Flying with a Toddler
Next month we’re headed to Florida and I couldn’t be more excited to escape winter even if it’s just for a few days. It will also be Liam’s first time flying which makes me a little bit anxious. I SO don’t want to be those people that prompt groans and grumbles from nearby passengers. I would love for flying to be a positive experience (or at least as positive as flying with a toddler can be) so I’ve been trying to research (both from fellow parents and online) to figure out how we can make it work as best as possible. Here are some of the tips I found which we plan to use:
1.) Fly during sleeping hours. Everyone I spoke with recommending flying either really early or during nap time so that, hopefully, Liam would pass out on the plane for most of the flight. We’re flying out super early and flying back midday so I’m hoping this works out.
2.) Get him his own seat. Yes, children under two can technically travel on a parent’s lap but everyone I spoke with said to get him his own seat. Safety concerns aside, I can’t imagine Liam sitting on our laps for the entire duration of the flight. Plus, buying three seats allows us to take over a whole side of a row which should make any in-flight squirming more manageable.
3.) Check the car seat as soon as possible and check the stroller at the gate. I knew we’d need both for our trip and wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. While flying with Liam in his car seat is an option, at his age and size it didn’t seem like the right one for us. We decided the FAA approved CARES restraint system would probably be a better option (yes, it’s 60+ bucks but I figure this is likely the first of several uses so we’ll suck it up). Because we’re not using the car seat we’ve been told to ditch it as soon as possible so we don’t have to lug it around unnecessarily and to keep the stroller with us to check at the gate. Several moms have said that while their child spend nary a minute actually in the stroller at the airport, it provided a excellent place to corral carry-ons, coats, stuffed animals, etc.
4.) Pack tons of snacks, even the liquid ones. Thankfully breast milk, formula, milk, juice, baby food, etc. are all exceptions to the liquid limitations. You have to declare them at security and they may need to undergo special screening but as I found during a business trip last year when I needed to travel home with the milk I’d pumped, it isn’t nearly the big deal I feared it might be.
5.) Run him ragged at the gate. This was a universal tip from the moms I talked to and the information I’ve seen online. Find somewhere in the airport (an empty gate, a designated children’s play area) and go nuts. The more energy you can burn the better. I try to do the same thing before long car rides so this totally makes sense to me. As one mom friend said, “Ignore the funny looks you might get from people in the airport. They’d much rather have him running around them at the gate than screaming and whining on the plane.”
6.) Come prepared with emergency entertainment options. Of course we’ll bring the standard toddler entertainment options but I want to have an option in case we get delayed or he gets really antsy. Liam’s favorite thing to do is to look at pictures and watch videos of family and friends on my iPhone. I have a two minute video of my sister and brother dancing and being silly that he would seriously watch on repeat for hours if I allowed it. It’s my go-to in the car, restaurants, waiting rooms when all else fails. I’m planning to take a few new ones in the coming weeks of his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins (really anyone willing to make a fool of themselves for a few minutes for Liam’s benefit) to have on file for the trip, just in case.
Anyone else have pearls of wisdom from experience traveling with toddlers? Please tell me we’re not doomed to a terrible flight!