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The Mommy Mindset: Traveling With a Toddler on a Plane

We took Rissa on her first lengthy car ride when she was 2.5 months old. A 3 hour trip turned into a 5 hour one. While you’d think we could just pull over when needed, that’s not always so easy. Although we survived, it wasn’t very fun (though it was for a funeral and not a vacation anyway). As we look towards August and heading to BlogHer ’12, we had to decide between driving and flying. After weighing the pros and cons, flying won out.

Rissa does well for about 1.5-2 hours in a car. After that (even with 1-2 stops) she is dooooone. She wants no part in being strapped in her car seat. She loses interested in toys 5 times faster than normal and is only mildly comforted with mama in the backseat with her. But don’t let mama stay in the front anymore! So, I think a 2 hour flight is probably the best option instead of trying to drive straight through in one day. But it will be my first experience traveling with a toddler on a plane!

Since we will be flying and I barely fly myself (once twice round trip) I was very interested in this travel discussion. Come check it out and share your traveling tips in the comments!

Joining the discussion this week is Mariah of Formula Mom, Ghada of Mama Goes BAM, Emily of Nap Time is My Time, Tamara of Mommyland, Darcy of Tales From the Nursery, Sarah of East 9th Street, Lena of Way2GoodLife, Leila of The Go To Mommy, LaVonne of Long Wait for Isabella, and Cyndy of Mama Does It All!

Traveling with a Toddler

Mariah: Spring break is a less than a month away in my area and we will be flying this year. Yes, we will be flying with W for the first time! He will be 15 months old and is one active little boy. I’m a bit nervous about taking him on the plane. We also have a short layover and have to switch planes! So I’m worried about the actual travel day but also all of the stuff we need to pack. I’m planning on sending a box ahead of time to our destination with a lot of his things because he needs toys! Do any of you have tips for traveling with a little one or a toddler? Help!

Ghada: Gosh I’ve traveled from New Zealand to the US to Canada so many times. You’d think I would have lots of helpful advice, but really I guess I just learned something new every time. One thing that works really well is to buy W a new toy and give it to him on the plane, hopefully because it is new it will keep him occupied for a longish time. My son has always been active too, so I’d have to say that the age you are traveling with W is probably the most trying — as he is probably just starting to toddle if not walking and wanting to do it ALL THE TIME. Use the aisle of the plane and just let it him walk. And don’t be a martyr! Take turns with the other people traveling with you and rest up while someone else watches him, because he’s likely to stay awake for a majority of the flight. My guy used to fall asleep in the last 30 minutes of an 8 hour flight from LAX to Montreal. I suppose if at all possible, flying overnight is always better cause you can wear him out in the day and hopefully he would crash in the air. Oh, and for the sake of other passengers, try to bring quiet toys on the plane. Have a roll of masking tape with you, that way you can create car lanes, hopscotch squares and whatever else your imagination can dream up and create it on the ground while you are transitioning. The layover can be a blessing, especially if you can let him burn some energy before he gets back on the plane. Lastly, try to minimize the sugary snacks for obvious reasons.

Emily: If you can afford it, purchase him his own seat. We’ve been flying with The Boy since he was 6 months old and he has always had his own seat. That’s helpful because he has his own space. For our last trip, we finally broke down and bought a portable DVD player. That provided entertainment for him and was nice to have once we arrived at our destination, too. I packed tons of snacks & books in our carry on. We also gave him a new cup.

Tamara: Practice would be my biggest advice, get kitchen chairs in two rows and practice sitting there and playing in the small space. Do it a few times that way he is use to the area. Also look online for pictures of planes so he can see them could help with the excitement of that for the first time. Easy shoes is something else. I was behind this lady and her baby last time home from LA and they made her take the baby’s shoes off. So slip-ons or wait until after security to put them on if possible. Some may agree and others may not but you can get one of the leashes if he can walk. It will save you the headache of having to look for him if he wanders off plus you don’t have to carry him. In a small backpack, pack a special surprise and let him carry it but not open it until he is on the plane.

Darcy: I’m needing these tips for taking an almost 2 year old Rissa on a plane in August. I know for car travel I needed to bring extra toys and new ones helped as did interactive apps on my phone. I think packing all our cloth diapers is the toughest part.

Mariah: I won’t be able to purchase him his own seat. Luckily there will be three of us on the plan to pass him around. Tamara, thank you for the advice on the spacing issue! That is one of my biggest concerns. If we could practice, that would definitely help me at least! The shoes situation is one I hadn’t even thought about! Perhaps he will rock the socks! His walking isn’t coordinated enough to do a lot of walking (although who knows what can change in a month) so I might be able to get away with waiting on shoes until we get to our destination. I need to get a new carry-on bag for sure so that I have room for some of my things and all of things!

Emily: Another thing — if you have to check his car seat, get a weatherproof bag for it. A friend of mine arrived at her vacation destination to a soaking wet seat because it was raining when they landed. If your flight is around nap time or bed time, he’ll probably fall asleep. He might anyway with the constant hum of the engines.

Sarah: I was just at the airport last week and they had a sign stating children under 12 (or 12 and under, can’t remember which) no longer had to take their shoes off. My advice is to ask for the bulkhead seats if you can’t afford a separate for your child. That little bit of extra room helps and there isn’t a chair in front of me for my child to kick. We’ve flown several times with my daughter and each time was a different experience. Magnetic toys and color wonder are all good items to bring.
Another thing we do, instead of being one of the first to board the plane, I send my husband down with all the stuff and I board last with my daughter. Gives her a few more minutes to run around. It can take forever for the plane to board and I’d rather spend that time not in a confined area.

Lena: I traveled with my daughter when she was 18 months old and had ear infection — not the best experience. My bag of tricks includes some kind of video entertainment, lots of cheerios, drawing paper, couple toys, and a favorite blanket. My cousin has one of those carts that you can attach the car seat to. Looks like a good temporary stroller you can leave with other strollers by the plane.

Emily: I have the Britax car seat cart, too. It’s super helpful!

Leila: We have flown and lap carried both children. We pack a carry on bag just for them that consists of snacks, activities (coloring books, reading books, little toys, etc.), a portable DVD player with their favorites movies. And these are tips we still do now at ages 6 and 3 when we travel. And now that they are older, hand held games work as well. We have never had an issue with traveling via plane with our kids and it’s usually just the two of us. Another tip, try to keep him awake so he is tired when you fly– a better chance of him napping!

Darcy: So what about when you land and take the shuttle to your hotel. Do they have car seats? I’m trying to figure that part out. I really don’t want to have to lug it along.

Sarah: No shuttles I have been on have car seats. We’ve only rented cars so I send the husband to go get the rental car while I wait with our stuff. If you can borrow or buy one of these car seat strollers, I’ve heard they are a backsaver!

Darcy: I was NOT planning to take a car seat AND stroller to BlogHer. Glad I asked. Of all the things I’ve read about tips for flying with a toddler, nothing has mentioned packing a car seat.

Emily: We’ve always rented a car, too. I have heard that shuttles are exempt from car seat regulations? Maybe you can borrow one. If you do bring your own, the travel cart is so helpful.

Darcy: Emily, we’d be going from the airport to the Hilton in NYC. I have no idea if it’s shuttle or taxi or what the regs are for either of those. I need to find out before August, that’s for sure.

Sarah: I’ve heard the same thing Emily. We were going to take my daughter to NYC with us but I stressed about the whole cab/car seat/subway/stroller thing. I know NYC moms do it all the time but for this southern transplant, I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

Emily: I think NYC cabs are exempt, but you’d have to be comfortable with her not being secured in the vehicle, too. We purchased a cheaper stroller for travel, it’s an umbrella with full recline option. Check out the G-Luxe by UppaBaby. The airlines don’t charge to check the car seat or stroller. If you do take a car seat, be sure to get a bag for it!

Darcy: We won’t be in cars really other than going to/from the airport so I’d be okay with it.

Mariah: These are great issues to consider. I need to consider the shuttle issue for a trip we’re taking this summer. Luckily for Spring Break we’re going to visit family so we don’t have to worry about the car. The car seat is another issue! We’re hoping to borrow one from someone so we don’t have to take one with us. We have a cheap umbrella stroller that I plan on taking with us so at least that is covered!

What are your tips?

saida a

Saturday 24th of March 2012

I have travelled with my daughter twice, once when she was 9 months and 12months. Both trips I had her on my lap and she was a handful . During our first trip I was accompanied by my brother so she moved between us, listened to music and played with her toys. During take off and landing that's when she would cry alot. I tried to give her snacks to chew on , (she never liked a pacifier took one and tried it.. it didnt work ).kept her calm after a while and then she took her nap.


Saturday 25th of February 2012

I have flown twice with my daughter, once when she was 7 months and again when she was 13 months. Both times I flew with other people. I got some great advice from a friend of mine though. She rode on my lap, but was able to scoot around between the 3 of us. If you have a car seat stroller combo, that is what I would recommend. My daughter doesn't sit in car seats much, but it was easier to carry our stuff and have her in the wrap. The first time the flight was about 2 hours, the second time, it was 4, I was definitely worried about that second trip, but it went ok. She was able to walk around on our laps and I walked her up and down the isles a few times just to let her stretch out. The flight attendants loved to stop and talk to her, and we were lucky, the people behind us had a kid about 9 or so who liked to play peek a boo with my daughter.