Every time I’m at the airport, my heartstrings get a little tug when I watch a family slowly making their way through the terminal. I see their little ones, and I imagine all the possible scenarios they are about to experience on their next flight.  

Having four children of my own, and family spread all over the United States, I have had my fair share of in-flight family experiences. Some have been absolutely stellar. Those are the times I’ve disembarked with my head held high while fellow passengers and crew members compliment me on how well behaved my children are.

Some have been absolute nightmares, ones where I just want to shrink down in my chair and pretend I am not on the flight and this is not my child screaming at a migraine-inducing frequency that can be heard all the way up and down the cabin.

What I’ve learned over my many years of travel with kids, (my oldest is sixteen now), is that sometimes trips go well, and sometimes they just don’t. I can be a big part of its success, and a big part of its failure too.

Tips for Traveling with Toddlers and Young Children

Kid on plane

At any rate, I’ve learned some tips and tricks that have helped me along the way. Here are some of them:

Consider Nap Time

If your child is still napping and can sleep just about anywhere, then timing your flight around nap time can be a good strategy. If they can sleep a couple hours on your lap, you and all the passengers around you will be better off for it.

However, if your child is a creature of routine and has a hard time napping anywhere but their usual place, then travel while they’re fresh, in the morning as close to their natural wake up time as possible.

Non-Stop Or A Layover?

If you’ve got a mover and a shaker of a little one, then being confined to a row of seats,and a busy narrow aisle may be your worst nightmare. You might want to consider breaking your flight up into two legs so that your child has a chance to run wild for a bit in the airport on a layover.

Conversely, if the thought of two plane flights of loading and unloading your kids on and off the plane, drives you onto a verge of a panic attack, a nonstop flight to your destination may be your best bet.

Keep Them Busy

The key ingredient to any successful strategy when traveling with children is distraction. You must anticipate your child’s needs before they even know it themselves, and you must cut them off at the pass before they go down the road of the mid-flight tantrum.

New Toys

I’m not saying go on a budget-busting shopping spree to buy your child new electronic gadgetry they’ve never seen before. But, a few simple new toys, or some toys borrowed from a friend or family member will help keep your tot’s curiosity piqued for a small chunk of time.

Library Devices

You may run the risk of losing a high-value library check out, but if you’re willing to take the chance, many libraries now have Kindle-like devices loaded with developmentally appropriate educational games.

Velcro Crayons

Drawing and coloring is a classic way to pass the time, especially if your little one is all about doodling. But torquing your neck trying to reach for all of the crayons that have rolled off the seat tray onto the narrow floor space is enough to put your own travel ban on crayons and markers forever.

Try wrapping your crayons in velcro tape and then laying the corresponding tape strip across a clipboard or notebook. As you’re coloring with your child you can help them return their velcro crayons to the strip thereby avoiding any dropping to the floor.

Compartmented Fun

Over the summer my friends and I were talking about our upcoming vacations, and commiserating with each over the fact that we’d have to take wee ones on a long trip. One of my friends said she found an idea on Pinterest that suggests you purchase a compartmented plastic container (whether it be a tackle box style, sewing container, etc.) that you can fill with a variety of treats.

While I don’t generally recommend filling the kids full of sugar on a long plane ride or any other arduous journey for that matter, I do like the concept of a compartmented activity box. Try filling these containers with age safe activities like kid friendly modeling clay, stickers, finger puppets, pipe cleaners and beads, etc.

You can also use this idea for healthy snacks like raisins, goldfish, pretzels, cheerios, etc. They may have fun tasting the different flavor combinations, and pretending to play chef.

Fake Them Out With A Car Seat

This trick worked excellently with my fourth child. Last summer I traveled from Virginia to California with my then two-year-old and three other children. I had my two year old walk with my oldest child down the aisle while I carried his car seat over my head. It was a pain to get on the plane, but he stayed in his car seat the entire time, and slept in it. He didn’t know that not sitting in his seat was even an option.

Based on past experience with my other children however, this strategy has about a 50% success rate. It all depends on how savvy your kid is to flying and how well they tolerate the car seat in general. You’ll also need to check specifically with the airline to see if they accept or can accommodate car seats in the cabin.

Digital Entertainment

If you allow your child to watch shows or play preschool games on the tablet, now is not the time for restrictions or time limits. If they like a certain show, load your device up with a handful of downloaded episodes from Netflix. Don’t feel guilty. You’re in survival mode right now. And if a tv marathon is what will get them through, then go for it.


Tips for traveling with toddlers and young children. Learn how to survive plane rides with kids and what you need to think about before you book. #familytravel #airtravel #travelingwithbabies #travelingwithkids #travelingwithtoddlers

About the Guest Author: Kelly writes for JohnnyJet.com.






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