6 Ways to Make Plane Travel with a Toddler Fun

As most of you know, we had our TMD Retreat last weekend in Michigan. We had the best time getting to know one another in real life (yay!), chatting about bloggy stuff, meeting some of our favorite readers, and eating pie (lots and lots of pie). Before the trip, I could hardly contain my excitement over getting to meet everyone. There was one thing I wasn’t excited about, though, and that was flying with a toddler.

Our trip started with a two-hour drive to the Boise airport, where we met Geneva and Coyote. We then hopped on our United Airlines flight, flew for nearly four hours to Chicago, picked up our rental car, and drove another two hours to Lake Michigan. Our return trip required a three-and-a-half-hour drive to Milwaukee (again, with United), six hours of flying/layovers back to Boise, and then two more hours driving the middle of the night back home to Baker City. Phew. I’m tired just remembering it all! (It was MORE than worth, it by the way.) I’m not complaining, just outlining the crazy, long days of travel that had me up at night wondering what I was going to do with my 17 month old for all of it! And now that it’s all over and I can say that not only did it go smoothly, the travel time went astoundingly well. I felt like we were perfectly prepared and Adele handled the transition wonderfully. While I’m sure some of it is due to her sweet, laidback, well-behaved demeanor (I’m bragging a little), I also know a lot of it had to do with the activities I brought for her. If you’re traveling with a toddler anytime soon, read on for a few tips to make it enjoyable for both of you.

1.) Travel Magna Doodle. She loved drawing (read: scribbling furiously) for a little while. This was a good activity for when we had to have electronics turned off on the plane. It was also fun to draw things for her and let her guess/tell me what they were. She is particularly obsessed with buppies (puppies) so we drew a lot of those.

2.) Snap Open Pill Organizer (filled with little toys). This was my favorite travel activity. We ONLY used this while she was on my lap on the plane (since the small pieces could pose a choking hazard). I took a pill organizer (the seven-day kind) where you push a little tab and the compartment pops open and filled it with little trinkets. Since Adele loves puppies, I bought tiny Squinkie puppies and put one in several of the compartments and then put a few small random things in the others. Adele learned to push the tab, take a puppy out, and either play with it, place it on our tray, or put it back. She would then shut the compartment and move on to another. She was absolutely fascinated by the way each compartment opened and closed, and she adored the little puppies inside. People around us on the plane were impressed by how simple this activity was, yet how much time Adele spent occupied with it.

3.) Puffballs! I bought a small package of little puffballs for a dollar from the Target dollar bins and she LOVED these. She squeezed them, tossed them, moved them around, and even just stared at them. And since they were so cheap, if we lost one, we just grabbed another!

4.) Drinks. I brought a Lifefactory Sippy of water for her, but mostly? She just wanted to nurse. She nursed at every take-off and landing, and because of this, her ears didn’t seem to bother her much at all. We even nursed while sitting next to a man dressed in expensive clothing, carrying a Prada shoulder bag, and reading Fortune 500 and Money magazines.

5.) Apps. You thought I traveled media free, didn’t you. Well, I may not like kids sitting in front of screens all day, but I am definitely not too proud to use a little bit of technology to make traveling a little smoother. We asked our Instagram friends what their favorite baby/toddler apps were, and then chose a few. We ended up with a couple Fisher Price apps that were free (she only kind of liked those), Peekaboo Barn (she liked that one pretty well) and our very favorite, Nick Jr. Draw! The Nick Jr. Draw app is great for someone her age to scribble around on, tap balls that bounce all over the screen, and see little fireworks that form characters on the screen. She LOVED this one. And best of all, my older kids love it too, so it will work for them on long trips as well!

6.) YGG. And not just any YGG, the Super Spies DVD. We watched this while in the car, and while Adele may need a YGG intervention (I won’t name names, but someone in our house has been yelling YO! in her sleep) it really was a lifesaver while trying to navigate Chicago traffic. Even Coyote, who was a YGG virgin, enjoyed his fair share of the Gabba Gang over the weekend!

A few little tid-bits about flying with United Airlines: Adele rode for free as a lap passenger (which any child can to until age 2). We were allowed to babywear through security, and we brought snacks from home onto the plane so that she had something to munch on during the flight. They even allowed us to bring water/coconut water from home on board, only requiring a quick test to make sure it was safe. We were able to board early, allowing us to settle in before the other passengers boarded. No one hassled us about breastfeeding while we were flying (in fact, the flight attendants gave us sweet smiles whenever they passed and noticed Adele was STILL nursing). On the last leg of our flight home, the flight attendant made sure Geneva and I were able to sit together, with a seat in between us so that there were enough oxygen masks, and gave us plenty of water for the littles when we had run out. So if you are looking for a baby and breastfeeding friendly airline, I would definitely recommend traveling with United.

There you have it. These 6 activities made our long days of traveling not only manageable, but truly enjoyable. I can’t wait until next year!

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*Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way for this post. These opinions are my own and I am sharing them so that others know what a great experience we had during our travel with United Airlines. 

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  1. Geneva -  July 28, 2012 - 10:43 am

    If Coyote could talk, I imagine he would be asking for Yo! in his sleep, too. I miss you so much already, Kelli! And I was very suprised at how painless our travel was.

  2. Monica -  February 22, 2013 - 3:16 pm

    Great ideas! We actually have done most of them before, but I will have to get a pill case for our next flight. My son loves anything that opens and closes! My son doesn’t nurse anymore but when we flew jet blue and american we never had any problems with it. He doesn’t know about YGG yet but we watch videos of him on my phone and tablet. Did your little one wear headphones? My son didn’t want anything to do with them and you couldn’t really hear the movies otherwise.

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