Keeping Your Toddler Busy When Traveling

Last week I hopped on a plane with my very active 13-month-old baby/toddler. Desmond and I took a 4.5 hour flight from San Francisco to Atlanta, just the two of us (well, and everyone else on the plane). We flew back home yesterday.

I will come out and say this for all to read – I was terrified to take this trip on my own. But that’s how most adventures in parenting start, right?

Airport baby wearing

Babywearing at the airport

To prepare, I scoured the internet for ideas for keeping small children occupied on airplanes. I found a lot of suggestions that work for kids over the age of 2 years – those kids that are less likely to eat the crayons or throw the blocks at other passengers. Dez is still not 100% accurate with putting food in his mouth – there is no way he would have luck drawing on a magnedoodle!

Having very little luck with my search on the internet, I proceeded to tear through my house looking for items that I wouldn’t normally let Dez play with but that also aren’t dangerous while supervised. I came up with quite a few things to put in my “forbidden items grab bag.” I then hit up my Facebook parenting groups to gather more ideas before heading to Target. (I came out spending way too much, but it was less than $100, which is kind of amazing for a trip to Target!)

In the end, I collected quite the mishmash of items to entertain my toddler on the plane. And thus I bring you tips for flying with a toddler (without losing your mind).

Ewokmama tips for flying with toddler

Ideas for Fun and/or “Forbidden” Items to Bring on the Plane:

  • a fun keychain with spare keys and a large paperclip attached
  • various expired membership cards
  • a bracelet
  • post-it notes
  • small, portable toys that are new to your toddler – we had Little People figurines, My Little Pony minis, a Little People clown car
  • a pill organizer filled with snacks
  • stickers
  • interactive books (i.e. a “slide & seek” book and Pat the Bunny)
  • a pack of playing cards from the $1 bin

My cell phone is the ultimate forbidden item, of course…so I also looked around the app store to find things that might appeal to a toddler. [Note: If your kiddo is closer to 2 years and above, Toca Boca makes some awesome apps.] The best app I found is called “Animal and Tool Picture Flashcards for Babies” by Open Solutions. It’s free and contains a mixture of animal photos and clip art pictures; when you tap on a picture, the app states the name of the animal and then plays a clip of the sound that animal makes.

That app was the best money I never spent! Dez LOVED it. Even aside from the animal pictures and sounds, he really enjoyed dancing to the background music. It came in handy in the hotel room later, as well.

A word of warning, though. Now that I’ve let Dez play with my cell phone, he is more demanding about it than ever. Still, it was worth it for peace of mind on the plane!

If I were to pick one item from the above list to suggest above all others (aside from the animal flashcards app), it would be the pill organizer filled with snacks. Dez thought it was great to point to the container he wanted me to pop open – over and over. The snacks were key! A well-fed kid is a happy kid!

Aside from items to schlep along with you onto a plane, here are a few more tips for flying with toddlers:

  • Opt for the window seat. Not only will your kid like the view, but you can use stranger anxiety to keep him from trying to make a run for it.
  • If you are flying with your child on your lap, upgrade to get extra legroom. You can let your kid stand up a bit or maybe even play on the floor (depending on how MUCH leg room there is). And in case of tantrums, flailing limbs are less likely to hit the seat in front of you.
  • Babywear through security.
  • Ask for an empty cup and/or water bottle for your kid to play with.
  • Make sure to nurse or give your child something to drink during take off and landing to help with eardrum pressure.

Hopefully these things will help you get through your trip without any meltdowns from your toddler OR YOU. If not and your kid has a tantrum, hang in there! And maybe buy your neighbor – and yourself – a drink to cope.

Moms and dads, what did I forget? What are your tricks for traveling with toddlers?

Reminder and a quick update

Reminder: Today is the last day to leave a comment on this post to get a chance to win a copy of Rebecca Woolf’s book!  I’ll be announcing the lucky reader’s name tomorrow.  I finished it in 3.5 days and absolutely loved it.  I can’t wait to hear reviews from all of you!

Two of Jack’s 2-year molars came in while I was out of town over the weekend.  He now has 18 teeth!  Only 2 left before this teething business is over (for a few years)!  YAY!  I firmly believe his recent sleep troubles are due to those molars.  He was drooling all over my side of the bed this morning.  Sheesh.

Three weeks from tomorrow we fly to Maryland to see my sister!  Since I was so happy with the service I received from the Traveling Baby Company back in December when Jack and I flew to Seattle, I decided to go through them again to rent a carseat, stroller, and baby monitor for this trip.  Their prices are great and their equipment is exactly what I would buy.  I am so excited for this visit and I can now enjoy the anticipation because I don’t have to worry about how to lug all kinds of gear along.  I can focus on worrying about how to keep Jack entertained on the plane for 5+ hours.

Decisions, decisions

I have a dilemma.  Our little family is planning to fly from California to Maryland to see my sister in May.  I’ve looked at various flight options and I’m struggling to make a decision.  I’d love any input from my readers…

  • Do we fly direct so that we don’t have to change planes?  If we do, it will be a 5 hour flight and will actually go to DC, which is about an hour’s drive from my sister’s house.  The 3.5 hour direct flight to Wisconsin was not bad, but we were going stir crazy by the end of it.
  • Do we pick a flight with a layover so that we can grab some food and allow the boy to walk around between flights?  This will make our travel last about 8 hours but will take us directly to Maryland.  The layovers are only about an hour, so I worry that we won’t make it to our connecting flight on time.
  • Do we get Jack his own seat (he is still under 2) and drag along his carseat?  This will increase the cost of our trip by at least $300, and I’m doubtful that he will even sit in his seat and make it worth it.
  • Do we forego the seat and the extra cargo and rent one in Maryland?
  • Which airlines are more kid-friendly?  I believe our options are Southwest, Continental, Delta, Virgin America, and JetBlue.

When I asked Joe his opinion, he replied, “It’s going to suck no matter what.”  Very helpful.  😛

This is the last big travel we are doing for quite some time, I swear.  It just keeps getting more expensive and more complicated as Jack gets older!