Flying with a Toddler

Last week, I wrote about our trip to Iowa and all of it’s awesomeness.  If you read that post, you’ll notice that Bug & I went together.  Just the 2 of us on our own little weekend getaway.  I mentioned in the last post that I would write about flying with a 2 year old.  It might have sounded like flying with him was awful and I was going to give you a minute-by-minute recap of just how awful… but, no.  Flying with Bug was fantastic.  So, here are my tips for flying with a toddler… or at least what worked for us.

Before I get into the list, let me lay out the details of our flights.  Bug doesn’t turn 2 until Saturday, so he counted as an “Infant in Arms” and I didn’t have to buy a seat for him.  He would have been just fine in my lap, but turns out that each of our 4 flights weren’t full… so he got his own seat each time.  That was awesome, mostly because it made it easier to get into our bag for snacks & toys.  Our flight out left at 7am, with us getting to Iowa right around lunchtime after a 2 hour layover in Atlanta.  This was good timing, because Bug was alert & happy the whole trip.  He would NOT have napped on the plane.  Our flight home left just before dinner time.  This was great because we brought dinner onto the plane, which occupied Bug for like 30 minutes.  We landed back at home late, at 11:30, after a layover just long enough to allow us to get to the next flight in Atlanta, and Bug slept that entire second leg.  Worked out well.  I’d also like to mention that Bug is really into airplanes right now… and he was SO excited to be ON an airplane.  I think that helped.  Oh, AND, he didn’t seem to have any problems with his ears, which is great.

Straight Through – I would definitely recommend straight through flights if possible.  It was not possible for this trip, because we flew out of tiny Sarasota/Bradenton and into tiny Moline/Quad Cities, and we stopped in Atlanta both there and back.  We had a two hour layover on the way there at like 8:30 in the morning.  In case you were wondering, that is like prime-time rush hour in ATL.  We had to switch concourses, which was fine, except for Bug wanted to walk, and then be held, and then walk, and then be held and that was difficult with thousands of people rushing by us in business suits.  Also, the Atlanta Airport website says there are play areas on the A concourse.  There are NOT.  Trust me, we hauled ourselves from C concourse to check it out, and then all the way back because NO PLAY AREAS EXISTED.  20 pound backpack + 27 pound toddler + multiple concourses = this is the only time during the trip that I wanted to cry.  The way home was fine.  Our first flight was late, so we had to hurry between the two flights, but Bug was tired and just wanted me to hold him.

What to Pack – Stuff.  To be honest, it was a crapshoot on the way out there.  On the way back, I knew what he would play with and could plan a little better.  We have a great Camelbak backpack with lots of little compartment and pockets.  It was perfect.  For toys, I packed books, coloring books, paper, crayons, stickers, the Travel Aquadoodle, a portable DVD player & some DVDs, tons of snacks and play dough.  He didn’t really care to play with the play dough or the Aquadoodle so I checked them on the way back.  He also didn’t end up eating many snacks, because they gave out those packaged biscuit cookies, so I only brought a couple on the way home.  Each pack of cookies took him like 30 minutes to consume.  He loved them.   The DVD player was the best thing ever.  I only used it one flight each way, and it kept him perfectly content for like an hour each time.  He also really like playing with the stickers.  That was a good activity for take-offs & landings, when he had to be in my lap.  On the way home, I packed a couple of dinosaurs & tractor toys, which he enjoyed messing around with for a little bit.  He didn’t care much about coloring or the books either, but on our last flight, we followed our usual bedtime routine of reading books, drinking some milk & singing a song or two, so the books proved to be useful in the end.  I also packed his Bud (his lovey), a sippy cup which I filled with airport bought juice/water/milk, a change of clothes, diapers & wipes.  (And, of course, my wallet, flight info and a copy of his birth certificate just in case.)

Be Organized – This might seem obvious, but it is so pertinent.  I made a mental note of exactly where everything was packed in our carry-on bag.  I put anything that belonged together in it’s own ziploc bag (snacks, crayons, etc) so that everything was easy to find.  I also consolidated… things like 2 DVDs per case, all new stickers out of their wrappers and packed together, etc.

Simplify – On the flight there, I took a backpack and my purse, which I had strapped to my backpack.  The purse = not necessary.  On the way home, I packed my purse in my checked bag and just put what I needed in the backpack.  Also, I had originally planned on bringing the stroller to help me through the airport.  There was about an hour where I wish I had it, but otherwise I did pretty well without it.  It was one less thing that I had to worry about lugging around.  We rarely use a stroller at home anymore, so Bug would probably have screamed bloody murder had I tried to put him in it anyways.

Find Opportunities to Talk & Teach – We spent a lot of time talking about what we were doing, and this kept him really happy.  Like I said above, Bug is really into planes right now, so we talked about how planes fly up in the sky and pointed out all of the lights, air vents, tray tables, exit doors, window shades, etc.  We looked out the window and watched the service crew on the ground get the planes ready and talked about their jobs.  We looked out the window once we were in the air and talked about the ocean or the farm land or the clouds.  We chatted with the flight attendants and read Sky Mall.

This was a great age to fly with Bug.  He was interested and excited and well-behaved.  Hubby & I are taking him to North Carolina later this summer and I am looking forward to flying with him again.

Do you have any other travel tips for toddlers?

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