Are you planning a trip with your little one and need some ideas for easy airplane and car activities for toddlers? It is not an easy task to travel with a toddler, especially long haul flights, but it is definitely possible! The main tip I can give is to make sure you plan ahead and prepare yourself for keeping your one or two year olds busy on the plane or in the car. The experience may be new and different and having some fun and entertaining distractions in the diaper bag will help!
*I know 2021 is still a “different” year for travel, but as the world reopens (Lord willing), I know we will all want to be getting out there. Some of my tips will reflect the current “great unpleasantness” but for the most part, this will be an evergreen post so that you can refer to it beyond the next few months.
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How should I prepare to travel with a toddler on a plane?
- Consider booking your toddler her own seat even if they are under two and qualify as a lap baby. It is so nice to have the extra room for young children and all of their things. This is one of my top tips and always a good idea!
- Purchase a stroller and car seat bag to protect your items when they are with the baggage. We typically check our car seat with the luggage and take the stroller all the way to the gate. We did end up with a warped stroller after our last trip, so you may want to consider taking a less expensive stroller for a great option for travel. The bags below from Amazon have been a great idea for our past several flights.
- For car trips, we usually just purchase a cheap umbrella stroller so it’s simple to fold up and throw in the car.
- If you are flying with a lap baby, make sure to check your airline’s requirements. You may need to take a copy of her birth certificate or shot record to prove their age. We forgot that one time and it was rather stressful at the check-in counter while we figured it out.
- If you are flexible, consider traveling during a time when your toddler will be happiest. Maybe mid-morning or later in the afternoon after a little nap, your toddler will be more excited about their family travel experience!
- Be sure to change baby’s diaper before the flight or car trip. Of course, there are usually diaper changing stations in at least one of the plane’s bathrooms, but they are tight! Much easier to avoid them if you can.
What kind of diaper bag should I use?
I prefer a backpack style diaper bag, similar to the Eddie Bauer one pictured below. I find them easier to tote through the airport or to the car, and I love having the separate compartments. It just makes things easier to find than in a traditional style diaper bag with a lot of space for all the things you need on a flight or car trip.
What should I pack in the diaper bag?
Change of Clothes
Make sure you pack a change of clothes for your toddler in the diaper bag. We all know you never know what might occur between diapers and snacks, so just be prepared. Also, consider throwing in some Ziploc bags to seal up snacks, wrap up wet clothing, or any variety of needs!
I was a germaphobe before 2020, but now I am next level, so….pack sanitizer wipes, hand sanitizer, and maybe even a small Lysol spray. I wipe absolutely everything down, including the armrests, the seat belts, and the tray table (inside and out). The latch on the tray table gets a good workout from our kids, so make sure that gets an extra wipe. A little germ prevention – always a good idea!
Pack plenty of snacks that won’t cause a mess. Think through what won’t melt or leave sticky fingers. Honestly, I usually just grab some bags of Goldfish, applesauce pouches or put some cereal in a Ziploc bag and call it a day. Bonus tip-if you are going to pack a regular size bag of snacks (not small size), also wrap a rubber band around the snack bag so it won’t spill all over your diaper bag when you are done. Snacks help keep little fingers occupied for the entire flight.
I also love this snack tower from Amazon! You can pack a variety of snacks in it and it easily reseals and stores in the corner of the diaper bag or your carry-on bag. It does not take up much space and keeps snacks dry and fresh. It can also double as one of your small toys for older toddlers, taking the tops on and off. Perfect and easy!
*Be advised that some airports make you take all snacks out of your bag when you go through security. I thought I was being so smart when I packed snacks in each child’s backpack but it ended up being stressful when I had to go through each backpack to pull out snacks in the security line. Try just combining all snacks into one bag, so it’s easy to pull out and put on the belt, if needed.
Of course, don’t forget a sippy cup! We usually leave ours empty until we are through security and refill with either the fountains designed for water bottles throughout the airport or a bottled water from an airport store. You might want to bring two, just in case one falls on the airport or plane floor!
Toys and Books to Pack for Toddlers During Plane and Car Trips
If you have a toddler that will need a few distractions throughout the trip, consider the following ideas. Pick and choose according to your little one’s interests and attention span. Consider these toddler plane activities and car activities for toddlers.
Board Books with Flaps
Our little one loves books with flaps and her current obsessions include animals, colors and people. The books below from Little People and Cottage Door Press are some of our favorites for travel. In fact, I keep them in our travel bag, so they are new and exciting to her when she sees them on trips.
Crayola Color Wonder Markers and Paper
The Color Wonder markers are just the best for little ones that want to use markers but aren’t quite able to control them as well as older siblings. We love to have these in our bag for planes or car, along with using them in restaurants or other areas where we may have to wait. Perfect for little ones and their siblings!
Montessori Quiet Book
These quiet busy books are a little bit pricey but they have SO many great activities to help little ones work on fine motor skills, and I love that it keeps all the materials in one spot. You can find many varieties of these, but this one features matching colored shapes, using a buckle, using a button and a zipper. This is one of our best toddler toys, on and off the road!
Travel Doodle Board with Stamps
Our toddler loves these busy boards and it’s perfect for helping children recognize that their fine motor practice results in written “text.” She also loves using the shape stampers to make different pictures. Again, I love that all of it stays in one place.
Wikki Stix are another thing I just keep in our bag. Again, our older children love them too and the possibilities for designing with them is endless. You can practice letters, shapes, patterns, anything with these things and they store easily in the cylinder package. They provide plenty of flight entertainment!
Fisher Price Little People
Do Little People ever get old? We love these things, and they can survive anything! You can get these in any variety, superheroes, farm animals, princesses, etc. I pop them in a Ziploc bag and bring them out whenever we need a little pretend play. Finger puppets can also be a great alternative for long trips and fellow passengers will appreciate how quiet Little People and finger puppets are as well!
Play Dough is always in our bag. Again, if we don’t use it en route, we will use at the hotel or condo where we are staying. Our older kids still love it too. Plus, it’s so inexpensive, I don’t mind tossing it if it gets worn out on the trip. You can also use plastic utensils or cheap cookie cutters to help make different shapes while on your plane ride or car trip.
Triangular Crayons and Paper
You can’t beat the old standards! I love the triangular shaped crayons because they won’t roll around as much. Make sure you give your toddler the largest paper you can manage. It can be difficult for them to manage their fine motor skills on a small sheet of paper. Also, if you are in a small space, consider only giving them one or two at a time. You don’t want to be cleaning up the whole box constantly.
Stickers for Toddler Plane Activities or Car Activities for Toddlers
If your little one loves stickers, a car or plane trip is the perfect time to pull them out! Just make sure they have some paper to stick them on. I always manage to find one or two stuck to my elbow by the end. Again, if you have older children, they can be really helpful with helping your toddler with these.
Quick release window stickers can also be fun to put on windows of the plane or car. Just make sure they are meant for those surfaces and come off easily. Resusable stickers come on and off easily, so they lessen frustration for young children.
Electronics for Toddler Plane or Car Activities
Make sure to download your little one’s favorite app or show before traveling. Also, make sure you have enough battery power or pack a portable charger to keep it going. Nothing like your phone dying in the middle of Cocomelon to make your little one melt down!
Pack suitable headphones for your child to wear. Not everyone on the plane or in the car needs to listen to Baby Shark over and over again. Screen time and headphones can be a lifesaver for your sanity on a long trip, so don’t feel guilty about it!
I hope these ideas for toddler plane activities or car activities for toddlers are helpful to you on your journey. If you need more ideas for planning a road trip with your family during these “unprecedented times”, be sure to hop to this post next.