Plane Ride with a 2 1/2 Year Old – Tips & Tricks


Plane 2No kiddo – we aren’t there yet!  We are just at Moe’s!  (shirt from Mini Mioche)

I’ve flown quite a bit with my son, both with my husband and alone, and have seen it go from easy to excruciatingly difficult to somewhat more manageable.  I’ve lost track of how many flights we’ve actually taken but all together we are probably in the high teens.  That’s what happens when Grandma and Grandpa live across the country!

Flying with my son when he was less than 9 months old was EASY (read my short post here).  I think our worst flight was to Whistler when he was 11 months old, I had a migraine, and we went on to have a holiday full of vomit… (post here).  This worst flight was closely followed by the one when he was 18 months old, especially when our first flight was 4 hours delayed and then we had to hang in the Calgary airport for FIVE HOURS (post here).

So how was it at 2 1/2 years old?  Well, I spent plenty of time preparing (and stressing!)  I did a post of what I packed here.

Plane 1The good news?  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel – sort of (remember we are having another baby!)

Here’s what worked for us, and what didn’t:

What Worked

  • iPad/in-flight entertainment (finally!)  I bought headphones similar to these which Bastien sometimes used.  Otherwise he watched the screen without sound or with the sound minimally on.  I bought Bubble Guppies, Mike the Knight, Toopy & Binou, and Octonauts and downloaded from YouTube BabyTV & BBC Kids episodes (you need a special app for this – google it)
  • SNACKS!  We ate almost everything we brought both ways.  Dry goods included raisins, graham cracker bunnies, yoghurt drops, goldfish, suckers (messy but good) and cheese dipping crackers.  Refrigerated food included grapes, cantaloupe, cucumbers, yoghurt, raspberries, and blueberries (I tried to pick less messy foods).  To eat, we chowed down on bagels with cream cheese – filling and easy to transport.
  • Sanitizer – OK this didn’t keep my child amused but after our Whistler fiasco where my kid must have picked up germs either in the plane or in a restaurant at the beginning of the trip I didn’t feel like reliving that again.  A bottle of hand sanitizer and some paper towel were used to wipe down screens, arm rests and drop down tray.
  • A cup of ice – I had read that some kids are amused by this and I think a cup of ice bought us 20 minutes of sucking and feeling it on the skin.
  • Books – OK only one book worked – an Elmo book where he has to pick Elmo from the crowd.
  • Toys – some worked some didn’t.  I didn’t even bring them out for the return flight.

What Didn’t Work

  • Toys & Books – as mentioned above these weren’t huge hits.  I’m not a fan of hours of screen time but for these circumstances he got as much as he wanted.
  • Ritz crackers – what.. a.. mess…  they just crumbled everywhere
  • iPad Apps – these had some amusement time on the flight there but fairly minimal.  His faves were the Duplo Toy Train and Tozzle.

Plane 3

Further Tips

  • Bring food.  You never know if your kid will like what they serve on the plane plus it has an amusement factor.
  • Board last. I sent my husband on with the bags to stow and then Bastien and I held out to board last minute.
  • iPad or inFlight entertainment may finally work!
  • Bring disposable diaper bags to collect garbage. You collect a lot of garbage flying with a kid and it’s probably best not to have it strewn about.
  • Be prepared!  I stress (within reason I believe!!) and the more I am prepared the calmer and more confident I feel about the flight.

ps BTW can you believe this kid fell asleep for the last 10 minutes of 3 out of the 4 flights we had to take!  (He didn’t sleep at all for the fourth..!)


What about you guys – any tips or stories?

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    • Cristina
    • May 1, 2015

    I honestly have been avoiding traveling specifically by plane with my 2.5 year old just for the reason of having meltdowns. I also now have a 5 month old so it’s double worry. They are amazing sleepers for car rides but I just have no clue how they would react on a plane ride. My two year old has an ipad but what also works is a small portable dvd player. He is also potty training and he’s unsure about adult toilets just not sure how to handle that situation yet.

      • Michelle
      • May 1, 2015

      Yeah – unfortunately a plane ride is a whole new bag of worms. I know it seems easier to just stay in – but wait until you start reading the upcoming series on travelling with littles. It’s going to give you the travel bug – I promise!

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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.

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