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8 Secrets To Peaceful Airplane Travel With Toddlers

We have done many road trips with as a family, but I have always avoided airplane travel with my toddler.  Traveling with a 2-year-old on a plane?  The thought itself made me shudder in fear. All toddler parents know what I am talking about. You have the option for a break on a road trip with kids, but what to do on an airplane? Where do you go for a breather in between the journey? After a lot of reading, asking tips from other travel savvy moms, I finally had an idea of how to manage traveling with a 2-year-old on a plane. For every other skeptical mom like me, here are 8 secrets to an incident-free airplane travel with toddlers.

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Frankly, I still can’t believe our 8 hours plus airplane journey with the toddler was so calm and incident free. I had read of crying, bawling or highly irritated toddlers on board who only disturbed other fellow passengers. Poor things, its difficult for such a free-spirited age group to stay comfortably in closed and dark environments for long periods of time.

I didn’t want to depend too much on screens as a form of distraction on board. This meant I had to come up with innovative ideas, games, and toys for the flight. So here goes!

airplane travel with toddlers- traveling with a 2 year old


1. Flight timings

Select flights that cover a huge portion of the flight time in the night. This ensures that the toddler is sleeping for most of the airplane journey.

If it’s not possible to get a night flight, you have to rely on a flight that covers your toddler’s nap time at least.

Even a 1-2 hour nap keeps your toddler in a good mood and gives you much-needed rest.

2. Talk about the upcoming plane journey

Prepare your child for the upcoming air travel. Talk about the destination, how you will get there, show pictures of airplanes. Talk about the different steps you need to go through at the airport to get to the plane. Mental preparation goes a long way in compliance on the flight.

Books on airplane travel for kids:

Maisy goes on a plane

My first airplane ride

Busy Airport

3. Travel toys for toddlers on airplanes

For the plane journey carry a mix of loved toys and new toys. Select toys that are smaller and compact to pack efficiently.

Some travel toys for toddlers on airplanes are;

Small sized cars

Small sized figurines or favorite characters from a T.V show


Crayons and coloring pages or notebook to draw

Favorite board books


Cardboard Puzzles

Favorite lovey/teddy

I also made him a quiet bag for the flight on the way back. By now he knew about most of the toys we used on the first flight.

In this bag, I added some;

new stickers

a small notebook

new small toy wrapped in paper

small sized lego blocks from the Lego Duplo set

The novelty of getting toys in a bag helped keep my son entertained for a longer time.

4. Toddler airplane activities

I recommend bringing out 1 toy at a time and after 2-3 toys take a break with some toddler-friendly airplane activity. This changes the pace and keeps things moving.

Toddler airplane activities

  1. Play with empty cups: Use a sharpie and make faces on the cup, add stickers on the cup instead of sticker book. Use your imagination and make paper cups entertaining.
  2. Transfer ice from one cup to another: You can ask the air hostess for some ice in a cup and some plastic spoons. Toddler-friendly airplane activity is ready!
  3. Go for a walk along the airplane aisle.
  4. Look out the window.
  5. Snack time

Yes, I used snacks as a distraction too. Every break taken to eat something, be it snacks or the in-flight food is welcome when on a long flight with a toddler.

Some snacks we packed for my toddler on board:

Energy balls




The MumMum Co crunchies

On board we offered the flight meals served to us and I didn’t bother too much about healthy eating in this case.

What I avoided was, the fruit juice and desserts served, instead, I offered water and cut fruit as a dessert option.

The last thing I wanted on board was a sugar high toddler with no place to go spend his energy.

During takeoff/landing I handed him a few raisins to chew on, this was the best snack option I could think of that was added sugar-free.

airplane travel with toddlers-family vacation tips

5. Pack his own bag

We packed a small backpack just for our son. This backpack housed his toys and a few snack options. He was happy to be part of the packing process. The sense of ownership generated more interest in playing with the packed toys on board.

6. Ask for help

We often shy away from asking for help. Don’t worry, ask!. If the request helps make life better for you or those around during the flight, there is no need to be shy. You don’t have seating arrangement together as a family of three? A lone passenger in a row might just be happy to give up his seat and switch. Running out of options to keep your child busy? Ask the air hostesses if they carry extra napkins or empty cups.

7. Screens

I know you are waiting to know about screen time. Yes, we used screens too. We had an 8-hour flight. Unfortunately, both our flights were during the day. After covering time for play, eating, pee breaks, nap, and other activities, we still had a fair bit of time left.

We downloaded 20 minute short cartoons and a few of his favorite movies from Amazon prime on our iPad. He loves The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child and The Room On The Broom movies on Amazon Prime.

I used screen time half an hour before landing and at take off to keep him seated and engaged.

8. Have fun

As usual, the same tip I gave in my last post on a road trip with kids, don’t forget to have fun. On the way out I was so stressed that midway through the flight my husband had to remind me to calm down and observe how much fun my son was having in flight. This really helped me and from there on I relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the flight.

We mommies are always planning ahead, thinking about next steps or scenarios and not enjoying the moment. Take a deep breath and enjoy the flight!

What are your favorite mommy tips and hacks for airplane travel with toddlers? Leave us a comment on what works for you when you travel with kids.

Until my next post, Happy travels!

4 thoughts on “8 Secrets To Peaceful Airplane Travel With Toddlers”

  1. Yay! Glad to read your story. We’re getting ready for a very loooonnngg journey! Loved the ideas with paper cups and ice as I was just now trying to think of a scooping activity for the journey! You nailed it and I don’t even have to pack it! Thanks Ophira!

  2. Kids become very cranky on plane journey…. And I can understand cause they are not use to such small space to move …Keeping a toddler engaged in flight is such a big task… But I think with your tips of introducing things one by one and activities like the ice cube one is a brilliant way. I am gonna try it next time

    • Thank you, Shweta, Yes, on our first airplane travel with the toddler we too were anxious about the journey. I had to share my experience and learnings with other moms. Glad you found some useful tips as a takeaway.


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