8 Effective Tips to Handle a Toddler Tantrum on a Plane

Author: Brenda McSween and Celine Brewer

Last Updated:

We love traveling with our kids, but over the years we at Baby Can Travel have had to deal with our fair share of toddler tantrums on a plane. In order to help other parents traveling with a toddler on a plane, we decided to go to the experts to get tips on how to handle a toddler tantrum on a plane.

Traveling with toddlers is an amazing opportunity to create so many wonderful memories with your children. But, not all your travel memories will be amazing, an in reality you’ll need to deal with your child having a tantrum in public – throwing himself/herself down on the floor in the airport or screaming bloody murder on the plane!

Unfortunately, these things are natural and can happen when traveling with a toddler.

Flying tips for flying with toddler and avoiding tantrums

Toddlers are going through some major developmental changes, which can contribute to increased toddler tantrums. At this stage of development our toddlers have discovered that they can do things themselves. They have gone from having things done for them to trying to figure out how to do things themselves.

During this learning period, your children will often throw a number of toddler tantrums out of frustration, exhaustion, hunger, worrying about what is happening next, etc. 

Tips for dealing with a toddler tantrum on a plane

Strategies to Deal with Toddler Tantrums

There are basically two types of strategies that you can use to deal with a toddler tantrum on a plane. These strategies can be broken down into 2 different types of reactions:

  • Proactive Reactions: A proactive reaction is when you consciously choose to do things that may help with your child’s feelings that can stop your toddler’s need to tantrum to express his/her feelings. Toddler tantrum tips # 1 – 5 are proactive reactions.

  • Reactive Reactions: A reactive reaction is what you do after the tantrum has occurred or while it is in progress. Toddler tantrum tips # 6 – 8X are reactive reactions.
when traveling with a toddler, playing with them in an effective way to prevent a toddler tantrum on the plane

8 Effective Tips to Handle Toddler Tantrums on a Plane

Here are some proactive parenting strategies you can take to help manage those toddler tantrums:

1. Stop a Toddler Tantrum with Snacks

We all kind of joke about the word, but a toddler being “hangry” is a real thing. Keeping your toddler well-fed is an effective strategy to proactively prevent a tantrum on a plane, but it’s easy to get distracted while traveling with kids. If your toddler is having a tantrum on a a plane, a good proactive reaction to deal with the tantrum is to offer a favorite toddler travel snack.

image of long flight with a toddler

2. Keep Your Toddler Informed

One trigger for toddler tantrums is worrying about what is happening next. This can be especially true while traveling as the entire experience is new to your child. Keep your toddler informed of what is happening next on your trip. Give them a head’s up that they will have to stop playing at the airport soon so they can transfer to the plane. Your toddler will relax more when they know what is upcoming on the flight, so let them know ahead of time when the plane is going to take off and land, the process for meal service, etc.

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3. Play with Your Toddler on the Plane

To help reduce the chances of a toddler tantrum on the plane, play for a minimum of 10 minutes with your child. This is child led play! This important activity can happen on the plane, in the airport, on the bus, in a vehicle, and so on. The child led play adds to your toddler’s feeling of connection with you. This simple act has a powerful impact on your toddler’s day and will increase your child’s connection with you.

the best toddler travel toys for airplane will help avoid a tantrum during the flight

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4. Bring a Favorite Stuffy or Toy

Another excellent proactive parenting strategy to minimize the chances of a toddler tantrum on a plane is to bring a transitional object with them like a blanket or a favorite stuffy. These items are important to your toddler and are able to provide comfort when you can’t.

Bringing your toddler's favorite stuffy is an effective strategy to help avoid a toddler tantrum while flying

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5. Keep Your Daily Routines

This tip for avoiding toddler tantrums is effective for not only plane rides with a toddler, but throughout your family trip. Your toddler likes routines, so stick to a routine that is similar to home as much as possible. This simply means having meals, snacks and naps in the same order that they occur at home.

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There are going to be times when you can’t avoid those tantrums, here are some reactive parenting strategies you can use to help stop those tantrums:

6. Avoid or Stop a Toddler Tantrum with Distraction

Distraction is an effective tactic used to deal with toddler tantrums, however you may find with distraction that your child may have a few more tantrums before he/she seems ready to move on. I used to carry a few toys in my purse or backpack that I could pull out and use to help stop a toddler tantrum. If you are willing, letting your child watch a movie, tv show or listen to a read-aloud children’s book can be a great distraction for a toddler on a plane.

distraction is an effective tip to proactively avoid a toddler tantrum on a plane

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7. Give Your Toddler a Timeout

This may be hard to do when your toddler is having a tantrum on the plane, but it is possible. Give your child a few minutes on his/her own to calm down and process the moment. I personally find that timeouts are not always productive when we are in a strange place. An alternative is do you time in which is where you go with your toddler when he/she is taking a break away from the activity where the tantrum occurred.

8. Let the Toddler Tantrum Happen

Another option to deal with a toddler tantrum on the plane is to let the tantrum happen and then offering comfort when it is done. This can be referred to as offering connection. Children will often tantrum when they feel that their connection with a loved one has been effected.  Find more information in the Stop, Drop, and Connect post.

As with all things related to children, you will find that some strategies to deal with toddler tantrums on a plane work really well for one child and not well for another children. With time and patience you will discover what works best for your child. I wish you all the best traveling with your child!

Looking for some advice on dealing with toddler tantrums while travelling? Read these expert tips! |Family Travel | Travel with infant, baby or toddler | #familytravel #travelwithbaby #toddler #toddlertravel

This post was written & edited by:

Brenda McSween
Website | + posts

This guest post was written by Brenda McSween. Brenda is the proud mother and stepmother to 3 amazing boys who are 6, 18 and 22 years of age. Brenda began Parenting Foundations in 2013 after deciding it was time to pursue her passion of helping others become the parent they want to be. Brenda has a Bachelor of Child Studies, Certification of Completion of a Sleep Training program and over 20 years of experience working with Children and Families.

info@babycantravel.com | Website | + posts

Celine Brewer is the owner of Baby Can Travel. Not only does she have years of experience traveling with babies & toddlers, but she's helped millions of new parents travel with their babies and toddlers for over a decade. In addition to writing on her baby travel blog, she has shared her expertise on traveling with a baby or toddler by contributing to articles about traveling with a baby with the Washington Post, USA Today, the Lonely Planet magazine and Pregnancy & Newborn magazine.

Celine also writes about family travel on the site FamilyCanTravel.com, which she co-owns with her husband. Being from the Canadian Rockies, she shares her passion about her home and travel to Banff National Park and area on their site TravelBanffCanada.com.

Read more about Celine Brewer.