Taking a plane ride goes against everything a 2-year-old is built to do. Sitting still, staying quiet and waiting doesn't come naturally to toddlers. That doesn't mean your tot will be a miserable travel companion, however. Though you can't count on the airline to provide a 2-year-old with entertainment, you can fit everything you need to keep your child happy into one carry-on. Flying with a 2-year-old on an airplane probably won't be your favorite part of your family's travel experience, but with some planning and smart tactics it doesn't have to be a nightmare either.
Snacks and Sips
The surest way to ward off a toddler meltdown mid-air is to keep their energy up and belly full. Packing plenty of snacks also ensures your toddler won't go hungry if you get stuck on the tarmac or have to rush through the airport without time to buy food. Fill small bags with crush-proof, toddler-friendly snacks like bite-sized bagel pieces, dry cereal and diced pieces of dried fruit. Also stow away some of their most favorite treats to pull out in case of a meltdown-prevention emergency. Though the Transportation Security Administration limits the quantity of liquids carried on board, there's an exception for infant and toddler beverages.
Toys and Games
Encouraging your tot to look out the window will only keep them occupied for anywhere from five seconds to five minutes at a time. After that, your toddler will look to you for entertainment. Pack a variety of small, quiet toys, mixing favorites from home with new objects they haven't yet seen. Bring magnetic blocks and drawing boards, a few textured board books, paper and stickers and a few colorful odds and ends from the dollar store. Avoid toys with lots of small parts that could go missing easily. Never underestimate the power of technology to keep a 2-year-old entertained. Even if you limit screen time at home, when you're traveling with toddlers it's OK to make an exception. Load your smartphone or tablet with toddler games, purchase toddler-appropriate headphones and keep the device fully charged.
Diapering and Comfort Supplies
Even if your 2-year-old spends most of his time in underwear, a plane seat is an awkward place to have an accident. Unless they're fully potty-trained and go weeks without accidents, dress your tot in a diaper. Stuff a few extra diapers, a container of wipes, a portable changing pad and a few garbage bags in your bag. (If yours is an all-day flight, bring five or six diapers.) If he has mastered potty training, pack extra underwear and pants. It can be scary for a 2-year-old on an airplane, so bringing a favorite lovey, a cherished blanket or an emergency pacifier for some comfort when turbulence hits.
Car Seats and Everything Else
Hopefully, you still have a few empty corners in your carry-on. Pack a clean shirt and a warm sweater for your toddler, and if your destination is colder than your departure city, pack appropriate cold-weather gear too. Most toddlers aren't big enough to safely ride in an airplane seat without some restraint, so bring your toddler's car seat on board. If they are between 22 and 44 pounds, you may also use a harness restraint approved by the Federal Aviation Administration – these aren't provided by airlines. If your tot weighs more than 40 pounds, they're safe using a plane seat belt alone. Talk to your pediatrician about packing over-the-counter motion sickness medication. Even if your 2-year-old hasn't previously experienced motion sickness, it could still happen – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children are most susceptible to this ailment starting at the age of 2.