Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How to Survive a Flight Alone with a Toddler

We are finally back from all of our vacations, but not totally back to normal. My husband and I have decided to move back to where we grew up in order to be closer to our family. I really treasure all the time I spent with my family as a child and want Zel to have the same experience. Right now we live on the complete opposite side of the country, so spending time with relatives doesn't happen very often. Our recent trip home really showed me that it will be the right decision. Zel will be surrounded by so many people who love him and who he loves too. I am really excited for this new change. In the mean time, I haven't really had much time for blog posts, but I wanted to publish this airplane travel post now that we are back.

Take an Overnight Flight. We took the red-eye flight on the way there and Zel slept most of the way. Even though I wasn't really able to sleep, this was so much easier than trying to keep him entertained on the airplane for 5 hours. If it is late, your child is bound to fall asleep sooner or later.

Choose the Right Bag. I recommend bringing a backpack as a carry-on. Don't bring a small, rolling suitcase because if your flight is full, they will make you check it at the gate. I chose to bring a duffle bag, thinking that it would be easier, but the reality of carrying it got quite annoying. A backpack is much easier to carry, leaving your hands totally free. Even if you use a baby carrier like I did, you can still carry a backpack on the opposite side of your body. You may look a little ridiculous, but who cares!
Pom-Pom Matching Game

Activities.  Bring several small busy boxes/bags and only bring out one item at a time. This makes the fun last a lot longer. Here are the items that Zel had in our carry-on:
  • Pom-pom color/shape matching
  • Sesame Street flashcards (from Dollar Tree)
  • Stickers
  • Crayons and paper
  • Bag of little dinosaurs (from Dollar Tree)
  • Play wallet (I bought a wallet that looked just like Daddy's from Goodwill for $2 and filled it with old gift cards, coupons, receipts, and fake money)
Books. Bring some old favorites and new ones that your child hasn't read yet (we picked some up from Value Village for a few dollars). I only packed small board books so that they didn't take up much room.

DVDs. It's ok to let him watch DVDs. Try the other activities first, but just remember that you aren't a bad parent if your kid watches movies for most of the trip. It is worth the peace and quiet. Just think about it from the perspective of the other passengers (and it gives you a little break too!). We brought our own portable DVD player and packed two DVDs: WordWorld and Ponyo. Depeding on your airline or type of airplane you may be able to watch movies for free or for a fee on a small tv on the seat in front of you. We didn't watch any of those, but they also had free music available to listen to. Zel loved using mommy's headphones to listen to some Yo Gabba Gabba and Kermit music (don't worry, I checked the volume first).

The Stroller. To bring or not to bring, that is the question. I chose not to bring the stroller for a few reasons: I only have one child and one bag to carry on the plane, so I didn't really need the help of the stroller. I used my ERGObaby carrier while we were checking in and walking through the airport. Zel has never been a huge stroller fan, and feels more comforted when he is in the carrier. Since it was late, I think using the carrier saved me (and everyone else at the airport) from having to hear a lot of screaming. Also, we were visiting my parents who had a stroller for us to use during our trip. However, if I had more than one young child, then the stroller would be the way to go.


Carseat. I chose not to bring the carseat because my mother had an extra one for us to use at our destination. That way, I had one less thing to carry through the airport or worry about checking it (the first time we flew with Zel they lost our carseat for a few days!). Since Zel is under 2, I did not get him his own seat and chose to have him sit in my lap. While it was cramped, I don't think it was worth spending an extra $600 dollars for him to have his own seat. Also, he would not have been happy sitting in a carseat on the plane the entire way (some airlines require kids under two to sit in a carseat on the plane). I think the way we did it involved the least amount of screaming.


Find the play area at the airport. We left from the SeaTac Airport which has a cute kids' play area and there are lots of other airports that have one. We went at night so Zel was too tired to play but I know this would have been great if he had a little more energy. Simply finding a big window and watching airplanes come and go is great entertainment for toddlers too. Zel must have said the word "airplane" about 500 times!


Snacks. Bring a few of your favorite snacks plus some special ones for those emergency moments. We packed larabars, a lollipop, trail mix, goldfish, an apple, fruit snacks, and cookies. Snacks were probably one of the most entertaining items for Zel on this trip. He really like picking the chocolate pieces out of the trail mix.

Bring an empty water bottle. This way you don't have to deal with extra time at security and you have a water bottle that your child knows how to drink out of (and you're not wasting plastic on a disposable one!).


Phone/ipad Apps. Zel has been loving the MeMeTales App on my Android phone. He just reads the Fruits, Vegetables, and Body Parts books over and over. If you have an ipad, load it up with kid-friendly apps before your trip.

Here are some other great posts about traveling with a toddler:

12 comments:

  1. Hi, I wanted to let you know I enjoy your blog and the things you share. I have chosen you for the Liebster Award. If you would like to read about it and accept please read my post http://frogsandsnailsandpuppydogtails-jaime.blogspot.com/2012/07/liebster-award.html
    good luck with your move. We live in the same town as both our parents and it is nice having them here:-) Jaime @ frogs and snails and puppy dog tails

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  2. Thanks for posting this! I have yet to travel by air with a toddler (we took him once as a baby, but that was easy seeing as he slept the whole time!) But I know it will inevitably happen soon enough.

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    1. We took Zel twice as a baby and it was a lot easier then, but if you plan ahead then it really isn't so bad with a toddler.

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  3. I'd also add colorful pipe cleaners to the list. My daughter loved to twist them into shapes on flights.

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    1. I thought about bringing some actually. I have a pipe cleaner busy box that we keep in the diaper bag, but I thought that Zel was getting sick of it so I opted to leave it at home. I keep pieces of straws and felt pieces with holes in the middle for a fine motor busy bag: http://zisforzel.blogspot.com/2012/05/doctors-office-entertainment-busy-boxes.html

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  4. Great ideas, I've not braved a flight with mine yet but *really* need to visit family abroad soon- this has given more ideas for when the time comes - thank you.

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    1. I'm glad I could help you with ideas. Good luck whenever you decide to go on your trip!

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  5. Great ideas! I know that for me, traveling with the boys is always an adventure. Thank you for sharing this at Saturday Show and Tell. I can't wait to see what you have for this week! I look forward to seeing you there.
    -Mackenzie
    http://www.cheeriosandlattes.com

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    1. It was actually more fun than I thought it would be. Zel was so excited to see the airplanes, it really made me smile.

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  6. These are some wonderful tips and ideas and many of them could be adapted to long car trips as well. I'm going to be sharing this on my FB wall later in the week. :)

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    1. Thanks! We haven't done a car trip more than 3 hours yet, but I know these would be great in the car too :)

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