From Planning to Landing – Tips for Flying with Toddlers for the Holidays


Traveling during the holidays is stressful, especially when it involves trekking through an airport. Not only is it busier, but everyone has more stuff. From the family of 5 stuffing their heavy coats into the overhead to the lady who wants to carry on her gift basket, it is an overwhelming experience. Add your energetic toddler to the mix and you are ready to hit the eggnog by the time you land in Kalamazoo.

While everyone has a different experience, depending on where you need to fly, the fact is that flying with a toddler benefits from some advanced preparation. Here are some suggestions for your trip from start to finish:

Planning Your Trip

Try to fly earlier in the day. Not only do earlier flights tend to be on time more often, which means less time needed keeping the kids happy while you wait for your flight to take off, but an earlier flight will coincide better with any mid-day naps (and hopefully ones where you child will actually lie down to sleep).

Preparing for Your Trip

Pack snacks the night before. While this is an obvious one, in the rush to pack and prepare for your flight, it can get overlooked. The night before, make sandwich, add a Clementine or two, some pretzels, or whatever snack your child likes, and pack them in a gallon-sized baggie with a few napkins. This way, the next morning, all you need to do is grab the baggie, throw it into your carry-on, and go.

Getting Ready for Takeoff

Let your child blow off some steam before your board. You and those sitting around you are much better off if your child uses up some of their boundless energy before they get into the tight confines of the airplane. Let them walk around the gate, pull their own small luggage, or hold a bag for you.

In the Air

Bring broken pieces of crayons and paper for them to draw. This is a great tip I got from Jen Leiman at WeeCare Occupational Therapy in Hoboken, NJ. The smaller crayon pieces require more concentration for a child to hold, forcing them to focus more on the task of drawing. More focus on drawing means less kicking the cranky guy in the seat in front of them. Plus, it has the benefit of releasing energy.

Take-Off and Landing

Pack special activities for take-off and landing times. This can be one of the toughest times of your journey because everyone is required to be buckled and tray tables have to be up (and those tray tables are just so, so enticing to a toddler!). Let your child know that these activities, such as a sticker book or a toy they’ve been itching to get their cute nubby hands on, is only available to them if they follow the rules. And now that airlines allow electronics during this time, it makes it easier to entice your toddler with an app or movie on your iPad or tablet.  I usually bring at least four different “options” to maximize the chance my almost-3-year-old will find one that will hold his interest for the 20 or so minutes needed for take-off and landing.

Here’s to safe flights, no delays, and happy kids on your flight home this holiday!

Leah is a mom, entrepreneur, book and technology lover. She runs and has mastered the art of balancing her laptop, toddler, and an iced latte—at the same time.———————————————————————————————————————————————————————
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  1. Great tips! Thank you!

  2. marcia bellmont says:

    what an awesome little guide :)

  3. Broken pieces of crayons = pure genius!

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