How To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

How To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

How To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

If you are traveling with a baby that’s younger than 6 months, chances are good that he’ll sleep for a good portion of the flight.  However, if you have an older baby or toddler, a plane is way too exciting to allow for sleep in many cases.  Instead of sleeping they get frustrated that they can’t crawl/walk around the plane or kick the seat.  Therefore, it’s important to have a bag of tricks to keep your tiny human happy while trapped in a flying tin can.

Things that make for good travel activities have a few characteristics in common. 

  1. Quiet
  2. Low mess
  3. Easily contained
  4. Lightweight/easy to pack

Here are 10 activity ideas that are great for travel entertainment to get you started.

Sticker Activity Books

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

These are great because of all the variety and ways they can be used for various ages.  For older babies, you can get small stickers and stick them on their nails.  Figuring out how to get them off can provide a nice span of quiet entertainment.  For toddlers, sticker books are good fine motor skill practice as they peel the stickers up and stick them in the desired location.  Many sticker books have scenes where once the stickers are on, you can have your older toddler explain the story they created with the stickers.  You can also create your own sticker activities by using a sheet of stickers and having your toddler sort them into groups based on certain characteristics.  You can also find sticker books that have reusable stickers to create endless fun.

Traditional Activity Books

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

These are great for older toddlers.  They can provide a variety of educational activities.  Mazes, handwriting, counting, and letter identification are just a few of the activities you can find.  These books are often lightweight and provide educational entertainment.

I love this activity book because it wipes clean for reuse on every trip.

Magic Coloring Books

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

One of the requirements of airplane activities for kids is that they be low mess.  Markers are great fun for toddlers; however, they often manage to color on everything except the page.  These magic coloring books come with specific markers that only work on the pages.  Therefore, your toddler can enjoy coloring with markers while you relax knowing they won’t redecorate the tray table.

Colored Beeswax

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

This is a little-known activity idea.  Colored beeswax is great once your child is ready for Play-Doh.  Unlike Play-Doh, the beeswax doesn’t smell, or crumble and make a mess.  If your child likes to play with Play-Doh at home, pulling out the beeswax on a flight, can be a novel change that is sure to excite your little one.

Pre-Downloaded Movies/Cartoons

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

I know, I know, you are thinking that you don’t want to encourage screen time. However, when entertaining a toddler while flying, the rules need to go out the window.  This is the perfect time to allow screens that are limited at home.  Having an Amazon Fire Kids Edition is a great way to have readily available, kid-friendly entertainment.  All kids enjoy this, but those that have limited screen time at home, are often extremely entertained by this normally “forbidden” item.

Favorite Books

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

These can be a little more challenging as they often add bulk and weight to already overflowing carry-ons.  However, one or two favorites can be a good edition.  If you are flying overnight and hoping for sleep, books commonly used during a bedtime routine can help set your little one up for successfully sleeping.

A classic story like, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, is always great or some kids prefer books with flaps or different textures to feel.

Magnetic Blocks

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

Many toddlers love to play with blocks.  However, these can be tricky on a plane as they fall and get lost easily.  Magnetic blocks make it easy for your toddler to build creative structures and towers, but they are going to tumble everywhere as easily as traditional blocks.

Favorite, Small Toys

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

If your child has a favorite toy that isn’t too hard to pack, bring it along. This includes stuffed animals and blankets used as comfort items.  However, be forewarned that many times toys that are loved at home just aren’t that exciting on a plane.  See the next idea for a solution to this problem.

This skwish toy is quiet and flattens down to easily fit in a carry-on bag.

Small Presents

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

Wrap up a few new, small toys and let your child open them at intervals throughout the trip.  Because of the excitement of flying, items that are readily available to play with at home may not hold the same appeal.  However, what kid doesn’t like unwrapping a new toy.  Collect a few small toys and wrap them up before leaving.  Then at different intervals throughout your trip or when your struggling to provide entertainment, let your toddler open the small present. The toy inside may provide 3 or 30 minutes of entertainment, but either way it can serve as a distraction to prevent an oncoming tantrum.

Pro Tip: Get something that comes in a set with a variety of items, like these tiny toy trucks, so you have a bunch of little toys to unwrap.

Coloring Books and Crayons

How To Entertain a Toddler on a PlaneHow To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

Coloring books are a staple of toddler entertainment.  However, traditional crayons are likely to roll right off the tray table and all over the plane.  Invest in some triangle or square-shaped crayons specifically for flying.  These are often larger and much easier to keep track of as they aren’t rolling everywhere.

For more trips on flying with kids, check out these posts:

What are your best airplane entertainment ideas for toddlers?  Let me know in the comments.

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How To Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Travel Planning with Kids

Travel Planning with Kids

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I love to travel, but I absolutely hate planning the details of my trip.  I mean, I’m great at saying let’s go to ____________ (insert well known tourist destination), and make sure we see/do ____________ (insert landmark/activity destination is known for).  When it comes to actually planning out the details that will make that trip happen, I’m an awful procrastinator.

I fall into the habit of getting overwhelmed at the thought of planning and everything that goes into making a trip happen.  Luckily, my husband is great at planning out the details of a trip, but he doesn’t like to be left completely on his own to do it.  Therefore, I had to find some way that I could get myself to plan a trip without dragging my feet so much we never went on the trip.

If I thought planning for my husband and me was hard, a baby/toddler adds a whole new level of difficult to the planning.  Despite my initial planning dread, we have had a bunch of great trips as a family, and my 1.5-year old son is more well-traveled than some adults.  Read on for my tips to make travel planning with kids easier and have those family trips you imagine.

Travel Planning with Kids

Plan to Plan

If you want to take a family trip 3 months from now, you will want to start planning soon, so that you can book flights and lodging early enough to get the best rates.  While you are still excited about the trip, sit down and spend 10 minutes making a list of everything you need to do to get that trip planned.  This could include be start off as follows:

  • Book hotel
  • Book flights
  • Book rental car
  • Book baby rental items
  • Book excursions

Once you have a list of everything you need to do, grab your planner, and start scheduling yourself planning blocks.  These are blocks of time where you schedule yourself time to check one item off your planning list.  30-minute blocks are likely sufficient for most tasks.  Once you have a time block for each activity on your list, commit to yourself that you will treat it as a mandatory activity like everything else on your calendar.

Pro Tip: Make sure things that requiring booking something are early in your planning period.  You will want to make sure to book early enough before things fill up or rates increase.

Organize Your Thoughts

To make you planning time blocks as productive as possible, have an idea of what you need to consider and how you want to organize that information to make the best decisions.  I really like using worksheets that allow me to write in specific info for hotels, or flights, etc.  If the thought of creating worksheets is overwhelming, you can grab my travel planner here.

Keep an Idea List

For lists that you need to always have handy, I love using the cell phone app Wunderlist.  I pretty much always have my cell phone handy, so this method ensures my list is always nearby as well.  You will want to have this list to write down anything that jumps into your mind.  Maybe this is a great idea you hear for entertaining your toddler while traveling, or a must-do attraction someone tells you about, or a great restaurant to try on your trip, or something you can’t forget to pack.  Whatever it is, you will want to remember it when you are actually in a position to do something with that information.  The list allows you to make note of it, and when you are busy planning, skim your list to remind yourself about all the ideas you’ve had about the trip.

Enlist Your Family’s Help

If you are taking a family trip, get everyone involved in the planning process.  Your baby may not be able to help, but everyone from toddler age up can take at least a small part.  Planning tasks could range from having your elementary-aged child check the whether for the trip before everyone starts packing, or having your toddler pick out which travel activities he wants to take along.  If you have older kids coming along, you could have the teenagers practice budgeting parts of the trip such as activities or meals. 

Consider what each person is capable of and what would be of interest or a good learning experience and delegate tasks.  The more you include the family, the less you feel like a travel planner, and the more they are invested in the trip.

Go to the Internet

If you find yourself stuck on a particular task, do a quick online search for the destination and whatever it is you are looking for.  Trying to decide which hotel is the best choice in a certain area, Google it!  There are so many travel bloggers around the world that specialize in writing guides to traveling different places.  Be aware that some of these may be sponsored, but many times they do still outline the pros/cons of the location or activity.

Other Great Travel Resources

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Travel Planning with Kids

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Pro Tips for Flying With Baby

Pro Tips for Flying With Baby

FREE Packing List for Flying with a Baby

Get my ultimate packing list delivered straight to your inbox. I’ve refined it over many trips, so you can benefit from what I’ve learned.

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    Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

    Pro Tips for Flying With Baby

    It may require so much organization and effort just to go to the store with a baby that the thought of traveling across the country sounds crazy.  However, once you get a system figured out, infants can be surprisingly portable.  At the ripe old age of 7 months old, Paxton has now been across the country 4 times.  It’s never going to be quite as easy to fly with a baby as it is without one, but we’ve come up with our system that makes it completely manageable and relatively low stress.  Below are my tips if you are taking to the sky with your baby.

    Make a List (or Lots of Lists)

    The sheer amount of stuff that our tiny human requires is mind-boggling. I always thought I packed a lot of stuff, but Paxton routinely has the largest suitcase of us all.  To make sure that we don’t forget anything, a list is a must-have.  Now when I say list, I don’t mean something on an old piece of paper that gets tossed as soon as you finish packing everything.  I mean a OneNote notebook dedicated to packing lists.  I have a list for Paxton, a list for me, and a list of things that need to go in a carry-on.  The reason I love using OneNote is that I can create the list on my laptop, and then open it on my cell phone and add things as I think of them and check things off as I pack them.  I make a list for each trip that I take and title it with the reason for the trip or place I’m going.  This allows me to copy a list from a similar previous trip as a starting point the next time.

    Plan Your Carry-on System

    The last thing you want is to be stuck in an airport or airplane without enough diapers, wipes, baby food, etc. However, you can only carry so much stuff on with you.  Airlines allow all passengers to have a large carry-on for the overhead bin and a small one to put under your seat.  However, parents traveling with children are also allowed to gate check a car seat and stroller.  If you purchase a seat for your child, then they also are allowed the two carry-ons.  If you have a lap child then they do not get the carry-on allowance, but a diaper bag does not count towards your carry-on limit.  When we travel we take a jogging stroller travel system with the car seat, a carry-on size roller bag, a tote bag, and a diaper bag through security.  The is very manageable for the two of us.  The jogging stroller seems like it would be big and clunky at first, but it actually works really well.  It’s sturdy and has a storage basket which means that I can hang my diaper bag from the handles and put a tote bag in the basket.  It also serves as a method of transporting the car seat and baby.  When packing our carry-ons, we utilize the following system:

    1. Diaper bag: Everything we want to have handy for Paxton throughout the trip (food, diapers, wipes, rags, extra clothes, a couple toys, etc.) To see what I recommend having in your diaper bag, check out this post.
    2. Tote bag: Everything we want to have handy for ourselves throughout the trip (food, headphones, computer, cells phones, chargers, etc.)
    3. Roller bag: Items that we don’t want to check or may decide we want, but that we don’t have to have available at a moment’s notice (baby carrier, pump and related accessories, travel fan, extra toys, stroller, and car seat gate check bags, etc.).

    Related Content

    Accumulate Your Key Items

    These are some items that you want to have while flying with a baby that you may never have considered before. Below are my must-have items (aside from the obvious items a baby needs like diapers, bottles, etc.).

    1. Battery-powered or rechargeable hand-held fan (this one is what I recommend): This may not seem like it’s needed, and I don’t use it on every trip, but after being stuck on a 5 hour flight, in the summer, when the air wasn’t working great, I will always make sure to bring a fan. The heat makes me a little cranky, but it will make a baby into a monster.  This is especially true if you are holding the baby and transferring body heat between you.
      baby and mom on airplane holding portable fan
    2. Gate-check bags: Strollers and car seats are not welcome in overhead bins. However, the airlines are happy to check these for you at the gate, and you can pick them back up as soon as you get off the plane.  You could check these items when you check other baggage, but gate check is free, and it allows you to use them throughout the airport.  Bags aren’t required when you gate-check these items, but if you don’t wear your baby sits is getting all of the dirt and grease from the cargo area.  Gate-check bags are designed to fit car seats and strollers, often have a place for your name and contact info, and fold into attached pouches for easy transport when not in use.  We found a generic car seat bag at Babies R’ Us, but the stroller bag they had wasn’t big enough to fit our jogging stroller easily.  We ended up ordering a stroller bag from Amazon designed for large strollers.  An added bonus is that it has backpack straps which are great for carrying it down the jetway. This is the awesome stroller bag we have.
    3. Toy and pacifier straps: When juggling all of your baggage and a baby that may be figuring out it’s fun to drop things, the last thing you want to worry about is if you are losing toys or pacifiers.
    4. Baby carrier: Some people feel that you either need a stroller travel system or a baby carrier. However, I like to have both.  If I’m gate-checking the car seat, instead of taking it on for Paxton to sit in, then I love having a carrier so I can strap him to me and have both hands free while boarding.  You do have to remove the baby from the carrier during takeoff and landing, but it can be helpful to give your arms a break during the flight.  I wouldn’t want to use the carrier the entire time I’m traveling through.
    5. Travel-sized noise machine: Baby is likely used to a quiet sleeping environment, but there is no guarantee that a hotel will provide that, especially if you and baby aren’t used to sharing a room. A travel noise machine is inexpensive and can be placed next to the pack and play to help drown out any other noises.  I find that the white noise also helps me sleep better. This is the travel noise machine that we have.  It works great and is small enough to make packing easy.
      Pro Tips for Flying With BabyPro Tips for Flying With Baby
    6. Luggage with 4 swivel wheels: With all the stuff you are going to be lugging around, you need luggage with swivel wheels. I can easily push the stroller and wheel two large suitcases through an airport this way.  I wouldn’t be able to do this if any of the suitcases had the older style wheels.

    Other Posts You May Like

    Baby Identification

    You don’t need to provide an ID for your baby for TSA; however, you do often need proof of age for the airline when checking in with a lap child. Generally, airlines ask for a birth certificate.  However, I highly recommend getting a passport book and card for your child.  Although a passport is not needed for a child traveling within the US, hear me out.  A passport card is easy to tuck into your wallet and always have on you (much more so than a birth certificate or a traditional passport).  However, a passport book is required for air travel to any country.  The card is only good for traveling by car into Canada or Mexico.  By getting a passport card for Paxton, I can keep it in my wallet, so I never have to worry about remembering and keeping track of his birth certificate or passport book when traveling within the US.

    Sleeping Setup

    When traveling with a baby, you don’t want to forget about figuring out how/where Baby will sleep. Pack and Plays are great for this, but they add yet another piece of luggage.  Most hotels have a pack and play or crib that they will let you use.  However, it’s always wise to call a few days before your trip to verify that they do have one and have it added to your reservation.  Bring your own pack and play sheet though.

    Don’t forget that it’s important for you to get some sleep while traveling too. Make sure to grab these tips for making sleep happen before your next trip!

    Overwhelmed Yet? Get your FREE packing list for traveling with baby HERE.

    Pro Tips for Flying With Baby

    Decide Whether to Buy Baby a Seat

    Children under 2 can travel for free on your lap within the US. However, there is something to be said for having the extra space of giving Baby his own seat.  If Baby has a seat, you can bring the car seat onboard for baby to sit/sleep in.  It just has to go in a seat by the window.  If you decide you want to buy an extra seat, some airlines have infant fares that may be less expensive than traditional fares.  However, if you go with the lap child option, it’s worth asking when getting your gate check tags if the flight is completely full.  On Southwest, with their open seating policy, if the flight has an empty seat, they will let you take the car seat on board so your baby can have a seat.  I’ve heard other airlines will work with you to see if they can get you next to an empty seat, but I don’t have any first-hand experience with this.  It’s always worth asking since you are up there anyway.  About 50% of the time we get lucky and there is an empty seat.

    Pro Tips for Flying With Baby
    Paxton is comfy in his car seat since he was able to get his own seat on a Southwest flight that was 100% full.

    Be Prepared for TSA

    Going through security is no small task with a baby and all of the stuff you have. However, once you know what is expected, it gets much easier. Here are my comments regarding security.  You can use the TSA app to see how long security lines typically are at the time you will be traveling.  Make sure to check out the TSA app and my other favorite apps here and here.

    1. You are allowed to bring a reasonable amount of milk, formula, baby food, juice, and/or water for baby. Make sure to have this all in a clear ziplock bag (I use a gallon sized one), so that you can quickly remove it because it needs to go through the scanner out of your carry-on.  If the bottle is clear and/or can be opened, there isn’t a problem.  They may put the items in a machine that analyzes them but this is quick and doesn’t affect the product.  The only time there might be a problem is if the liquid is in a container that can’t be opened and is not clear.  These Similac 8oz formula bottles are convenient to travel with because you can just screw on a nipple.  However, the bottles are not see through at all, and once opened, they are only good for 2 hours if not refrigerated.  Most TSA agents haven’t had a problem with these.  If they question it, they just wipe my hands to test for bomb residue and then we’re good to go.  However, one time the agents decided to have a problem with them, and I was told that either they had to open the bottles or give me a full body pat-down.  I had never been questioned anywhere, let alone that airport I had been through multiple times, but for some reason that day they decided to have a problem with it.
    2. Allow plenty of time to get through security in case they decide to have a problem with something (see point a)
    3. Some places let you wear your baby through security in a baby carrier and others make you take them out.
    4. Get TSA Precheck. If you have precheck your baby can go through with you for free.  With precheck you don’t have to worry about removing your shoes, taking out electronics and taking out normal liquid allowances which allows you to focus on everything else you are juggling.  It’s also great because the last place you want to be is stuck in a long security line with a screaming child.
    5. Have your baby’s boarding pass ready. If it’s a lap child, the airline will give you a special pass. Baby doesn’t need an ID though.
    Pro Tips for Flying With Baby
    Pro Tips for Flying With Baby
    Paxton and I are ready to go through security for an early morning flight.

    Plan How You Are Getting to the Terminal

    When we travel we have 3 checked bags in addition to the carry-on items I mentioned above. There is no way I want to juggle all of our stuff on the shuttle from long-term parking.  Therefore, we have a system where my husband drops me, Paxton and all but two bags off at the door.  We check the bags I have and get Paxton’s lap child boarding pass.  John then parks the car and takes the shuttle in and meets me at security.

    Plan How You Are Leaving the Airport

    Public transportation has suddenly become much more difficult with the amount of stuff you are now traveling with. Rental cars can work, but you will likely need an SUV for all of the luggage and the stroller.  Make sure to book a car that provides enough storage space.

    Pro Tips for Flying With Baby

    Master the Double Diaper

    The last thing you want is an overflowing diaper on an airplane. You also don’t really want to be changing a diaper on an airplane.  If your flight is more than about 2 hours, I strongly suggest double diapering.  We do this right before boarding.  When Paxton is close to sizing up in diapers, we make the outer diaper a size larger.  When he still has room to grow in his current size, we use two diapers that are the same size.  Two diapers have been sufficient to get across the country without leaks and without needing to change a diaper.  However, when we skip the second diaper we have had blowouts at 30,000 feet.  If your baby is peacefully sleeping before boarding, you may be tempted to skip the diaper change and additional diaper –DON’T.  The sleeping child will eventually wake up and unless your flight is super short, you will likely be regretting your choice at some point.

    Get the Mamava App

    If you are breastfeeding, you are going to want to know where the nursing rooms are in each airport, and these rooms tend to be well-hidden. Mamava makes portable nursing rooms that are commonly located in airports.  The free app tells you exactly where these are located near you.  However, the app also tells you about other nursing rooms that are available nearby complete with reviews from other moms.

    Carefully Select Flights

    1. Flights with layovers but no plane change may not be the best option. There is something to be said about being able to get off the plane and change a diaper in a real restroom and get yourself something to eat.  If you don’t have a layover that allows this, it can make for a long trip.
    2. Choosing flights that are while baby normally sleeps may be a good idea in theory, but I haven’t found it to be worth the effort. I generally find that choosing times that I like based on the amount of sleep I will get, where the layover is, and travel duration is much more worth my time.
    3. Avoid layovers in airports where you have to leave security. The majority of airports keep you in the same terminal or at least don’t make you leave security to go to another terminal.  However, there are a few where you may need to go out of security and back through.  Security is rough with a baby, and you don’t want to do it any more than necessary. Airports that I’ve had to do this are San Diego and Newark.  I’m sure there are others that I haven’t experienced yet.
    4. Check your airline to determine what policies they have in place for traveling with children.  The links to the major airline policies are below.

    The Bribe-Bag Debate

    I read blogs that suggest parents can bring little bags with candy, earplugs and a cute note to handout to nearby passengers to buy a little understanding if the baby screams. The idea is kind of cute if you are a type of person that likes doing things like this.  However, I don’t think it’s necessary.  There are plenty of ways that people on airplanes annoy each other when they don’t have children.  Do you bring a goody bag for the person on the aisle that you are going to ask to get up 3 times so you can go to the bathroom?

    Pro Tips for Flying With Baby
    John is ready to carry the stroller down the jetway for gate check.

    If you will have a layover, make sure to check out this post for my tips!

    For more great travel tips, make sure to check out these posts!

    What travel hacks have made your trips easier?  Tell me in the comments.

    FREE Packing List for Flying with a Baby

    Get my ultimate packing list delivered straight to your inbox. I’ve refined it over many trips, so you can benefit from what I’ve learned.

      We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

      Pro Tips for Flying With Baby

      Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.