Here is my bag of tricks that has helped me have a successful flight with a young toddler. Our little man has been on 6 trips (17 flights-including all the connections) in his first 12 months of life. So, I really believe in these tricks:-)
1. A blankey or snuggly comfort object. When he was younger (5-9 months) this little monkey blanket was enough. But lately we bring his full size “blankey” too. It helps him to be able to sleep on the flight, which is crucial! Also, we try to book flights during one of his 2 nap times, or after his bedtime, so he can sleep on the flight.
2. A music-maker. This is especially helpful if you are in the habit of playing music when your child goes to sleep. This was the insert in a Winnie-the-Poo toy that was a gift, but here’s a less expensive music maker. Rather than bring the whole toy, I just take out the music maker and play it when I am trying to get him to sleep. He’s used to hearing the music during naps and music is such a great tool to shift behavior.
3. Pinwheel. This little plastic thing is worth it’s weight in gold and costs less than a dollar! I can’t overstate how great it is for travel. It fits in the diaper bag and can get crinkled and bent and still work. My son would hold it and it would spin in his hand while he rode in the stroller through the airport. We also pulled it out often during the flight for entertainment.
4. Reusable ziplock bag – for no-mess snacks. Have about 3 no-mess snacks on hand. Here are some great suggestions. Cheerios are my favorite, because it takes him a long time to pick up and eat each Cheerio (and eating means his mouth is not free to be screaming). Also, if he doesn’t need to eat, we can play with the goldfish or Cheerios as toys, putting them in and out of the bag or a cup from the flight attendant:-)
5. Small & Interactive books – I love that someone invented books that have sliding and lifting flaps. They’ve entertained my son a lot (especially from 10-13 months), and they are good for his overall development.
7. Balloons. OMG. If you don’t have a regular stock of balloons in your home and diaper bag, you should now. I LOVE balloons. *Of course children always need to be supervised and make sure they don’t put the balloons in their mouths, as they are a safety hazard. After safety is established, these little wonders are the best! They a) only take up a tiny amount of space in your bag, b) can be bounced or kicked while killing time in the airport or squeezed and bounced around in a plane seat, c) are always a crowd-pleaser with about any age child. Side note: I have some handy in my house for when friends with kids come over for parties. You can read an example from my NYE party. Balloons are always a hit!