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Flying with a Lap Toddler
Toddler Travel

Flying with a Lap Toddler

The countdown is on, just two weeks, only 14 days until we take a family trip to Disneyland!!! Just the three of us and I can’t wait. You know what that means? Another flight with little Chloe! Let’s just say that at this point, Chloe is a pretty excellent flier. She’s been on six round trip flights, five of which she rode on my lap and one we flew across the Atlantic. Not every experience has been great, but for the most part she’s a champion. This trip to Anaheim is going to be her last flight as a lap child! All under two children can fly for free as a lap child which is great, but the older and bigger they get, the harder it is! Since I’ve had a bit of experience, I thought I’d share some of my tips and tricks to flying with a lap toddler.

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Tips & Tricks to flying with a lap toddler

1. Pack your carry on properly. Here’s what you need:

  • SNACKS! Pack all the snacks. Seriously, if you think you have enough, go ahead and pack some more. You can’t have enough. See first picture in this post. Toddler in the aisle eating snacks before the flight even takes off. It’s true.
  • Snack cup with lid. It helps keep the snacks contained and your risk of having snacks all over the place is slightly smaller. You can get 2 for $5 on Amazon and it’s totally worth it.
  • Books. Pack a book or two in your bag. I recommend grabbing one of your toddler’s favorites and a brand new one. The old fave will be one that you know can entertain them for a few minutes. The new one is well, new! Something new always helps to keep their attention for a little bit longer. Also, touch and feel books are always a hit with this age group!
  • An extra activity. Coloring book, wipe dry board, magic ink book and pen, something that can keep their little hands busy. If there are two of you with your toddler, one person can hold your toddler and the other can let down their table tray for activities.
  • Extra diapers and wipes. You never know what will happen. Once Chloe had a poop before the plane AND a poosplosion on the plane! It was messy. Very messy. Extra wipes and diapers were so helpful to have on hand. Another situation to think about is there’s always a possibility of having your flight delayed. You never know what could happen!
  • Extra clothes. Be sure to pack a full outfit for your toddler. Spills, diaper leaks, poosplosions (see above), so many things can make a mess in a toddler’s hands. Also pack extra clothes for you! Even if it’s just a shirt. You never know if you’re going to get puked on, spilled on, etc. I was so glad to have an extra shirt when Chloe poosploded everywhere!
  • Wet/Dry Bag. I would store the new clothes in a wet/dry bag just to be safe! Then you’ll also have a great spot to stick the dirty ones and keep the rest of your bag clean.
  • A lovie. Don’t forget your toddler’s lovie, baby or stuffed animal. Something that comforts them when they’re tired or frustrated. If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll snuggle you and nap on the flight…I did say if you’re lucky, not that it was actually going to happen!
  • Tablet. See below for more info on this one!
family before flight with a lap toddler

2. If you can, take advantage of a lounge before flights.

Now I realize that this one is challenging and you can’t always make it happen, but if you have the opportunity take advantage! {If you have an airlines credit card, they usually give you a couple of lounge passes per year!}

Being in a lounge space allows your little one to have more space to roam preflight and it gives you a little more piece of mind. I always know that if Chloe is walking around in the lounge that she can’t go far, and I can see her most of the time! If we’re together, JP and I will take turns following her wherever she wants to go while the other relaxes and has a glass of wine.

Another benefit of the lounge are all of the snacks! Snacks + Toddlers = Sanity. Always grab a little cupful of whichever one your toddler likes best to go!

on the plane with a lap toddler

3. Load up your tablet with toddler friendly fun!

Don’t hesitate to go against what you would normally do at home to keep your toddler entertained. Sometimes you have to pull out all the stops when flying with a wiggly lap toddler. Load up your tablet with movies, shows and apps that you think will hold your toddler’s attention while on the flight. Make sure you have options because if one doesn’t work, you can move on to the next show or play with another app.

Here are some of our go tos and new apps I’ve downloaded for this trip!

  • Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episode
  • Lion Guard episode
  • Frozen
  • Peek-a-Zoo
  • Sound Touch
  • Eric Carle’s My Very First App
  • Drawing Pad
family flying with a lap toddler

4. Plan your flight in 10-15 minute slots.

Don’t assume that since your flight is during naptime that your toddler will sleep. The craziness and excitement of travel will likely keeps them awake even though you’re dying for them to just pass out. (Don’t I make traveling with a lap toddler look glamorous?)

If they do sleep, you rock and your flight should be awesome! Since they probably won’t, plan out your flight in 10-15 minute intervals.

  • 10 minutes to read books
  • 15 minutes to watch a show
  • 10 minutes to color
  • 10 minutes to read another book
  • 15 minutes of a movie
  • 10 minutes on an app
  • 10 minutes for stickers
  • So on and so forth.

You obviously aren’t trying to schedule out the flight, but instead you’re planning out the right amount of things to bring and/or download.

some flights are hard with a lap toddler

5. If everything starts to go wrong, don’t give up.

Not every flight is a good one. Even if you have a toddler that has been flying since they were born, you’re bound to have a flight or even part of a flight that just sucks. If you’re lucky, a kind stranger nearby will help you out by holding something or playing peekaboo. If you’re not lucky, you’ll get ugly death stares and rude comments. I’ve dealt with both situations.

When you’re in the throws of the on flight tantrums, everything feels horrible and like it will never end. Trust me when I say that it will be okay. You know your toddler the best. Continue doing what you think will make things better for them. One thing to remember is that they don’t know how to handle the pressure in their little ears, so if everything is failing, try a sucker!

Good Luck Momma, You’ve Got This!

Just remember that you are your toddler’s favorite person or at least one of them! Pack things you think will keep them happy. Don’t forget to add a few new surprises, presents are the best after all. If you’re toddler just can’t stay in place, let them walk up and down the aisles. Only if the pilot has okayed being out of your seatbelt of course! Do what you think is best and you’ll make it through!

Now that you have some ideas on flying with a lap toddler, you can also check out How to Pack for your Toddler because we all know that’s another challenge in itself!

Now I’m just counting down until we get to board our flight to take us on our Disneyland family vacation! Until then, I’m going to enjoy the weekend. Happy Friday y’all!

Flying with kids isn't always easy, but flying with a lap toddler can be a challenge! Here are my tips to keeping a happy toddler and sane parent on any flight. #flyingwithtoddler #flyingtips #flyingwitha1yearold #flyingwithinfant #flyingwithkidsfirsttime #toddlertravel #travelwithkids

A Quick Update and Words of Wisdom

Since I originally wrote this post three years ago, I have traveled the world with not only my daughter, but my daughter and son. Combined they have been on dozens of flights domestically and internationally. I even took my daughter to London by myself when she was 15 months old to meet up with my husband on a work trip.

I’m not sharing this to brag or get a pat on the back, but to encourage other moms (and dads) that you can do it too! Don’t let having children stop you from traveling the world and exploring through life. Teach them early on and they will become pro travelers as young children! Chloe has been to 7 countries outside of the US and is the best traveler at just 4 1/2 years old!

Check out some of our many adventures traveling around the world with and without kids!

Do you have any other tips to traveling with little people?
What are your favorite apps for toddlers?

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(17) Comments

  1. Wow! She’s so well traveled already! I always admire those who take their little ones along like that. I was never quite that brave. Mine is 2 now so we’ll get him started soon! Great tips!

    1. She has no idea how lucky she really is! Since this post, she’s been overseas a few times now too. Definitely take your son on adventures with you if you’re up to it! We love traveling with our kids!

  2. These are great tips for flying with a toddler. I see lots of my friends using that little snack cup for their friends! It’s so good for kids to get to go places. Happy travels.

  3. Excellent tips! I flew all the time with my son until he hit 2. And we mostly had good flights but some were bad.

    1. That’s how it was with my daughter. We traveled so much together. There is really only one terrible flight that I vividly remember, but otherwise she did amazing!

  4. Thank you for so many great tips. We love adventures!

    1. We do too! I’ve learned a lot traveling with my daughter so much. I’m now applying these tips with my son!

  5. I love this Amy, thankyou so much. Im actually travelling in 2 weeks with my 3yo and 1yo. Your tips are a good guide for me xx wish me luck:)

    1. I hope you find this helpful on your adventure! Good luck momma! You’ve got this 🙂

  6. Yes to ALL the snacks and tactile books! Loved the tips you shared. I once gave two diapers to a mama in need due to a delay. Airports usually don’t sell them!

    1. Airports should have a little mother/baby shop or stand! It would be so helpful for mommas that may have forgotten something!

  7. Omg, one time I got the time zones wrong and we ended up at our destination at 1am our time–it wasn’t pretty…great tips!

    1. Oh no that is rough!!!

  8. This is great advice! We recently started going to a club lounge with our 18 month old (we stay in the empty area, away from people) and it’s been such a game changer for our flights. She’s able to run around and eat snacks, and mom’s able to relax (kind of 😉 ) with a glass of wine. It’s made our flights so much easier!

    1. Agreed! When I was traveling a lot with my daughter solo, the lounge was so helpful. Now with both of our kids, it’s a must! The wine also helps calm me down a bit for the flight ahead!

  9. Jessica says:

    Traveling with a toddler has always seemed overwhelming but your tips break it down nicely. I like the suggestion to plan your flight in 10-15 minute slots – that’s so helpful!

    1. I’m so glad you’ve found it helpful! Traveling with a toddler is always unpredictable, but it’s more manageable than some realize!

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