Tuesday, November 10, 2015

7 Tips for Flying with a Toddler

Before our New York trip I asked for ideas for travelling with a toddler and got some amazing ideas and answers! We found ones that we thought would work and pulled in a few of our own and set off on our first flight-with-a-toddler adventure! 

The gifted tickets were for Cameron and I, so since Darrow was not yet 2 on the way out (we did have to purchase a ticket for him on the way home since he turned 2 on the trip) we planned on having him with us as a lap infant. 

We knew we had to go being incredibly prepared in order to keep him, us, and everyone around us all happy. And we feel like both the trip out there and the return trip were a success! I wanted to share some of what we did that helped make our trip easier.
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Tip #1:
Take their car seat. 

update: There are all sorts of arguments about the safety or the non-issue of checking car seats at the gate and about traveling on a plane with a lap infant. I'm not advocating for any direction on this whole "Mommy Wars" issue, I am just telling you what we did and planned on doing. You can read articles all over the place and make up your own mind about what you want to do when it comes time for you to fly with your baby or toddler. Regardless of whether you plan to buy a seat for your child or not, I DO recommend taking your car seat. What you do with it once you get to the gate is up to you. 

We planned on flying with Darrow as a lap infant. I know. This is controversial. But lets move past that without nasty grams in the comments shall we? We knew we needed the car seat once we were on the ground in New York (and eventually the ride home as he'd be two and require a ticket on the return flight), but didn't want to check it with all the normal baggage and have it get manhandled and thrown at the bottom of the heavy heap in the belly of the plane. We read that checking it at the gate would give it the best chance of coming out alive and usable again as it would go on the very top of the luggage right before take off and be the first thing to come off after landing. 

The second reason we did this was because we read a post (and of course I can't find it now!) that suggested checking the car seat at the gate because sometimes if the flight attendants were nice, the gate keeper (seriously, what is the title of the person who scans in your boarding pass before getting on the walkway to get in the plane?!) was in a good mood, and all the seats weren't full, sometimes you could get it on and snag a seat even though your child was "registered" as a lap infant. 

Now, I'm not the type to just ask for free things or be obnoxious, so I just planned on checking it at the gate and having him on my lap. But we'd never done this before. We've flown so little, we didn't even know how to check something at the gate. So we asked the Gate Keeper (seriously, I hope that's their title!) how to do that, she asked if he was a lap infant and we confirmed, and she took care of the rest.

The flight had 2 extra seats, so she and the flight attendants worked together, picked us a spot on the plane where he could have a good view, and gave us the extra seat! 

Of course he didn't really care about the view and wanted the window down most of the time, but he was comfortable and off our laps! 

Tip #2: 
Take comfort items, like a blanket or favorite stuffed animal. 

You don't need their whole room, but having one or two items they are familiar with and love can really help them feel secure and happy.

And a blanket really is great because the temperature on the planes are never perfect. If they don't want it, you can wad it up and use it as a pillow for you (one bonus to an upright carseat...it gave me a place to lean against to take a quick nap!).

Tip #3
Take snacks! 

This one gets tricky a little because you have to keep things within TSA guidelines, but we found snacks that he loved that were perfect, low mess, easy to haul, and TSA friendly.

We took crackers, which he wouldn't eat suddenly, fruit bars (which he wouldn't eat either), water, and then finally the one thing that worked.

Our biggest jackpot of the snacks were the GoGo SqueeZ packs. TSA restricts "sauces" and liquids to 3.4 oz a pack. These are 3.2oz a pack. Some of the other brands were too large to take on the plane, so these were the winners! The TSA agent even was excited to see ones that fit regulations. Any day you can make a TSA agent happy is a good day!

You can find these at your local grocery store, or order them on Amazon in a variety of flavors: GoGo squeeZ Applesauce On The Go - Apple Berry - 3.2oz, 4 pk (Case of 12)

Tip #4: 
Non-Digital Entertainment that's New to Them

We packed two of Darrow favorite books, and one favorite non-noise making toy, but we knew that Darrow loves new toys (don't most kids?!), so I visited with my sister about this and she loaned me a cool tray she made for her kids on their latest road trip.

It was a small metal cookie sheet, and then pom poms on magnets. It's simple, but he loved it on the way out! The different colors and sizes of the pom poms were fun for him, and the magnets kept them in place.

Keeping the pom poms in place was important...I didn't want to be cleaning up fluffies everywhere after the flight after he did this:

Tip #5:
Digital Entertainment

With Darrow's Nystagmus and ONH, we really don't give him much screen time at all (maybe 1 show a week), but we knew that this could be a great backup when naps were done, food wasn't interesting, books were boring, and toys were tired. We knew we could pay $8 and fight for bandwidth with everyone on the plane and hope that it worked, but we went for a more sure route.

We bought and downloaded his favorite show (Cars Toons: Mater's Tall Tales) and had it on two mobile devices with fully charged batteries. On most phones you can even download a "Touch Lock" app so that they for sure can't go anywhere else. With a pair of headphones a blanket to prop up the phone, and the show, he was set! We forgot to buy the over the head headphones for him, so we used Cameron's ear buds and my belt wrapped around his head to keep them in.

Tip #6
Have something to drink and/or eat for take off and landing. 

We weren't sure how he'd handle any of this, but especially take off and landing, so a sippy cup of milk was ready to hand him to calm him, but more importantly to get him to drink and keep his ears popped. 

Shortly after take off we made sure he drank off and on for a few minutes. We did the same thing prepping for landing. It worked! He never fussed about his ears once! 

Tip #7
Be patient

There will be other passengers that aren't going to be too excited to see they get to sit near a little kid on the flight. Staying calm, being the last ones off the plane, and being patient with others around you will make the flight easier for everyone! If you're willing to be the last ones off the plane, you can make sure you don't leave the beloved stuffed animal behind, you aren't blocking everyone, and we were able to let Darrow walk out rather than having to carry him (and his carseat, and our carryons) because were weren't in a big crowd of people anxious to get off and leave in a hurry. 

Be patient with your child too. With cramped quarters cabin fever can hit them and you. Obviously there are times discipline has to happen (like when Darrow kept kicking the seat in front of him while looking directly at me after I'd told him not to), but do it gently and quietly. 

And when they toss a book to the side when their done with it and it smacks you on the bridge of your nose bringing instant tears to your eyes...remember that wasn't what they meant to do. Man that was tender for a few days! 

All in all we feel like it went really well! He thought the turbulence was funny and giggled, played well, and getting situated all went smooth, thanks to the tips we got from all of you, Pinterest, and across the web. I can't wait to show you some of our travel photos later this week!

*Marquette Mower is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This post contains affiliate links.


  1. Definitely agree with the new toy they've never seen before, that is a good one. Yea, taking the carseat to gate check is good because you can snag a seat sometimes if there are open seats without having to pay for it, which is great, and everyone is more comfortable when baby has their own seat.

  2. All that cute blonde curly hair :) But look how happy he is playing with the pom poms! I'm going to try this when my son gets older. Thanks for this, I've already flown with my 8 month old but this gives me more mommy-ammo which is ALWAYS good!

    1. I don't know if I'll ever be able to keep his hair super short...I just love those curls too much! And this is definitely a great activity for the mommy-arsenal!


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