up the attitude

Children can sense your stress. Enter into it with a sense of excitement, rather than the foreboding that normally comes with a flight with a toddler.

Don’t worry! You will survive!


3. Come Equipped

Having the right gear to get you through can really help you in a pinch. Have a toddler baby carrier so your hands are freer. Plus, tots love piggy back rides, even when they’re cranky. A harness is a lifesaver when your toddler suddenly makes his escape.

And if people stare? Refer to #1.


4. Bend the rules

If you have a “no sweets, no cookies” policy, this may be the time to bend those rules. When your child falls asleep for an hour, and a loud teen in the next seat over (and everyone was worried about your loud baby…) wakes her up, there will be some very noisy tears. Pulling out a cookie is a quick fix. (Don’t overdo the sugar – you don’t want a sugar high either!) If you don’t allow screen time, you may want to allow some on the flight.

As a bonus your tot will learn a new word real fast: “Cookie”! 

I was a bit worried about doing this, as my toddler does not even know what sweets are. Finding a healthy substitute for after the flight can definitely help. Or think ahead, and pack some healthy ones to start.


5. Take care of yourself

Don’t forget about mom! Take a refresher to wash your face, brush your teeth, and eat your dinner. You’ll be much more equipped for survival.


6. Be prepared

Have everything you need handy nearby, and all your “in case of emergency” items overhead.

Don’t pack light.


7. Get an extra seat

There is lots of controversy out there as to whether having a lap infant is safe or not. If you are traveling with a toddler under 2, as I was with my 17 month old, trust me! You’ll want that extra seat for your sanity.

Even if your tot is in his own seat, having an empty one nearby can help.

Once all passengers are seated, ask a flight attendant if there are extra seats that offer more space for movement.


8. Ask for help

If you are traveling alone with a toddler, don’t be afraid to ask for help! If you need to go to the lavatory, refresh, or even if you are struggling with your bags, there is no shame! The flight attendants have done it before and will do it again.


9. Distract like crazy!

Toddlers are moodier than teens sometimes. You never know what they’ll want to do or play with. Bring along loads of entertainment for the flight. You’ll end up using only one or two, but you’ll be glad you had choices.

“Distract” is the toddler word for “entertain”.

When your child is overtired and moody, distraction can really help! So think of all this entertainment as a distraction from her overtired, cranky, “get me out of here” mood.



Do you have any advice for how to survive a flight with a toddler? Share in the comments below!



Follow along with the rest of the Traveling with Toddlers series:

Your full resource for traveling with toddlers


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Amanda Morris

Monday 13th of April 2015

lol I like all these ideas alot you have put together some good tips , I kinda like the give candy to other passengers idea though if nothing else its always good to give haha but maybe I would just want the free candy haha if a kids driving me crazy haha :D

Erin G.

Friday 10th of April 2015

You have some great suggestions here, especially that having a toddler is a normal part of life that doesn't need to be treated as a special occasion for other passengers. De-stressing before/after flight is so key for parents.

Alicia G

Saturday 4th of April 2015

As we did with our last flight with my then 15 month old, I think that breaking the rules for snacks and treats is definitely a must to get through on a long flight sometimes. The consequences afterwards are definitely worth your sanity(and everyone else's) during that ride.

Renee Smith

Tuesday 31st of March 2015

I think most people are understanding on a plane about how difficult it can be for the parents. The last time we flew, the airline gave us free snacks and meals. It was awesome! (American Airlines)

Stephanie Phelps

Tuesday 31st of March 2015

We have not flown with the kids yet but all these tips are for sure going to help out so much when we do!