Learn these travel tips for a kid who will fly for the first time in an airplane.
For a child who has never flown before, there is excitement and anxiety that I can help with. I will show you some tips and tricks for keeping toddlers occupied on their first flight.
If you have persnickety items you want your child to pack, check the airport security website for what children are allowed to take in carry-on bags.
How to fly with a 3 year old:
A 3-year-old child can do some things in the airport by himself. But in the airplane, you may need to help your 3-year-old get organized. Keep reading.
If your kid happens to have any type of autism or physical disability (visible or invisible) this video explains a free, less stressful way for kids to go through the TSA line with trained officers. TIP: you must see if it is available at your airport and sign up for it 3 days in advance (a month ahead of time for you planners).
Pack the Right Bag for a 3 Year Old’s First Time in an Airplane
The number one tip for traveling with a kid is to pack the right personal item bag to carry on the airplane while at home. Google your airline with carry-on bag size requirements for the suitcase they are allowed as well as the personal item bag. If a 3 year old has an airplane seat, then he is allowed the same bag allowance as adults. It is adorable seeing a toddler roll his suitcase and a tiny backpack through the airport.
Use his carry-on suitcase for your travel essentials as well.
What to pack in a kid’s backpack for her first airplane ride:
1. Snacks: Put her snack baggie of Goldfish crackers and a banana in a backpack that she can hold and unzip while sitting in the seat. For a 3 year old’s first time flying in a plane, she may need help unzipping the personal item bag in the airplane seat.
Airplane Tip for 3 Year Olds:
Put the snack bag and/or containers in the seat back pocket before buckling the seat belt. If your 3 year old cannot reach the airplane’s seat back pocket during his first flight, this tray table cover has 4 pockets that are closer to the passenger for easier access. In my opinion Ziploc bags are easiest for packing snacks – no bulk.
Snack Ideas for a Kid’s First Airplane Ride:
1. Goldfish crackers, Cheez-Its, dried fruit, a banana, slices of apple
I do NOT recommend packing lollipops or chocolate cookies because of sticky fingers, the item dropping onto the airplane’s dirty carpet, and smudges on other passengers and on the seats.
I do NOT recommend Capri-Suns either. Drinks that are spill-proof are wonderful. TSA tip: just make sure they are empty for the airport security line.
TIP: Learn how to go through the airport security line so you can practice with your kids at home before their first flight.
Please pick up after the flight if any large-enough snack pieces have fallen onto the carpet mid-flight.
2. Pack a special stuffed animal.
Having a security blanket or a stuffed animal offers comfort for a kid during or before that first flight.
3. Pack headphones and electronics for the child’s first flight.
The parenting police are not onboard so let your child play tablet games to help distract them from being scared about the first airplane ride. My 3 year old is now 18 years old and in his freshman year of college so choose the easiest tablet for your toddler. Toys have changed so much!
Airplane seat tip:
Help your 3 year old practice holding his electronic device and headphones while reaching for the snack AT HOME. Have him practice taking his electronics and snacks out of a backpack (personal item) and putting them in the seat back pocket. AND help him practice putting electronics and food containers back inside his backpack after the airplane lands.
Airplane Ride Rule for Kids
On the first flight your child needs to know that the seatbelt has to be buckled any time he or she is sitting in the airplane seat. This is for their safety. This is a video showing kids what to expect in the airport for the first time that may be helpful before practicing for his first flight.
TIP for Kids in the Airplane Seat
Help them wait to eat a snack until the airplane backs away from the gate. So many flights sit at the gate once passengers are seated. Or the pilots have to wait for new flight plans.
Potty in the Airplane
If your kid has never flown before, the seat belt sign will light up 25-45 minutes before landing. So try to go to the lavatory inbetween shows on their tablets or before their next airplane snack.
Airplane Entertainment Tips:
Some airplanes are equipped with free entertainment system. Between all of the airlines, I could not tell you for sure whether or not your plane will have it. My tip: pack your own electronic tablet for use before, during and after the flight lands.
If there is bluetooth capability, you could set that up. The airlines will probably be handing out headphones too. But have less stress by being prepared with your own.
Do Not Pack a Pillow for the Airplane
For a child’s first flight, you do not need it. One travel hack is to pack some clothes in a compression cube and just use that on the tray table as a pillow. Packing a pillow would just be one more thing to try and keep up with for a 3 year old’s first airplane ride.
Packing Toys for a Kid’s First Airplane Ride
Only buy this type of airplane tray table for kids if you think they will need it. My tips would be to pack a minimum amount of toys for less rolling. Crayons roll; only pack them if your kid really enjoys coloring. We packed a couple of cars, but they rolled off the tray table multiple times. We packed play figures and the tablet games.
Play with some toys in the boarding area and pack them away into the suitcase so your child knows they are done with those until you get to your vacation spot.
Eating Goldfish for almost the entire flight was a treat for our 3 year old. And being on electronics for that long was also a treat. So it kept him occupied and less anxious for his first flight.
Want some travel hacks for yourself? Grab yours below.