Three young kids and an airplane.

You never really know how a flight will go when you are bringing young children. We don’t fly often, maybe twice a year, but I always get a little anxious beforehand. We typically fly through Southwest Airlines which means I never know what our seating arrangement will be. We have 3 children under 5 years old, one of which is under 2 so we never know if he will get his own seat! Best case scenario we can get 2 full rows right across from each other (this pretty much is unheard of), next best, we get a row and a half across from each other (we almost always get this). This way my baby gets his own seat next to one parent and the 2 older kids get to sit in a row with another parent.

I have flown a few 4 hour flights with all 3 kids by myself (I KNOW I’M CRAZY). Surprisingly they went OK! I was able to keep the kids busy. Keep reading to learn how I do this. Also, people are always so helpful when they see a mom alone with 3 kids.

Here is how I plan ahead to help these flights go a little smoother.


Each child has their their own rolling backpack. These range between $16-$30 on amazon. We don’t travel anywhere without these backpacks! My kids call them their plane backpacks, but they are great for road trips as well. They work wonderfully because it allows each child to have a place they can store all their stuff, not only during the flight, but during the entire trip. They have the option to wear or roll the bag and they can store activities, snacks, a blanket, headphones or anything they need to stay busy. It gives my children a sense of ownership to know they have their own bag filled with their stuff.


I take their bags and fill them up with all their travel goodies a few days before the trip. They don’t get their bags until we get to the airport. This way they spend a good amount of time just exploring what’s inside.

I try to keep similar items for both of my older kids (this helps with frustrations of comparing who got what) but it does vary a bit since they are different ages.

Most of the activities I bring for my kids are from the dollar store. Here are some items I have found at Dollar Tree in the past:

  • dry erase board marker
  • sticker scene books
  • on the go coloring book with crayons and stickers
  • Etch a Sketch
  • scratch and reveal pages (black on the top, then scratch off to see color)
  • fuzzy coloring pages
  • pipe cleaners
  • playdough
  • notepads for drawing
  • travel size games
My most recent Dollar store finds

Here is what I pack in the rolling backpacks for my 3 and 5 year old:

  • art activities like coloring books, sticker books, dry erase boards, and note pads form the dollar store or Target’s $3 section
  • colored pencils or crayons
  • water wow books (these things are awesome) Store the paint brush in a ziploc bag
  • one new small toy like a barbie, slinky, dinosaur, or car
  • head phones (for watching movies)
  • 3-4 snacks like goldfish, animal crackers, apple sauce, fruit snack, M&Ms
  • thin muslin blanket
Screenshot (3)

I love these books. You fill the brush with water and as the water touches the page it changes color. I always keep the brush in a ziploc bag when traveling. This way I can keep it full of water. My only problem with the book is the large plastic brush holder. It makes this book take up way to much space. I usually rip it out.


We always bring a tablet or laptop and some headphone splitters so the kids can watch a movie together.

Here is how a typical flight goes:  we all sit….. kids fight over window seat….. we ask them to wait till we are in the air to unload their bags….. they usually can’t wait….. they ask for gum while the plane takes off (it may or may not help with the ears but it keeps them happy!)….. they dive into their bags (this lasts 30 min maybe)….. they watch a movie while eating snacks….. they play with items from bag after movie is over or take a nap.

I always try to bring 2 neck pillows. Between the 5 of us they are definitely used.


Baby gets his own bag too, it’s called a diaper bag. I usually opt to use my largest backpack as my diaper bag when traveling. I add a ziploc bag with toys and a ziploc with snacks to my diaper bag. This makes it easier to pull them out of my bag without having to dig for specific items.

Here are some toys that work well to entertain babies:

  • stacking cups
  • travel size tissues (it makes a mess but provides 10-15 min of fun) pull them out one at a time, watch them float, blow through the air, etc
  • small books
  • Etch a Sketch
  • slinky
  • washi tape (can stick to tray, comes off easily)
  • toy car
  • stickers

Only pull out one toy at a time so each new toy peaks new interest. I also try to load my phone with children’s apps that don’t need the internet. I bring a pacifier that I can hook to my baby with a ribbon, and a blanket, I bring LOTS of snacks and I hope for the best.

Here is how a flight with our 1 year old usually goes: spends time in lap looking at magazines provided by airline….. plays with seat belt….. plays peak a boo with other passengers….. sucks on pacifier or lollipop during take off….. plays with toys one at a time for a bit….. snack time….. phone time….. crying time….. try to take a nap time….. at this point either the baby’s asleep or quickly moving from one activity to another whether it’s toys, books, snacks, singing songs, patty cake, looking though magazines, or just snuggling.

Surprisingly my kids have usually done pretty well on flights. I try to plan for the worst but always hope for the best.

I will say that I have had a child throw up on me during a flight before (more than once actually). I always bring a change of clothes for at least my youngest 2.

I hope this information can help make for a smooth, uneventful flight with your children.



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