Surviving a Plane Trip With a Toddler
Last year, our family took a vacation flying with our then, 7-month old son. We were nervous to take our first flight with our little one, but it went pretty well.
My husband and I were nervous about how our son would react to the change in pressure (thankfully, nursing helped a lot). We also wondered how diaper changes would go in a tiny plane bathroom. That ended up going okay too.
But most importantly, we had a wonderful realization on that first trip thanks to two different women who were both moms to four older children. Both women were sitting alone on our flights, but they reminded us that most people know what it’s like to travel with small children. It’s difficult, but most people are understanding because they’ve been there or ARE there, like us.
There are usually parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who have been in a situation where a toddler was inconsolable, or an exploding diaper made it a headache to change a baby on a plane.
But from what my husband and I have observed in our travels, most people understand and are even willing to help when there is a crisis on hand. And even if people aren’t understanding, you will most likely never see these people again, and life goes on…
Needless to say, we were MORE anxious this year to take a flight with our now 1.5 year old. He’s a ball of energy, loves to move, and is always doing!
He’s not interested in television, and he’s not at the age where he would understand why he needs to sit still for a longer period of time.
With that said, we actively prepared ahead of time for our trip. Thankfully, we had a successful 3 hour flight to our destination (and back). Wahoo!
Here is what helped us have a smooth flight:
1) I Bought New Toys
No, I did not go out and spend lots of money on new toys, but I did get different toys that my son had never seen before.
With it being Easter and spring time, I bought a bunch of cheap, plastic Easter eggs at the dollar store. I then filled them with different snacks. This helped my son keep busy by opening, closing, and finding little treats inside each egg.
I also found a GENIUS idea from another blogger who had traveled with a toddler, and so we decided to try it out for ourselves. This mom suggested buying window clings. I bought a bunch of plastic-gel window clings at the dollar store. My son then used these to stick onto the plane window throughout the flight, and we also had a child’s clip-board, so he could stick them onto the clip board as well.
This was one of his favorite forms of entertainment, especially on the initial flight because it was something completely different. He also ended up using them while we were waiting in the airport on the large windows overlooking the runway.
Besides the window clings and Easter eggs, we ended up checking out some books from the library, we bought a coloring pad (which my son was not too interested in at a 1.5), and we bought some toddler Legos. My son did enjoy the toddler Legos on the plane, but the window clings and the Easter eggs were a big hit!
We did bring out tablet and ended up downloading a couple of shows and a toddler balloon popping game app. Yes, I know, the American Pediatrics Association recommends that a child not watch television or be on electronic devices until the age of 2, but life isn’t perfect and a toddler’s attention span doesn’t last very long.
As I stated before, my son doesn’t find television very interesting, so that lasted about 5 minutes, and the balloon popping game app, maybe another 5-10 minutes, so in all it wasn’t successful for us. We also purchased some toddler earmuff headphones. These can be seen in the toys first toys picture above (fox earmuff headset). The headset hooks into any electronic device. My son wasn’t a fan of them at this age, but I think they may be more useful for a future trip when he’s older.
2) We Packed Lots of Snacks
Thankfully, my son is a great traveler. But, I think it also helped that we packed plenty of snacks for him. This was a great distraction from turbulence and the discomfort that can come from take-off and landing.
My son is no longer nursing, nor is he bottle feeding, but he does drink out of a sippy cup. We filled the sippy cup with water we had purchased after going through security, and this helped unclog his ears throughout the trip. We also bought several fruit and vegetable squeeze pouches. These are a healthy and easy snack to bring along. My son would suck on the nozzle throughout the flight, and this helped his ears as well. A pacifier can also help with this.
Along with crackers, yogurt bites, and other typical toddler snacks, we also brought chocolate. My son doesn’t normally eat a ton of candy or sugar, but when he was starting to get a little fussy after going through all his toys for the hundredth time (especially on the flight back), I’m glad that we had it!
We gave him small bites of chocolate (or tried to). Chocolate does seem to get everywhere, so be prepared to have wipes on hand if you should decide to do this! I don’t regret bringing chocolate on the plane, and I will probably do so in future for our travels or some toddler-friendly candy.
3) Fly Early & Mid-Week
Now, this may not work for everyone, but we chose to fly early and in the middle of the week. This benefited our family in several ways.
For one, we had a cheaper flight by going in the middle of the week, compared to flying on the weekend or on a Monday. Also, by choosing to fly early, it allowed our son to be able to sleep in the car on the way to the airport. He was then ready to burn some energy in the airport by walking around, exploring with Mom and Dad, and playing with some toys before getting on a long flight (where he’d mostly be sitting).
Usually when flying early, it’s easier to get through airport security. Our initial flight was at 5:30AM, and our return flight was at 8:30AM. We found both of these times to work well with our child. Obviously with each family, and with multiple children, what may work for you may look different than what worked for us.
Unfortunately, my son didn’t nap on either flight, but our flight was never during his usual nap time. Plus, he usually will only fall asleep in his crib, car seat, or pack & play, so this was no surprise to us. Thankfully, since it wasn’t his nap time, he was in a mostly pleasant mood throughout both flights since he had plenty to do.
Also, since we left early in the morning and mid-week, OUR FLIGHT WASN’T FULL! We didn’t pay for a seat for our son; therefore, he had a FREE seat to himself.
We had intended for him to sit in our laps, but with the flight not being full, we were able to have him take the middle seat (in a row of 3). My husband took the aisle, I took the window, and my son was able to move back and forth between us throughout the flight.
Our little guy was even able to stand on the floor in front of the middle seat to play with his toys when the “fasten your seatbelt” sign wasn’t lit. This helped us out so much! I’m not sure if this is “allowed”, but the flight attendants did allow our son to do this on both flights, which helped quite a bit.
4) Fly Southwest Airlines
Unless you can get much cheaper plane tickets elsewhere, I would strongly suggest flying Southwest. Each person can check two bags for free, plus strollers and car seats are free to check as well.
We ended up checking our car seat immediately, but then we used our stroller until we got to the gate. It was then checked for free with our luggage, and when we immediately got off the plane, it was set-up and ready to go for us.
When traveling with little ones, there is always a lot to load up in the car and onto the baggage cart at the airport. Plus, there’s the unknown stress of not knowing how your little one may travel, and just going through airport security can be a headache. We always find Southwest to be accommodating, efficient, friendly, and inexpensive compared to other airlines.
Hopefully, if you are traveling soon, you are able to travel safely and smoothly to your destination with your little one(s). Let me know what you have used or are using to keep you baby or toddler occupied. I’d love to hear about it!
Thanks for stopping by!