Flying with a Toddler – Lessons Learned!

September 9, 2013 , In: Figuring it Out, Travel with Toddlers , With: 3 Comments

Ohhh…. flying with an 18 month old…

What I wish your flight looked like...

What I wish our flight looked like…

Our reality

Our reality

I remember when flying with Bastien was a breeze.  Baby on a plane?  No problem.  Then we got slapped in the face with a horrible flight to Vancouver.  I flew out west for family reasons in April, and then we just flew out again in August.  So, on this most recent flight I knew what I was in for.  And…. I was dreading it.  My brother-in-law had to take two overnight flights to get to our cabin (Accra-Amsterdam-London-Vancouver-Calgary-Lloydminster-Loon Lake) and my husband and I agreed we’d rather do that than the 5 hours with our son.  Yikes.

The flight out alone with my son looked OK on paper – a simple 4 1/2 hours with a toddler.  I booked a bulkhead seat (worth it!) and noticed there were other kids on the flight (yay! mine won’t be the only one running in the aisles).  Turns out, my kid was the only one running in the aisles.  I asked another mom how she had her toddler sitting with her in a seat so long.  She told me she gave her daughter some new snack food (bread sticks and cheese dip) and her daughter just sat and ate it… for half an hour.  I think the longest my son has sat for anything was 30 seconds.  So we walked up and down the aisles and he fell asleep the last half hour.

Coming back was a nightmare even though I was with my husband.  Our first flight didn’t take off, so we had to take a noon flight to Calgary, wait FIVE HOURS in Calgary airport, and then the evening flight was at 6:00 landing at midnight Montreal time.  Sigh…  He wouldn’t sleep, we had major screaming ear problems, and my husband and I were exhausted from getting up early for our flight that never flew.  But, we made it, and hopefully we can put that behind us and focus on our wonderful summer.

My tips:

Be Prepared!

Before we left I researched online and decided to get a bunch of new toys for him.  There was a mix of dollar store toys and more quality items.

Dollar Store:

  • Post It Notes (no interest)
  • Plastic Animal Figurines (a hit)
  • Balls
  • Cars (a hit)
  • Cleaning mop (a hit despite the photo above)
  • Shovel (he just loves shovels!)

Other Toys:


I downloaded a bunch of apps including:

  • Elmo ABC’s
  • Bubbles
  • Shapes
  • Alien Buddies

And? No interest…


  • Instead of the huge breast feeding pillow I usually use on flights, I brought a regular pillow for him to sleep on and tied it in a roll with some ribbon.
  • I brought his own blanket and doll.


  • Snacks, snacks and more snacks.  During take off and landing this really is the only thing to keep him in one place.  Goldfish, puffs, rice crackers and Cheerios are our mainstays.
  • I brought enough food for him to eat, even if we were delayed.  I used small Tupperware containers, and a lunch box with mini ice packs.  Pasta, grapes, chicken, hard carrots, and even broccoli.  I brought his bib and own sippy cup.  AND napkins.

Other tips?

  • I walked up and down the aisle a lot.  Most people were nice, some were annoyed, but it’s either that or my kid screaming and the stewards encouraged it believe it or not.
  • Sometimes, you just have to let them cry for their safety.  During take off and turbulence I had to hold him while he wailed.
  • In the airport during our 5 hour layover I asked if there were kids area.  Calgary airport kind of sucks, and there were only a couple areas but this isn’t always the case.  Geneva airport has a playroom, as do many other airports.  Just ask.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  When I travel alone I always have to get someone to hold him if I had to use the facilities.
  • Bring another shirt for yourself, and an extra pair of clothes for your kid.  Vomit or poop on your t-shirt isn’t fun.
  • I used dog poop bags to collect garbage/random torn things/dirty diapers.  They are cheaper than the ones meant for kids, and work OK (they aren’t as thick).

And, if you don’t have a child please don’t judge or get annoyed with parents of an energetic or crying toddler.  Believe me, no matter how annoyed or frustrated you are, they are feeling it about 100 times more!

Do you guys have any tips or stories?

    • Laura
    • September 9, 2013

    As a parent with two grown children I don’t have to deal with traveling with a young one anymore, but I still carry stuff with me (erasable markers and paper are the BEST) for times when I am seated near a restless child or a child whose having trouble calming down. I also keep fun, non-mommy, snacks like oreos and chips.

    Getting these gifts from a stranger usually helps a child calm down. Coupled with an “I know you are such a big boy that you can draw a picture of the plane and the people in it” That usually works and then I have strange kid art for my fridge at home. 😉

  1. Reply

    It can be difficult traveling with toddlers but it is such a rewarding experience for them and they can learn a lot from different countries and cultures.

  2. Pingback: Tips for Flying with a 2 Year Old | Roasted

Leave a Comment

Michelle Little

Writer & Photographer

Originally from the prairies and now in Montreal, I love exploring new places, eating great food and modern design. I'm mom of two wild things and paper and cake make me happy. Photographing your cutie family would make me very happy.

Instagram Photos