Confession…Flying With My Almost Three Year Old is Almost Easy

Sep 23, 2012

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I have to confess something – traveling with my 33 month old is almost easy (no, I don’t normally count in months). There are a bunch of things about caring for my toddler that are not easy at all, but flying with her is insanely simple. I am certain that some of that is just very fortunate luck, but given how “go go go” her personality normally is, I have to think that some of it is from knowing the routine and what is expected during the flight. In other words, I think you can train many toddlers to be good travelers. That is very good news since flying with an untrained toddler wouldn’t be very fun!

I think part of what has made it simple at this point is that she has done it many times, but there are some things that we do that seem to help. So, I wanted to share some of those tips in case they might be helpful to other toddler travelers.

  • We have her take as active a role as possible in the traveling process. This includes helping decide which toys and clothes to pack, having her put everything in her bag (though I often have to pack everything neater when she isn’t watching), and having her carry her bag through the airport for as long as she will tolerate. We also let her carry her boarding pass to the TSA agents, and she gives her own name when they ask. Those are all simple things, but they make her feel like a part of the process.

  • When we are in the airport, we spend time in the family room of the United Club, if possible. This is usually a room with toys and a door where she won’t be in anyone’s way, and we don’t have to keep telling her, “No, stay here. No, come back. Don’t go over there.” If we can’t get to a family room, then we try to find a corner of the club with no other people to bother until just before boarding time.
  • While in the airport we have her walk/run around as much as possible to get her energy out before sitting on the plane. I would much rather her walk laps around the terminal than sit and quietly play with toys while waiting for the plane. There will be enough sitting one we board, so the airport is the time to stretch her legs.

  • We have her use the restroom right before getting on the plane so that she (hopefully) doesn’t have to go right in the middle of boarding or while the fasten seatbelt light is still on.
  • We always have a new toy for her on each trip. She knows about this toy well in advance, and gets to look forward to opening it on the airplane. This makes the flight itself something to really look forward to. For the last few flights she has been getting a new My Little Pony each time. These are small and inexpensive, so it makes for the perfect “plane toy”. Little Disney Cars toys have also been good plane toys for us on previous trips.
  • Have a “no electronics until we are in the clouds” rule. We don’t let her start watching movies or playing with any electronics until 10,000 feet. It would be a recipe for disaster to have them on during boarding and then have to turn them off when the door closes. This is also beneficial because she has started to just fall asleep shortly after boarding as she knows there isn’t much to do right away.


  • I have said this many times, but we continue to stick with one activity until she doesn’t want to do it anymore. On our most recent flight C was happily just sitting there snuggling with her blankie and her Daddy asked if she wanted M&Ms or her new toy? I wanted to slap him with a copy of Skymall as those were items to not be used until necessary. Repeat 10 times, do not move on to the next activity until absolutely necessary. Let happy toddlers remain in their constant state until they start to become unhappy.
  • Have a virtually limitless supply of yummy snacks and drinks available. This isn’t just important in the event that the kiddo is actually hungry, but it is also just a good way to kill some time. I give her little cheddar bunnies to eat one at a time so that it takes longer.
  • We have also taught her that there is a “no crying on airplanes” rule. In fact, if you ask her what are the rules on an airplane, 9 times out of 10 she will say that crying is not allowed on airplanes. I think she should go on the road teaching other babies that important lesson. For the most part she practices what she preaches in that respect.

I’m sure this post will totally jinx our next flight, but I wanted to share what is working right now for our almost three year old. If you are a parent who is still dealing with traveling all the gear, diapers, etc. with an infant I promise it gets easier. The closer the kiddos get to three, the easier it gets…at least in my case. Of course, that still doesn’t mean that the process is seamless (I still think getting the rental car is often the worst part), but the actual flying part really isn’t so bad anymore. I’d love to hear what other tips are working for your young children while flying!


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