How to Actually Enjoy Flying With a Toddler on Your Lap

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Inside: See how to decrease your stress flying with a toddler on your lap and actually enjoy it. Traveling with a 2-year-old on a plane can truly be fun using these detailed tips from a mom who has traveled with two toddlers many times.

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We arrived at the airport two hours early, knowing that inevitably part of checking bags, ticketing, transporting within the airport, or security was likely to take an unusually long time. I was pushing a double stroller with my two toddlers bundled inside with their backpacks.

Flying with a lap child Traveling with a 2 year old on a plane

My husband was chivalrously pushing our four bags and two car seats through the airport.  We looked like a circus. People couldn’t help but stare.

I had meticulously called ahead to make sure everything was set up, including adding my son as “infant in arms” to our ticket since was going to sit on our laps.

We finally made it through ticketing, dropped off our bags, caught the tram and were halfway across the airport when we arrived at security. That’s when they said my son was not listed on my ticket as an infant in arms and we were going to have to go back to ticketing and potentially miss our flight.

traveling with the whole family

I almost cried. Despite my best planning, flying by nature can be stressful. A security manager had mercy on us and found a way to add my son without sending us back through the entire airport.

And that was all BEFORE the flight even began.

However, the actual experience of flying with a toddler on your lap can still be enjoyable by following a few simple tips I learned from traveling (several times) with two toddlers.

flying with a toddler on your lap

Stress-Free Tips for Flying with a Toddler on Your Lap

If your anything like me, you want to plan ahead to have as smooth of an experience as possible traveling with a 2-year-old on a plane. Because let’s face it, toddlers can be squirmy and have a short attention span. Not to worry though, I’ve got you covered.

1. Packing List

Use a packing list to make sure you remember everything you want to bring. I have a free complete packing list for the whole family that is ready to print. Then, you can just write any extra items you might want to bring along on the extra lines.

I like to start at least a week ahead, so I have plenty of time to chase down any missing items. Keep reading to find out exactly what we typically pack in our backpacks for how to keep our toddler busy on the airplane.

See how to decrease your stress flying with a toddler on your lap and actually enjoy it. #momlifeClick To Tweet

2. Snacks. Snacks. MORE Snacks.

For an airplane ride, my healthy eating rules go out the window, and I buy all kinds of snacks, especially ones that my kids don’t always get to eat. I do mix in some healthy ones too. And I always bring small suckers for ascending and descending on the flight.

Then, I split them in half and package them up in small plastic bags for the flights. If they are prepackaged in small portions, that’s even better.

Here are some snack ideas:

  • mandarin orange
  • nuts
  • applesauce
  • chips / pretzels
  • chocolate covered raisins
  • chocolate covered almonds
  • fruit snacks
  • snack necklaces (more on this later)
  • candy
  • granola bars

For a complete list of approved food items that are allowed on airlines, you can visit this link from the TSA.

Traveling with a 2 year old on a plane

3. Raid the Dollar Store for Easy Toddler Airplane Activities

Raiding the dollar store for easy activities is huge for us. I like to find a ton of small toys that are different from our usual ones for keeping my toddler busy on the flight.

Here are some toddler airplane activity ideas that we’ve found at the dollar store:

  • Art bag: sticky notes, markers, stamps, and crayons
  • Dry erase boards that come with a marker and eraser
  • Etch and sketch doodle boards
  • Hot wheels style cars
  • Stickers
  • Mini play dough
  • Mini foam blocks
  • Mini puzzles
  • Window cling stickers

For even more on-the-go activity ideas, you can look here where I share our family road trip hacks.

traveling with a 2 year old on a plane
The best part of traveling with little ones is making memories that will last forever.

4. Headphones

Bring a good set of headphones that have the old school fitting because, for example, the new iPhone headphones won’t fit in the airplane jack. I made that mistake on our last flight for myself.

Many airlines provide free movies to watch during the flight. This is one of my kid’s favorite activities on the plane… as long as I remember both sets of headphones. 🙂

Also, don’t buy cheap headphones if you can help it. I like ones that cover the child’s whole ear because they won’t keep falling off. We use these.

I bought a cheap pair, and my son accidentally broke the jack just plugging it in. So we were then down to one set of headphones for a four-hour flight. Not worth it.

5. iPad / Tablet

In order to enjoy flying with a toddler on your lap, iPads and tablets make life so much easier. I load the iPad with a movie or two and some new apps. Anything to keep their attention during the flight.

I also bought a headphone splitter so that both of my kids can watch the iPad at the same time.

toddler airplane activities

6. Snack Necklaces

Before our trip,  we made snack necklaces out of pretzels, Lifesaver Gummies, and cereal. All you need to do is lace the snacks onto a string. To make this easier for little ones, I show you how to make a simple “needle” for threading from a straw here (at 22 seconds in).

My kids LOVED these. And it took them about 20 minutes to eat them. Win!

7. Other items to pack in Toddler Carry On

I pack a small backpack for each of my kids to carry on the plane to hold all of their activities and snacks. We use this dinosaur one for my son because it also has a safety harness, in the case that we wanted to use that. Plus, it’s insulated to keep things cold.

I also pack a water bottle for my child, that I can refill as necessary. It makes life way easier. And I pack travel size wet wipes in each of their bags because kids find all kinds of ways to make messes. 🙂

I also re-use the small plastic snack bags for mini trash bags as my kids eat their snacks.

traveling with the whole family

Wrapping Up Flying With a Toddler

So, there are ALL of my secrets for genuinely enjoying flying with a child on your lap. My last bit of advice is to just roll with the punches. I try to be flexible when flying and have a very relaxed attitude. I find that this helps everyone to actually enjoy the flight.

I wish you lots of luck on your next adventure! Let me know if I missed any travel hacks for airplane activities for preschoolers, toddlers or babies. And don’t forget to get your PRINTABLE packing list here.

P.S. If you enjoyed this, you might also like this Complete Guide for Traveling to the Magic Kingdom.