Toddlers on a Plane!


Toddlers on a Plane


I did it, and I survived!

I traveled on an airplane with my one year old. And you know what? She did great! I know this is probably due to her disposition more than my “excellent” planning skills, but regardless of the reason we had an almost peep-less little girl who sat happily in my lap for the three hour flight.

So what does an airport, and then an airplane with a small toddler look like?

Security Checkpoints

  • Babies and toddlers are needy travelers, and TSA knows that. As long as you’re packing a “reasonable amount” TSA allows you to bring milk, water, and food through security as long as you let them know it’s for your toddler. Here’s a link to the TSA guidelines on traveling with children, which includes specific information about how much food you can bring.
  • Some airports have special lines for families and other “low threat” passengers that allow you to go through the metal detector without all the prep work (taking off your shoes, taking out your liquids and electronics, etc). Some airports don’t offer this “pre-check” service.
  • You will not be asked to separate from your child.

Quiet ActivitiesToddlers on a Plane

  • Stickers and paper: This was a big hit and my husband found it at the dollar store. This kept E busy for a good 30 minutes at a time. That’s a big win!
  • Books: E really loved the literature on the plane already (the safety pamphlet and the magazines), but she mostly loves to tear paper. With the age of your child in mind, it might be good to have a couple board books handy as a distraction.
  • Favorite stuffed animals and blankets: When it comes down to it, E will relax if she can just cuddle her elephant and suck her thumb. We waited until all other options ceased to entertain, then pulled out this Ace. Bottom line, make sure you bring your child’s absolute favorite comfort items.

Non-Smelly Snacks

I knew we couldn’t bring messy, smelly food that we generally eat at home. E was a lucky kid during our trip, enjoying several treats such as:

  • Dried Apricots and Apples (these were great for popping her ears during take off and landing)
  • Squeeze foods (purees in those handy little squeeze pouches – love those!)
  • Veggie Sticks – a look at the nutrition label will tell you that these things are “veggie” in flavor only. But man are they addictive for a toddler!
  • Cheese cubes – a surefire favorite snack.
  • Cheerios
  • Milk

Car Seat

During this trip I experienced traveling with a lap-child and with a car seat. E enjoyed being in the lap more. For me, I felt safer with her in the car seat. Now we know how we’d like to travel in future. Here’s the scoop on car seats:

  • Bring your car seat to the gate. Gate checking is a lot safer for your car seat than checking at the ticket counter.
  • You may get to use your car seat after all. If you’re “lucky” like us, your flight could get delayed, cancelled, and then rescheduled three hours later. Anyone who had a connecting flight would have bailed, and you’d have a choice of seats into which you can place your car seat.
  • Air travel is the safest method of travel. In the lap or in a car seat, E was safer in the air than on a road trip like we originally planned.

For a three hour flight our simple approach to air travel with a toddler worked like magic. All my stressing and compulsive list-making may not have been such a necessity after all, but isn’t that motherhood?

We intend to travel to Chile this Christmas to visit my dad and brothers right before E turns two. Tune back in for Toddlers on an International Plane!

We’d love to hear from you! What are your family’s best practices for air travel with little ones?


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Sarah is almost a Colorado native who has been enjoying life on the Front Range since the age of 5. She and her husband are raising a rambunctious 1-year-old girl in Littleton.

Sarah loves travel, family, food, the outdoors, and new experiences. She and her husband were about to move to Chile after having lived in Japan for two years when they were surprised by the news of their first pregnancy. What pleasant surprises parenthood and “settling down” have turned out to be!

She now runs a daycare out of their home, sings in a folk band {Silver String Theater}, and aspires to be a valuable part of this amazing resource for parents in Metro Denver!


  1. So glad the flight was a positive experience for you and you’re little E! We have flown now with our little one on 18 flights and even still I get nervous every time! Our next flight she will have her own seat for the first time and we may have to pull out the iPad…especially now since my one tried and true method to soothing a kid on a plane–nursing!–is finished. I can’t wait to hear about your international tips! 🙂

    • Your little one is a very experienced traveler! Wow!

      E had already weaned by the time we flew, so I was definitely nervous about what I would do to sooth her if she needed it. Luckily the dried fruit saved us there!

      Good luck on your next flight!!

  2. I have a cousin with twins. When the girls were babies/toddlers, my cousin and her husband would board planes with a stack of $5 Starbucks gift cards. Before takeoff, they would pass out the cards to the passengers immediately around them and apologize ahead of time for any disruption the girls might cause. Saved them from lots of dirty looks, since they had already apologized in advance!

    • Bringing gifts for your neighbors is one topic I didn’t discuss because we didn’t do it. We decided we’d buy everyone around us a drink if E got too fussy. I’m glad we were lucky!

  3. These are some great tips! I was very nervous to fly with our son when he was a baby, but he did great. Everything you can do to plan ahead helps you relax, and I think that’s usually the biggest key to your kiddo staying calm.

  4. Some great tips here! I love the stickers and paper idea – I am definitely trying that on my next flight. We are flying to Amsterdam in August with a 2 year old and a 4 year old and I am terrified. I am going to need all the help I can get!


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