The dust has settled since T’s first plane ride (at 18 ½ months) and I’m starting to mentally recover from it enough to not get a pit in my stomach when thinking about it. And I’m not gonna lie, no matter how many flights I took pre-kiddo, I was kind of freaking out about getting him on the plane. I know, it was a 3 hour flight – nothing like Erika’s trip ‘round-the-globe. But I still did what I always do when I’m at a loss with the kiddo – I asked my friends for advice.
So, as your favorite crazy list lady, here’s my list of things that were helpful to do when traveling with a lap toddler on a plane.
- Ditch the diaper bag – My diaper bag is super cute and super fashionable and fits right in when I am strolling T around Nordstrom. However, it doesn’t zip shut and T likes to pull random things out of it – so it’s not ideal for the conveyor belt in the security line, where I am positive, everything would have dumped out all over the place. As much as it pained me, I took the advice of a friend and swapped cuteness for practicality – a backpack. I still cringe thinking about my accessory ugliness, but it worked.
- Umbrella stroller – We brought one. We learned the hard way that we should strap T into it as soon as we left the car. Not doing so made for a disastrous airport experience on the way out. Luckily, we learned our lesson and had a much saner time at the airport on the way home by trapping T in the stroller the second he left the car seat.
- In the airport – Everyone suggested we let T run around as much as possible at the gate before we boarded the plane to run down some of his energy. Maybe it was his age or his energy level or his early Olympic distance training – but this advice didn’t work for us. (If you want to cringe, read why here). Instead, leaving him in his stroller and continuously feeding him banana cookies and milk worked better for us.
- Books – We brought lots and lots of books with us for the plane. Despite the new ones I packed, he preferred his old standbys – mainly, Elmo & Trucks. We read lots and lots.
- Mini trucks/cars – T likes to “vroom vroom” and these don’t make any additional noise to bug the people around us. His dad taught him how to have Hotwheels collisions. Lovely.
- Ipad/Laptop – With episodes of his favorite shows. We packed Blues’ Clues, Sesame Street and Yo Gabba Gabba. Also bought him these Elmo headphones – which we practiced him wearing around the house with the iPad before we left. It took a couple tries, but he got the hang of it. (Well, sort of. He didn’t really like wearing the headphones, but he thought it was pretty funny when I wore them.) We made sure NOT to show him any of these things until after takeoff, because well, try explaining to him that he has to practice his patience by waiting until we count to ten 500 times until he can use it. Riiight.
- Snacks and Sippys – Since I wasn’t sure which would be better for his ears, we ended up packing two sippy cups – one with a straw and one with a spout. So, we used them both - one for milk and one for water. And we refilled both of them as many times as he wanted. As you know, I may have ended up dehydrated, T certainly didn’t! And even more of a plus – his ears didn’t seem to bug him one bit.
- Drinks! – We went into this trip agreeing to borrow Tina Fey’s philosophy – If all else failed and T was a traveling terror, we would try to keep people from hating us by buying them a round of drinks. I know it might seem excessive because well, you can’t really reason with a toddler in a meltdown, but it was my way of mentally preparing for the worst-case scenario of a plane trip. Really, who could hate our child when we are buying them alcohol? Luckily, T pulled it together when we were actually on the plane because this far-off philosophy seemed very much like it was going to be a reality when we were in the airport.
- Baggage – We checked our bags. I hate to check bags. I hate to wait at baggage claim. But, we knew we had our hands full, so we sucked it up and dealt with it. I’m glad we did.
- Extra legroom - We debated about upgrading our seats and found it totally worth it in the end. On the way there, our extra legroom tickets also gave us one of the only extra free seats on the flight. On the way home, the extra legroom gave T just a bit more space on a totally full flight to play on the floor. In the end, I really think that extra 4 inches allowed us to hold onto our sanity. If we didn't pay for the upgrade, we probably would have paid to keep our sanity in the form of drinks.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list. And as you know, we have a lot to learn. I'd love to hear whatever advice any of you with toddlers have for the next time we take on this adventure!