We get a lot of questions about baby travel, but especially tips for flying with a baby or toddler. We typically fly with very few toys, as we have found they often get neglected as our kids are far too interested in everything else on the plane. Having a few key travel toys or activities for your toddler that you can cycle through will be a life saver.
At each stage of development, you'll need new ways to entertain your baby on a flight. Every kid is different and enjoys playing with different toys or books for different lengths of time (or in different ways). This list of things to do on a plane with your baby or toddler is a starting point to help you get some basics, then maybe add on a favorite toy or something that happens to hold your baby’s attention longer than other toys.
If you have travel toys that have worked very well when flying with your baby, we’d love to hear about it and add it to this list!
0 to 6 Months Old
Flying with an infant can be one of the easiest flights you'll take with your baby. Between 0 to 3 months old, you really don’t need to worry about bringing any toys or books for your baby. Chances are good your baby will spend a lot of time sleeping.
At 3 to 6 months old, flying with your baby may still mean a lot of sleeping (hopefully), but your baby may start taking more of an interest in a few toys as well. They will likely be entertained enough by their surroundings but a couple of airplane activities to bring are:
Teething Toy or Necklace
Colorful Toy With Different Textures
6 to 12 Months Old
We found when traveling with a baby in this age range, they were mostly interested in playing with the stuff on the plane. From the window shade and the tray to the seat buckle and safety card, they are happy to explore everything (mostly with their mouth). Getting a plastic cup, straw and spoon from the flight attendant also provided plenty of entertainment. Even just a blanket, can provide valuable minutes of entertainment.
Snacks also become a great distractions when flying with a baby at this age. We always bring snacks that also take a long time to eat like Cheerios or Gerber Puffs. Spill-proof toddler snack containers are a life-saver!
Other passengers can be pretty exciting too. Peeking through the seats is a great game (if you can find someone interested in engaging with your baby). Or take them for several “walks” down the aisle.
We had a Bright Starts Clack and Slide Activity Ball that was a favourite travel toy in our house. If you have the room, this is a good toy to bring as it can hold your baby's attention for a long time. Another good option is the Manhattan Winkel Rattle and Sensory Teether.
Bring along a couple of board books, like the fun travel themed ones in our Shop, and you should be all set.
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12 to 18 Months Old
Flying with a toddler can be the most intimidating age. At this age, the attention span is still pretty short and they are very active. There’s a great illustration from the book Happiest Toddler on the Block that shows a 7 minute time span of an 18 month old in a nursery moving from station to station. This helps to explain why each thing you bring will entertain your toddler for such a short time!
The plane and all the people on it are still going to be quite a novelty and will provide plenty of entertainment during your flight with your toddler. Taking trips up and down the aisle and playing with everything around will take up a lot of time.
For this age, some of the best travel toys are simple toys that are going to be easy to put away and take back out because you’ll be doing a lot of that. Plenty of snacks that will provide some distraction are always a winner when flying with children. We continue to bring those that take longer to eat, like Cheerios served in a spill-proof snack container.
Books with plenty of pictures that you can talk about are excellent for keeping your toddler occupied for extended periods of time. We especially like the board books in the First 100 Box Set for this.
Another great toddler airplane activity is very simple apps, which we introduced between 14 and 18 months of age. Like all travel toys for toddlers, they don’t hold attention for long but it's nice to have "easy to pack" distractions to rotate through.
The Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! Activity Books are a great travel toy to bring. Not only do they work with water (i.e. very little mess) but they are reusable.
18 to 24 Months Old
Between 18 and 24 months, the attention span for watching short shows will start to appear which is good news for flying with a toddler. As for every age, the usual activities for toddlers will work great here: favourite books, snacks, Buckle Toy, Finger puppets, coloring, stickers.
As your little one really starts to enjoy coloring, a great coloring book is the My First Big Book of Coloring. With 200 pages it may be a bit big to take on a short trip so two great alternatives are the Toddler Coloring Book and My Plane Trip.
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Other slightly more complicated apps can be introduced at this age. They likely won’t hold your toddlers attention for long, but if you have a few then flipping between them can provide a lengthy distraction. Some favourites at this age were:
Even if you bring the traditional coloring book and crayons, don’t forget the Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! Activity Books. They are easy to pack and with very little mess are a great alternative when your toddler needs a new activity. Another great alternative for older toddlers are the Crayola Color Wonder books.
2 Years +
As your little toddler begins to transition into a preschooler, they will get much easier to entertain on the plane. Flying with a 3 year old is easier than flying with a 2 year old. Their attention span grows such that they can watch a movie (or chunks of it at a time). They can also spend more time focused on a task like coloring or playing with stickers. The Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! Activity Books are still a great mess-free option to bring along. Of course, plenty of snacks are still necessary too.
If your child loves books, bring along some favorites to (re)read. We have transitioned to bringing along magazines like Chirp or High Five instead of books. They provide stories and activities that can help entertain your preschooler for the duration of your trip, plus they take up very little room.
If you are travelling with two or more children, the older siblings can be left with an iPad while you deal with your baby. If you'd like your toddler to actually learn something, instead of watching mindless movies, ABCmouse has eight educational apps (for iOS and Android) which can be used offline, making them perfect for flights. A trip is a perfect time to try their risk-free 30 day free trial! If your kids don't love it, simply cancel it when you get back from your trip.
If your child prefers books, an excellent app to bring on vacation is Disney Story Central. This app will read many of the books to your child, while highlighting each words on the page as it is read. Our daughter especially loves having the books read to her. Hundreds of books are available for single purchase or unlimited reading with a subscription.
Other great apps for flying with children between the ages of 2 and 4 years old are:
Let us know what kept your baby or toddler entertained on your flights! Comment below...
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Still Have Questions?
What do you pack to entertain your baby on flights?