Going on a Plane with 3 Year Old

Updated on March 24, 2011
M.H. asks from Pasadena, CA
14 answers

My 3 year old daughter and I are flying to California from Pennsylvania, she does not like to sit still and I can't see a 6 hour plane ride being a pleasant experience for either of us. I would appreciate any advice anyone would have for me. I hope to make the trip as easy for her as possible.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

A portable DVD player might be worth it's weight in gold....


A portable DVD player might be worth it's weight in gold....

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

When I flew with my 3y from DC to Orlando, this is what helped.

1. If you haven't picked your seats yet, get the middle and window seats if possible. Better if its a plane with two seats on a side. Daughter gets the window, you get the aisle.

2. A buddy harness for the airport. You have to take this off at security to be scanned, but can put it back on once through. Will give her freedom to walk without having to hold your hand. Couldn't have made it through the airport without it!!

3. Have her wear slip on shoes for security check.

4. Check as much baggage as possible.

5. Take a bag of quiet toys for her to play with - Crayola wonder colors. Snack foods. NO LIQUIDS!! You'll have to buy drinks once you are through security.

6. Take a portable DVD player and headphones. You might have to unpack this for security, but its a life saver!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Pack her favorite toys in a backpack.
Crayons, coloring book.
Juice boxes, snacks.
Several small NEW toys to keep her excited.
An electronic toy w/volume control or earphones if she'll wear them.
Her favorite stuffed animal.
A new doll she's never seen.
(I always buy new toys before going on any kind of road trip or on a plane.
A couple of pieces of candy.
Favorite blankie.
DVD player w/fave movie & headphones.
Coloring book and crayons.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

Buy or rent a CARES harness. It will keep her safely strapped in without the hassle of lugging a car seat on the plane. Plus, it's FAA approved so she'll be safer than in just a regular seatbelt. Bring plastic beads to string on pipe cleaners, plenty of new and exciting snacks, some new books to read (hit up the library) and a portable DVD player. I've been amazed at how well my girls will sit still on the plane if there's a movie involved.

I actually advise against bringing a car seat. It will put your daughter higher up and slightly more forward than a regular seat - the perfect position for a wiggly child to kick the seat in front of them. Over and over again. And if you find out 20 minutes into the trip that she thinks it's fun to kick the seat, you'll have to endure 5 and a half more hours of trying to hold her back. I watched that happen to another parent just a few months ago.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Does she sit still to watch a movie? Our 3 year old did great on a plane from California to Florida because we had lots of thing to entertain her. DVD player works wonders. Games, favorite snacks, etc.

Get her excited about going on a plane. We talked to our daughter for weeks before the trip and even got her a toy airplane that she took with her. She got a little restless near the end but over all did great. We brought many of her favorite movies and just had a long "family movie night". :)

Have fun!!!

Just an add on. have a lollypop or something she can suck on during takeoff. This will help pop her ears.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Buy this carseat and bring it on the plane. Car seats have to go on the window seat, but they will adjust that at the gate. I promise this is the single best thing you can do to keep her still. Being in a car seat calms them down as they are used to having to be still when strapped in. I have traveled for years with my 4 kids and I ONCE went without a carseat for my toddler and will never do it again. I have those 'will not sit still' kids too.

You can take your own carseat, but this one is the perfect weight and size for airplane use. And it is easy to install in the car once you get there. And its only $40.

Everyone else has great ideas too in order to keep her busy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I have an very VERY active two and a half year old. We have flown with her five times already, from Florida to Missouri which is about three hours. I thought it would be a total nightmare, especially since we have to drive three hours to the airport, oh and did I mention she is VERY active? lol A portable DVD player is your best friend. Bring some old favs and maybe an new movie or two. We also bought a few new toys,crayons, stickers, things along that nature and didn't let her see them till she got on the plane. Snacks and juice are a must as well. I had a pediatrician tell me to bring along some benadryl just in case she has trouble with her ears because it helps the swelling that actually causes the pain and will also make her sleep. Here I had always thought that people gave their kids Benadryl just to make them sleep, never knew it helped with the ear issue! We had to give her some on our last flight because she had a sinus infection and was miserable, worked like a charm. Also is she has a favorite blanket bring that, my daughter curls up in her blanket and watches the movie. We only had one issue where she screamed for the last half hour of the flight, but she was ill at the time. Most people are very sympathetic, so don't worry if she does get upset. We had a very nice elderly woman sitting across the way and she talked with my daughter and helped calm her down. Then patted my arm and said, "Honey I got eight of em I understand."

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

We have flown with our kids twice...first time was they were 2 and 4 and second time 3 and 5...Went from Texas to Florida both times and it was only like 2 1/2 hours...but both times they did great there and back...something about the plane ride made them go to sleep both times not long after being in air...but when they were awake they enjoyed watching out window, and coloring, and eating snacks...I highly suggest maybe a portable dvd player or mp3 player as well. Dont worry it will all be ok!!! She will probably be amazed by watching out window and eventually doze off :) GL!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

We just took a plane trip from Detroit to Orlando (and back again) and our original plan was to play DD (also 3) movies on our laptop - then found out the battery was kaput! This was DD's first plane trip that she would be aware of, so I prepped her ahead of time by letting her know what she could and could not do on the plane. I packed up her little back pack with crayons, some little coloring books, some non-messy snacks and a sippy cup, and some stickers and little Happy Meal toys - granted the trip was just under 3 hours but she did fine. She had her favorite stuffed toy too. She did get a little antsy the last half hour on the return trip but we just kept trying to keep her entertained and we all survived.

So pack some little things that can keep her entertained (especially if they are new, like books), some snacks like dry cereal or Goldfish crackers, a sippy cup, favorite stuffed toy or blanket, see about having a laptop or portable DVD player that can play videos, and as a last resort, there is always Benadryl, as long as it doesn't make her hyper (I'm serious...worked great for DD when she was 18 months).

DD also liked sitting next to the window and looking out of it - it kept her entertained for at least the first 30 minutes. She also liked looking at the in-flight magazines and catalogs for a little while and was impressed that they served drinks and snacks.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

A portable DVD player is great on a long flight. It's also nice to get a few new toys, books, sticker books, etc so she has something fun and different for the trip. Let her run around as much as you can in the morning and at the airport to get out all of her energy.

I have taken this on a plane and it kept my 3 year old son entertained for a long time: http://www.discoverytoyslink.com/esuite/control/product?P...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Hi M. she should be fine, have some snacks maybe color book and crayons, We flew from LA all the way to Japan over 17 hours with a 22 month old daughter 4 year old son and 7 year old son and they did very well, we had no issues. J.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Well, my advice seeing as I have 3 kids under the age of 7, is buy an iPad, load every tv show, movie, game possible on it. Give them each their own headphones and you are good to go. I also bring little "gifts" that I get from the dollar section that I wrap up and bring them out in those moments that all hell is breaking loose. Plus, if they leave the dollar gift behind, break it etc... I'm only out a dollar and my sanity as well as other passengers is worth way more than a dollar. Also, I found that if I'm traveling through a meal time, I let my kids pack their own lunchbox meal for the plane. When it's time to eat, they are happy to bring out their own fun lunchbox, put the tray cover on (I get those plastic restaurant table protectors) and they happily eat which takes longer than eating a simple pack of peanuts.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

See if they have tv on the flight otherwise BUY a dvd player. I took my dvd player last month on the plane but found out I could watch Directv for $6.00 on my flight. Kinda cool to watch the Grammy's flying over Nebraska!

They offered 25 channels and some were kids channels!



answers from Boston on

I have an active little one and flying hasn't been a problem at all. We did a lot of talking about what would happen on the plane (have to stay in seat, etc) before the trip. Get some new small toys, books, coloring books, etc that she sees for the first time on the plane (color wonder, stickers, wiki sticks, little characters, whatever small random things you can find that she might be interested in). Lots of snacks. Seriously, snacks were the biggest thing for my daughter on the plane. Bring her carseat on the plane. It works well because they are used to sitting in it. At the airport walk around as much as possible right up until boarding. DD also really liked having her own roller bag. Last time we flew she was almost 4 and she watched movies on an ipad. If you do screen time, it is worth doing a lot more than usual on flying day.

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