High Flying Success: One Busy Toddler’s Plane Ride

One Busy Toddler's Plane Ride | WildTalesof.com

Bergen’s (22 months) last plane ride as an official “lap baby” was last week.  At least based upon our latest travel schedule update, he now won’t fly until a trip that falls within his 2nd birthday.  It’s the end of an era.

Always nervous about his behavior, this trip was no different than any of the dozen or so flights Bergen has taken during his young life.  Each flight marks new changes in eating habits, development, and interests, so we constantly tweak our approach and “bag-of-tricks”.

One thing remains the same though: Bergen really has no interest in screens other than a few seconds here and there.  A blessing, probably, but we also look on in jealousy as other toddlers zone out while we work to provide constant amusement for our little traveler.

To demonstrate the busyness taking place even on a short 1 hour 45 minute plane ride, between diversion changes, I took notes and managed to snap photos, a play-by-play of sorts, of our journey between Seattle, WA and Bozeman, MT.

Snack for Take-off

  • Now that Bergen is past the bottle and nursing stages, we utilize food via small snack items to ensure that he swallows enough to keep his ears clear.  On this flight, I filled his “snack-trap” with cereal to ensure continuous munching.  A sippy cup of milk might also be an option though Bergen tends to suck his milk down so quickly that it would be long gone by the time we reach our cruising altitude.


  • In his carry-on toy bag, we always pack 4 or 5 board books for Bergen to flip through, and listen to us read.  We do our best to draw the experience out for as long as possible talking about the pictures in more detail than usual and doing more than one reading.

Mini Photo Album

  • Right before our trip, I printed about 30 recent photos and added them to a small inexpensive photo album.  Bergen LOVES looking at pictures of himself and people he recognizes.  He was happy to flip through the album pointing out “mama, dad, ball, car” etc. It was also quite fun for us to take a little walk down memory lane with him.

Busy Toddlers Plane Ride | WildTalesof.com

Electric Toothbrush

  • Somewhere along the line, we got the suggestion to pack an electric toothbrush for the flight.  It’s turned out to be effective in entertaining Bergen  It’s exciting for him to watch, listen, and feel the vibrating bristles, and to top it all off, its OKAY for him to put in his mouth! For this particular trip, he was due for a new toothbrush, so we waited for the flight to open the box, and took the time to decorate the brush with the enclosed stickers.

Busy Toddler's Plane Ride | WildTalesof.com

Reusable Sticker Book

  • A book full of stickers with items (animals, toys, etc.) that Bergen recognized was just another thing for him to flip through and keep him entertained.  The sticker aspect makes for an even more engaging activity because the “pictures” can be taken out of the book! We stuck stickers on his board books, on the seat-back and tray table, on his water bottle, and on his cheeks.  Then, because the stickers are reusable, we didn’t have to worry about any attachment being permanent.

Busy Toddler's Plane Ride | WildTalesof.com

New and Exciting Toy

  • Right before our trip, we happened upon a yard sale on one of our walks in the neighborhood.  As Slaed and I were scanning the lawn for treasures, Bergen would not keep quiet.  Whining, begging, and pointing like a little maniac, we finally realized that he had his eye on an electronic turtle-shaped toy complete with plenty of buttons and pages to flip.  For the bargain price of $2, you can bet we took the toy home.  We set it aside, and didn’t get it out until we were settled in for our journey to Bozeman.  Even though it’s bigger than the toys we usually take (and noisier), we thought the extra bulk was well worth the fuss for the added entertainment length.
  • If you don’t have any yard sales happening where you live, you might have similar luck (in terms of price and selection) at thrift and consignment stores.  Set your little one free, see what they are drawn to, snatch that item up, and save it for your next flight!

Busy Toddler's Plane Ride | WildTalesof.com

Utilize Toddler-Friendly Plane Supplies

  • There is an array of items sitting on plane waiting for Bergen to explore.  Some of our favorites include a cup of ice, perusing the in-flight magazine searching for things he recognizes, using the barf-bag for puppets and hide and go seek, and checking out the flight safety information and menu cards. A fabulous flight attendant on our return trip from Bozeman even made Bergen a “balloon animal” out of one of her plastic gloves! We try to get as much use out of what’s already provided for Bergen’s amusement as possible.

Busy Toddler's Plane Ride | WildTalesof.com

Small Toys that Pack a Punch

  • Part of my packing process always includes roaming around the house in search of small toys that would work well for Bergen on the plane.  The toys must be engaging and must be multifunctional.  Some of them may be old standby’s like a couple of toy hotwheel-type cars while others may be something that Bergen hasn’t seen in a while like his slinky.  Bergen is also finally taking an interest in coloring (though he still likes to take bites out of the crayons), so a few crayons also get thrown in his toy bag.

Busy Toddler's Plane Ride | WildTalesof.com

Slooooooow Snack Time

  • Bergen loves to eat and he’s got a pretty hefty appetite.  We take advantage of this by breaking out the snacks on the plane at regular intervals (depending on flight time, of course).  Like all the other diversions, we drag this time out.  If we laid out all of the mini pretzels he would devour them in 2 seconds.  Instead, my husband slowly snakes the pretzel through the bag until it suddenly appears for Bergen to snatch or we hide the pretzel under a cup making a game out of it.
  • Bergen is now big enough to handle an entire apple on his own, and we discovered recently the act of eating one really occupies his attention.  His mouth is busy chomping away while his hands have to do a lot of work holding that apple in place.  Dare I say we actually got a little break while he sat contently eating his apple.

Busy Toddler's Plane Ride | WildTalesof.com

Stretch of the Legs

  • When I can tell Bergen is getting restless or we all just need a break from our seats, we take a walk around the plane if allowed.  We visit the bathroom even if one of us doesn’t have to go.  We walk the aisle to wave at other passengers, and make our way down to the flight attendant’s galley to take a peak at the happenings there.

Lollipop for Landing

  • We save the extreme sugar rush for last.  Since Bergen has eaten his way through the flight, exhausted all of his toy options, and lost interest in drinking anymore liquids, the lollipop really saves the day, and hopefully his ears.  We only bust out this trick when we fly, so this makes for a very special treat and keeps him busy during that sometimes stressful landing period where he must remain seated. Because the treat is so valuable, it mostly ends up in his mouth, but we always have wet wipes on the ready!

Busy Toddler's Plane Ride | WildTalesof.com

Traveled with a toddler? What tips and tricks do you have to share?

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Note: On the way home from Bozeman (where most of the photos were taken) we were lucky enough to be given an extra seat for Bergen because the plane was not full.  This is why you see him seated on his own in many of the shots.  Both legs (with and without the extra seat) were a success, but as you can imagine the addition of more room made the whole experience much more comfortable for all.

More on Flying with Little Ones:

Bonbon Break

13 thoughts on “High Flying Success: One Busy Toddler’s Plane Ride

    • Thanks, Joy. 🙂 We were super nervous this time! Didn’t mention it in the post, but we also had the added pressure of flying with friends–that we were then lodging with…we didn’t want them to regret their decision to stay with us 😉 Turned out to be a great thing because B had some familiar faces to visit.

  1. So true about keeping them constantly entertained. I had to do the same for my daughter and it was so sad when we took that last “lap baby” flight! She’s now just over 3 and we have turned to driving everywhere! We are finally flying again in September. Love the tips!

    • Thanks, Kiera! Yup, after a less than stellar flight home from Kauai we vowed to shorten those plan rides to just a couple hours for a while. I think we are now making progress though!

  2. You are such a good, attentive mama. We were flying 10.5 hours last week, and my 8-year-old started getting bored around hour 7. Part of me just wanted to say “Leave me alone,” but that would, of course, not have been very nice or loving. I really had to summon up patience to entertain her. I think I told her to go and take a walk around the plane.

    • Aww, thanks Michele! 10.5 hours is whole different story!! I would have felt the same way. So curious to see how Bergen fares on the plane as he gets older…

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