I just want to close my eyes and rest. But beside me, there is screaming. And kicking. And things being thrown at me.
I quickly realize that as a mom of a toddler, there will be no sleeping on the plane for me.
Flying with a Toddler has to be considered cruel and unusual punishment. And not just for the other passengers. Having to entertain a cranky, bored little human is not only difficult but exhausting.
Flying with a toddler is very different than flying with an infant. I recently had to fly with my little hurricane, and I wanted to share some of what worked, and what didn’t.
Tips to Survive Flying with a Toddler
If your child is over two, you are buying him or her a separate seat anyway. If your child is near the age of two, I recommend going ahead and getting that second seat. When I flew with my son over the Fourth of July holiday, I just got one seat for me, and he was a lap baby. Unfortunately, it was all I could do to keep him still and from thrashing about kicking everyone and throwing his head into the seat back tray. When I flew for my trip over Labor Day, I got him his own seat.
A friend of mine gave me the Cares Safety Restraint System harness and I am so thankful to have it. It attaches to the airplane seat and seat belt to provide shoulder restraints in addition to the lap belt. This not only increased the safety of my child’s flight but kept him in place. The only thing I wish it had was a bottom piece that also attached to the lap belt so that he couldn’t try to slip out of the bottom. It installed so quickly, and I was able to get it on by myself while still wearing my toddler (to, again, keep him from running off).
Wearing your baby through security means you get through so much easier. No kiddo to chase around, and you’re not forced to go through those scanning machines. They send you through the metal detector and then just test your hands for residue. Then, you’re free to go. And you don’t even have to wait in the line of people who are going through the machine since they send you through a different way. Though be prepared to wait for your personal and carry-on bags to come through the system.
Takeoff and Landing
The change in pressure that happens when an airplane takes off or lands is very painful to tiny ears. I learned the hard way that my toddler cannot be soothed and will not listen to reason or take any offered goods once the pain (and his screaming for the remaining 20 minutes of the flight) starts.
So my tip is to get him eating and drinking before these events take place. When we first get on the plane, I hand him snacks. I buy juice and water by the gate and serve him some of that in his sippy cup. He’s also a huge fan of Pringles (especially the BBQ flavor) and those small containers sold at the shops near the gate have been wonderful to keep him distracted.
You’ll know exactly when to start that again for the end of the flight because the captain or flight attendants will announce “we will begin our descent shortly.” Refill the toddler’s drinks and pull out fresh snacks. Now he is swallowing and chewing when the descent begins, and the pain won’t catch him by surprise. Now he sees that his chewing and swallowing is helping, and rather than throwing the sippy cup and all your snacks at you, he will accept them and it will be (somewhat more) peaceful.
Entertainment during the flight.
I practically had to stand on my head to keep my toddler entertained and from getting too loud and squirmy. Strong, squirmy toddlers are bad news on a plane, even if restrained.
I brought a carry-on backpack just full of new toys to keep him busy and from getting too bored. I went to the dollar store and stocked up. I got little toy cars, tiny stacking cups, little containers he could open and close, etc.
I packed a tiny version of our fine motor straw activity – an empty spice container, with holes at the top, full of Q-tips. He could sort them through the holes, which is one of his favorite tasks.
Keeping his attention focused on a new activity kept him from crying and kicking the entire time, and I certainly didn’t want to live through that kind of experience again. I didn’t get a break or a chance to rest, but I kept the fuss monster at bay.
Share your tips on how you survive travel with toddlers!