A screen- free flight with a toddler is possible! I just got back from a flight with my 20 month old and I would love to share my tips for how we pulled it off. I think that was our last flight with B.B. riding as a lap child. Whew! With this 7 month baby bump and a growing toddler I don’t think we would fit in the same seat again! There were moments of fussing, there was a minute that I felt like I was wrestling an angry alligator, but overall she did awesome! Toddlers get fussy, they get bored, and they feel like they need to get up and move. So do adults! The difference is, it’s expected that a toddler is going to act like a toddler. No one can tolerate fussy adults but just remember, if your toddler acts like a toddler that is normal and acceptable! You do the best you can. Prepare yourself and your child by expecting the best. If you are on the flight from hell you can always buy a drink for the people sitting next to you… and yourself!
Packing & Planning
Packing thoughtfully and planning ahead can really lead to a more enjoyable flight for your family and the other passengers. About a week before you fly watch your little one to notice what activities they are into and what toys they engage in and find challenging. I like to sneak away some of those toys ahead of time so they still hold their interest the day you fly.
I also think it’s so helpful to find snacks that are more like an activity than a quick slurped down munchie. Skip the pouches and baby foods at this age and go for snacks that are interesting and require more thought to eat. That way you get more bang for your buck, an activity and snack in one! Ideas: Toddler Trail Mix, Fruit Snacks, Crackers with cheese or peanut butter (make cracker sandwiches), and back up lollypops for when the going gets rough!
My tot drinks unsweetened vanilla flavored almond milk with her meals so when we travel I bring single serving boxes of almond milk. I haven’t found unsweetened almond milk in single servings at my local grocer but it is available online and usually the expiration date is a long way out so I’m going to order some. I figured a special “treat” of sweetened almond milk would help her stay well hydrated while traveling. Be prepared for airport security to force you to open a box of your toddler necessity to test the vapors. I have never experienced this during my time as a mom, but this time they threatened extensive pat down and search if I didn’t forfeit a box of almond milk for testing. They suggested that in the future I pack one box planning to throw it away. Sigh.
To prepare for our flight I packed the diaper bag which has been tucked away in my closet for months. I am so familiar with each pocket and what I use it for, I felt like it would be easier than a cluttered purse. I packed toys, diapers and our liquids in the diaper bag along with B.B.’s tiny backpack that has a tether. Yes, it’s one of those “leash” backpacks! Haha I’ve never used the leash but I did bring it in case we wanted to try it out. I love this backpack for her because she can wear it comfortably and carry some of her belongings. The chest clip helps the straps stay on. She’ll be using this backpack when she starts Tot School next month! I found it at Marshall’s but it’s also available online.
Getting around the airport
We decided to leave the stroller at home because she doesn’t really ride in the stroller very much anymore. She wants to be out to walk or in the ErgoBaby. We found a great product at Babies R Us to transport her convertible (toddler) car seat, the Brica Roll n Go Car Seat Transporter. This is the only product I have found that is safe to use with the child riding in the convertible car seat. The seat straps to the transporter and you roll it around like a suitcase. I feel more comfortable baby wearing at least until we get through security so I know exactly where she is. I place the diaper bag and other small items in the car seat and pull my suitcase while baby wearing. Once at the gate, I take the wheels off of the car seat and gate check the car seat. The wheels fold up easily and go in the overhead compartment.
It was nice to have options of baby wearing, holding hands and walking, or having her ride in the car seat. I know some people carry the car seat but wow, that’s a lot of work! I would be fumbling around and sweating even more than I already was. While at our destination we even used the car seat to ride in a cab to the mall, then the transporter was like a stroller for her to take a cat nap while we were out.
In flight Entertainment
I know it would be so easy to hand over the iPad, but that doesn’t feel right to me. We are still limiting our toddler’s screen time and if we can make it through a flight without a tablet then I think that is great! If you need to use one, I pass no judgment. I planned our toy selection carefully and I was sure not to overpack. You know when you over pack they won’t play with anything you bring! Haha We brought:
- Coloring books and twist up crayons, markers
- Wooden magnetic dolls
- A small baby doll
- Toddler sized jewelry
- Curious George Puzzle
- Princess Water Game
- Thomas Project and Play
- Play dough
Some of these toys are for 3 years old and up, which makes a great challenge for a toddler who masters age appropriate toys quickly. If you bring toys that aren’t challenging it might not be very interesting. My daughter is very interested in pretend play, counting, and coloring so the dolls, jewelry, books, play dough and puzzles were right up her ally. The Thomas toy was new just for the flight and it was a lot of fun! She learned how to turn the dial to project the images on the seat, ceiling and her belly! We don’t really know Thomas characters so it was new and interesting. The Curious George puzzle and magnetic dolls were just challenging enough that she needed to focus on it but she didn’t get too frustrated. I packed them inside of some bags that sheets came in. Finally a use for those bags that I had saved!
At one point she escaped from our row and ran into first class! Oops! Time to bust out the play dough! On the way home things got a little difficult because we had to sit on the runway for an hour before take off. Lollypop to the rescue! Luckily the passengers were understanding and helpful when things weren’t all rainbows and sunshine, and the little fit only lasted a few moments.
Flying with a toddler is a LOT of work, physically and mentally! You have to be on your toes and you can’t just chill out and doze off like during your pre-parenting days. You can do it and if you prepare ahead of time I know you will have a great flight! Safe travels!