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Traveling With A Toddler

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Traveling with a toddler can be a harrowing experience. It’s like the day before taxes are due, and you can’t find one receipt or W-9. Its extremely stressful, you feel totally helpless, stupid, embarrassed, full of regret, and out of control. You are scrambling for hours and blaming each other for everything that is missing, you don’t really know what you are doing and just wishing you hired a professional to help (thank god we have with our taxes). It gets ugly, you say things you don’t mean, and you promise to do things differently next time. (P.S. If you don’t have or want kids or you came here for a design post, come back tomorrow, we’ll have a good one). 

One should never make decisions about having kids after being on a plane with a toddler. After the last flight we took the only good thing that came out of it is that Brian and I collectively made the decision that 2 children was it! I know it gets better after they are out of this stage but we just couldn’t imagine have TWO kids there let alone three!!! (I’ve since already calmed down a bit about our rash statement although Brian hasn’t).

We flew to Bend, Or, a few weeks ago and had a pretty terrible airport and plane experience. It’s not like the plane malfunctioned but it was just bad. It took us an hour and a half to get to the airport, Brian left his phone in the uber – which was $178 dollars!!!! by the way. We were told we were going to miss our flight but thank god it was delayed. Brian spilled a whole cup of coffee on a puppy in the seat behind us, the pilot came out, etc, Charlie acted like a complete lunatic for the entire plane ride, etc, etc – it was just 5 very unpleasant hours of our lives. Let’s be clear – I travel a lot. We have traveled with Charlie a lot. We aren’t like those people who go through the metal detectors with their shoes, belt, jewelry, wallet and coats on and only take them off one by one – exacerbated every time the buzzer goes off. We know how it works and we are savvy. But with a toddler, an 18 month old specifically,  out of LAX (its like flying in and out of HELL), its just a whole other ball game.

So let’s break down our mistakes, or I guess just some of the the more avoidable situations:

1. We didn’t book him a seat. The tickets to Bend were astronomical (like i’m embarrassed to say how much) because we wanted to fly direct to save ourselves from a layover in Portland. But tiny plane + no extra seat + toddler on our lap = Charlie totally out of control. Being on a small plane sucks, for anyone, let alone a toddler with so much energy and no place to put it. I felt more sorry for us at the time, but looking back its not like he had the best time ever, either.

2. We booked the flight during his nap, which means that he basically just didn’t take a nap, which means that he turned into a lunatic. That used to work when he was a baby and he would just fall asleep, but no longer.

3. We didn’t bring headphones. We brought the ipad with some shows that he likes at 6am on Saturday mornings when Brian and I collectively throw all rules out the window and he watches Thomas the Train while I stare out into space, but we didn’t bring the headphones (we didn’t know!) so it lost his attention within minutes.

4. We flew out of LAX – which is the most unpleasant airport ever, where even if you get there an hour and 15 minutes before your flight you could miss it. LAX is unavoidable at times but we could have flown from Burbank to Portland to Bend and avoided the stress that LAX brings. Every time I land at LAX I think to myself ‘I Hate LA … Why do I live here???’ and then by the time I get to our neighborhood I’m back to normal but its just a terrible place full of terrible people wrapped in chaos and dirt. Burbank however, is a pure joy to be in. JOY. God, this must be so boring for anyone who doesn’t live in LA but I need to talk through it.

5. We checked our carseat which means on the off chance that we did get a seat on the way back (which we did) he would have somewhere to sleep. They told us that we wouldn’t so we didn’t prep for it. The way back (which is below) was 50% better because he had a seat – so that was a good lesson learned.

Emily Henderson_Traveling with a Toddler_GridHe’s a fairly mellow kid and he was REALLY hard to control on the plane, for two short hours. He was running up and down the aisle, slapping legs, yelling gibberish, wanting to touch every single person’s laptop buttons – surely deleting people’s work. If we kept him in the seat he was jumping, screaming, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, yelling ‘no! no! no!’ over and over for no reason. I just kept thinking What oh WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO FOR 10 HOURS!!!

We are headed to Spain in a month and after that experience we are looking for any and all suggestions for how to travel with a toddler. Babies are easy (depending on the baby, I know). I think that 4 year olds can probably watch movie after movie, but toddlers … what can toddlers do???

Here is what we have done (or are going to do ) to potentially help the situation:

1. We booked a red eye. This shortens our overall flight time and since its overnight we are hoping that a majority of those hours will be asleep.

2. We have not booked him a seat yet on it – we are waiting to see if the plane fills up more. Right now there is a lot of room and the idea of buying his $1800 ticket to then sit near all these empty seats makes us nauseous so we are risking it for now since there are so many available. We’ll check in when we are closer to the trip and see what the chances are of him getting his own seat for free is.

3. A friend (who is a professional nanny) gave us the advice of bringing him to the airport in his normal clothes and then doing his bed time routine on the plane – changing him to pjs, sleep-sack, books, bottle all on the plane (skipping the bath) so that he feels like its time to go to bed.

4. We are buying headphones for him – any suggestions?

But there is no way that he is going to sleep for more than 6 hours (we hear) so we still have four hours to account for. Plus jet lag.

So friends, since this blog really just acts as my own personal advice forum at times, what are some tips that you guys have for traveling with a toddler? Is there anything we can give him to sleep longer/deeper? Are there any TV shows or movies that an 18 month old will actually sit and watch? I’m not saying that we are going to drug our kid and put him in front of a TV for hours, but after our recent experience i’m not exactly above anything. I’m a big advocate for ‘family first, baby second’ and I really think that our collective family (including this baby inside of me) needs less stress for those 10 hours than what we endured for those two short ones to Oregon. I manage stress well since my life in general is just a bit nutso, but this was a glimmer into a future that I want to avoid.

I know you moms are out there, brimming with stories and advice of plane trips gone wrong and right. Help!

(Also moms with two kids, or twins or three kids or single moms … I SO admire you and I want to know your secrets for staying alive and sane).

Fin Mark

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We got these headphones (Kidz-Gear), and they work pretty good. We’re flying from Phoenix to Milwaukee in a few weeks with a 4 year old and a 2 year old. I fully plan on letting them just watch TV for 3.5 hours straight!

http://www.amazon.com/Kidz-Gear-Wired-Headphones-Kids/dp/B00AXE9B6M/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1435766173&sr=1-1&keywords=best+kids+headphones

Sara

I second those. I flew from sfo to Oslo with my 2.5yo and she used them the whole flight!

Sava

I third the kidz gear headphones. They have a sound safety on them.

Get some triangle canyons for drawing (less rolling). Remember to never introduce a new toy until the other one is played out. If you don’t opt for another seat, try and get the bulkhead, there is more room for the kids to sit on the floor and play. The Noisy Airplane Ride is also a really good book for kids (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_fb_0_9?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=noisy+airplane+ride&sprefix=noisy+airplane+ride%2Celectronics%2C180).

Oh, although he is a little young, benadryl. And if he is off of the pacifier, bring lollipops for landing.

Lisa Macaya

If he’s never had benadryl be careful! Young kids can often have a paradoxical reaction – which basically, instead of making kids sleepy, it makes them crazy hyper.

anonymous

I would try a very small dosage of benadryl before your trip to see what his reaction is.

Traci

The Benadryl backfired on me. It made my little guy more agitated and he fought sleep hard! Literally fought.

Those headphones are great! I will also caution the Benadryl use — if he hasn’t used it before, definitely try it out before the flight. It makes our daughter almost manic so I’m glad we tried it before our 7 hour flight. 🙂
Best advice for flying with a toddler — think of the flight in terms of 15 minute segments. It’s insanely tiring but if they won’t watch TV (mine won’t), you have to basically over plan for keeping them occupied.
Our flights have been pretty great, the flight staff has always been awesome at engaging with our child (tours of the kitchen, tour of the cockpit) and though you don’t want the kid tearing up and down the aisles, walking and stretching legs is perfectly fine!
Good luck!

Also, we always buy her a seat and upgrade to the bulkhead row. Yes, it’s more expensive but having extra room and comfort makes a world of difference!
Did they say if he had his own seat he had to sit in a carseat? We’ve never been required to do that (thank God because she hates her car seat).

Gail

Shame on you for drugging the child. One never knows how a child will react to a medication, and being on a plane is not the place to experience a medical problem.

Erica

These headphones are great! We used them to fly to Orlando and my 2 year old loved them. I bought a splitter as well so I could “watch” with him. I really think things are easier when toddlers have their own seat since they are used to being in a car – we used the CARES seatbelt harness and he stayed put willingly the whole flight. An array of snacks helped as did a Winnie the Pooh movie, some Winnie the Pooh shorts (on iTunes they are only 3 minutes each), a coloring book, crayons, tons of stickers, and a pacifier (which he usually only gets at nap and bedtime). I also brought some other toys – a few small favorites from home that I took out of his usual toy box a few days prior so he’d be excited to see them again.
Good luck – I sympathize and totally get the anxiety. Just do your best to stay calm and hope that helps set the tone for Charlie.

Monika

I have no advice but… my friend and her sister rented a villa in Italy for a week. Both have toddlers and both live in New Jersey. I dropped my friend off at Newark Airport along with kid and husband and, after getting on the Turnpike to go home on Friday afternoon at 5 pm, I got a frantic call from her: she’d forgotten the diaper bag at home, along with everything she thought she’d need for the kid. Read: no diapers, no books, no snacks… She wanted to know if I’d be able to get it for her before the flight took off, in an hour. Ahem, no, I said. I turned back and bought the only bag of diapers and some goldfish from some mom-and-pop convenience store and went back to Newark where I was allowed to park curbside and security grabbed the package and rushed it to the plane. Needless to say the flight was a horror: diapers were the wrong size, he wanted to watch his movies, no leapfrog, no extra clothes…and she didn’t fly again until he was 6, four years later, when they moved to California! How’s that for a horror story?! Good luck… Read more »

miranda

Haha! This made me laugh.
(probably because I don’t have children…yet)

Carrie C

Sweet Jesus- I thought I had the only 19m old boy who really fails to be entertained by TV/Movies. Sometimes I pat myself on the back for his lack of screen enthusiasm-but I am quickly getting to the point where I would let him watch the Blacklist if he would do it quietly in one spot.

OMG. This. My daughter was born in Italy and we did a ton of traveling with her. The truth is, that her plane behavior was totally hit or miss — she could be perfection (to the point strangers would compliment the heck out of us) or totally nutso. On one particular trying flight from Paris to Philly, I was SO excited for the individual TV screen thinking it would entertain her for hours. NOPE. Because we don’t have a TV at home she was totally. not. interested. Longest flight ever!

Here’s a brilliant plane activity that a momma friend clued me into: get one of those Mon-Sun pill boxes (the kind with 7 compartments) and fill each one up with a different snack. The compartments are easy for little fingers to open because they are made for senior citizens (who may have bad eyesight or arthritis). I kid you not, it kept my son busy for 45 minutes on a plane ride once (keep refilling the compartments when he’s through with them.

Stickers too. I once desperately bought a bunch of garage sale sticker tags because those are the only stickers the drugstore had. They turned out to be awesome because they were brightly colored and an easy circle shape (the more complex stickers can be hard for little fingers to tear off neatly).

And finally, talk to your pediatrician about it, but the unspoken secret of traveling long distances with kids seems to be drugs. 😉 I haven’t actually done it but I know lots of moms who travel frequently to Asia and they use either Benadryl or baby melatonin to get through their trips.

Good luck!

beeejet

Benadryl makes some kids hyper(as me how I know…). I’d give him a does at home before I relied on it to put him to sleep on the plane. That would be the WORST! Can you imagine? Giving him something you think would help him calm down and sleep only for it to have to opposite effect! I shudder to think!!!!

Tricia

My mom has said one of the most disappointing moments of parenting was finding out that Benadryl turned my brother into a hyper little maniac. It’s one thing to deal with a sick toddler, but then make him bounce off the walls and it is beyond pathetic.

So, yeah, test the Benadryl before the plane flight. We were actually just talking about this the other day with a friend who has a toddler. Kind of funny.

Lori

I was one of those kids who got hyper on Benadryl. The effects have lessened as an adult, but it still keeps me wide awake. Definitely don’t use it unless you know what will happen!

Rachael

Love the pill box and sticker ideas and am totally implementing them next time we fly.

Annica

Genius ideas – stickers and pill bottles with snacks. I wouldn’t be above Benadryl either – but I agree with testing it first before you try it on the plane! There are some pretty great ideas on Pinterest. I saw a few in the past where you get Easter Eggs or a Medicine Container and fill with smaller toys, then put then back in the eggs and so on.

F

We use Zarbee baby’s 1 mg children’s melatonin pills. Works like magic, but make sure to give it at least 30 mins. before the flight.

I’ve always had good luck flying with my toddler. (We have been to Europe, Asia and Middle East so I feel like I’m schooled as a one child mom can be.)

Definitely take the red eye. We put her in her pjs at her normal time (which is usually before the airport) and then do the nighttime routine once the plane shuts off their lights. Be sure to bring favorite blankie and paci or whatever other comfort items he is used to.

Having an extra seat is really awesome (if nothing else to put your stuff there) but I avoided paying for it as long as I could. At $1800, you can just squish in and it will be fine.

We bought kid earphones but until she was about 2, she never really used them so I don’t think they are an absolute must. If you want to get them, I don’t think it matters what brand. But definitely bring an ipad with favorite games.

And snacks – for you and for kiddo.

Hope that helps. Have a good trip.

Noreen

We have def done this as well. Keep all your “routines” intact as much as possible. We did pj’s, sippy of milk, same lotion/lovey, stories, then songs: the whole routine, just on a plane.

Last month we did 5 flights total with our 2 1/2 year old and the two winners for us were NEW apps on the ipad (a Lego train one was awesome!) and NEW books with flaps. This one was seriously like 45 mins of entertainment with the ridiculous pictures and tons of lift up flaps: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/richard-scarry-mr-paint-pigs-abcs-richard-scarry/1113784383?ean=9780449819029

My husband is from Slovenia so and I have flown on two flights to get there from DC, so I feel you, Sister. The first time our son was four months old – so easy. The second time I was alone with a two year old and I nearly lost it several times over. Some things did work, however, so I want to share them with you here (crossing fingers for you).
1) Wrap matchbox cars or any other small toys (that you already own or spend five or ten bucks for your sanity) up in aluminum foil and washi tape and give him one every hour or so. It might take him a bit to open each “present” and then a few minutes playing with it.
2) Give him legal drugs and lots of cuddle time. Of course don’t overdo the drug part, but he NEEDS to sleep, so make sure when he does go to sleep he’s out for a while.
3) the Ipad (with headphones) is your best friend!

Good luck!

Rachael

Nice! Love the wrapped up “presents” idea!

Jamis

…as opposed to illegal drugs?

Bethany Ružic

My husband is also from Slovenia and I dreaded that long flight over there.

Zoe

No advice – just here to say ALL THE LOVE TO THE BURBANK AIRPORT. What an absolute joy that place is. A strange, tiny, dilapidated joy. I think the most time it has ever taken from stepping out of the car to my gate is 10 minutes.

Sarah

It won’t fill 10 hours, but we got a good 30 minutes of entertainment (an eternity in 2-year-old land) out of 2 cups and ice (shaking it, pouring from one cup to the other, picking it up and feeling the cold). It was a little messy – but just water. Snacks to be eaten one by one (bunny crackers, cereal, frozen peas) also occupied decent time. Our daughter also liked the “Duck Duck Moose” apps at that age.

Sid

Big BIG endorsement for these suggestions. Sago Mini apps are also great for toddlers. And all the PeekABoo apps (barn, richard scary etc). But the best “toy” was plastic cups, stir sticks and ice. Plus snacks, snacks and more snacks.

AmyL

check out this site: http://www.travelswithbaby.com –> it’s a great site on how to travel with a baby and toddlers, for domestic and international travel and all sorts of other things we don’t think about it till the situation occurs.

for me, I plan a lot of finger food snacks and activities to keep them occupied besides the usual movie on the ipad. for snacks, i usually pack crackers, fruit snacks/fruit leathers, raisins, small sandwiches, fruit pouches (also helps with ear pressure), and a water bottle. for other activities i pack crayons, a notepad and stickers. maybe those cheap target glowsticks to keep him entertained when the lights go out? i know my kids like to hold onto them to bed and eventually pass out with them.

i would also bring a small travel pillow for him to sleep on. it was very useful when my kids passed out since they ended up sleeping on the seat with their feet propped up on my legs. not sure what else to pack for a red-eye but i look forward to hearing about it (i.e. what worked and what didn’t).

Laura

We just got back from a 4 hour flight on Sunday with an 18-month-old and he was captivated for at least two separate hour-long chunks with stickers! Sticking them on his leg, re-sticking them on his arm, re-sticking them on my arm, etc. Mickey Stickers, animal stickers…the dollar store is our friend! Would Charlie sit and play with stickers?

We also regretted not getting him a seat and next time will be getting him one (though we probably won’t fly again until he’s two, and $1800 to spain is a tough pill to swallow–I would be waiting to book the extra seat just like you!)

Also, we had a direct flight on the way and a connection on the way home, and I actually preferred having the connection. It broke up the trip and let him run around, he made friends with everyone in the airport while we waited to board the second leg, etc. Plus, all the toys seemed new again on the second leg.

Curious to see the headphone suggestions–I had looked before our trip but ultimately didn’t buy any (and forgot the ipad anyway).

Surprisingly, I agree about the connection! We just took our girls to Disney World (ages 5 and 14 months) and although a direct flight is definitely more appealing to me and my husband and seems like it would be the way to go with kids–we could not be happier when we landed for our connection. It broke up the flight times, allowed the girls to run around, eat some food and get excited as possible for the next flight.

Other things that have helped us: All the treats. Benadryl. Stickers. New Apps.)

Sunray

LOL. I feel your pain! We brought our son to Thailand from San Francisco when he was around the same age, and at the end of the trip we said never again! Well, until he’s at least 7. haha. But then the next year we took him to England on red eye flights and it was much better. Not much advice really. We are in the same boat. 😉

Good luck. You’ll have so much fun in Spain! 🙂

Rachel

Ahhhhh! You are my soul sister, Emily. We’ve traveled to Italy with our oldest child when she was 18 months old. I was pregnant with #2. Our girl stayed awake for 28 hours STRAIGHT. When the plane touched down in Milan she threw up on me and I cried. Truth. All this to say we just cancelled a trip to Amsterdam in the Fall – we decided to wait one more year.
My best tip is snacks – don’t do the “just feed them what they want” rule. Bring boiled pasta, cooked veggies, etc. Pasta is my personal favorite. Good luck and Best Wishes!

Brie

I second don’t load up on snacks. I have been barfed on too many times from too much crap. I have a 2.5 year old and a1 year old and have flown with several times BY MYSELF, talk about torture. Another good toy is bringing a remote with one battery in it so he can press buttons and shake it. When we flew with my 14 month old to Hawaii on a ten hour flight, bulkhead was our BEST FRIEND. I put a blanket down and she just played with toys. Agree that headphones don’t really work until about 2.5 so just out volume low. Good luck!

AnnMarie

This post from Love Taza is great — she talks about traveling to Europe with her two toddlers. http://lovetaza.com/2012/12/traveling-abroad-with-littles

She has three under three and lives in a tiny, two-bedroom NYC apartment, so apparently whatever she’s doing works!

I’ve flown a lot with my two, often by myself. I think it’s best to go in expecting to have to entertain for the entire duration. Art projects (colouring, Water Wow, stamps, dot markets, maybe Playdoh if you’re brave), favourite books, iPad & Kidz Gear headphones, lots of snacks, new toys…I flew to Oz from LAX with DS when he was 16 months and got him a Take & Play pull back James engine and that kept him occupied for ages. And a Take & Play mini track. I did the bed time routine on the plane and it worked pretty well. It is a hellish age to travel but it can be ok if you’re really prepped. Good luck!

Cindy

Try Lavender Essential Oil. It is natural, and is really calming. Try it beforehand to make sure it has a calming effect on him. You just put a drop or two on the bottom of his feet and rub it in. I use it all the time with my kiddos (I have 4).

I’ve sat near someone who used essential oils on their kids and the smell was SO overpowering in a small airplane with recycled air that I got a massive migraine. Which is FAR WORSE than hearing a yelling toddler for 2 hours.

I don’t have any advice, but I will in about 3 weeks after we fly to Denmark with our 21-month-old. With no seat for her. I’m already thinking about what my cocktail of choice will be.

Debi J

As a mom of three whose husbands family lives in the UK, I understand your pain. This will be the hardest age to travel with them, but it will only get better. He will sleep….and most international flights have TV’s on the back of the seats, so you will have a large choice of movies (I know, attention span is limited) and TV shows. Just let him walk around whenever you can and remember that planes are loud, he sounds loud to you, but a few seats back can barely hear him. And as I told myself, it’s only a small part of the big picture, a means to an end. You will get there and it will be ok.

Sam

God bless you. We took our son, who was 8 months at the time, on a 1.5 hr flight from DC to New Hampshire and he was a handful then. You couldn’t pay me to take him on a flight now that he’s 16 mos. We have a 8 hr car ride coming up and we’re driving down at night so that he’ll sleep the whole time (fingers crossed).

Sarah

Uh, parent and frequent flyer here – for the love of God I hope you turned the sound off on the no-headphone ipad! Wild kids are one thing on a plane, and understandable – but listening to a wild kid + a screeching tv show on an ipad without headphones is another.

Also, I think most (normal) people can look past a crazy kid on a plane as long as the parents are making some effort to entertain said crazy kid. Ask me about the time I got saddled with a stranger’s 2 year old while she spent an hour puking in the bathroom after 7 vodka sodas on a flight – to LAX funny enough. That was fun.

Mags

+1. An ipad screeching noise without headphones is the WORST.

Also- bring fruit snacks or something chewy for him on takeoff/landing– his ears will hurt!

We also tire my little guys out as much as we can in the airport- we find an emptyish gate and get him to run and run and run and run and get all his wiggles out before we board.

Last, if we’re both flying and not on southwest, one of us will board first and get our bags and things in the overhead compartment, and then the other will try and board as late as possible with the baby (keeping that little guy running for as long as possible!) This way, we know our seat is saved and ready for us and we spend as little time as possible waiting for everyone else to board.

Michelle

We’ll buy a bunch of toys in the $1 bins at Target and wrap each one individually and give one to our boys every hour or so with good behavior. That seems to work from our flight from CA to HI.

We also flew to from CA to Bali when our oldest son was 7 months old. That was a little easier, but still always a hard job.

Good luck!!

Kelley

We mix of Sesame Street CDs (Classic Hits is the fave) and the movie Cars helps our guy a lot! We also let him pack a small bag of toys (we’re talking 4 or so things– the bag is tiny!) and toss in something new (crayons and a coloring book, say), which can help redirect his attention when he gets punchy.

Melody

I have TWO boys that are 13 months apart in age. We travel back to my hometown 3-4 times a year (4 hours flight). Here’s what works for us… (1) Buy him a ticket and use the car seat on the plane. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s worth your sanity as well as his. The car seat is IMPERATIVE. He is comfortable in his car seat for naps and being snapped into the car seat with significantly decrease the chances for melt-down. They need boundaries, and that provides a natural boundary. (2) We loved Caliphone headphones when the boys were young: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000MUXVZO/ref=as_sl_pd_tf_lc?tag=havbabwiltra-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=B000MUXVZO&adid=1MH0VQEA1KXW7M93KKE6&&ref-refURL=http%3A%2F%2Fhavebabywilltravel.com%2F2011%2F04%2F15%2Ftop-headphones-for-travel-with-toddlers%2F. Now that they are 4 & 5, we have KidzGear: http://www.amazon.com/Kidz-Gear-Wired-Headphones-Kids/dp/B00AXE911W/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1435767692&sr=1-1&keywords=kidz+gear+headphones (3) Tons of snacks…like 3 days worth. My oldest is fine on the plane as long as he has something constantly in his mouth to eat. Not my best parenting moment, but it works and I need the plane to be smooth for everyone…so eat up! (4) Books, movies, crayons, playdough. I pack an entire entertainment bag. Again – strapped into the car seat for these activities. The minute you get them out of the car seat, it’s all over. They want to move around, they get… Read more »

Abby

This is great advise. We took my 18 month old to St. Martin two years ago. He doesn’t do screens so it was rough but we incorporated a lot of the stuff that people have already suggested and made it manageable. Lots of snacks, lots of things to keep little hands busy. Scissors, paper, stickers, etch a sketch, books with flaps, new toys. Also, BUY a seat. SOOOO worth it. They are restrained and it makes a huge difference.

BF

Em. It’s just tough. You’re doing great!!! You have a beautiful family! Not much to offer, but will tell you to search Little Baby Bum on YouTube for long videos of nursery songs that kept my 18 mo old enthralled on the last leg of a car trip! Good luck!!!

Laura

Second vote for Little Baby Bum–my son could watch that for HOURS.

Nina

When my boys (now 9 and 7 so let me hit refresh on my memory!) were toddlers, I used to buy a bunch of new toys from the $1 bins at Target and wrap them (wrapping paper and ribbon!). It’s a huge waste of paper, but it takes toddlers a bit of time to deal with the paper and ribbon, it makes them happy, and then they get to play with the toy inside until they’re bored. The key is to give them a wrapped toy one at a time and wait until their boredom reaches that certain fever pitch before handing them another wrapped toy. You can also stretch it out by using the back side of the wrapping paper to draw pictures with them (the 3-sided crayons that Melissa and Doug make are perfect for airplanes because they won’t roll). Now we never took more than a 4 hour flight when they were toddlers, but between a nap (the bedtime routine thing sounds like a great idea) and screen time (headphones are a MUST), and an endless supply of snacks…you should be able to get there. An extra seat will go a looooong way though, I think.

Lesley

Oh god this is bringing back memories of flying SF to DC with 18-month-old twins. After that we vowed we wouldn’t fly anywhere for 10 years.

But here’s another mistake: overnight train from Oakland to Portland with two 4-year-olds. We thought they’d love it but nobody slept, bathrooms were disgusting, tantrums in the dining car, etc. So we got our money back for the return trip and flew home!

Tara

Giggle bellies – it’s a song/video combo (terrible insanity for adults but … Hey headphones right?! ) they’re on YouTube and you can buy the DVD – baby / toddler crack my friend!!! Check it out.

And two kids isn’t bad – that first month is hard and it’s like ohhhh man. But my second child is 3 months old and I’m already wondering about a third because I’M CRAZY!

Summer

We always bought our son a new toy that he had never seen before but would love. We would give it to him during the trip. Sometimes he would even get to pick it out so that he could look forward to getting it. He was entertained by a new fire truck for an entire 12 hour train ride. We always bring as many toys as we can fit in our carry on, when he was that age he was more entertained by trucks and trains than videos and games. One more year and then you can rely on the ipad to entertain him for hours on end. Good Luck!

Candice

We traveled with our toddler grandson and purchased headphones for the trip. They were recommended for ages 2+ and had volume control – very important. We bought lilgadgets connect+ volume limited wired kids headphones on Amazon and he loved them. We also bought a Leap Pad and pages of stickers. The best thing we did though was let him pick out and pack his own snacks. We bought little plastic containers and he filled them. We also let him pick out his pajamas, books, blankie and animal to pack in his own special suitcase. Then we hid little gifts in it to take up time. I won’t say the trip was without issues, hah!, but it was better than we pictured.

Mary

Kidzgear headphones are great but whether an 18mo old will go for it is another question. One thing that worked well for my kid was a stash of NEW total junk dollar store toys. Pull them out one at a time in desperate moments. I feel ya though. We once incited the passenger in front of us to very loudly demand a refund for the flight. Stewardess told her to shove it. I was still mortified. But we all survived and lived to tell about it. 🙂

Melissa

We have those Kidz-Gear headphones and they are nice. And I second all the suggestions about wrapping trinkets to open throughout the journey, a variety of fun snacks, traveling in pajamas, etc. A few tips from my experience…bring more diapers and changes of clothes than you think you need, and bring a change of clothes for the adults in your carry-on (I’m sure you can imagine the circumstances in which these might be necessary!). Pack sets of clothes in ziplock bags, so they are easy to grab, and easy to seal off the dirty ones.

When my son was 2, we took a long road trip (12-15 hours each way), and he watched the same They Might Be Giants kid’s DVD on repeat the whole way, unless he was napping. I think it was “Here Come the 123s.”

http://www.amazon.com/Here-Come-123s-Might-Giants/dp/B000VDDCLK/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1435768361&sr=1-1&keywords=here+come+the+123s&pebp=1435768365962&perid=0TCRY16F5HC5W7KZECBD

This is like reading a narrative from my own life. We flew to Portland a couple months ago, and I (along with everyone else on the flight) was ready to kill my 2-year-old.

Those Thomas trains that connect with magnets are brilliant. And some of them come with cars that he can haul things around in (like uncooked beans, crayons, cheerios, etc.). But don’t give them to him until he is on the plane. Using those little toy dump trucks and front loaders are also fun for keeping boys occupied. You can show him how to load things into the dump truck, then “haul” them away. That gave me a solid 20 minutes of entertainment on our most recent flight. There were no apps for the iPad that kept ours engaged at 18 months, so I’ve got nothing for you there. Finally, the full length Thomas movies are a dream. Each film will take up at least an hour, and no one will be sad if you restart it. I don’t have headphones to recommend, but please let us know when you find a good brand!

Karen T.

I have two boys and we/they have been fairly regular flyers starting from ~8 weeks to now (ages 12 and 8.)
–iPad with games, shows, movies–load 3X as much as you think you’ll need. Be sure to include favorites plus a few new novelty games/shows. Headphones are a must but you’ve got the figured out. All time limits pretty much go out the window.
–I always bring a small pad of paper, crayons, and pens. I also used to buy the art/cartoon books where the picture appeared with water–they were small, reusable and I’d fill the “paintbrush” with water before we left.
–New/favorite small toys (dinosaurs, cars, etc).
–Snacks–tons of different snacks in no spill containers.
–Suckers…there is something about a sucker that worked like magic (as a reward or just something to quiet them down). I would bring a variety of flavors/types and they were my go to trick to occupy my boys.
Good luck!! (And definitely buy that extra seat if the flight fills up. That $1800 will be worth every penny.)

Michelle

The headphones will help. I promise.

Also…. Melatonin. I have bio kids but we also provide emergency fostercare and sometimes the kids (& yes toddlers) have just been through SO MUCH in the past few hours, are in a new house and new room and just desperately need to sleep. A baby dose of melatonin helps their little bodies know it is sleep time…. I don’t know why it wouldn’t do the same for travel. I have never experienced anything adverse.

Let him try to open his own snacks ect…. Will keep him busy and make everything take longer which is exactly what you need in this situation. Only help him when he starts to get frustrated. My 2 year old son spent 20 min opening a bag of trail mix in a waiting room the other day. It was awesome.

I brought earplugs for fellow passengers on our last flight (4 year old, 2 year old, 10 month old) because let’s face it…. There will be less than plesent moments. Apologizing upfront helped ease some of my guilt and saved me from feeling like feeling like I needed to 35 times mid flight.

Good luck! You can do this!!!

Lindsey Bell

Emily, I am so sorry! We have all been there! You might try filling a backpack with Dollar Store treasures and letting him choose one for every milestone you set. He is probably beginning to grasp the concepts of cause and effect so maybe this will help. Also try the show Caillou. Neither of my kids would really watch TV at 18 months, but for some reason Caillou’s inexplicably bald head really grabbed their attention (and made me want to claw my ears off). Eight years ago I flew with my then 7 month old from Little Rock to San Francisco and we got stuck on the tarmac in Dallas for 3 hours. I still have not quite recovered.

marianne

This sounds awful, but it worked well for my son. We brought a small camping pad (like a yoga mat) and put it on the floor beneath our feet. Our son was a stomach sleeper and allowing him to get into his sleep position was critical. My husband and I positioned our feet carefully so as not to kick the sleeping lad. The vibration from the engine lulled him to sleep. It was awkward for us, but much better than having a sleep deprived toddler. Hope you have a wonderful trip!

carolyn

Let me preface by saying I have zero experience in this (our first is due any day now), but I read this tip somewhere and it stuck with me and I fully intend to use it when we start traveling with the babe… Rather than sitting all together, book your seats apart on the plane and swap the kiddo back and forth every hour or 2 or whenever. Granted, I’ve never tried it, but even if the kid is in meltdown mode the whole time, it seems like at least taking turns getting some kind of quiet and sanity in however small of chunks would be great!

Cindy

This is a great idea. We’ve done it and it’s so helpful to have a break.

Yes, I was going to say this! Joanna from Cup of Jo suggested the parents sitting apart and switching off every hour (or maybe doing larger chunks of time since it’s a red eye). She said her son was always excited to see the other parent, and the off-duty parent then gets to watch TV, read a magazine, doze without worrying about the babe, etc.

Emilee

We have five kids and used to live across the country from our family, so we’ve done plenty of flying (in and out of O’Hare–worst!) with babies and toddlers. The sitting apart thing is really about a 50/50 shot. Flying back from Christmas once with an inconsolable 1-month old (and tiny babies are usually the best travelers because a boob is all they need) and a 19-month old, we thought we’d sit 7 rows apart and trade kids as needed. Turns out my husband was surrounded by hungover college students on the way back from Vegas and they nearly lynched him when the baby wouldn’t stop crying and it was his turn to have her. I’ve had the best luck with both of us in the same row if possible.

Stephanie

One word: Stickers.

kiki

My son is 20months. and he is OBSESSED with these YouTube videos all about “Things that Go” presented by a kangaroo named Reggie Roo. We downloaded compilations to our iPad (that just strung the short videos into an hour+ long playlist) and that’s the ONLY way we survived a 3 hour trip from PDX.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChMDpjtiuRhBcY55PzOZBaQ

Ashley

I refuse to go through LAX and love how much easier it is to get a kid through LB airport.
It was right at the 18 mo age that we had to start getting the extra seat for my son and it made a huge difference. Sucks for your travel budget but worth it. Otherwise, I pack a bag of toys and snacks that are new to him. It’s usually a lot of stuff from the dollar section at target that I don’t mind losing. For that age I liked coloring/sticker books, a wallet with fake cards, Melissa and Doug travel “paint” books and a piggy bank with fake coins. I bring so much that as soon as he is getting bored I’ll throw something else in front of him. And no parent is above an hours long, brain-melting TV session when it means a bit of peace.
Oh, and I ALWAYS get a glass of wine for myself. No matter the time or what kind of looks I get. I find if I’m calmer, my child is too.
GOOD LUCK!

Cindy

Oh girl. So, so hard. Always hard, but to take the edge off:

Pack an “airplane bag” and play “airplane trip” with Charlie in the days beforehand. Put some new books in there, new toys, etc. Say something like, “Let’s get on the plane so we can read the new book!” then pretend the whole thing. Then it will feel routine-ish once you are actually on the plane.

Bring washi tape. Tear it into pieces and let him cover a piece of paper or a box or, hell, even the tray in front of him. Washi tape removes easily, right?

Bring a stroller to the airport. It will collapse down and go through the metal detector. You think it won’t, but it will. Then you can check it at the gate. Having a stroller up to the plane and right after was an absolute game changer for us.

ALL THE SNACKS.

Good luck!!

Sandy

Hi Emily..
So sorry about your crazy trip. I got these headphones for my daughter when she was a toddler for the plane and she is now five and still uses them for travel. They have different animals tiger, panda etc.

http://www.amazon.com/Califone-2810-BE-Listening-Headphone-Compatible/dp/B000MUXVZE/ref=pd_bxgy_23_img_z

I used to get little trinkets and let her unwrap them thru out the flight especially to reward good behavior. Melissa and Doug makes these great paint sets that you just need water the paint is already on the paper. You can find online or at Target.

Good Luck to you!

Liz

Has Charlie seen the movie Big Hero 6? We took my barely 2 year old daughter to the theater to see it and she miraculously sat through the whole movie without getting out of her chair once. She absolutely LOVED it. And I enjoyed it as well.

Other entertainment suggestions: coloring books/crayons, stickers/notepad, favorite board books, favorite “quiet” toys (non-battery-operated), favorite lovey, and lots of snack options.

I’ve also heard of parents buying their child a small gift and wrapping it and letting their child open it once they’re on the plane. A small airplane toy, a book/coloring book about airplanes, etc. I’m not above bribing my toddler, so this would serve as motivation for good behavior in the airport and is something to look forward to on the plane. If you’re taking the red-eye, maybe let Charlie open it after he wakes up… GOOD LUCK!

Raquel

We have traveled with our kids (4) to lots of places, here’s some things that have worked for us:
iPads charged and loaded + headsets, snacks (lots) and when we just had one or two kids we would often book the window and aisle and not the middle – that’s kind of a cheat way to ensure you get a middle seat. Most people don’t want the middle seat and if you end up with some stranger between your family you can trade for the window or aisle. Good luck!

Elisa F.

I’m a battle-scarred veteran of the traveling with toddlers war. We took the red-eye from Seattle to London with our then 18-month old – normally a good sleeper and at time still nursing, which was usually like a roofie for the kid. HA. He was up jumping around the *whole* time. Our flight to Hawaii? I can’t talk about it. I’m going to change your life right now. Are you ready? The key to traveling with a toddler (or actually, all of life) is super low expectations. Red-eye to Spain? Truly inhabit the space that he’s not going to sleep a wink. Airplane food? Really own that there’s not a chance. Thomas the Tank Engine = hours of good times? Meditate on the reality that Thomas is no longer your friend. Tarmac delay? Oh, it’s happening. Why the depressingly low expectations, Elisa? Because if that’s where you’re living, when the tiniest good thing happens, it’s as if someone threw you the best freakin’ surprise party of your life. It’s a shortcut to joy instead of endless detours to disappointment. If your little man dozes for a bit – whaa-hooo! Nibbles on a cracker – crack open your best champagne! Thomas… Read more »

caroline

best answer. i have a big trip next week (solo w/ 17 month old) and this just gave me some hope.

Ali

best. answer. ever.

Charity

This is the best answer!!! just like everything else its more about your mindset! The only thing your can control is you;)

Jess

I agree with lavender essential oil, melatonin or Benadryl. Try them all on Charlie beforehand and see what works best. People love to come down on those who suggest some type of drug, but 10 hours is a looong time on a plane, and unless you want everyone to hate you, a calmer child is a better child- at least in a small, confined space!

Lynne

Do not attempt this trip without Benedryl or Dramamine. You probably don’t want to hear it, but my advice is to leave him with the grandparents or give hime some sleepy meds. This sort plane trip is bad enough for everyone without dealing with this. He just isn’t capable of sitting quietly for that long, he will be miserable, you will be, and so will the other passengers. The trip to Bend was just the universe giving you a warning! If you do bring him you should probably check into giving him Benedryl or Dramamine. I really love kids but this is just not a trip for them unless you are willing to give them some knock out drugs.

Carrie

TAKE HIM! Sure the plane ride may stink but it’s only for a short amount of time in the big picture. He’ll probably do way better than you think (if you expect the absolute worst, he can only do better than that, right?). Talk to your doc about meds – I also second those suggesting Melatonin – but wouldn’t know how much.

Rolls of scotch tape have done wonders for my kids. You know, they’re just mini TP rolls but sticky and really fun to unroll and stick and tear. Make funny faces, tape together toys for him to unravel, etc.

Also, I read once that some international flights have like “cribs” or something – I’ll try to find the link, that might be worth looking into.

Nats

Having traveled with my daughter across the world when she was 1, 18 months and then again when she was 2 – most of the above is super useful. Benadryl worked great for me (thank god) but I wanted to point out that most international flights have bassinets. They will attempt to give you a bassinet seat without asking (front row, where they can clip on a bassinet during travel time) but beware that your kid may not fit into it by they time they are 18 months.

Kate

I have a two year old and a six month old and we have flown to and from Australia from New York a few times with the older child, and once with both. It is not fun for anyone, that’s just the way it is. Last trip our toddler was happy as long as she had plenty of food and could watch TV. I agree with changing them into PJs either at the airport or on the plane, we usually do it at the airport before we board. We got caliphone headphone and they are a great fit. As expensive as it is I can’t speak highly enough of booking a third seat and taking a car seat, when our oldest was around Charlie’s age it was the best thing we ever did, she slept and was comfortable and we didn’t have to hold her. It’s not money we regreted spending, it was worth every expensive penny!!

Nancy

Ugg. Been there. For plane activities around 18mths, I found string hand games a winner (quiet and easy to pack) but it is always a bit crazy traveling at that age – luckily you’ve already got low expectations right? Also, don’t forget to plan for jetlag – lots of unstructured outside time the first two days day if at all possible. Try to find a nice big park or outside attraction near where you plan to stay. Jetlag on day two seems worse for our kids so more outside time for everyone! We found it keeps everyone awake but without too much behavior control required. We got off the red-eye flight, dumped off our stuff at the flat then packed a bag of snacks/diapers and went to Montmartre – lots of stairs!

Book the bulkhead. So F-ing worth it. A little playground at your feet.
I also bring the carrier, torture-strap him in, and walk the aisle until he falls asleep out of hatred and boredom.
I’ve never paid for an extra seat because I’m a cheap P.O.S. but we’re only at 15 months. I guess I’ll throw money at that problem if it’s an absolute necessity…

Hello emily! I have three children: ages 7, 5, and 9 months. One travel tip that I have found extremely helpful is dum dum lollipops. I understand that they are not organic, choking hazard, cavities. …and on and on. My argument is sanity for all involved coupled with the fact that a lollipop will help their ears from popping and keep them entertained/stimulated. If they brush regularly and generally eat a healthy diet. ..what difference will a plane ride make? Happy travels! One more benefit worth noting is motivation for toddler to stay in seat which is difficult at best with toddlers.

Rebecca Andersen

Most likely others have offered this advice, but we find it helpful to:
– Give the kid new toys (maybe even wrapped!); things that work best are tiny things. For example, the last time we flew we gave our toddler a tiny construction set that he could play with on the seat tray.
– Bring a lot of snacks. A lot.
– Apps! We like: endless abcs (and anything by those folks), goodnight safari, anything by the Polk Street people. Apps are GREAT.
– To get our toddler to go to sleep, we actually had to have him cry and fuss a little bit. It sucked, we felt really bad for all the other passengers…but then when he was sleeping we were all high-fiving our selves. Worth it.
– Bring chocolate bars (or something) for the folks sitting next to you. 😉

Good luck!

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