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Flying with a young toddler. It sounds like a great idea, until you really stop and think about it. Then you realize you just might be a little bit insane! However, it’s totally possible!
We took our 16-month-old son on a plane ride earlier this year. With a little planning it went very well! Here’s how we not only survived, but thrived, on four different flights with our toddler son.
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This one may be the most obvious, but plan out your snacks. Then plan some more snacks. And then plan a few special treats as well. Our son happened to love string cheese around the time we went on vacation, and he also liked crackers. So we packed plenty of both. For the trip over I also threw in a few chick peas and a couple bags of fruit snacks. He doesn’t get fruit snacks on many occasions, so this was a great treat to have along toward the end of the trip when he was starting to get antsy.
Do not pack messy foods. Personally, I would also stay away from anything that requires a spoon to eat. You want quick and easy!
Sometimes you’re not going to have time to eat in the airport, so you need to plan snacks accordingly. I did end up throwing a couple string cheeses away, but I’d rather do that than have a crabby toddler on my hands in an airport any day!
Our pediatrician recommended we take the bottle away around 15 months, but no later than 18. Knowing our trip was coming up, we purposely waited to take the bottle away completely until after the trip. At home, in the month before we left, he only got a bottle before his nap and before bed. However, on the trip I planned a bottle for each plane ride as well.
Giving him a bottle on the planes was gold! Seriously – no earaches, no crabbiness, and just a happy baby. Maybe it’s just our kid, but he always lights up when he sees his bottle – so me pulling one out as we were about to take off down the runway was like putting this little guy right into heaven.
How do you plan to entertain your young toddler? For us, we knew taking a few books along would work well. Our son loves his Babybug magazine subscription, so we packed 3-4 of those. We knew if they got lost or ruined along the way it wouldn’t be a big deal. We also packed 2-3 other books that he hadn’t had in awhile. We took “new” books that had been in storage for a month so they were “fun”, but they weren’t his absolute favorites. This way if one of them got lost on the trip, it wouldn’t be a big deal.
Another form of entertainment for our little man was an iPad mini. We aren’t big on allowing him to use it at home, so we knew we could get a lot of mileage out of it on the airplanes. We were able to download three of his favorite YouTube videos to it (this one is his favorite – he can seriously zone out and watch it for the entire 50 minutes), and then we also downloaded a few apps.
Here are a few of the free apps we downloaded:
I’m a firm believer in the whole “you get what you pay for” thing, and these apps are no exception. They worked well for our 16-month-old who had very little technology experience. While he wasn’t necessarily able to “play” each one correctly, he still enjoyed watching us maneuver around and play each one.
We did end up buying one app because our son is a little nursery rhyme-o-holic – Buzzle. While a little spendy, this app gave us our money back within the first flight and I’m pretty sure we’ll be using it for years to come! On the trip our son hadn’t quite yet figured out how to manipulate the puzzle pieces into the correct spot, so he watched while one of us did it for him. Then he would watch the nursery repeat itself over and over until either my husband or I got sick of it and switched to the next puzzle. 😉 Definitely worth the money in my opinion!
Yet another form of entertainment was simply singing songs. Our little guy can’t get enough of songs! “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, “Baa Baa Black Sheep”, “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”, and many others were “whisper-sung” during our plane rides.
Seriously, pack a stroller. We have just an inexpensive umbrella stroller, and I’m not sure what we would have done without it! One of our flights was 20 minutes late getting in and we had to get all the way across the airport in 15 minutes or risk missing our flight. Thankfully little man is a good rider because we were booking! His daddy too off with the main load of bags while I pushed little guy along behind. I can’t imagine what we would have done if we hadn’t had the stroller.
Plus they check the stroller for you right at the airplane gate. It’s great! You can get a gate check bag like this one before your trip, but we didn’t have it.
5. Diapers and Wipes
This one may seem super obvious, but make sure your carry on bag has plenty of diapers and wipes. Neither are something you want to run out of mid-flight!
And I wasn’t prepared for this one, but we had to take our wipes out of the bag for bag checks. It wasn’t a big deal, but I would have kept them closer to the top if I had known that ahead of time. (One airport made us do this and the other did not, so I don’t know what the “norm” is…)
6. Plan Naps
Depending on the time of day that you’re flying and exactly when, you want to do your best to plan out naps. We didn’t specifically fly during naptime, but we did try to plan our naps around flights. One day this meant sitting in a fast food parking lot for an hour before our flight left, but it gave little man an hour nap so we didn’t have to deal with potential drama on the plane.
It’s also nice to keep a blanket or special toy or stuffed animal handy on the flight. While our son didn’t sleep on the plane, on our last flight the first day he was pretty tuckered out. We put a video in, he snuggled against me with his blanket, and he was all but asleep. I call these “energizing sessions” – because his eyes may be open, but he’s pretty much out!
7. Other Randomness
I don’t know if this is typical on airplanes or not, but it seemed like there was a “kid section” on each of our flights. They can’t put too many kids in one row for safety reasons, but they put many kids in the same general area. This gave our son other kids to watch, which was great entertainment before the flight took off!
Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get through security, particularly with bottles or juice. The TSA website has great information on formula, breastmilk, and more. I literally printed the information so I knew exactly what to expect. Getting through security took us about 10-15 minutes longer than normal because of these items, but it was not painful in any way!
Listen to the flight attendants. We had one particular flight that was especially turbulent. You don’t want your little one flying up and hitting the ceiling. When they tell you how to hold your child, do it. And it doesn’t hurt to have the flight attendants on your side because they are the controllers of the food and drinks on board – both of which your little one may really enjoy. 😉
Don’t worry about the looks or rude comments you get from people because they’re going to happen! I promise you for every dirty look you get, you’ll get at least two empathetic looks from people who know what you’re trying to do. Easier said than done, but let it go. And there’s nothing better than having your toddler behave on the entire trip and then have those same “rude look” people compliment you on how well your little one did.
What else would you add to this list? Feel free to share your tips or experience of flying with a young toddler in the comments below.