Air Travel with a Toddler – Tips please!!

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    This morning I had the joy of buying a last minute plane ticket ($$$$) for my family to travel to Missouri for a funeral. Fun, huh?!

    My son is a very active fifteen month old. Has anyone ever used a child harness, do you recommend it? I’d love to borrow one for the weekend.



    I haven’t used a harness but we do use the Ergo baby carrier as a way to keep our little one confined. I just got back from a trip to Miami with a 2 year old. I did it when she was 7 mos as well. It wasn’t particularly pleasant for me but I sacrificed my own comfort for the comfort of everyone else on the plane. I did whatever it took to get her to go to sleep and keep her asleep. I recommend having a few suckers. They can be a good distraction, they eat them pretty slowly, and especially when descending, the swallowing helps their ears. Also, the crayons that don’t roll are great, if he is into coloring. Regular crayons are terrible, trying to reach for them in those really tight spaces. That is all I got for you. Good luck.


    2 Much Whine

    Hey Lindsey, sorry your trip is not something fun. We’ve travelled extensively with our girls and have had very few issues. I also travelled a lot for work so I have seen, first hand, what NOT to do. First of all, kids are kids so you never know how it will turn out but you can take lots of steps to make things better. One thing that works is to talk to the flight attendants before the flight and see if they’ll help you out. Buy a round of drinks for those over 21 that are sitting around you (they may give you a discount or even give them to you for free) and let those folks around you know that it is the first time flying for your toddler and you’re not sure how he’ll do so you just want to say thanks in advance for being understanding. It’s hard to hate a person that just bought you a drink. You might even let them know you are flying to a funeral and play that sympathy card. Do NOT sing “Coming to America” by Neil Diamond over and over and over again until the kid falls asleep (6 hours of kid screaming accentuated by parent singing) and after the kid is settled in for 15 minutes blow your nose loudly and wake her up. That will result in passengers wanting to choke you.

    We always made an entertainment pack with crayons, coloring books and games (maybe not for a 15 month old) as well as a snack pack with lots of goodies to keep him/her occupied. On a plane, surrounded by folks that just want peace and quiet is not the time to decide the kid should be on a diet and that fruit snacks and trail mix are food of the devil. Sounds like you don’t currently have a harness but you’re willing to explore that as an option – hooray for you – it means you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone in order to find something (anything) that works. I’m not a doctor so I won’t tell you that cough syrup can make kids sleepy because that could upset some folks. And then there are always cartoons (or things like baby Einstein) downloaded on a portable device that can keep him occupied for awhile. These are just a few suggestions to help. Any one of them would probably not be successful but if you have a whole bunch of options up your sleeve you can minimize the possible opportunities for “issues.”

    Or maybe you are just looking for a harness and if that’s all you were looking for I can’t help.



    Oh one more thing that always proved entertaining for my daughter was watching all the videos of her on my phone. No WIFI required.



    Alcohol and pre-apologies go a REALLY LONG WAY to soothing the adults, at least. ;-)

    Frankly, I had a bigger issue with an older woman sitting next to a small child behind me recently who wouldn’t stop fussing with the seemingly content child. They clearly weren’t related and I could tell the mother was getting perturbed but didn’t want to tell the woman to chill. Felt bad for her, as did the rest of us in my row – pretty much the whole front of the plane, actually. I even leaned over the seat and whispered that I hope her little one got to rest and the mom smiled and said, “me too” with a glance to the oblivious woman. Some people can’t take a hint.

    At any rate, good luck, Lindsey. Wish your trip reason was a happier one as well.



    Hi There,

    I have traveled a lot with my 2 children starting when they were infants and have always made sure I had plenty of food – and I mean plenty! That way if there was any type of a delay, I was prepared. I always make sure I have foods they are used to eating and enjoy and that have protein so that there are no sugar crashes! Once on a flight that got stuck on the tarmac for hours, I even had enough food to share with another hungry toddler, and his mom was very grateful! Other than food, the other thing I did was bring along some toys and books that were new to my children and I would package them up in seperate bags so that I could pull out something new each time interest started to wane and my kiddos started to get fidgetty. It worked to keep both of them entertained with something they had not seen before. Lastly – a change of clothes – several! And include at least one for yourself. I cannot tell you how many times I ended up with something on my clothes and needed a change up quickly! You never know when something is going to spill, leak, etc.!

    Good luck!



    Hi Lindsey,

    Maybe consider brining your car seat with you? my sisters both with 18 month olds fly with their car seats strapped in. It makes naps easier and the kids are familiar with it. I also just flew home from NYC and the couple next to me had there 1.5 year old in his car seat. He fussed for a while but after snacks ect he fell asleep. good luck to you! I know it will go smoothly!



    Thank you so much for your replies. I do have an Ergo that we use on the bus, so hopefully that’ll translate to better air travel. And pre-apologizing is great idea too. We snagged a little harness at the downtown Target. Thankfully, I’ll have my husband with me so hopefully if we buy the other person in the row all the drinks they want, it will go smoothly. I will take your suggestions to heart! Really, thanks so much. WSB is often my go-to parenting resource since most of my friends are blissfully child-free.



    We would stock up with a new set of hot wheels and put them in our pockets. When our son would get restless, a new car or truck would appear & keep him entertained for awhile.

    We also had those stacking toys that had a magnet in the middle – not as many dropped to the floor. The magnetic boxes that have pieces to make pictures (animals, truck yards, pirates, Cars, etc.) were also good distractions.



    We have yet to travel with our 12 month old but this site was very much recommended to us and I found it very helpful for planning some possible travel plans in the near future:


    Ali K

    Lots of new,small, fun toys that you can break out when they’re just about to get fractious. I would make a trip to Target and buy a few new things for our trips! I would also break my healthy snack rules and get some snacks that are going to be really exciting for them! If I had time, I used to keep the empty small raisin boxes and fill them with other surprise snacks!



    Ditto Barry2012 and Guidosmom; it will be easiest and safest if your child has his own seat. I highly advise bringing his car seat with you on the flight. He is too small for a CARES harness still.

    Good luck!



    Lindsey — don’t hesitate to bring kidlet in the stroller all the way to the gate (they will check it there). I would also bring lots of stickers for my girls, the younger they were the longer it kept them busy (just trying to find the edges to peel them off). And as everyone else said, LOTS of snacks, board books & a DVD player (with headphones) if that works now to watch some shows. 2nd to the change of clothes for your son and you and of course wipes. And when he gets a little older, chewing gum on the way up and down helps with the ear issue — for now it might just be a sippy cup and/or binky.

    The #4 post is GENIUS — that keeps my kids busy for awhile in everyday life and they can watch them over and over and over (the pictures, too).



    My girls are teenagers now but started plane travel at 3mos. As long as they sat in carseats in the car I took them on the plane because they were already trained to sit in them and knew that they couldn’t get out of them; just like in the car.

    Take bottles and sippy cups! Even once they’re big enough to drink out of a regular cup you don’t have to worry about them spilling.

    Ditto on the snacks, new toys and any video/movie that they can watch or game they can play but don’t forget the headphones so everyone around you doesn’t have to listen too.

    Forget the regular crayons and markers because they can mark up the plane and get the Crayola Invisible Markers that only show up on the special Crayola paper.

    But remember sometimes they are just going to cry and nothing helps. My youngest cried all they way from Atlanta to LA; we bought lots of drinks that trip and even bought a round at the ESPN bar in Disneyland when they table next to us said “Oh, it’s you…”.



    My kids are teenagers now but I have traveled with them since they were babies, often by myself – even to Europe! These are all great ideas, I like the one about new little toys in their own packaging. Maybe wrap them in brown lunch bags with a ribbon or something so it takes a little time and suspense to actually open it up. :) Bringing their car seats is a good idea, too, but that means purchasing another ticket which is costly these days! On long flights I would take my little one into the restroom (during a quiet/non busy time) and just play in there for a while – looking at himself in the mirror, filling up the little paper cups with water and pouring it in the sink, singing songs, etc. Sounds weird I know but it was nice for both of us to move around and be silly and have a little privacy while doing so. :)


    Oh and I loved the comments on what NOT to do – we were on a flight last week where a toddler had a screaming/crying fit for the last 45 minutes of the flight and the mom KEPT messing with him – “you want this? you want that? you want daddy? you want to get down? you want this toy?” … constant!! She was more annoying than the kid!!


    good luck…

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