Tips-y Tuesdays: Flying with a Toddler

I’ve talked before about flying with the Fudgelet. It’s never easy. It’s never fun. Do you ever enjoy flying? I didn’t even when I was single. There is always something to worry about, I feel gross before/during/after, there are so many lines and so much waiting around, and it takes so long (mostly because our trips tend to be cross-country). But, as the Fudgelet has gotten older, some of it has gotten easier. Thankfully, he is able to entertain himself a little and I imagine this will only continue. So, I can give him a toy, maybe provide a little demonstration/instruction, and then let him play.

How we all felt when we heard our flight would be 6.5 hours long.

How we all felt when we heard our flight would be 6.5 hours long.

This most recent trip was interesting because he is around 2.5 years old. He is so much more aware of things and isn’t always excited by something different or new. Sometimes it makes him scared instead. At first he was excited about the prospect of being on an airplane. Then he was anxious that we weren’t in Maryland yet. Finally he was bored/cranky/etc…you know, how we all feel after we’ve been on a plane for 5+ hours. The return flight was better. Whether it was because we were returning home and he knew what to expect there, because he had just flown and knew it would be okay, if it was a better mood day for him, or something else…it was less whiny.


And seriously…we are not the parents with a kid who sleeps the whole time. On the flight to Maryland (4.5 hours or so) he slept 45 minutes. On the flight home (6.5 hours) he slept one hour. So, yeah…we have to plan for him to be awake most of the flight.

A few things K and I did that seemed to help this trip:

  1. Keep him in his seat at all times (except for nursing or diaper changes). We pointed out the seatbelt sign and explained why we ALL had to stay strapped in. He was annoyed by it, but not enough to fuss excessively. What will happen when he is potty-trained and needs the bathroom those times? Eek! Not sure.
  2. Bring extended play toys that are simple. I know, easier to say than do. Sometimes the toys you don’t expect to be hits will be, and vice versa. His favorite on the flight to Maryland was stringing Cheerios onto a pipe cleaner. His favorite on the return flight was a Jacob’s ladder toy I got from Target for $1. He also enjoyed playing with a couple action figures, like a critter from his Peppa Pig house, two dinosaurs he got as presents, and a small construction vehicle. He could have them talk, walk, and move around with no direction from me.
  3. Books. I like bringing books on board because they are heavy in our checked bag, so I can save on weight there. Plus, he can use them on the plane. I pick a couple favorite long stories and a couple that are more activity-style (flap books, look and find books, etc.). This is good for ascending and descending when you aren’t supposed to have electronics out.
  4. Bring out the iPad. We saved the iPad for the final hour or so of our trip. He never gets that much straight iPad time, but it worked for that last chunk of time when he is just about done being on the plane and can’t take another minute. We have some videos preloaded and also let him play a game or look at pictures on it. He likes seeing pictures of himself, family, and friends. It can be useful to talk about people you are visiting.
  5. Mealtime. Try to make meals/snacks similar in routine to home. This will help eat up (pun intended) some of your time while also keeping your kid less cranky from being hungry. We try to pick food that is more of a special treat than food he gets at home. We’ve tried the whole “you love this at home, and it is easy to pack!”. Instead, we plan on picking up food at the airport and it lets him pick shortly before we go (less likely to change his mind later). It also means he gets something like a burger which is more exciting and can help cheer him up on a long flight.
  6. Stuffed animal friend. Another new development for the Fudgelet since our last trip has been loving stuffed animals. We brought two that he sleeps with, and kept one out for the flight. It helped him nap (I think) and remain more calm because he had something to hug in his seat. He also would explain everything to the animal in a parenting voice.
Meet Namo! Namo is nursing here.

Meet Namo! Namo is nursing here.

$1 toys work well (this kept him happy for about an hour total!)

$1 toys work well (this kept him happy for about an hour total!)

Dinosaur friend

Dinosaur friend


Cheerio stringing

Cheerio stringing

And don’t forget…

Eventually the flight is done.


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