Emily Henderson Header Image Emily Henderson

Family LIfe

Traveling With A Toddler

Emily Henderson_Traveling with a Toddler_Header

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).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. 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

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

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

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

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

      3. 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!

        1. 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).

      4. 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.

    3. 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.

  2. 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 and enjoy Spain.

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

  3. 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.

    1. 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!

  4. 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!

    1. 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!!!!

      1. 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.

      2. 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!

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

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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

  6. 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!

    1. Nice! Love the wrapped up “presents” idea!

    2. …as opposed to illegal drugs?

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

    1. 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.

  9. 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).

  10. 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).

    1. 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.)

  11. 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! 🙂

  12. 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!

    1. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. 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!

  15. 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).

    1. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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).

  19. 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.

    1. +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.

  20. 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!!

  21. 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.

  22. 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 antsy in the airplane and will scream once you put them back in.

    (5) Baby Melatonin. Again, not my proudest parent moment but it works and pediatrician recommended. Liquid form – ask your doctor for the right dose. It will help, I promise! As long as I had car seats, my kids would fall asleep appropriately. Now that they are 4 & 5, we just have them in the regular airplane seat and they don’t nap…AT ALL.

    (6) Finally, arrive a little early to the airport and let Charlie RUN out all of his energy. Explore the gates, explore the shops, RUN, RUN, RUN. Then, when he gets on the plane, he’s tuckered out.

    I hope this helps!!! xoxo

    1. 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.

  23. 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!!!

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

  24. 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.

  25. 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!

  26. 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!

  27. 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!

  28. 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.

  29. 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. 🙂

  30. 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

  31. 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!

  32. 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.)

  33. 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!!!

  34. 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.

    1. 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!

  35. 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!

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

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

  36. One word: Stickers.

  37. 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

  38. 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!

  39. 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!!

  40. 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!

  41. 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!

  42. 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!

  43. 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 distracts him from the call button – confetti cannon! Mama’s mindset really does determine the mood for the whole family.

    And now, a practical tip (instead of a weird conceptual one): go to Target and get the monster set of 400 (or whatever) Hot Wheels/Matchbox cars. Wrap each one individually in a bit of tissue paper and plenty of tape (scotch rather than duct – I’m not a monster), and pull one out about 90 seconds before things start to slip sideways. For the love of all that’s holy, don’t let him see your stash or it’s all over. “Oh look what I found in this pocket!” “See what Daddy had under his armrest!” “How did this get in the back of your pants!” If he asks for help unwrapping it, tell him you don’t know how and plead for him to show you. Nap while he figures it out and plays with his little car.

    No matter what, you three are going to have the best time!

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

    2. best. answer. ever.

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

    4. Excellent advice! We just flew Boston to France and everything initially went so well – red eye, he had his own seat, we did his bed routine and he passed right out, etc. But, who was sitting in the row in front of us? A 6 month old who would not. stop. screaming. So despite best efforts, our toddler just joined in the crying chorus. Nothing you can do sometimes, despite best laid plans, and you just have to roll with it.

  44. 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!

  45. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  46. 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!!

  47. 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!

  48. 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…

  49. 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.

  50. 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!

  51. So, this may or may not be helpful at all, but we travel a LOT with our 3 little kids and when things are seeming impossible/stressful, we just say to each other “this isn’t the Oregon trail— we have air conditioning, ipads, snacks, water that won’t give us dysentery and we’re flying through the sky in a winged metal box. Far more incompetent people have done far more difficult things than this” And, it helps a little to get some perspective so we don’t stress ourselves out. Good luck!

  52. Speaking as a non-parent, it really seems unfair to other travelers that you wouldn’t just buy a seat for Charlie. I mean, he has an iPad for goodness sake, you do have the money to spend. Sure the rule is under 2 can be on a lap, but your kid is definitely the size of a 2+ year-old. He is going to be wiggling and dropping his toys and bumping into the passenger sitting next to you for the whole flight if he’s crammed onto your laps. Not to mention, when there is an empty seat you will probably be the people wandering around asking people to switch seats so you can have the row with the free space, very annoying and entitled.

    1. ha, oh dear. i should have stopped reading at “speaking as a non-parent”.

      1. Caroline, I so wish I could “like” your comment. I should’ve stopped reading it too… 🙂

    2. Also annoying are people who make assumptions about the behavior of others they don’t know and call them entitled based on absolutely nothing.

      Speaking as a parent doesn’t enjoy flying with kids around – mine or others, at this age the seat/no seat issue is not a guaranteed difference in how the kid will act. Toddlers are inconsistent creatures that don’t like being cooped up by any method, so it can be different one day to the next if they’ll tolerate a carseat any more/less than sitting on your lap. And further, many airlines attempt to keep a middle seat next to a declared lap child empty as the last seat(s) that are booked/assigned, so you don’t actually have to wander around bothering people for their empty seat (besides which I would never do this and don’t think most normal parents would – if the empty seat on a plane wasn’t next to me I would accept my fate…those who would go out of their way and bug others to move to get it would be annoying, but you’re making very obnoxious and broad generalizations about all parents).

      So, really lovely of you to give advice where you don’t truly understand the situation AND characterize someone you don’t know as entitled when they haven’t done anything that even alludes to what you are suggesting they “will probably” do.

    3. Speaking as a non-parent, I don’t understand those who complain about children on flights. I have traveled domestically and internationally a lot, many times seeing the stress of parents trying to do their best. It’s humbling to realize that whatever my travel stress is, my stress does not compare (and I have had many traveling mishaps — missing trains, losing a suitcase for a week, airline not having my ticket at the airport and I can’t argue in that country’s language!).

      Parents, do whatever you need to do and don’t worry about what others think. You are creating lasting memories for your family by giving them the experience of travel that so many people never have, and I will eventually forget about that one time a toddler threw up on me. Someday, when my time comes to have kids, I hope I have the courage to raise world-traveling kids who become open-minded adults and are accepting of others’ struggles.

  53. Scotch tape. For some reason toddlers are enamored with it. Could also use painters tape. Let them tape the airplane, themselves and you up. They love it.

    Also, have him string fruit loops onto a string and then tie it around his neck (with supervision, of course) and let him munch on them!

  54. I know it’s such an expense and adds more to lug around the airport, but it’s strongly advised that ALL babes/toddlers have their own seat on the plane WITH a carseat. http://csftl.org/leaving-on-a-jet-plane-the-csftl-guide-to-safe-air-travel-with-children/

    We have a toddler (20 months) who was a NIGHTMARE on the red eye back from Hawaii and I felt AWFUL the entire flight. I thought he’d sleep on the redeye and instead he screamed and wailed and kicked while the poor people on the plane just wanted to sleep on the way home from their relaxing Hawaiian getaway. I think if we’d have had his car seat it would have been more comfortable for him to stay in it for a few hours. Obviously, with a long flight you’ll need to let him up to stretch his legs and run around. Oh, and yeah, tried the Benadryl too and that was a definite fail for us.

    Joanna Goddard has some great tips for flying with kids (although, she swears by having the parents in separate locations on the plane and taking turns with the kids, which sounds like an ABSOLUTE NIGHTMARE to me.): http://cupofjo.com/2011/05/motherhood-mondays-ten-tips-for-traveling-with-a-baby/
    Entertaining a Toddler on a Plane: http://cupofjo.com/2012/12/10-ways-to-entertain-a-toddler-on-a-plane/
    On Jet Lag: http://cupofjo.com/2014/11/finally-we-figured-out-jetlag/

    P.S. So jealous about Spain! I studied abroad in Barcelona and my husband and I have been back a few times. We’d love to rent an apartment and stay for a month with our son but I can’t bear the long flight. You’re a great, adventurous, and brave mom!

  55. 1) Take the kid to the park in the evening right before you leave to the airport and literally run him, I mean call it “tag” but just chase the poor kid for half an hour

    2) Bring a few candies for when he is about to lose it, something that takes a while to finish (lollipops)

    Good luck!

  56. We have a 25 month old with whom we fly a lot. She flew in our laps mostly but a trip to England this past fall convinced us she’d be happier in her car seat in her own seat. HOWEVER it barely fit, the person in front of us couldn’t recline, it was a near-disaster. AND THEN we found: http://kidsflysafe.com/. Amazing – turns a normal plane seat belt into a 5-point harness – she loves having her own seat and I know she’s safe. I’d bring a travel neck pillow for sleeping since Charlie’s little head might loll around without the head rest. Also we brought play-doh on our last cross country flight and surprised her with it on the flight and that took up a lot of time and energy.

    As for time differences – just let it go. Sometimes we get lucky and she’s so exhausted from a day of travel and getting in late to a new place that she crashes and we can just “re-set” that next am but other times we just grit our teeth and bear it.

    Good luck!!

  57. This might help http://cupofjo.com/2012/12/10-ways-to-entertain-a-toddler-on-a-plane/

    But I don’t have kids so I don’t know if they work!

  58. We fly back and forth international with 2 toddlers a couple times a year. Sounds strange, but red-eye flights have been great for us. The kids sleep some of the flight, and the shades are normally drawn on the plane so they cant be squirming to look out the window every 5 minutes. They each have their own little backpacks with snacks, books, some new toys and water bottles. Before they were 2, we would book aisle & window seats and lucked into getting the middle seat for free a couple times. Getting through customs is easier in the morning also, shorter lines. Oh, and a 18 month old crying is way easier than a 4-year-old temper tantrum. People overlook the crying baby most of the time. Good Luck!

  59. I am traveling from NJ to CA with my eleven month old in a couple of weeks. We didn’t buy him a seat on either flight, but I am hoping there may be extra seats. Rather than lugging his car seat aboard, I discovered another great option. The FAA has approved a child safety harness for children called CARES. You can purchase here, http://kidsflysafe.com/buy-now/, for $75,
    or I found a place I can rent one for my whole trip under $20, http://rentcares.com. Check it out.

  60. Just got back from Europe trip with a 15month old, redeye flight there was great! the way back not so much, hahaha. What was great and unplanned was I ordered a vegetarian meal and it comes before the regular meals so I could eat while my husband had her and the other way around…no two trays plus glasses and little bags of cutlery etc…Good luck!!

  61. After a recent flight with my 2.5 yr old and 5 yr old, I can say that it gets better with age. Much better. But in the near term, it helps to get your child addicted to iPad the weeks before the trip, then load a lot of new shows (Fireman Sam and Paw Patrol are favorites), movies, and toddler games (Duck Duck Moose makes great apps for toddlers). You will regret the ipad addiction later, but for the trip it is worth it to kill a few hours on your flights. It also means you can have more enjoyable meals in restaurants while on vacation. Just be cautious about doing too much at a time so he doesn’t get crazy overstimulated. My toddler can do almost an hour (don’t judge me people!), then we switch to low stimulation activities like story time.

    Absolutely invest in comfortable headphones; do not get the ones that have volume limits for kids because the loudest setting is often too low on the plane. We purchased inexpensive ones at Target and they have held up beautifully. The expensive ones purchased online were useless when we discovered that our kids couldn’t hear over the sound of the plane.

    We carry a large supply of snacks like small pieces of dried fruits, nuts, seeds, granola, etc. and feed it ONE PIECE AT A TIME. The mistake to give over fistfuls at a time-makes a mess and fills up quickly. The one piece at a time method can go on for hours with our 2 yr old, but so long as there is a steady supply of food one tiny piece at a time, he generally stays focused on his activities and quiet.

    Consider giving him something to suck on for take off, landing, and altitude changes in case the pressure bothers his ears. We look for sugar free lollipops with safety sticks to keep hands and mouth occupied for an extended period of time and to prevent ear pain.

    I bring a bag of “adult” things, are approved to carry on the plane, that I need for the trip that I let my toddler explore, for example a compact mirror, hair brush, make up brushes, eye mask, socks, and random stuff that he can mess with for a while to take a break from shows and games. I bring it out a few different times during the trip, but switch around what is in the bag. This satisfies the innate desire to mess with stuff that does not belong to him. Though I try to avoid anything that can be used as drums on the tray table or a projectile weapon.

    For an extra long trip, I would bring a bunch of new-to-him, inexpensive paper-back books to read for quiet time. Look for them on Amazon and get ones that are longer and will hold his attention , such as those geared for 4yrs+, not 10 pages of basic toddler colors and animals. I recommend Bear and Mouse books in paperback on amazon.

    Finally, I have not tried night-time Tylenol or Benadryl, but if I were in your shoes I would research it for an 18 month old, as well as non-medicine, time-tested remedies to reduce anxiety and over stimulation in toddlers. If you can keep him calm and relaxed, rather than over-stimulated and anxious, you have a better chance of getting him to nap.

    Good luck!

  62. I am a blogger and pediatrician as well, and just recently travelled with my 9 month old on an 18 hour flight and 6 more after that in less than 4 weeks! You can definitely try talking with your pediatrician about benadryl or melatonin, but make sure you try it out before the trip since in some kids, it has the opposite effect (may make Charlie even more hyper!)! Good luck, it won’t be easy being pregnant and doting on a toddler in such an enclosed space. Make sure too to make a schedule and divide hours between you and dad so you can get some shut eye somehow. 🙂

  63. Don’t have kids, but here are my two cents, having observed friends kids: APPS. Kids love apps and games more than watching something passively.

    Here are a few that my friends have built:

    Gigglebug, a story-format game, where you tickle everybody until they’re happy.
    Looks really cute, has that 70’s eastern europe vibe.
    https://search.itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZContentLink.woa/wa/link?mt=8&path=apps%2fGigglebug

    Kapu Toys
    http://www.kaputoys.com/en/
    Has a lot of games, most of them geared to very little kids.

    I’ve witnessed a 2-year old and a 4-year old peacefully play together with the Bloom Tunes app, which lets you paint flowers and make music with them. The story forest one is good too, I’ve heard.

    Which airline are you flying with?
    If you ever fly to Europe again, I’d recommend Lufthansa. There was a “demon baby” on board my flight just a month ago – she was screaming the entire flight from San Francisco to Munich, yelling so hard she’d puke, pass out and start again. The stewardesses would take turns holding her so the parents could sleep. And since this was one of the big jumbo jets, they took the baby downstairs, where there’s a “lounge” with the bathrooms, where the staff has their sleeping cabin. Took the crying baby in there, so people could sleep.

    Also on that flight: a mom alone with 4 kids, a one-yearold baby, a toddler of maybe 2 or 3, a 5-yearold and a 9-yearold. She made it out just fine! The kids slept for the most part.

  64. We flew back from the Dominican Republic in April with my 3 year old and then 16-month year old. It was hell. We were totally THOSE PEOPLE on both planes. My 3 year old was in TV heaven. No problem. My normally angelic 16-month-old was …loud. So very, very loud, for so very, very long. Incapable of sitting still. Etc. We offered people ear plugs. We apologized and joked. Everybody was so nice, but it was awful. And then it was over and everyone survived. I think you just have to own it at the time, be as prepared as you can, and have a sense of humor about it. They do grow. And they’re normally super cute.

  65. One word…Benadryl

  66. I recently flew alone with my 18 month old little boy. Honestly, for flying I let all my restriction go (screen time, snack foods). I let him watch things on my phone (downloaded YouTube videos of nursery rythms or short sesame street clips), I brought a lot of food ( some healthy like fruit but also a lot of occasional snacks… Teddy grams, gold fish). I had his sippy cup ready to go (he loves water, so that’s easy to travel with). I brought along a few new toys that he had never seen before, a new book and a couple of books that I know he loves (and would request me to read over and over again). We sang a lot of nursery rythms …. Mostly ones with hand motions. I downloaded a few toddler apps, but most of them we’re a waste. I timed the introduction of new toys, books or snacks when others were no longer working. I did not bring the car seat along on the plane because I thought he would like the freedom to move around his own seat.
    Some things I don’t recommend (that I did): bringing lollipops (too messy), getting water/a drink on the plane. He was so unhappy that I would not give him the cup it caused the only brief tantrum which included him knocking the cup over causing flying water and ice. Best of luck!

  67. I am no expert but have traveled internationally quite a few times to know that you will be on a much larger plane with areas to get up and move around a bit. I am 6 months pregnant and 2 weeks ago we were flying back from Sweden (babymoon) and I was up A LOT to stretch my legs and use the bathroom. There was a mom and toddler near the back of the plane doing a puzzle on the floor and a lot of parents standing in the open galleys with their kids to get them out of their seats. Last thought, if you have the ability to pick your seats now I would suggest getting the front row of your flying section. A family on my flight was flying with their 2 kids and chose seats in the front row of economy which gave them a little more space and a little area for their kids to play without bothering the row in front of them.

    Good luck and thanks for always being real with your life and authentic in your posts.

    – Jaime

  68. Hi
    I flew alone from Australia to Europe when my twins were 18 months old. That was a 24 hour trip all up including a layover in Singapore.
    As long as they were awake I let them walk around (not disturbing other passengers). Many passengers loved “having a chat” with them. I let them eat a lot of snacks (mainly time consuming ones like raisins out of a tiny box etc.), bottles of water whenever they wanted them and we looked at books together. For some of the time they watched cartoons on the onboard entertaining system, some of the time they slept. There are some “Bachblüten” drops which calm toddlers down, I did take those with me but didn’t feel the need to use them.
    Anyway, i wish you good luck with the long flight and a really great stay in Spain.
    Best wishes
    Barbara

  69. I haven’t tried this yet, but a friend of mine told us to take a roll of painters tape. He can peel it off the tray table, make little balls with it, stick it to his clothes, whatever his little heart desires…and it peels off and can be thrown away so easily.

    She said that the last flight they took they ended up making a fort of sorts out of it (hanging from the ceiling and stuck to the seats and stuff). I’m sure they looked absolutely ridiculous but she said it kept her little girl entertained for almost the entire 2 hour flight.

    Good luck!

  70. We had one flight where we didn’t buy a seat for my then 12 month old and it was awful. He was heavy, it was cramped. Never again. Since then we’ve bought him a seat and let him watch a movie or two. At Charlie’s age, our son was obsessed with Cars, and we got him Cars headphones to go with his movie experience on the plan.

    Snacks. The more he chews, the less he screams. Raisins, crusty bread…. Chewier the better.

    We also got a new toy to be given on the plane. It’s exciting and entertains longer than others. Obviously must be small and silent. Maybe a toy plane.

    Having his own seat saved the day for us. Good luck!

    1. Toddler Brainy Apps we love: Endless Alphabet, BeBop Blox, Tiny Hands Sorting

  71. Go to the dollar store and buy a bunch of cheap trinkets that he might find interesting. wrap them individually. take them out one by one on the plane, let him unwrap them . . . you can use them as a carrot if needed. Bring ear plugs – if you have time, put them in cute packaging – hand them to people around you. If drinks are not free – include a drink ticket. and remember – no one is as upset about it as you think they are – they know you are doing your best.

  72. I’m currently on a weekend getaway, and I’m surrounded by children at the hotel, but for some reason I think I’d enjoy being surrounded by Charlie. He seems like such a sweet kid!

    Josh | The Kentucky Gent
    http://thekentuckygent.com

  73. Hi Emily,

    My son is 2.5 and we just traveled a few months ago from NY to CA (6.5 hours) and survived. Here are the reasons I believe we survived:
    1) Pack a backpack (perhaps a new Thomas one) full of new airplane-appropriate activities. Wikistix, Aquadoodle, new books, colorforms, sticker books, etc. Bring out a new activity every 30-60 minutes.
    2) Do yourself a favor and spend the money on a third seat and purchase this harness: http://www.amazon.com/Child-Airplane-Travel-Harness-Restraint/dp/B0012E4FV8
    I swear, the money seems exorbitant for that third seat, but the extra room and the harness has made a world of difference for us on two roundtrip flights now. It gives us more space if and when he naps and provides him with his own tray table for activities.
    3) We purchased these animal-print headphones from diapers.com, which have a max volume setting, so safe for kids, plus they are cute! http://www.diapers.com/p/califone-listening-first-headphone-tiger-739941?qid=254263391065395083&sr=1-2
    There are other designs, so you can select an animal design that hopefully matches up with Charlie’s favorite animal.
    4) Use an old ipad (if you have one) or sacrifice one of your own tablets and pre-load it with tablet games that are age-appropriate, ebooks for Charlie and downloaded shows or movies. Our son is a huge fan of anything Muppets and will sit through the newer Muppet movies (2011, 2013) as well as episodes of Paw Patrol. If you have not yet introduced Charlie to Paw Patrol, this alone may solve your issues for air travel. It is like catnip for toddler boys (and girls, apparently). Just make sure the battery is fully charged and you pre-download all content as you won’t be able to stream in-air.
    5) Pack a favorite blanket and any loveys. This will come in hand if he sleeps, along with the extra space.
    6) Snacks, Snacks and more snacks! We have gotten through airport security with a variety of toddler snacks, including as much milk as we can pack. Sometimes the organic milk boxes get cleared (sometimes not, depends on the TSA agent at a given airport). If worse comes to worse, buy extra milk once you are through security. Bananas, fruit (blueberries take a long time to eat, so pack a ton of those to keep small hands busy!), crackers, etc. all work well.
    7) When planning for travel to the airport plus security, we generally add 30-60 minutes (closer to 60) over what we might normally plan. Basically arriving never less than 2 hours before our flight. It helps get us settled near the gate and lets us walk him around a bit before we are trapped on the plane for a long time.
    8) Pack an extra change of clothes and a few more diapers than you think you will need for those flights. Include a few Ziploc bags in your carryon just in case he decides to get sick on your flight. We also carry Tylenol or Motrin (children’s), Benadryl, and bendy straws. It’s amazing how a bendy straw will fascinate a child and if you are in a jam, you can use a bendy straw to siphon medicine from a bottle if you forget a dispenser.
    9) Before the flight, prep him with travel-themed children’s stories. The Planes book by Byron Barton is great (as is the app that includes four of his books for $4.99 through Apple) and you may want to find a book or two about Spain or a beloved children’s book from a Spanish author to help introduce him to the country he is visiting.
    10) These are apps we have found are favorites with our son:
    AlphaTots, TallyTots, Dinosaur Mix, FW Animals and LunchBox (the LunchBox game kept him occupied for 30+ minutes our last flight).

    And, finally, chuck all your screen time rules out the window – just do what you can to make his air experience (and your own) as relaxed, busy and happy as possible. It is an adventure and leads to all good things at the end!

  74. My in laws have to take flights from Seoul to Chicago 2 times a year with three kids 4 and under (seriously). She swears by giving them Benadryl…which is obviously not recommended by anyone medically…but…way better than a toddler who wants to be asleep.

    Also “Paw Patrol” and Sesame Street are two great shows for that age 🙂

  75. I think there are so, so, so many of us relate to this more than we ever hoped we would. Although not helpful now, it gets so much easier.

    1. Test the benedryl sitch before you go. We did not. And then we had a toddler on speed stuck in a plane, absolutely out of her mind for 3 hours.
    2. Stickers
    3. Window clings
    4. Small little container of play-doh. It not enough to be really, really messy. good on a plane.
    5. Snacks that never end.
    6. At 18-months, interest in TV was a crapshoot with our daughters. The first thing they paid any attention to were those atrocious Baby Einstein videos. (Baby Neptune, specifically.)
    7. Prayers, crossed fingers, anything that gets you a seat for him. 🙂

    1. This list is golden! Especially number 7. But even with a seat you need the other 6.

      We’ve never used the Benadryl, but here are some family travel tips we’ve amassed. http://www.hitherandthither.net/?s=Family%2BTravel

      The Cheerios one and the What to Pack list might be especially helpful. The general flying with a baby or toddler one will be geared a bit younger than Charlie. And make sure you know about parental access on the iPad: http://www.hitherandthither.net/screen-time-a-must-know-setting-for-your-iphone.html

      Love reading all of these tips! I’m sorry you had such a rough time. It’s so true though–we all relate all too well.

  76. I have an almost 1 year old and an almost 3 year old. I’ve flown with both of them by myself and the thing that has worked the BEST to entertain them were post-it notes. They love stickers, so sticky notes are basically the same thing. They both stuck them to the back of the seat in front of us and at the end of the plane ride, I just grabbed them all & dumped them in my bag. Easy cleanup. Also, I bring lots of snacks – the “good” snacks that I wouldn’t normally give them every day. Always have new toys or books and I load my cellphone up with new videos of themselves. They love watching themselves acting silly. Good luck!

  77. My Husband and I made the mistake of booking a flight to Hawaii with a layover in LA. Our little guy who was 18 months too ran around like a crazy person and then at one point just had enough and started screaming and kicking. He’s usually soooo well behaved but flying with a toddler really is a NIGHTMARE. I feel your pain. Always book direct flights.

  78. I have 2 grown boys (23 and 20) and we’ve taken them with us whenever we travel. My eldest’s first transatlantic flight was at 12 months old and we didn’t have any electronic gadgets with us. We did have bulkhead seats in business class–a luxury to be sure (this was a business trip for my husband) which allowed us the legroom to arrange a little sleeping area on the floor for our son. Here comes the cautionary part of the tale: He slept the whole way to London and we, being starved for date nights, enjoyed a nice quiet dinner, leisurely reading, and movies without interruption. We didn’t sleep a wink. When we got to London, he was wide awake and we were the walking dead, trying to deal with a well rested 1 year old. So, if Charlie sleeps on the flight to Spain, you have to sleep on the flight to Spain! Relax and enjoy your trip and your time traveling with him because before you know it, he’ll be taking flights all over the world on his own (our eldest just recently returned from a monthlong trip to China) 🙂

  79. I don’t have any good tips, but I’m bookmarking this page with all these great tips. I’m flying to North Carolina with my 21 month son, Sam, in August. Two flights in the middle of the day and leaving from LAX at 8 a.m. I am terrified. Our first flight with him was a nightmare.

  80. Solidarity! We recently flew to Hawaii from CA with our 14 month old and the flight there was TERRIBLE (as in, I was the last person on the plane, holding her while she SCREAMED all the way up the aisle). The way back was a bit better. We did Benadryl her for the way back (and tested it one night while we were there) and it maybe helped a bit? She didn’t sleep a ton but was better. Also, we got her her own seat but actually preferred no car seat because with the car seat (which we did on the way over) she could kick the seat in front of her. Without it we just put the arm rests up and stretched her out between us and she slept/watched TeleTubbies the whole time. Good luck!!

  81. Hi Emily, I’ve made the trip from the w. coast to Spain a few times with babies to preschoolers. It is rough but you are getting a ton of great advice here! I would add that parenting on a plane is different than parenting in “real life” so if it takes lollies or lots of iPad or whatever to survive and keep yourself and your seatmates happy…it is ok.

    + start with humor to your seat neighbors. When I am flying with my 2yo, I often greet my seatmates and let them know I will do my best to keep my kid(s) entertained, and if I fail, I am happy to buy them a drink! Then they usually laugh and/or soften up, and they give a little more grace during the flight.
    + yes to the Kidz Gear! They work for toddlers up to elementary school age. My 6yo is still wearing hers.
    + stickers are great, as are those gel clings that you can get at Michaels or the Target $1 bin. They stick on the airplane windows or trays and don’t leave a mess.
    + bedtime routine is great advice.
    + I saw the advice about snacks in the pill container. That sounds fun. Another container that you can put multiple snacks in is the baby formula dispenser: http://www.amazon.com/Munchkin-15846-Formula-Dispenser-Turquoise/dp/B00PTL87J6/ref=sr_1_2?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1435773472&sr=1-2&keywords=formula+dispenser. We do raisins, cheerios, those dried yogurt melts, etc.
    + Manhattan Toy makes great finger puppets. We travel with the Old MacDonald set. It’s small for a purse and works for entertainment at restaurants, too.
    + If you are going to Madrid and need to stock up on organic squeezies etc., Baby Deli is a great store: http://www.babydeli.com/content/130/MadridAlcala-2.html

    Good luck and enjoy!!

  82. Personal tip: Go to the dollar store and WRAP UP little “presents.” Pull them out one. at. a. time. and let him unwrap them and play. Nothing with too many small pieces. It works wonders.

    The Melissa and Doug “Fill and Spill purse”: I wrapped it up and pulled it out on the plane. My daughter played for an hour each way (I hid it when we were at our destination.) it’s perfect because there are multiples pieces (but not so many they get lost), the pieces are soft (no one gets hurt if they are thrown) and make a little noise, but not too loud. (link here: http://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Doug-Pretty-Purse-Spill/dp/B000O7PN06)

    The “Sago Mini Ocean” app for your iPhone/iPad.

    A tip from a mom on a plane that I have not tried: bring a roll of scotch tape. It’s fun, quiet, sticky, and usually kids are allowed to play with it. Her kids would tape up paper, turn the tape into balls of tape, put tape on themselves and magazines. She said it was amazing to see them play with something like a roll of tape for so long.

    Good luck!!!

  83. I agree with snacks, iPad, headphones, etc., but here’s a cautionary tale: we flew on an overnight flight to Nice, France with a stop in Frankfurt with our just-turned two year-old. Because he was two he had to have his own seat and he actually slept really well in his carseat on the plane (I agree with doing bedtime routine on the plane, bringing his special lovey and blanket and everything). Here was the problem: my husband and I barely slept at all, just because we don’t sleep well on planes (I was pregnant, which was part of the reason, but which I also meant I couldn’t take anything to help me sleep). So then we arrived at Frankfurt and found out we had a 10 hour delay due to weather. So my well-rested son was literally dancing around the airport while my husband and I were passing out. It was awful and kind of terrifying, because we tried to take turns but literally could NOT stay awake to watch him. The lesson being, for a longer flight one of you should do whatever it takes to try to get some sleep on the plane, so that at least one adult is conscious enough to handle things on arrival or cope any unexpected delays. Also, bring more diapers than you think you need on the plane–air pressure changes + airline food can cause weird reactions in little tummies.

  84. The only thing you can do is to have things to amuse him with you on the trip. I know, I know, its a lot of stuff. But…being able to pull out a toy that he likes (and maybe hasn’t seen in a couple of weeks) and let him play with it on the plane is great (especially if its a quiet toy).

    Load up a couple of movies on the Ipad. Maybe some of the older animated ones like Cars. You might be surprised at how much of one he might watch. He might even fall asleep during it so that you’d have an hour or so there, at least until the movie ends and he wakes up.

    Use the headphones before you get to the plane. A week or so before you leave, make a big deal out of them (look, it’s a secret that only Charlie gets) so that he gets to where he likes to use them. You’ll appreciate it even after the flight.

    Bribery works when you’re raising a child. Food, toys, whatever it takes. Not all the time, of course, but on specific occasions, it can be a game winner.

    The biggest help is to put some thought into the situation (like you’re doing now) to come up with ways to amuse him, whether it be movies or some type of word game, or gummy bears. Something that he is interested in and that will hold his attention for more than 30 seconds. Pay even closer attention, especially if he is around other people to see what particularly interests him. Maybe its bugs. Get a bug book, or a story about bugs (the movie Ants comes to mind). See what he gravitates to in a group. That may be another clue on what distractions are in his current wheelhouse.

    The above all work especially well if you are raising a child that is not surprised to hear the work “No”. Even at 18 months, kids know how far they can go and usually stay within the lines (except on trips). If you’re his best friend instead of his mommy you will only have more trouble, and it gets worse as he gets older. Reasoning does not work, but frequently “because Mommy said so” does.

    In the case of last resort, there’s always Benedryl. Once again, this is not recommended as a remedy in normal situations. But there are times….. I have a friend who’s grandmother came out West in a covered wagon. She says that all wagons carried paregoric for the babies, and that they used it often for sanity’s sake. You aren’t setting your child up for drug dependancy doing this a time or two.

    Just for the record, my oldest was 3-1/2 when my twins were born. A herd is equal to three kids.

  85. We had a disastrous flight early on in toddlerhood and ever since have always bought the extra seat. Other than that, new toys and exciting snacks. Specifically, carbs. I got through a whole flight once with my wiggly toddler by slllllowly handing her crackers one by one. It helps that were not a big cracker-eating family normally, so she’s a cracker hoover. She actually fell asleep with a cracker in her hand, on its way to her mouth. Carbs are kind of soporific that way, you know? Re the toys, I buy a bunch and bring a new one out as needed.

    Even with all that, it is still sometimes a nightmare. Once my daughter snaked her arm around someone’s seat and stole their water bottle. She’s like a Gypsy! And the last time we flew, the guy in front of us was thisclose to air rage because my daughter’s car seat prevented him from reclining his seat. Thank god my husband was in the row behind us, because I think it might’ve come to blows otherwise. I somehow managed to talk the guy down, and .

    1. Oops!

      …and he apologized, weeping, and ending up buying my daughter a can of Pringles. It’s one of the strangest things that’s ever happened to me.

  86. First off, yes to the Burbank airport! When we lived in Pasadena it was the only place we let people fly in and out of when they visited us! LAX is a true nightmare.
    As for the sweet toddler, everyone has already given wonderful tips that will help you immensely. Just do the best you can and know that you will arrive at your destination and get off the plane eventually. While a ten hour flight is a long one, there is an endpoint (SPAIN!) and you guys will reach it. Best of luck!

  87. I don’t have flight advice because my nieces (1 and 4) who I have traveled with overseas several times sleep peacefully on red eye flights. My one piece of advice is to ship as much of your stuff as you can in advance to your hotel if possible. It will make the overall travel process much easier if you have less luggage to deal with at the airport.

  88. HAHAHA! “its like flying in and out of HELL” … but yes, yes it is.

  89. We fly overseas with our two littles about every other year and I have a sister-in-law who travels on her own from India to NYC every summer. Here’s what I’ve learned from her and from my own experience:

    1.) Get to the airport early enough to have a meal there (assuming that there are decent restaurants. This gives them a “fun” activity to do and helps to get them tired.

    2.) After dinner, let them run around the airport a little and let off some steam.

    3.) Yes(!!!) to your nanny friend re: the bedtime routine. This will make them so much more ready for sleep.

    4.) Assume that someone will be peed, pooped or puked on at least once. Pack an extra set of clothes (beyond the clothes for the next day) as well as extra pajamas for the babe and at least a fresh shirt for both of you in the diaper bag (I generally pack and full change of clothes for the entire family).

    5.) Thanks to the advice of my SIL, my kids have special rolling backpacks that come out only for trips on trains, planes and boats (Beatrix NYC has the cutest ones for little guys like Charlie). Before we leave I head to Target and fill up a few Ziplock bags with fun things from the dollar section (coloring books, temporary tattoos, a mini slinky, band-aids for fixing mom and dad’s “boo boos” etc.). And then I let them pull out their goodies one bag at a time — with at least 30 minutes in between openings –so that the fun lasts longer. I also always include a couple of new books that I know they’ll want to read (books about planes when on a plane? Very good idea).

    6.) Sometimes, if I’m really organized, I fill up Easter eggs with snacks. My kids love to open up those plastic eggs … even if it’s just Cheerios on the inside.

    7. ) Make sure that you pack fun new things for the *return* trip too!

    8.) Triangle crayons are genius. Whoever invented them should be canonized.

    9.) Same goes for the Melissa & Doug sticker pads. They stick well but not too much so they’re easy to get off the seat/tray/your neighbor without too much hassle.

    Good luck and have a fabulous time!

  90. Melatonin. Zarbees makes them in a chewable tablet or in liquid form for a nighttime cough medicine. It was actually recommended by my pediatrician for my daughter who won’t sleep anywhere other than a bed. He’s younger than the recommended age but my ped was totally fine with it.

    There’s a million games or toys or things to play with I could tell you, but you don’t want stimulation. You want a sleeping child. That’ll keep him asleep the entire flight I bet. I would be shocked if it didn’t…if it were me, I’d give him the melatonin as you’re boarding, and then do your nighttime routine after you’ve taken off. Best of luck!!! I had to start traveling regularly with my daughter at 14 months (we moved away from friends and family for my husbands job), and it is such a learning experience!! And you just hate to be “that mom” with “that kid” on the flight when they act like normal human beings the other 99% of their lives! 🙂

  91. We are flying to direct to Bend on Saturday with our 14 month old (to save the 3.5 hours from Portland). We are paying through the nose too and didn’t book her a seat. I’m already anxious about it… hope it’s worth the trip!

  92. Will he color? My boy loves this finger painting app we have but he is a bit older than Charlie. Maybe try a few ipad games before hand and see if he takes to any of them? We don’t travel by plane much so I don’t have a lot of thoughts on that but special snacks during car trips are a pretty good bribbing tool as well.

  93. Well…I’m going to try to keep this positive. We flew to Ireland (8 hour flight) with our 20 month old a year ago, and let’s just say, we’re still traumatized. We didn’t buy her a seat…and we got lucky and got a seat between us on the way over (our travel agent told us to book an aisle and a window and hope that one one picked the middle seat). But that didn’t work on the way back – it was a completely full flight. The way over we flew overnight…and it was just awful. At one point both my husband and I were crying. She’s an amazing sleeper at home because she’s on a routine…but she couldn’t do it on the plane…even having her own seat. So then the jet lag was horrible for the rest of the trip. On the way home, she did great, but we played with her for 8 hours straight because the flight was during the day. I did the thing where we brought a new $1 toy for her to open and play with each hour, and it helped. A little. She doesn’t like TV…well, she does now, but not when she was that little. And she hates headphones. I got cup after cup of ice chips and that seemed to keep her entertained a bit. We’d recommend buying a seat for her after our experience…I actually went to the airport in Shannon the night before we left Ireland and begged them to sell me a seat…any seat. But, alas, they were sold out. The only TV show she’ll ever watch is the Wiggles…and she’s really into the Mother Goose club on You Tube.
    I think even now our almost 3 year old would be great on a plane…but around a year and a half, they’re just nuts and can’t sit still at all. Good luck…again, I hate to be negative…but if you can leave him at home, you’ll probably have a better time in Spain!

  94. – Kidz Gear headphones worked great for my 21 month old
    – I downloaded her favorite youtube videos plus some new ones onto my laptop using keepvid.com since I couldn’t figure out how to get them onto an ipad. Just a Spoonful of Sugar and Singing in the Rain are some new ones that she enjoys and are refreshing change from Wheels on the Bus
    – This travel harness is great during take-off, landing & during turbulence, if you end up with a seat for Charlie. http://amzn.com/B0012E4FV8
    – flip the flap books
    – water wow book http://amzn.com/B009B7F6DO
    good luck!

  95. My husband and I have flown a lot with our twins, mostly with good results. I am probably repeating what some others have suggested, but here is what worked for us when they were toddlers: (1) try to prepare your kiddo for what is coming – explain that you get to go on a fun trip, but that sometimes the pilot or the airline people will need you to wait, sit in your seat, etc. It may sound silly, but I think just hearing that in advance (even if geared for an 18-month-old brain) really helps. (2) Download new apps or other stuff on your ipad or computer that they can play with or watch. Make sure it’s totally new to them and exciting. (3) Bring some small, also totally NEW (to him) toys and books. We had these small wind-ups things that would go on a track that you could take apart and re-configure in different ways and it was awesome. (4) Bring some “fun” snacks that you can bust out every now and then – dehydrated fruit, goldfish, etc. (5) If you are bringing a car seat for where you are headed, bring it on the plane (assuming you have a seat for him). My kids wandered less and slept more when we had their car seats on the plane.(6) For a long flight, a red eye is good because the lights are dimmed and most people sleep – which I think makes it a little more conducive for little ones, too. (7) If possible, try to avoid any napping that day — the more tired they are, the quicker they fall asleep. Have fun on your trip and keep telling yourself that it will be fine in the end. And even if it isn’t all smiley faces and unicorns you will probably get a funny story to tell later on. (My daughter and son crack up when I tell them about the time she threw up on my husband on a packed flight, right after I handed her off…)

  96. New toys! I went to the dollar store before a flight and bought new toys, books, etc and would periodically bring them out. I also packed “special snacks” that he normally isn’t allowed to have (ie Goldfish, yes we are that hardcore) and proper eating be damned! He was allowed to have them all. Headphones are key for the Ipad but also most international flights have a kids station so letting them watch TV is totally ok too. Best of luck!

  97. I have sent this article to friends traveling with little babes or toddlers. I have made mental note/pinned for my future family.

    http://www.hitherandthither.net/flying-with-a-baby-or-toddler.html

    1. Yes! This is a great blog for tips on international travel with babies and toddlers. Ashley is a pro.

      My daughter is the same age as Charlie and we live in Japan. Our flights home to California have been a mixed bag but I am forever thankful for my Ergo. We don’t use it as much anymore bc baby girl is bigger but I always travel with it bc I know she will eventually sleep in it. Plus, you won’t have to worry as much about running back to the hotel for naps. I’m thinking of getting a Tula toddler carrier soon bc she’s outgrowing the Ergo

      I think because we do a lot of train travel in Japan, she has now gotten used to the idea of being enclosed in a metal tube with other people. So if anything, keep traveling and do your thing. You’ll be stuffing yourself silly with tapas in no time!

  98. You can download games on your iPad, my kid goes nuts for the Duplo apps. Also, anything Mickey or Handy Manny.
    I also bought him a pair of Elmo headphones and he loves them! They regulate the volumen so they are great for little ears.

  99. Having read through the comments, a few things I would add is make a list of things you need to take with you for Charlie, so you don’t forget the crucial bits. I think watching kiddie movies/programmes can hype the child up instead of making him calm. If you’re doing the usual bedtime thing on the plane, then a relaxing story or two might be better than a noisy stimulating programme. Oh and go to http://havebabywilltravel.com/ – good luck

  100. stickers have worked for us, yes! My mom used to do this when traveling with us (4 under the age of 8) and it worked so well last trans-atlantic trip. I bought several dollar store quality toys and wrap them each individually. The present is exciting and then new toy. A little sticky googley eye monster kept her occupied for over an hour. If possible, we try to book “economy plus” to get a little extra room but avoid a whole seat- for the overnight flights sleeping on some blankets on the floor has kept her asleep for a good four hours.
    Ive also found that customer service wants your toddler to be as comfortable as possible for the sake of the other passengers! I have called multiple times before flights to ask for aisle-window and see if middle seat will stay unoccupied… Or have seats moved for more room. Everyone knows having a toddler is a impending tornado with you- you will all do the best you can.

  101. In May my husband and I flew from Ohio to Montana with our then 4 year old(almost 5), 3 year old and 1 year old. First of all we made my parents come with us because it was for my brother’s wedding and we said we wouldn’t go if we didn’t get help. We took we gate checked their two umbrella strollers and all three car seats because we thought we might use them on the plane and we wanted to make sure they arrived at the destination. We used either cinch straps or the shoulder straps to attach the car seats to the strollers and a rolling suitcase. If you want details on this I probably have a picture I can email you. The one year old was a lap baby, but we got a seat for him on two of the four flights. For your longer flight I would absolutely recommend a seat, but I know you are keeping an eye on that. Basically, be organized. I took a backpack with crayons and coloring books, books, any snacks I thought would distract them. We got some kid friendly games on our iphones. Those were for the 3 and 4 year old, but I’m sure there are some out there for 18 months. Buy one or two small toys he has never seen. My kids love those cardboard sewing cards with the pictures of animals on them where you pull the shoestring through the holes. I definitely throw out all the rules when traveling. If I think it will keep them happy and quiet they can play with it or eat it. But being organized and knowing where everything is at a moments notice is key. Good luck and don’t worry, you will adjust to two and three kids and it will be your new normal!

  102. In case you are worried about other people being bothered by the noise, I’ll offer my insight as a nonparent: As long as the parents are making a good effort to keep the child reasonably quiet, I just smile and feel bad for the parents. Some noise is to be expected (from children AND adults). Not everyone is like me, I know (I love kids), but a lot of people are.

    On a trip in May I made friends with the little toddler girl in the next aisle. I accidentally taught her to say “What happened?” and raise her hands, palms up, as she did. She said it a LOT. My mom joked that her dad would be cursing me later, but he seemed to like that I liked his little girl so much. (I talked to him, too; I wasn’t some weird child stalker.)

  103. hey,
    my sister bought my niece a ‘trunki’ suitcase – she still uses it to this day to travel to UK from NZ. They can ride it – and you pull in the airport – and have their own goodies in it – toys (large enough so you aren’t searching up and down plane for the tiny tiny toy!) and PJ’s – books – colouring – headphone;). Also, try Shaun the sheep tv programmes – wiggles, a few different movies as well as his favourites…. something new to watch. Also, plan for the worst – and hope for the best…. take your time – you relax – and they will. If you feel the judgement from others – they haven’t experienced it…. but make sure there are some rules – yes walk up and down isle – but quietly only…. you and others flying need sanity too. Turn take walking him to the toilet (to pass time) and to stretch. Extra food is always a goodie too. Buy one small – but passable toy for him to play with on the flight (holiday) nothing expensive, but something he will love – new Thomas train. Even chuck in a few tracks as well. Sometimes booking the window seat and the isle seat – can allow the middle to free up if flight not looking full – so bonus of his own seat…. they fill the middle last?? or that person will move!!!
    Take your time – relax – and plan ahead – that helps – if LAX is crap – then make it an experience – rather than a rush…. it’ll help you and him in the end…. all in all – you sound like you will have a good plan by the time the spanish flight comes round. Enjoy x

    1. I have a 2 and 4 yo. Lots of snacks. Lots. Take them shopping with you and make a big deal out of “these are special snacks for when you’re doing a great job on the plane”

      On the sleep front, there is a natural product called Zarbees that is basically honey and melatonin that may help him sleep more soundly and for longer. You can give it as a syrup that tastes like straight honey, or mix a powder with water and let him drink it or give it from a small syringe. Good luck!

  104. I know some people say to not let your child nap ahead of time so they are extra tired, but use your own judgement on that. He could also just end up extra cranky. 🙂

  105. We travel A LOT with our two toddler boys. By plane and car and we don’t use a DVD player at all. I usually make a run to the dollar tree (don’t you love the dollar tree?) and get about $30 in snacks and surprises. Then I put one snack and one surprise each in a brown paper bag and pull one out each hour. It keeps the kids entertained and fed and is super cheap crap you can trash once you are back home and don’t need the extra clutter! (Be sure to look for the healthier snacks like Imperial Nut mixes, pb pretzels, etc…) have fun!

  106. Hi sweet mama!!

    I just ordered this ‘drawing board’ for my little fella – he’s the same age as your Charlie. I plan to use it for a loooong car ride we have coming up. It’s much more expensive than a plastic one but I felt it was well worth it. I’m sure you’ll appreciate the kid-friendly/quality design look and feel. 😉 Sign-up for their mailing list to get 5% off of your order.

    http://www.family-nation.com/gg-and-kiko-magic-drawing-board-oekaki-house.html?currency=USD

  107. I feel you! We just did the 5+ hour flight to Hawaii with our 2 year old and baby and it was a little nuts. Add in the halfway-potty-trained element and both my husband and I felt like we could use a drink or two on that flight! We have the untangled pro headphones which are Bluetooth and awesome and a good size for toddler heads! I also downloaded some new apps for the iPad that he got to try out on the plane- sego mini is a great app developer for the younger crowd. I also bought a few new toys that we would introduce periodically to keep him engaged. We had to switch activities every 15-20 minutes so it was a lot of work, but better than other flights we have taken. I would also suggest fun snacks for the plane. We probably over fed him but it would hold his attention and kept us sane! Good luck!

  108. I’m a nanny and have traveled a lot with the twins I work for. Our first flight to Boston went so terribly wrong that my boss and I just looked at each other and laughed BC there was nothing else we could do. I mean one of them actually threw up on the plane from crying so hard.
    1st buy headphones. And go ahead and get that extra seat. Charlie will need it and won’t want to sit in your lap the whole way to Spain and if he sleeps he can sprawl out in that seat. He’s too young for gum st 18 months but if there is a food he absolutely loves but doesn’t get often that might help (ours was cheez-its and pringles not the healthiest but hey it helped).
    Let him run around the airport for a bit to wear him out and shortly before boarding maybe read a book or let him color if he’s into that to calm down before the flight.
    Good luck!

  109. We just flew with our 20-month-old, and I have to say it’s literally the WORST age for flying. The worst. I feel you. Our 4-year-old, in comparison, seems like some kind of angel. We practically forgot she was there, so it does get better. Anyway, suggestions…apps for your phone? Have you downloaded any of the “duck duck moose” ones? Those are good. We definitely do movies…I buy a new surprise DVD every time we fly. Stickers…is he into stickers? My toddler spent a flight from Oregon to Phoenix essentially plastering stickers all over my pants. Snacks. Snacks. Snacks. Ones that take awhile to eat. And novel snacks he’s never seen. Is he obsessed with Band-aids? My kids are, and put them on everything; plus they take awhile to unwrap. Books that involve lifting many a flap. God speed. We also fly a lot with our kids and sometimes it’s just BAD. Good luck…I bet it’ll go better than you’re expecting!

  110. Yes to the stickers/plasters!
    We put the p.j’s on at the airport for the overnight flight – didn’t want to wrestle on the plane.

    One parent got on the plane at boarding time (when parents with young children were boarding) & set everything up while the other parent & toddler boarded later to run the last of the energy out. We just all went up to the gate together & asked & it was fine. Worked well.

    Someone suggested eating carbs for meals before the flight to make you feel fuller for longer & want to sleep.

    Our saving grace was always getting lucky with a spare seat.

    Good luck – love your blog!

  111. go for bulkhead seats! Yes, you won’t be able to have your bags at take off and landing, but you can pull them down once in the air, and Charlie will have enough room to stand and run about a bit. Plus, if the seats are by where the flight attendants have to sit for take off/landing, they’ll usually play a game of peek a boo or something and give you a few minutes of not having to entertain him. (Ps budget extra $ in Spain for kids clothes- the kids look adorable there and you’ll be inspired to do some tiny clothes shopping)

  112. I didn’t read through all the comments, so some/all may be a repeat. We just took a 16-hr trip with my 18-mo. old abroad (including a layover!) and overall, it went pretty well. Here’s what we did:

    – if you don’t buy him a separate seat, reserve an aisle and window seat for you and hubbie, and hope that no one takes the middle. If someone does, you can always offer to switch w/ the middle person so you two are sitting together

    – we tried bulkhead on the way there, and didn’t like it b/c we couldn’t lift up the armrests. We preferred the empty middle seat on the way back.

    – definitely bring the ergo/baby carrier so you can carry him to sleep and walk around

    – bring complete change of clothes (socks, shirt, pants) and pack them into little ziplok bags for easy access in case you need to change. We had two sets.

    – wrap small toys and let him open one each hour or so

    – test out Benadryl before the flight (although we didn’t end up using it)

    – have little snacks ready to go

    – download favorite shows on ipad/iphone.

    – bring milk that can be unrefrigerated (the carton kind)

  113. We have these headphones for our three year old and they are great. They have a volume limit so they can never get dangerously loud for them. They adjust well and stay on great too. http://www.amazon.com/Kidz-Gear-Wired-Headphones-Kids/dp/B00AXE9YD2/ref=sr_1_3?s=aht&ie=UTF8&qid=1435781682&sr=1-3&keywords=kids+headphones

    Also, 18 month olds are just hard on planes. No way around it. My three year old is SO active and still has a hard time sitting still for just two hours. So I totally UNDERSTAND!!!! I would recommend tons of snacks, juice or whatever he drinks, stickers, movies on iPad, new and different little things from the Dollar Store, playdoh….try to think of new things that he would love. And I’m one that’ll totally buy my kid a new toy just for the plane lol. Hang in there, it gets easier the older they get, it just takes time. My son is just now starting to sit for maybe 30 min and watch a movie on the iPad on the plane.

  114. I would get cheap little toys and wrap them all separately (wrapping paper and tied with ribbon and a bow because untying the bow is somehow fascinating). When that’s gets boring I would try some movie time. When that got boring I’d bring out a snack. Then maybe some stickers and coloring time. Then start the whole cycle again. New present, movie time, snack, color/stickers. Also, try some lollipops. Sometimes that keeps them interested and their mouth occupied but lasts a while.

  115. Dude, for any LA native, Bob Hope airport in Burbank is a dream. Seriously, God bless Bob Hope.

  116. Dear Emily,

    We had to become almost experts at traveling international with our son Diego (who is Autistic, high functioning), when he was around your son’s age. It was very hard in the beginning, but with the help of our therapists and people with experience working with children, we had it all figured out. Here I’m going to share our tips with you:

    STRESS-FREE CHECK-IN PROCESS:

    *1. The first thing that we did was to use a paid service that some companies offer in LA to go through the check-in process pain-free. I can’t remember the company that we used, but you can do some Google search or call the airport. The quality of the check-in process and the waiting before boarding, was always connected to the quality of our son’s mood when he got on the plane. And it made a huge difference in our level of stress as parents.

    COMFORT ZONE:

    *2. We had a backpack only for him with food and all the things that he needed. The backpack was his symbolic comfort zone, like home compressed in one place. He could go in there and have some control over his things. We made a big deal from the beginning letting him know that that was his own backpack and he was in change of it. At that age kids love being in charge more than anything.

    SURPRISE ZONE:

    *3. We always put together a special plastic bag with small surprises, nothing valuable. Included were simple art supplies, little inexpensive toys and the most important thing: objects that were not toys, those are the ones that kids love the most. It’s all about the unexpected. Children get tired of toys sooner than you imagine. But if you give something that looks more like for a grownup, then they will want it. Some things in that category were: an old pair of sunglasses, an old cap, key chains, etc… Many times I got those things from the 99cent store.

    MEMORIES AND FUN

    *4. Traveling and being on a airplane is not very natural for children at that age. To bring some sense of familiarity, we had a small photo album with pictures of him and relatives from the past. The fun part was drawing on them, on the faces. We drew mustaches, hats, etc. That was very amusing for him and highly entertaining, plus he saw familiar faces and that was positive.

    MOVIE TIME

    *5. The key here was the headphones, which he loved to wear at all times on the plane. We got a pair that is not the most inexpensive one, but it is for sure one of the best out there for children and adults ( https://www.vitalsounds.com/HD500AProd.aspx ) They are really effective at blocking the noise on the airplane plus they’re so comfortable and lightweight that you don’t want to take them off. Diego started using these 8 years ago for music therapy and he still uses them. We plugged them to an iPod so he could watch movies. An iPod is such much easier to carry because it’s small and he could carry it himself.

    BED TIME

    *6. For bed time we had a simple list for Diego to check as we went through the steps. It looked like this:
    __put on Pjs
    __brush teeth
    __get stuff animal friend
    __get blanket
    __read a book
    __kiss mom and dad good night
    Doing this made it simpler for him to get into a sleepy mood. Routine, or the idea of it when they’re away from home, is key with children.

    THE 50-50 RULE

    *7. Traveling with a toddler demands a lot of energy from the parents, so my husband and I took turns. When he was “working” with our son, I rested and did nothing, and when it was my turn to work, he rested and did nothing. If both of us tried to be on top of everything at the time, we were both going to bet burn out. So the 50-50 rule was really helpful.

    I hope that this helps.
    Coincidently, my husband is traveling with our son Diego and our daughter Natalie to Spain in a few days. This is the first time ever that Diego will be traveling without me, but now he knows what to expect when traveling and feels very comfortable. I hope that you have a wonderful time in Spain!

    Elsa 🙂

  117. FOR THE LOVE! BURBANK! So much, yes. Ok. So I just flew with my 18mth old on a 5 hour flight that felt like eternity. But. I bought a new Thomas (in the package!) Because just the packaging provides entertainment, a few new books, all the jammy sammy’s, and we sang some songs. I’m sure it annoyed the buttoned up biz travelers – but better than dino screeching, right? I know it’s a pain in your wallet, but just get him a ticket. 10 hours? Get a ticket. It’s safer anyway, and it puts him in a place of comfort and familiarity. Also, in a bout of desperation I just started flipping through People Mag with him – and he was surprisingly very entertained by it. He wanted to know what all of the pictures were. And then when we were done, he ripped it to shreds. Now, lets talk about that semi-solid poop diaper I had to change with NO CHANGING TABLE IN ANY LAVATORY. Let’s not talk about it. But be prepared. I have a 5 year old also who we traveled with extensively as a baby. More often than not there are NO CHANGING TABLES. Which brings me to my next point… clorox wipes. Wipe down that tray table. ALL OF IT.

  118. I fly alone with my three kids frequently and this was a lifesaver for when they were little – mainly because I hated lugging a car seat through the airport with all 3 kids on the hope I might get an empty seat. They have to be big enough to sit in and it isn’t comfy to sleep in – but get Charlie one of those cozy neck pillows.
    http://kidsflysafe.com

  119. Stickers and a slinky kept my 16 month old shockingly happy for a cross-country flight. There’s also an app called Magic Fingers that is a finger painting app that is AMAZING.

  120. 1. Buy everyone on the plane ear plugs – we’ve seen people do it and it gets a laugh (and understanding) out of the other travelers for the toddler on the plane

    2. Buy / Bring a new toy for them to get to know – either a travel doodle, a puzzle, or water set, or water color paint. My daughter loved the old school wind up toys on the tray table. Also pouring water into different cups with a squirt gun

    3. Lots of eating/snack times

    4. Lots of movies and games on the ipad

  121. I wish I had better tips for you but I really just have a warning. We flew red eye to Hawaii and the stewardess told us parents book that thinking kids will sleep and the majority do not.

    1. Sing it, sister! There is nothing worse than a screaming kid on a redeye. If there is a daytime flight available, take it. I know it is too late for Emily, but most people want to sleep on overnight flights.

  122. Following along for advice. Just flew with my 16-month old twin boys and it was pure hell. The good moments were made possible by snacks and the plastic airline cups filled with ice. But I feel your pain, like whoa!!

  123. If at all possible get him a seat with a car seat. Kids are used to being strapped into a seat and having to stay put. Without the car seat it’s chaos.

    Bring something to chew. Even toddlers can have ear pressure issues.

    Not very unique, but it’s all I could think of.

    1. It might be worth the $1800.

  124. It gets worse if you happen to have a highly energetic kid. 18 months is the age that we started buying seats for our oldest kid. This is crazy but I strap my kid in the car seat and rotate snacks, toys and iPad. Eventually he passes out like when he is on long road trips.

  125. Finally, something that I know about! I live in Los Angeles and have an almost-two year old. My husband and I flew to the Netherlands with him when he was about 20 months old. He used to sleep wonderfully on planes when he was a baby – we travel to the PNW a lot and everyone was always like “oh, I didn’t even know there was a baby on this plane, that’s the most well-behaved baby I’ve ever seen!” etc. and we would bask in the knowledge that we were superior parents. (Not really, but he’s a champion car-sleeper and it definitely translated into plane sleeping).

    Anyway, now that he’s a toddler it’s a lot different. I really have to hustle to keep him happy. When we flew to the Netherlands, we tried to get to the airport semi-early so we had time for him to walk instead of just hustling through with the stroller. (Easier said than done, I know). I also was basically the last person on the plane because he didn’t need to be trying to squirm out of his seat for 15 extra minutes. No thank you. We didn’t even try to bring his carseat on the plane. (To be honest, I kind of wish we hadn’t brought it on the trip at all, it was a fold-up travel carseat. Good, but heavy). We did lots of aisle-laps on the plane. I’m sure even the crankiest curmudgeon realizes that a happy toddler pacing the aisles = better than a screaming toddler strapped in the seat.

    We loaded up a bunch of PBS and Disney apps on the iPad and also a bunch of movies and music. We brought headphones for him that he was OK with wearing sometimes. We brought travel puzzles from Melissa & Doug, matchbox cars, and some various toys from Target that he had never seen before and were purchased specifically for this trip. We just had him wear his PJs the whole trip because we wanted to encourage sleeping as much as possible! 🙂 Having him share the seat with me in first class was pretty nice (he slept a lot), we did a flight in economy where he had his own seat and that was fine. I will never have him on my lap in economy willingly again, though. It is not worth it.

    Even if your toddler isn’t exactly being an angel, I’ve found that most people are pretty kind if they see that you are doing the legwork to keep your kid occupied. Oh! Sorry this has become a novel but I can’t not mention kids melatonin! I ordered it on Amazon and it’s amazing! We dissolved it in his bottle on the plane to get him to go to sleep and used it for a couple of nights once we got to Europe to establish his sleep schedule. It’s bad to use melatonin for kids regularly, but just a couple of times on a trip is totally fine. Good luck!

  126. One thing we did with our 24month old on a recent flight was to ask her to pack her small bags of toys to the trip. I made a big deal about her picking out books, toys, puzzles and anything that could fit (then did some editing when she wasn’t looking since it was overflowing!) She was responsible for carrying the bag herself through the airport (as long as she wanted to, of course) and then we usually start a flight without getting into the bag and only start going through it when she gets antsy… and one thing at a time. The way down to my parents in NC was perfect, the way back to NY was a nightmare… so really, it’s a crapshoot, right? Good luck!

  127. I have 3 boys (6, 4 and 1). We haven’t flown internationally, but we have done many trips cross country. There are a lot of good suggestions in the comments (stickers, books, snacks, iPad, something to help the ears, lot of water). I will say that it gets easier with age and to a large extent it gets easier with more kids. I know that might sound crazy but they have someone else that helps entertain them and I have found that my little ones take to technology much quicker than my oldest did since they have someone they are imitating!

    I have also found that, depending on how the trip has gone, return flights are the hardest for our family. We are all off of our routines, naps, etc and we have kinda hit the point of no return (including my husband and I)! I always try to prepare for that when anticipating trips (sometimes it involves more food, buying them something at the airport, etc just to get the spark of happiness before we board).

    This last tip is totally dependent on the trip you are taking and how you feel about your family. We have traveled with grandparents in tow multiple times and overall it helps. Again, it is someone else for them to sit with, talk to, distract them. I am in the habit of throwing out many of my rules while traveling so the grandparent tendency to indulge them doesn’t bother me as much.

    Good luck!

  128. We did a red eye from Hawaii with a 2 year old and a 6 month old. We made the horrible mistake of giving the 2 year old benadryl, which is full of red food coloring. Apparently some kids react to red food dye with hyperactivity and severe aggression. Ours did and we had 12 hours of horrific tantrums! If you do use benadryl, just make sure it’s dye-free 🙂

  129. Ugh…listen, we travel with our kids ALL the time. We have been very lucky that they travel well. But, on the off chance that something happens we are prepared. MELATONIN. BUY IT! Use it before your trip and watch the magic happen. Target sells it in a gummy version if Charlie isn’t down with swallowing pills yet.

  130. As a mom of an 11 year old boy who traveled with her baby/toddler a lot, this post took me back. YIKES! It was a decade ago so we didn’t rely heavily on electronics. (But go for it!) I wrapped little gifts that he got to open every 30 mins or heck, when I thought we would make it no longer. Make a bag full. He gets to pick. (Very exciting.) Anything works: Mini stuffed animal. Lollipop. Or a whole roll of lifesavers. (Yep). Things that keep him busy – even for 15 minutes are best. A story to read him? A matchbox car? Goldfish crackers? Between the choosing, unwrapping & playing, you buy yourself quite a bit of time. If he’s old enough you can use it as incentive to behave well between gifts. I can’t remember if that works at 18 mos. I blocked it out. Good luck, mom! LOVE your blog! And careful with Benadryl – my son is in the 2% club = it has the adverse affect and makes him WILDLY SPASTIC. (I would not have liked to find that out on a plane.)

  131. At that age, my son could watch Thomas the Train videos non-stop. He watched them back-to-back when we were on a 10-hour cartrip years ago. “They’re two, they’re four, they’re six, they’re eight…” I still know them all by heart!

  132. In addition to a lot of the comments here, I would put in a plug for play-doh. My active little boy can play with it forever. I get the tiny tubs and give him one at a time and it keeps him entertained! A bit of a mess but no one has complained yet.

  133. Everyone keeps telling me Benadryl works wonders, keeps them sleeping for the long flights. Some friends have even had their pediatricians recommend it.

  134. I swear traveling with babies 16 months – 2 years old is THE WORST! It’s like the last time they’ll fly free on your lap but they would rather do anything than fly on your lap for hours. Anyway…I’ve flown with both kids (18 mo apart) by myself a lot. I just bought cute tiger headphones for like $13, they’re the Califone brand. Also, get yourself a Cares harness. That is the best $75 I’ve ever spent for traveling with the kids. It’s super small, attaches to the seat and it’s FFA approved and mimics their 5 point carseat harness. Basically tricking them into falling asleep in their seat. Way less of a hassle than checking the carseat on the off chance of an open seat. Good luck and amen to flying out of Burbank all the time!

  135. There are loads of “real” trucks working type videos. My son LOVED those. Totally cheesy but perfect for those kids who are enthralled with vehicles/trucks.

  136. Apologies if I’m repeating someone. I read through some of the comments but since there are so very many (see?! People want to help. We know how stressful traveling with kids is), I called it.
    So yes, benadryl can have the opposite results, it did for us. That was a rough flight. But dramamine has been a godsend. Not sure if Charlie is too young. Half a kid chewable dose? We flew to Hawaii with that and added bonus helps with plane sickness. Old school, but pipe cleaners from the craft store that you can bend into shapes for hours of entertainment and happily leave behind. My friend’s toddler thinks Scooby Doo is the best thing sinced sliced bread. Episodes galore for hours of entertainment. Headphones need some sound cancelling otherwise they really can’t hear on the flight. Good luck. Flights always end, by the way, you’re not actually stuck on there forever. I promise.

  137. I always bring a roll of masking tape. My daughter used to love tearing it off and it wraps around everything, sticks to everything, she loves it, and easy to remove to not piss off cabin staff. Also we always get her her own seat, it really helps with the bouncing around and standing and sitting on the floor.

    And I cannot stress enough to be nice and charming to the cabin staff, and to ask them for help. We have gotten SO much help this way, and even had several take our daughter and play with her for a while. Obviously they know too that it’s in everybody’s interest to keep a small child happy, but you can always help them WANT to help you by loving the crap out of them (the staff) from the moment you get on that plane.

    And remember, no matter how awful it might get, your life, or fellow passengers, does not depend on this trip. It’s a few hours of your life. Remember that perspective, it helps too.

    From a well travelled family of one child. Good luck!

  138. Peppa pig and Peter Rabbit! My kids can watch it for hours (1 and 3 year olds) as they are bad travellers too. Lollypops as a bribe to sit quietly and a window view. Goodluck!

  139. Traveling with a toddler is very difficult yes. Honestly, all Ipad watching/playing time limit rules go out the window on flights. We like to have our kids chew/sucksomething during take off and landing. When they were babies, I breastfed them. When they got older, I’d do a gummy candy. Again, not something we give them on a regular basis but we want them to look forward to flights. Flights are a treat. 1 or 2 chewy treats on the way up and on the way down. There are some decent toddler games on the iPad that keep my 20 month old occupied for a good 20 minutes. Alternate that with some books or toys. I’m basically working the whole flight to make sure the kids are quiet the whole time. I work by butt off for hours and then the people around me congratulate me on how well behaved and quiet my 3 kids were during the flight.

  140. We have traveled to London and LA from NYC with a toddler – – the redeye is the way to go AND booking a seat for a child (once they are walking) is worth the splurge for your sanity and comfort! Just do it. Yes, you will curse yourself if the plane is empty; but, you’ll feel much better when you can minimize Charlie’s aisle-time because he’ll have a little more room to maneuver in his seat or on the floor at your feet (bring a cheapie blanket or swaddle that you can throw down on the floor). Select your seating as soon as possible because it’s crucial to get 3-seats together!! Also, paying a little more to get those extra-legroom seats is worth it. (We had to do that once in order to get 3 seats together)
    **When you start traveling with the new baby, ask the airline if they have in-flight bassinets. During one trip to London when my son was 3 months, Virgin Air(which, btw, couldn’t have been more accommodating to a young family — they offered to warm bottles, sat us in the bulkhead row, brought extra water bottles – – set up this bassinet that was suspended from the bulkhead wall. It’s like a suspended, reclined stroller seat…hard to explain, but amazing! Our son slept from take-off to landing…ask for that!
    Also, ditch the car seat!! Ugh, what a pain to lug! We took ours once when we were still using it with the stroller attachment, but have since ditched it when flying. Order an inexpensive car seat on Amazon and ship it to your destination (ideally, to whoever is picking you up at the airport!) …it’s probably cheaper than paying to check it with the airline! http://www.amazon.com/Cosco-High-Back-Booster-Windmill/dp/B007HO4U08/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1435789115&sr=1-1&keywords=costco+car+seat
    Also, we live in NYC…FYI: though not exactly safe, kids are NOT required to ride in car seats in NYC taxis or livery cars. There are some car services that provide car seats (you have to reserve in advance) though most days, I admit, my son just sits on my lap if we’re going a short distance. We use a SafeRide vest when traveling to the airport..this is a great alternative to lugging a bulky car seat – – check it out:
    http://saferide4kids.com/product/ride-safer-travel-vest/
    Good Luck! (oh, and load that iPad with videos…Curious George is very popular in our home!)

  141. Our tips include:

    Hold off on giving him the iPad for a few days before the trip, he’ll be so pleased to see it his attention might be held longer.

    A 100% goose down pillow packs down to nothing and really helps giving a comfortable sleep.

    Take balloons! Great for tiring out toddlers at the gate, then they can be disposed of before getting on the plane. Warning: you may end up entertaining every other kid too.

    Zip lock bags in the largest size you can find will really help hide the smell of soiled clothes or rubbish till you have a chance to deal with them.

    Take a change of clothes for everyone! I learned this lesson the hard way after my 15 month son vomited on me just before landing in Thailand. My jeans smelled for another 15 hours as we continued to Heathrow then Paris.

    Heathrow airport is worse than LA, be warned!

    Let him walk the aisles of the plane whenever possible.

    Ear Planes earplugs can help with takeoff and landing ear discomfort, as well as sipping drinks.

    iPad apps: Playschool (Australian version), anything from Toca Boca collection

  142. Lil gadgets headphones, soft and cushy from amazon. Lots of snacks!!

  143. Lots of good advice here. I have 3 sons, but only 1 was a baby/toddler when flying with them each time (they are 3 and 4 years apart). I always brought a variety of travel games the favorite of which was called Take along Thomas. It opens up to reveal a figure 8 train track, 2 horses, a bridge, etc. It is super cute and fun for kids. They also have some travel matchbox and pl

  144. Lots of good advice here. I have 3 sons, but only 1 was a baby/toddler when flying with them each time (they are 3 and 4 years apart). I always brought a variety of travel games the favorite of which was called Take along Thomas. It opens up to reveal a figure 8 train track, 2 horses, a bridge, etc. It is super cute and fun for kids. They also have some travel matchbox and Playmobil toys.

    Good luck!

  145. Regarding movies – my oldest son was also not one who could sit still and watch TV, UNTIL we showed him Finding Nemo. I think it was all the color that captivated him and he would watch the whole movie over and over. Life saver!

  146. my kids have loved Tom and Jerry since they were tiny. They would belly-laugh every time they watched it, even when they were tiny. Wish I had some more advice for you!

  147. I’m a single mom and I’ve travelled with my toddler alone for an 8 hour flight a couple times. She napped for an hour or 2 only but the other times I kept her entertained by 1) Loading a few Wiggles shows on (PS the kids love the Christmas ones) and 2) Bringing an empty notebook with some coloured pens and spent lots of time doodling. Hope that helps!

  148. We just moved to the UK from OK with a 16 month old so here are my (limited) tips: 1. Raid the dollar store for junk that will keep their attention. Even if its only 5 or 10 min per item, that’s 5 or 10 good minutes! Baby tooth brushes, Mardi gras beads, foam stickers and foam sheets, coloring books, anything! I filled up a whole backpack and pulled them out one at a time as she tired of each item. 2. Lots of snacks. Even if they don’t eat them all, they are entertaining at least. 3. We did the overnight flight too. Our daughter fell asleep shortly after we took off, slept 4 hours, was awake for 2 hours, then 2 more hours of sleep until we landed. It went way better than I imagined (we went thru all those toys and snacks on our first flight and waiting on our broken plane tho). 4. We weren’t quite in the iPad phase yet when we flew, but a month after we moved to the UK we got an Elmo DVD for my daughter and she has been OBSESSED ever since. So I recommend trying out Elmo’s world for your little guy. Good luck!!

  149. Our secret, always for toddler travel is our golden ‘one hour on, one hour off rule’. I typically take the first hours shift of looking after the toddler, there might be a new book or two, card game, anything he hasn’t seen before. During this hour my husband has his headphones on and is blissfully ignoring us, no matter what happens, juice spill, mega tantrum – he’s off duty, not his concern. Then the hour ends, I slip the headphones on and recharge, I won’t even look their way. We make it a rule to try and give the off duty parent a really good hour to recharge. Traveling with a toddler is about survival & we find this way we actually enjoy the trip, enjoy the time spent on the plane with him and enjoy the hour under those noise cancelling headphones. Its just for a few years, when they are four, if they have regularly travelled they take it in their stride and you might even get to read your own book!

    1. You’ve gotten a ton of advice already, so I can’t add much more, but I wanted to ditto this about switching time on/off but differently from what others said about sitting apart. It really just depends on your personalities, but especially being pregnant I don’t have the patience level to deal with my toddler on a plane when she decides to be difficult. So it’s easier for us to take turns being on/off duty, but with the other person still there as backup for potential parental complete exasperation moments.

      Besides that, the only suggestions I have are just what everyone else said – lots of small new toys that involve unwrapping, lots of small containers/delivery methods of snacks, headphones (the kidz ones mentioned are great and you can remove the volume limiter if it’s too quiet w/plane noise), tape/stickers, etc. Around 18 months my daughter started being more interested in shows but it took until now (2.5) for her to get engrossed in something she is watching. But some hits at that age were Umizoomi, Daniel Tiger, and Blue’s Clues. She still wouldn’t sit and watch a whole show or spend a ton of time in 1 app, but if you rotate it in with other activities it is at least still some quiet time.

      Good luck! I think the worst age for flying was like 15-24 months. After that it started getting a little better!

  150. bubble pop app on ipad!

  151. This crap is magic, read the reviews:

    http://www.amazon.com/OZzzzs-Children-30-fast-melting-Pediatrician-Recommended/dp/B004VEXRTW/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1435793627&sr=8-2&keywords=kids+melatonin

    I’d err on the side of caution with the dose, it really works well! It tastes good and dissolves in water or milk. Kiddo was sleeping through the night and had his days and nights correct on day 1 in Europe.

  152. Soooo feel your pain! I flew A LOT with my kids as we lived in Portland, OR and our families are on the east coast. One flight, right after my second turned two, she screamed and screamed and screamed (overtired) and the grandmother across the aisle started screaming “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” It was extremely helpful. Not really. There’s also been the trips of multiple blow out diapers, vomit and lost carseats and then there’s been the trips that have gone amazingly well – even with three little ones going across country.
    For my husband’s job we went to the UK for three months when my oldest was almost two and I was pregnant with number two. The flight over was great (half empty plane and a red eye only from the east coast). Best part here was he was in his carseat and felt at home. On the way home it was 22 hours of travel and the kid slept 2 hours. The key? But it was actually ok because the woman who was seated next to our son was an older Scottish professional daycare worker and kept him entertained the entire flight. And oh yeah – we had Thomas playing non-stop.
    I think that’s the key – just give in to the shows! Whatever the kid likes – put it on!!! Good luck!!

  153. Oh Emily!! I was just feeling for you so much in this post. Go easy on yourself. Really. I seriously cringed and laughed the whole time. I have kids 2, 4, and 6. We don’t fly, just drive. 🙂

  154. I live in CA but am from NY so I’ve flown quite a few times with my little kids. And I’m usually alone because I work from home and can travel a lot more than my husband. I’ve found the 6 months to 2 years age to be the worst because they just aren’t as content to sit and do quiet activities as an older kid. My tips are:
    1. You can try to plan around sleep but you just never know if your kids will go for it. We’ve found that the worst option is anything where we have to wake our kids up early because then they are tired the entire trip.
    2. Snacks that are eaten one at a time (like nuts, crackers, etc.) take the longest to eat and are usually not too messy. It can be tempting to bring treats to use as a bribe but my kids get very little sugar in general and the last thing I want to do is get them more hyped up.
    3. Headphones for the ipad are a must. I usually let my kids choose a movie at the beginning of the flight, look at how long it is, then put it on when there is just about that much time left in the flight (in other words I save it until the end).
    4. A mix of new and older toys is the best. Magnetic blocks and sticker books were an absolute life saver the last time I flew because they can’t constantly drop them, and they are entertaining. Books with flaps, things that slide, etc. are also great.
    5. Connecting flights can be great because you get a fresh group of people around you, and your kids can get some energy out at the airport between flights. The last time we flew my 2.5 year old jogged the entire way from one terminal in Chicago to another and it really made a huge difference!
    6. I think how you pack is important too, but probably not as big of a deal with two adults. There’s nothing worse than digging around in a bag for something to entertain your kids while they cry. I always pack my tote with a bunch of baggu pouches so that I can easily grab whatever I’m looking for.

    At the end of the day though you can only plan so much. And I agree with a lot of other posters that most people are really forgiving of kids on planes as long as the parents are doing their best.

  155. We took my 19mo on a 9-hour flight to Thailand for Christmas (we live in Australia). She really HATED us for making her sit in her chair for take-off/landing but otherwise it was wildly better than I thought it would be. I was shocked. My secrets:

    – We didn’t bother with the car seat, we just brought this http://kidsflysafe.com/)
    – We brought lots of fiddly toys, like https://www.buckletoy.com/shop/bobo that she had never seen before
    – We had lots of food for her that was really fiddly to eat (Cheerios, dried cranberries, etc)
    – Books and art supplies

    Good luck!!!

  156. Flying with kids is the worst. These tips have saved us somewhat though:
    1 – peekaboo barn. Oh my god. This app saved our life. There are others in the series too that are wonderful.
    2- take turns. Sit apart from each other and switch who Charlie sits with every hour or so. I find my daughter would get excited to see the other parent and that would keep her focus (and you can take a break!)
    3- sooooo many snacks.

  157. We just flew with our 21 month old twins. The first flight was awful – we will NEVER book a 7:30am flight again. Some positive feedback I do have, though, is: get him his own seat and use his car seat on the plane. Both of our kids fell asleep in their car seats and it was a huge break for us! We, too, stalked the flights and ultimately ended up purchasing tickets for the twins for the last leg of our trip. Well worth the money!!! They have their space. You have yours!!! Another win for us was buying all new toys for the flight – just some dollar section toys from target (Frozen coloring books, magic markers, stickers, etc), but it was all new and fun for the kids!!! We packed the new toys in their backpacks and each baby had their own stuff. They loved it! Good luck and just remember, “this too shall pass”! It’s much more stressful for you as the mom than the other passengers, they are listening to their headphones too! 🙂

  158. The longest flight we ever did was from Atlanta to Idaho Falls (5 hours) with two kids and for us it wasn’t too bad, but we travel that long in the car all the time for my work so it was kind of easy-ish for us. As far as shows for an 18 month old go my two-year-old was about that age when he started watching Team Umizoomi, Richard Scarry’s Busy Town Mysteries, and Blue’s Clues. Umizoomi and Blue’s Clues are on Amazon Prime and we have a DVD with Busy Town on it, but you can watch full episodes of pretty much anything on youtube, so if your flight has WIFI, I’d pay for it. For our flights we also packed a quite book, crayons and paper, and a few new small toys he had never seen before. We usually get up to 10 minutes per toy, which I realize is not incredibly promising for a 10 hour flight… Good luck, you’ll do great I’m sure. And if things get bad just say, “hey I’m a blogger, check out my site right now for proof that my kid actually looks like a total sweetheart sometimes!” 😉

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  159. i second the wrapped dollar store toys (and some you have around the house!). We flew to Hawaii with a 20 month old and had LOTS of snacks, wrapped toys(just use the party favor bags from dollar store or target), stickers, new books (again, cheap dollar spot at target), and we got a kindle fire. The small kids size is a good size and the free time service allows for unlimited downloads of kids apps, books, and a lot of movies and tv shows. Totally worth the minimal expense of you’re a prime member (and really who isn’t?).

    Also – we did the whole change into pjs, paci, lovie on the red eye back and he slept the ENTIRE FLIGHT! So, there is hope!

  160. My advice (and this may sound crazy) is to sit apart. You sit on one end of the plane, Brian sits on the other, and then every hour or two Charlie goes to see a different parent. It keeps the environment fresh for him, and offers different snacks and toys at each location. Best of luck!

  161. I always hit up the target dollar bins and put together a little gift bag of new plane appropriate toys and activities that I stuff in my carryon (ha! how is it “my” carryon if there isn’t even room for one trashy mag?!). The goodies don’t come out unless absolutely needed. The kids pack their own little backpacks so they have things they want and I make sure there is a cozy blanket and snuggle friend in there. Once through security I fill up soft sided water bottles, stock up on novel snacks (i.e mini oreos:), and grab a kids magazine or two if they have them at the newsstand. I also have used the headphones with sound safety for my 2 girls (now 4 and 6) but found that with some movies (Mr. Peabody and Sherman) the sound safety made it impossible for them to actually hear the movie. We got them these headphones http://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-HP01_v2-On-Ear-Headphones/dp/B00NBEWB4U/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1435797110&sr=8-2&keywords=headphones+amazon+basics and just set a volume max ourselves. Then it is just about keeping my fingers crossed. It can be tough but I promise it gets easier!

  162. I am in the airline business, and this is my advice. If you really want a separate seat for him, you should not wait to see if it starts filling up. Once it fills up, the seats will be way more expensive, and you will be stuck. I would pull the trigger now. It’s a lot of money, but probably worth it for everyone’s sanity.

  163. My 22 month old just discovered Melissa & Doug Water Wow Coloring Book and loves it. Also when I really need him to stay contained i let him play Tozzle on ipad. Two of us had over 5 flights to Europe and each time it gets easier….. Car seat helps a lot, as well as lots of snacks…. might check out Quiet Books for toddlers on Etsy.

    1. Water Wow books are awesome. My daughter is 3 and she will just color on hers over and over and over.

  164. Our pediatrician once told me when traveling with a toddler – a toy a minute. Doesn’t have to be big … Little plastic characters, balls, balloon u blow up, cars, train. I never managed to get that many in my bag – but I travelled quite a bit solo with a toddler – and later on with the older toddler and a baby. Ugh. It’s all about survival girl.

    I understand the financial concerns … that said, buy the seat. Money well spent. It’s summer and planes are flying packed – if you have to buy a seat at the last minute you can’t even be sure it will be in he same row as you and Brian. Save yourself he stress – and get Charlie a confirmed seat so you know he will be able to sleep and have his own real estate.

    I found these items kept my boys occupied: sticker books, coloring books, pencils/markers with a drawing pad, play doh, trains, where’s Waldo books, more trains, snacks and picture books. As far as headphones I find the noise canceling ones are the only ones that do the job well – iPads are not very loud compared to that plane noise.

    Most European flights have TV screens with things for kids to watch…maybe ask your airline what the deal is there. Either way, pack that ipad with Thomas the Train and anything else he loves. Pingu is a great one for the plane because there is no dialogue…my kids loved it but they were toddlers pre ipad – not sure if it’s out there these days.

    Of course bring his favorite blanket and lovey for sleeping. I know some people recommend a little Benadryl – if you think it may come to that give it trial run at home first. Sometimes it speeds them up instead!

    I agree with you about LAX – but I have found I just have to get there stupidly early – especially international. Sometimes they have a “family” line in security for those traveling with little ones. I would always ask the airlines reps at the gate if I could board early … that way I could get the car seat in and be settled when everyone else is coming on.

    Sorry about your nightmare flight to Oregon – every mom I know has a similar horror story. My sister-in-law was traveling alone when her two were toddlers and one of them projectile vomited all over the seat, her mom and herself. The flight was delayed while a crew came on board and physically removed the seats in front of them and replaced them with new ones. My s-in-l had change of clothes for her daughter but not herself. I still to this day pack an extra shirt in my carry on.

    Anyway – bad flights happen to even the most experienced traveling parents. Sounds like you have had yours for the year so Spain will probably be a breeze!

  165. We traveled alot when the kids were small by plane
    I always packed a very small bag of treats they had never seen before (dont let him see them all at once but bring them out as needed)
    i didnt spend alot..just tried to bring different things. for instance silly putty and the mini magnet sketch boards. i always brought a pad of paper and writing pens no matter the age. stickers are great for the paper. really any thing they had never experienced. this was way before cool ipads and headphones.. tiny snacks like goldfish and gummie bears.
    i totally know the desperation and panic that a toddler can stir up in flight!
    the advice about your spain flight and bedtime sounds really good. i bet your next trip will go well

  166. We have been traveling maniacs with our 17 month old daughter for the past couple months. It’s never great, but it has gotten better with some experience.

    Having a seat for her and having her car seat on the plane makes an enormous difference. I can’t stress this enough. I don’t think she’d sleep AT ALL without it, and she’s taken really great naps on every flight with it. She’s also used to being in her car seat and entertaining herself so she’s much better behaved even when awake. We always take the car seat to the gate, even if we don’t have a seat for her. You can always gate check it but if you do get a seat you’re in much better shape.

    Other than that, we do a lot of what everyone else has suggested: snacks, lots of milk, new toys (not very successful for us), trading off sitting with her, walking the aisles, etc.

    Good luck! I think the red eye will help, and I personally would not get on that plane without feeling confident that my little one had a seat. But at that price it’s definitely a tough call.

    1. The seat is usually worth the splurge but that is definitely steep. See if your airline will allow you to pre-book a bulkhead at least. Your son is too big for the bassinets that some airlines offer, but the extra floor space will come in handy as a makeshift play area in a pinch. Definitely get toddler headphones, and if you gate check your car seat, get a padded travel bag to protect it. I am happy to answer any additional questions. Good luck! http://havebabywilltravel.com/2012/06/12/flying-with-baby-travel-tips-for-flying-with-a-toddler-12-24mos/

  167. When my kids were little-three boys within4 years- my friend gave me the advice to fill either brown lunch bags or birthday treat bags with little (new) things. I would give them a bag every hour or so. I spent some money but it kept us all sane! Don’t forget to pack a second set for the trip home. Also lift the flap books were my saving grace! They would be destroyed but we were sane. I also used the brown bag trick for shots. My kids would hold the bag while the shot was administered and they could open it as soon as their bandaid was on. They forgot about the pain and we all left with a smile. Good luck. He will do great!

  168. If traveling with another adult, let them board with carry-ins, etc, and you stay with the kid(s) until the last possible moment. It can take 30+ mins for everyone to board. That time is MUCH better spent letting the kiddo run around vs strapped in to a seat! Plus, your traveling companion can get everything situated so you walk on the plane, strap on, ready to go. And hopefully the little one is worn out and ready to sit still during take off! Also, remember your anxiety rubs off so order and drink and try to chill!

  169. My suggestion is to try to prepare for the flight by training him now to sit still, calm down when you say, and speak quietly. It may seem impossible but it is well worth it. At his age, I’m sure he understands you very well and is capable of sitting calmly for short spurts at a time. Start small, maybe 2 minutes?, then practice each day sitting for longer and longer, calmly.

    And about having multiple kids… it gets way easier with two. And when they get older and can start helping, even more becomes easier! 😀

  170. I always hear bring brand new toys/puzzles/coloring books/sticker books that he has never seen before, its like christmas – slowly take them out throughout the flight, always new surprises – go to the dollar store or target dollar section.
    Let them run it out in the airport, chase them, run,run,run, get them tired!
    Check out Pinterest, type in flying with a toddler tons of tips!

  171. sorry to hear about the horrific plane ride. I have 3yr twins and only fly 2-3x per year with them. they have survived 6hr nonstop flights but we haven’t made the trip across the pond yet. I kinda feel like i have fried their brains with iPad games/movies and given snack foods continuously to keep them busy. headphones are good idea, kidz-gear are ok but i think it is difficult to cancel out the background airplane noise in general that wouldn’t be too heavy. creating a surprise to do every hour is the way to go. coloring books, play dough, little trinket toys that are new. new books to read. An iPad app that my kids like is called endless alphabet – it is pretty entertaining or can do a drawing game on the iPad that can also buy you some time. good luck!

  172. Oh man that sucks about your recent trip. But I’m sure your trip to Spain will be so worth it and it can be done! First off, make sure he has his own seat and bring his car seat on board. This is crucial for him to sleep well in (plus he’s stuck in there, win win!). The red eye will also maximize his sleepy time, plus Benadryl. Just make sure you test it out beforehand (an hour before bedtime) to make sure it doesn’t wire him. Also let him get used to the headphones first – my 2 year old freaked the first time we tried to put them on his ears, but now he’s used to them and can finally hear his stories 🙂 Honestly though, during awake time on the plane, movies/shows/games are the easiest to entertain. Don’t try and be a hero 😉 Just got back from Maui to CA with a 2.5 year old and a 9 month old lap baby and it was actually pretty easy due to the above suggestions. I mean, I looked like a terrible parent with zombie children, but at least it wasn’t stressful and it’s only one day! Also, a good attitude goes a long way! Good luck.

  173. Melatonin! You can buy the liquid stuff with a dropper at the health food store. It’s natural and safe, and tastes like baby aspirin. Other than that–we travel with two kindles with lots of downloaded Disney movies! And of course snacks.

  174. I’m sure you are getting bombarded with advice/horror stories. Before I launch into mine, know this. We’ve all been there. I feel for you! We all do because traveling with munchkins is hell.

    My son was 15 months when we moved from the U.S. to Australia. We left from Seattle, traveled down the west coast visiting family before leaving out of LAX for Auckland (then a 3 hour to Sydney). The shorter flights were bearable but the long one was, well….long. So so long. He slept in his car seat for the first 3.5 hours and was mostly awake for the next 10 hours. On a red eye. I have no pearls of wisdom really, other than the movie Cars is a godsend and to take advantage of the free booze if your international flight offers it. We got some small toys specifically for the trip and doled them out slowly, but it only helped for a short time. Also, my husband used our Ergo to get him to sleep for a little bit (around 2 hours) but he also fought, screamed, threw said toys and wailed for a lot of the trip. Fortunately the people in front of us were parents to four kids (traveling without them) so they were very understanding.

    I loved Joanna Goddard’s tip about booking a solo seat away from the family and having the parents trade off every few hours. We will have 2 kids the next time we visit the States (I’m due about a month before you) and the idea of getting a break from the chaos sounds so appealing.

    One more thing; pack as many non-carb snacks for him as possible. We had plenty of snacks but once those fruit squeeze things were gone, we were down to different variations of crackers. I would’ve killed for an apple or something on the last leg of our flight!

    Good luck Emily!

  175. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned here are Wikki Stix. They are super fun and non-messy. They may be more appropriate for older kids, but they are sticky and different and colorful, and I’ll bet he’ll dig them. You can make balls and little cars and wacky glasses. (Go for the big package rather than the special “Travel Set,” as they’re about the same price on Amazon– you’re just paying more for the case they come in, which is useless for plane rides.)

  176. i totally second stickers! My little daughter loves to be given one sticker at a time then stick it on my arm. She’ll do this forever. When she gets bored of that I’ll have her take them off so she can stick them on her or a notepad.

    Another suggestion would be to find a small container that is very easy for your son to open that you can stick small food/candy in. Only put one piece in at a time so he has to work for his treat. Also, pez! Only put in one piece or even have him help you out the pieces in himself.

    I would also say grab some small toys/trinkets from the dollar section at target and wrap it in wrapping paper. When he gets antsy give him one to open. Because it’s new it should be exciting for a bit. Things like a little slinky or a ball that lights up when you hit it against your hand.

    This might not be your thing, but find some age appropriate games on your phone for him, so if the movie isn’t working, at least you’ll have a back up.

  177. Oh my gosh Emily! Flying with toddlers is THE. WORST. We live overseas and have 2 kids. Just made the 14 hour flight recently and there were moments during that flight where I questioned basically all my life decisions that had somehow led me to that precise moment in time. Anyway…I wrote a blog post about it and offer up some tips. Maybe you will get some good ideas…http://homebodyandsoulblog.com/2015/03/10/just-good-plane-advice/. Good luck!

  178. Double check that 1 mg of melatonin is the correct dosage for a toddler**. as a 4’11” adult, 3 mg is sufficient for me, 5 mg is too much and causes violent dreams.

    but keep in mind that melatonin only helps you to fall asleep; once you wake up it, I don’t think it has the same affect. also, you should only take 1 dose a night as it is supposed to sync with a sleeping schedule.

    **Web md does not recommend melatonin use in children: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-940-melatonin.aspx?activeingredientid=940&activeingredientname=melatonin

  179. Funny, we were in Bend/Sun River the same time you were… Only we drove from
    Portland, which was much longer than anticipated! Ugh! We travel a lot with our little guy too, and here are the things that have kept him happy and occupied on the plane (without allowing him to watch the iPad the whole time…. (which we do have earphones from
    target that work well).

    1. An old wallet with old credit cards, grocery cards, library cards etc… He loves opening and closing the wallet and putting the cards in and put of the slots.

    2. Pill box with treats. Get one of the big weekly pill boxes and full each day with different fun treats… Yogurt covered raisins, gold fish, fruit snacks. Seriously this kept my son entertained for an hour opening and closing the different containers.

    3. Play dough and play dough tools I found on amazon.

    4. Paint with water. You can gets those books at target where they paint with water… My son has a Thomas the Train one.

    5. Sticky window decals…. I don’t know what you call them but you see them seasonally in the target dollar bins… They are clear and meant to stick on windows… My son loves to stick to the tray table.

    You got this mama! Good luck!!

  180. I have traveled a lot with my now three year old son and one year old daughter, and have seen a lot of good suggestions here. My only contribution is to emphasize the importance of packing a separate little backpack for Charlie, in addition to your bag that has the gifts, Ipad, and other things that need to be carefully rationed and doled out hour by hour. His backpack has a specially curated assortment of favorite toys (not the new stuff) and snacks that are not too messy or unhealthy that he can help himself to and eat as much as he wants whenever he wants. My son LOVES rooting through his backpack on an airplane and has spent extended periods of time (for a two year old), taking everything out, examining the various items to see what made the cut, munching on snacks, repacking things, etc. Carrots, edamame, apple slices, pretzels have all been successful snacks for his bag. Don’t get me wrong, I also do the special treats, new toys from the dollar store wrapped for extra impact/delay, new videos on the Ipad, etc. But my son really likes the independence of having his own bag to be in charge of.

  181. We do Canada to Europe twice a year with 2 little guys. I always let them pack a few toys to play with in a backpack or something but then I have a secret stash in my diaper bag, nothing crazy big or expensive but something to catch their interest (little tubs of play dough, a tiny puzzle, think dollar section at target) and then every couple hours when they start to hit a wall I bring out one of the surprises. Also snacks, lots of snacks.

    1. Good luck, I have three kids and have travelled with them a lot. there’s tons of good tips here(TAPE!!!Stickers!! Drawing apps!!)so I’ll add that educating Charlie about planes, airports, and traveling MIGHT help him- he is at an age when he is beginning to understand where he is and why it is different than other places he has been. Books(Byron Barton’s Planes is great at this age), Yo Gabba Gabba and Daniel Tiger do great shows on traveling, Dinosoaur Train(?)plane models, the Fischer Price airport set, costumes, etc. will all help his recall when he actually sees it in person. These kinds of connections are very reassuring to kids. Good luck!

  182. Definitely go with the bed time routine part. It is hard, but you have to stick to it. “No toys/ipad now – it’s bed time”.

    Also take toys and ration them out. That way there will always be something new and exciting. We through all our screen time rules out the window when we traveled from Australia to LA (15 hours).

    Indirect routes can often be a godsend. It may take longer but the chance for him to get off the plane and have a chance to stretch his legs and run would be awesome.
    Also – for your sanity as much as anything else – get him a seat! 🙂

  183. my daughter (just turned 19months) is OBSESSED with Paddingtong Bear (the new movie with the guy from Downton Abbey) and the Madigascar movies, especially the Penguins of Madigascar… She will literally be mid-monster and literally stop in her tracks if you tell her that you’ll turn on bear if she sits in her seat. Its almost as quick as if the phrase ‘want to watch bear’ was a post-hypnotic suggestion. Plus its a charming 90ish minutes of adorable Brits being totally unaffected by that fact that there is a pantslesss bear running around town, speaking English and eating marmalade.

  184. We have a 2 year old. We’ve flown about 12-14 times with him. Another trip booked for next week. After many direct flights we decided to break it up. I think it will be better. After two hell flights as a baby we just suck it up and get him a seat of his own. Also, im pretty sure it’s 2 years or 20lbs whichever comes first, and he was 20lbs way before he was 2! The car seat in his seat helps because if you can get him in and he falls asleep he may stay asleep for a while….
    Also… MICKEY MOUSE CLUBHOUSE! He’s glued. He dropped Peppa pig like a hot potato for Mickey. LITTLE EINSTEINS is cute too and kids learn stuff and like it.
    Love your blog… First time I’ve posted 🙂

  185. My 20-month-old son loves the SoundTouchLite app on the iPad. It’s got little icons of animals, vehicles, etc, and when you press them you get a real picture of the duck or fire truck or whatever, and the sound it makes. Sounds really lame, but it’s the only app he will play for any amount of time! It was a lifesaver on our recent 20 hour road trip (with three kids under three), and is the only reason that I’m still partially sane following that ordeal.
    Good luck!

  186. We always brought new toys with us for our toddler on the plane and doled them out one at time over the course of the flight. The more novel and time consuming the better. Our son was super active so it was a challenge. Also get to the airport early and run him around to burn energy. That way he’s more likely to fall right asleep. Lastly, when you get to the gate beg for a free extra seat and ask if you can be moved to the bulk head – those seats at the very front of coach – they have extra room on the floor where you can make a play area with stuffed animals and blankets. Our son burned a lot of energy climbing up and down into his free seat from his cushy, makeshift play area. Good luck!!

  187. Hi – my husband is English, so we flew with our kids to England every year when they were small. We had them change into their regular jammies on the plane and put them to sleep with all their blankies and babies and routine as much as possible like home. And they usually slept for a while. We walked with them up and down the aisles. We brought new things to do that they hadn’t seen – things that weren’t too messy. Some cheerios and one of those cheerio books are fun. Colored pipe cleaners are fun. Dover makes some tiny sticker books for $1 so you can take a bunch of them. Scratch and sniff stickers are fun, too. A couple of matchbook cars (but only one for each hand, so they don’t get lost and cause anguish). Puzzles or games where one thing fits into another – like those stacking cups. Lots of little things (as in don’t take up much room and can be lost without causing pain) to keep hidden until you need to pull them out to distract him for a just few more minutes.

    I wish we had had ipads and headphones. My granddaughters love games from Toca Boca and have been playing them since they were Charlie’s age or younger. They spent long periods on planes playing these games.

    The truth is that it will be a hard and intense and require tag team parenting. You will arrive in Spain completely exhausted, whereas Charlie will likely be bright eyed and unable to settle down, but then crash totally into a floppy bundle at the most inconvenient moment. Plan for your arrival, too.

    It may or may not comfort you to know that it gets better. Toddlers are the worst travelers because they can move really fast, their attention span is non-existent, and they are too young to understand that sometimes you just have to be patient and polite, whether you want to or not. Which is pretty much what travel is all about.

    On the other hand, I’m sure you will find that most people are very kind and friendly along the way. I was always amazed at how nice people were and how helpful – airline staff, customs and Immigration officials and just fellow passengers. You see a nice side of people when you travel with kids. Sometimes there is the odd grumpy person who hates kids. Ignore them. They are the exception.

  188. All good advice. Double check on the ticket price as well – when we flew to Thailand there was a discount on the kids’ tickets (it depends on the carrier).

  189. We have a 3.5 and a (just turned) 2year old. Also, I am due a couple weeks after you! I have CRAZY boys. Not mellow in the least. We travel a lot. It’s tough…and I’m surprised we are pregnant with the third. We have had many days where we decided 2 was enough after flying! Ha! On a red eye flight a couple weeks ago, my husband flew ALONE with both boys and actually split a 1mg tablet of melatonin. (1/2 to 3yr old,1/4 to other) and it worked like a charm. It’s a good bet for sleep anyway because the plane is dark and quiet and of course they are tired at that time. Good luck!!

  190. I would suggest cocktails but that’s out! Paracetamol with codeine for Charlie??? ???? Good luck that’s all I can really say x

  191. Yes to headphones for sure! Yes to new novel toys introduced slowly, and for us little toys have worked best (little tiny dump truck digger etc) as that way there is more room to play with them. Play dough has also been a hit and of course lots and lots of snacks.

    In my experience my boys didn’t sleep no matter what we tried until after the lights were turned off. The flight we finally stopped stressing about it and just went with that was the best one.

  192. On my last flight, I was traveling alone with my son. Luckily, I sat next to a really nice dad that let my son play with his phone when he got antsy. He had this app called ‘toddler lock’. It was brilliant. It kept him happy and entertained for at least an hour. Also, I’ve had a lot of success letting him play with the plastic beverage cups. The flight attendants are always more than happy to spare a few for stacking /bongo drum circle time. It’s also nice to sit as far back in the plane as possible. Then you can sneak into the back of the plane during beverage service/food to look at the buttons. Best of luck!

  193. We took our 1 & 3 year old boys to Indonesia in November. Everyone thought we were crazy, but they did great! One of the best things we did was arrive at the airport early, find a quiet open spot and let them RUN before the flight took off. A pack of balloons was our best investment – we just blew up a balloon at layovers, and it seemed to attract every kid in the airport to come entertain our kids. We did use kids Gravol, and both slept for 6 hours or so; Benadryl doesn’t seem to affect our guys. iPad with headphones was awesome – the other thing we did was gift-wrapped little toys from the dollar store to open every hour (obviously the baby was just happy for wrapping paper!), which was something fun to look forward to! Bring new books and new snacks too – stuff he hasn’t had before, so its exciting. Also, just find the sympathetic person on the plane who is making googly eyes at Charlie and befriend them! Ours were the only kids on the direct flight to Hong Kong, and I couldn’t believe how lovely strangers were – making faces over the seat for hours. I’m sure you’ll all do great!

    1. And ice cubes! Huge hit and the attendants are happy to provide 🙂

  194. sizzurp. all the kewel kids are doing it. and you can get it bubble gum flavored.

  195. Painters tape. Works like stickers in that he can play with the sticky or stick it all over the seat, but pulls up easy at the end of the flight.
    Lots of snacks. Double the “normal” amount.
    Is he into any books? I know reading them over and over sucks, but it beats screaming.
    New little toys (McD kind or dollar store). Anything new should keep his attention for a little while.

    We’ve never attempted a flight that long with ours, but these have worked to entertain our kids on shorter flights.

  196. actually given this as a gift to littles; child’s utility vest, each pocket filled with a travel suitable toy.

    http://www.amazon.com/kuvvy-Boys-Kids-Utility-Vest/dp/B00CDTTI0O

  197. for the utility vest? the scat identification bandana was a huuUUUUUUge hit.

    http://www.acornnaturalists.com/store/Scat-Identification-Scarves-Bandanas-C158.aspx

  198. I don’t have any children, but I’ve always enjoyed reading the Cup of Jo posts about travelling with kids. Here are my two favourites:

    http://cupofjo.com/2012/12/10-ways-to-entertain-a-toddler-on-a-plane/

    http://cupofjo.com/2011/05/motherhood-mondays-ten-tips-for-traveling-with-a-baby/

  199. Oh dear we fly a lot with our crazy 20 month old. Our tricks – new cheap toys, iPad games (tiny tots, play home, any peekaboo games) – iPad TV shows- Sesame Street and blues clues, removable stickers!!! These are key- they can stick to books, the plane window the table, I have a Baggie of Lego men mini figures and cars, he will play with these for a long time! All the snacks! Good luck

  200. The good news is that it will only get better from here…he is really at the worst stage of development for traveling in confined spaces.
    We have travelled all over the world with our two, who are now 25 and 21. I second everything every one has said, including the advice about Benadryl, extra clothes for everyone, and lots of cheap toys.
    The one thing nobody mentioned which worked well for us was the dreaded LEASH! We used it occasionally for our first child, but our second child didn’t leave home without it. In a scenario like an busy airport, they can be gone in the crowd in a heartbeat…the worst scenario is when they escape out of the secure area, with you in hot pursuit, but you’ve dropped all your bags to sprint after the little monster, so then you’re on the wrong side of security with no ID! The other thing you can do, which is cheaper than buying Charlie a ticket, is to pay for your hotel room starting the night before you arrive, so that it is guaranteed to be available the minute you get there. That is a game changer for the rest of the day. Oh, and the leash wearer? Just graduated from college, off to vet school in Scotland in August…perfectly well adjusted.

  201. My kids (3 and 5) regularly travel from the US to Australia to visit family, since they were each six weeks old. We do a 3.5 hr flight to LAX, then a 14 hour flight from LAX to Australia. The most difficult ages to travel are anywhere from 12 months old to 3 years. After the 3 year mark, it gets too easy!

    My tips for travel with kids are:

    – Book a flight that departs well after their usual bed time. That way they sleep. Our flights out of LAX usually leave around 11:00pm, so the kids sleep for a good 6 to 8 hours of the 14 hour flight.

    – Only fly internationally on planes that have inseat tv screens/inflight entertainment. Crucial!

    – Those magnetic tins with scenes/reusuable magnet shapes (Curious George, zoo scenes etc) will keep a kid occupied for ages.

    – Fill their ipad with new apps and movies.

    – The Kidsgear headphones are awesome. Regular sized plane headphones just slide off their heads (even on a five year old). But equally important, plane headphone jacks are two prong, and the Kidsgear headphones are one prong. So sound will only come out of one ear, and not quite loud enough to hear over the loud engine noise on international flights, unless you buy a headphone jack adaptor like this one. Best six bucks you’ll ever spend. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002XKHLW0?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=od_aui_detailpages01

  202. Tape is a great idea, when I worked as a nanny I used it to make roads for little boys to ‘drive’ cars on, would work just as well on the wall of the plane.

    I was on an international flight every 4 years as a child and remember my mom making up elaborate ‘duck’ stories. The plot line would be based on what was happening to our family. Kids love hearing their lives told back to them. You’re a great writer and creative, I think you could pull that off if Charlie has the attention span for stories. Also as part of the bedtime ritual you could say goodnight to family members, friends. It can be as soporific as counting sheep and comforting to remember all the people who love him.

    My mom also used to get one of those giant packs of crayons. She’d put them into a plastic bag and I’d peal them. Sounds so weird but it is fiddly and satisfying and took up ages of time. Messy but I think everyone would rather paper scraps than whining.

  203. I didn’t read the other comments, so maybe someone already suggested this, but my husband and I traveled internationally many times before our twin boys were 2 and never purchased seats for them either. My mother-in-law always told me to take suckers. We did it ever time. I usually bought ring pops. I know it is sticky and unhealthy, but they are so helpful. It distracts them and calms them down and helps with their popping ears. I would give them to them as we were taking off and sometimes they were almost asleep from the humming of the plane by the time they were finished. We always used headphones too, so that should change your next flight. I kept crayons, little books, tiny toys, and snacks in by bag, and quickly changed what they were doing before we went into complete meltdown mode. Snacks were usually more helpful than toys. When they are awake it is pretty intense! I feel ya! There is no rest for a mama on a plane.

  204. We have flown a lot with our two kiddos and I have found less is more. I used to pack a ton of crap and then be unable to find what I actually needed. That said what works for us:
    Stickers – my 20 month old finds it hysterical to stick stickers to his and my face and clothes. I feel like a moron but, he’s happy so…
    Bubbles App – you run your finger over the screen and bubbles appear and then you can pop them.
    A magna doodle or something similar.
    I also started threading cheerios or something similar onto a pipe cleaner and he enjoys taking his snacks of that for a while.
    My little boy enjoys the following shows – Peppa Pig, Daniel Tiger, Sesame Street, Yo Gabba Gabba, and some strange Tractors show from Amazon. Sadly to get them to watch on a plane you are going to have to get him interested before you go. Good Luck! Oh and two kids is almost easier because they entertain each other at a certain point

    1. My kids also both like those Tubes (at craft stores) of overly priced plastic figurines, specifically the dinos or farm animals. They enjoy playing with them and taking them in and out of the tube.

  205. I have traveled a LOT with my kids (including by myself) and it’s usually all kinds of horrifying. 18 months was the worst age for both of my kids. Benadryl made my first incredibly hyper, so I’ve never tried it again. This works for me: never book during nap time. Try to book first thing in the morning, and they usually wind up taking an early nap. I was also scared to do a redeye. We stayed one night layover in LAX on the way home from Hawaii last month just to avoid the possibility of a redeye flight and a kid that won’t sleep. Sleeping in carseats is just tough for a long period of time. most importantly: ALWAYS BUY THE BABY A SEAT. My fist child rode comfortably on my lap until age 2. My second child has had her own seat since she was 4 months old. Some kids can sit still and some kids need to be buckled down. Yes, it’s expensive, but it is about a 1,000 times better than the alternative. Also, if you need more justification – it is much safer. Unbuckled babies can turn into projectiles if the plane hits trouble, so tell yourself that you’re spending the money to keep him safer rather than to keep you saner. Always buy the seat. Always. I repeat. This is important. Especially if you expect the kid to sleep for any period of time. You really think an 18 month old will sleep in your arms for 6+ hours? Mine would not. Buy the seat. You won’t regret it.

    Also, headphones are excellent. My child couldn’t handle the game apps, but she loves watching me or her older sister do them under her instruction. There is a really good cake-making app that provides lots of entertainment. There is also a similar strawberry shortcake cake making app, but that may be too girly for charlie (if you care about gender stereotypes). When in dire straits, let him rip up pages from a magazine and make a gigantic mess. Tons of fun.

    Remember that the trip will be much better once you get there.

    PS – always buy the seat. it is an investment in safety and in mental health. Always buy the seat.

  206. Buy a seat for Charlie. Imagine him finally crashed out in your pregnant lap, and then you need to go to bathroom, but you are afraid to move.

    I agree with other posters…Flights with connections during day, non-stops at night. Separate seats works well too as long as parents split the responsibility. Once you have 2 kids, a 2 and 2 split can work too.

    Be prepared for the weird sleep cycles you get to Spain and when you get back. That’s what killed me on big trips. I was ready to sleep at the correct local time and my kids were up wanting dinner in the middle of the night.

    We are planning on taking trip to South America with our now teenagers to ski next summer, and now it’s something we can look forward too. But still flying at night :).

  207. This link had the most helpful tips for me: http://www.hitherandthither.net/flying-with-a-baby-or-toddler.html

    Best advise for us was send your partner on the plane to set up and stay out of the plane as long as possible and run your little boys in the terminal.

    The other thing that worked for us was doing connecting flights rather than direct (totally counter intuitive). Two 1 hr our 1 1/2 hr flights was more exciting (and limited the time on the plane) for my little ones rather than a 2 1/2 hr direct flight. They loved seeing the new airport in the meantime too.

    I now have three little boys and am going to be flying solo with them in a couple weeks. My older ones are 4.5 and 2.5 and I’ll have my 6 month old in my lap. Wish me luck! Thankfully, the flight is not too long.

    PS Some terminals at LGA are just as bad as LAX.

  208. omg. I totally GET YOU. I hate hate hate LAX and have to do the trip to visit in-laws every year at around Xmas and our worst trip was right before Xmas, from NYC to LAX with an 18 month old. Same experience as you: screaming, hitting random people (she has never hit a person before or after that flight of horror). Having lived through the screaming, lunatic behavior for SIX hours, with some awful side-eye looks from fellow passengers, I will tell you that it is just a stage. Meaning, the kids get better.
    1.Having said that – a seat is a must. It’s just money. Spend it. Your kid has to have his/her seat.
    2.Ipad with headphones. No other way around it. Even if he doesn’t watch any shows at home, or only has a short attention span.
    3.Million snacks.
    4.Some activities.
    5.I disagree with someone saying buy bunch of toys and wrap them – that will last 5 minutes. 10 at most. You would literally need a toy/minute x 10 hrs. You do the math.
    6.Kids don’t like to be confined (we don’t either, we just know what the fuck we are doing on the flight, they don’t) – walk. one parent walks up and down the aisle. half an hour. Next parent walks down the aisle. half an hour. Movie. Wallk. Bathroom! Snacks. Activity. etc., etc.
    7. Contrary to popular belief – unless your kid is a super sleeper and just total chill baby – avoid red-eye flights. I prefer to travel when they are full of life and energy but also not completely out of their schedule. We tried the “night routine” on a plane. Good luck. It just doesn’t work. They KNOW shit is different.

    One awesome thing about flights to Europe (I did a solo 12hr trip with the same child of mine, but this time she was 2 and a fucking angel). But, one thing, SUPER important thing of note: Europeans and S. Americans are AWESOME about kids on flights. and you have no idea how much that means when your kid is going ape shit. It means a ton. When we flew to Puerto Rico, then again to Mexico, and then to Poland and Italy – on all those flights people were literally passing kids around in the aisles. STRANGERS kids were being passed around. It was like a big family event. Everyone was chatting up with kids if they were unruly. It is only in the US that kids are considered 5th class citizens who should never make a peep, and the parents are considered the worst, if their kids as much as pipe up on a flight.

    Ugh. sorry. this was my rant. Anyways, the Spanish trip will be fine. TRUST me.
    xo

  209. So, first of all – good luck on your traveling plans, I really hope everything goes super smoothly!
    Secondly, there is a show on Netflix (not sure where else) that is called “Color Crew”. It’s absolutely bonkers. Basically, a bunch of crayons take turns coloring a drawing, and one of them gets overzealous and colors the wrong thing and then Eraser dude comes in an fixes it, and then they all color it right – in EVERY. SINGLE. EPISODE.
    It’s so dumb, and my son can watch it for hours, if I let him. He’s 4 now, but he’s watched it when he was younger, too. There are no words, and the music is simple and catchy. I believe there are only enough episodes to last a little over an hour?
    I don’t know if it’s the repetitive and simple action that he’s attracted to, but it’s totally his crack.

    Also, maybe slightly depriving him of TV leading up to the trip may up its appeal for him when he’s on the plane?

    Also, if you’re doing to do iPad, I had great success with Elmo ABC’s app. There’s enough to do for a toddler that he doesn’t get frustrated, but is entertained.
    Also also? If he’s still into trains, there’s an app called Build a Train where you put together a train and then it goes on different tracks where you tap switches and make it go in different directions. It appears to mesmerize toddlers, because my son and my friend’s sons did not even bother with the objective of the game, they just tapped and watched the train snake across the screen at different speeds. I think maybe at this age just controlling something is exciting.

    Anyway, hope it helps.

  210. Hi Emily,

    From a mother of three, born just months apart (ok, so it took us a while to figure out what kept causing that!) YOU are doing a GREAT JOB! There, I feel better.

    Mine traveled with me coast to coast and even a few times to Europe. I always brought a “sanity sack” for each of them. It was definitely low tech, a gallon sized zip lock bag, but it could usually handle the standard 6 hour flight. Here’s what I put in it:

    Pipe cleaners- The skinny and fuzzy kind. Endless possibilities for wrapping around fingers, and everything else. They’re a great ice breaker to the guy behind you. You know the one that gets stared at and plays peekaboo…. I’d just have my little spawn of Satan hand him one, and the next thing you know, it’s a pterodactyl!

    Lemon wedges – Just a few. Planes stink amiright? Putting these babies in a little baggie gives them something to sniff, squeeze or suck on (if he’s like my middle child)

    Yarn- A small ball can go a long way. You can tie a toy to the end and make a web. Have him wrap it around mommy’s ankles, or use the seatback tray as a loom. The yarn was always a good transition to getting them on their floor blanket too. And as tempting as it may be, repeat after me: this-is-not-a-leash.

    Floor blanket: Yeah, I know, I’d let my kids play with the dogs making mudpies, but there’s just something about the floor of a plane. I’d bring a microfiber towel that I could wash in a bathroom, they dry superfast and are about the right size for the space.

    Cherrios or fruit loops, any food with holes in it, he can stack them on the pipe cleaners or you can thread them on the yarn for a necklace. Hey, that guy behind you looks bored, why don’t we play Bombardment?!

    Stickers and bandaids. He’s going grow up to be a doctor/actor/designer right? Better start practicing

    Garden gloves – The cheap cotton gloves can become puppets, fruit loop repositories, a tickleoctopus, or a Schiaparelli hat!

    Throw all these in and a few favorite toys, and I was good to go. It wasn’t perfect. But even if he becomes the Tasmanian Devil for 6 hours, that’s only 6 out of the roughly 450,000 you’ve got. So whatever you do, you’re trying, and always remember, YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB!

  211. I was flying alone with a toddler and was nervous about it. The lady at the check in counter said something to me that changed my whole mindset. I don’t even remember exactly what she said but it was encouraging words…something about how she can tell I am a great mom and my son and I were going to have a great trip together. Anyway, it made me want to be a great mom….lol. So it helped me to have much more patience during that horrible flight than I might have other wise. So I encourage you……it will be alright no matter what. Try not to worry about what anyone else thinks. All that matters is that you all make it through it. You are a wonderful mother! 🙂 Enjoy him.

  212. I grew up in a military family, so we did a ton of flying from the time we were born, and usually with just

  213. I grew up in a military family, so we did a ton of flying from the time we were born – usually with just my mom, too! This was way before phones and iPads, and even before those little screens in the headrests. When we lived overseas and had to fly for 8+ hours, my mom would just give us benedryl and we would sleep the whole time.

  214. Dr john’s simply xylitol suckers!!! Can get on Amazon. Unlike other snacks that can vanish quickly, these entertain them for a long time, and they are good for your teeth too without sugar! (I’m a hygienist). The only downfall is that they are very sticky, but of course you’ll have wipes on hand.

  215. Can you request a bulkhead seat? Even if he doesn’t have his own seat, there is extra leg room and space for him to just be without bothering other people. highly suggest one on the sides of the plane. also- not sure his weight, but some planes also have the fold down crib thingy in bulkhead. 🙂 not sure what it’s actually called. Good luck!

  216. Hi Emily,
    First of all, I feel you, but I find Benadryl a TERRIBLE idea. It’s a kid, it’s hard(er) to travel with them, but you’re taking him to Spain and whatever awaits you there will definitely be worth it.
    Try not to stress out, and keep looking at it form that angle. And instead of drugging the kid, work out amongst yourselves how to stay calmer and handle this situation better. Bring a bottle of CALMOMILLE TEA (or fennel)(give him later on the plane) bring a few sachets, and just add cold water later. Will be Good for you too
    I would suggest keeping the day of as free as possible. At least one of you, and taking him outside
    (Not the patio) maybe Griffith park? Fresh air is the best medicine for kids, keep him active, let him wear himself out. By the time you get the airport and have to deal with the stress there, he will be super tired maybe cranky (like we would be if we had a filled day before) but that why one if you can take charge of check in craziness and the other can dedicate all time to keep him busy a bit longer. Try walking around with etc. once on the plane he will surely knock out. And yes, he won’t sleep all the way but likely much more. The rest won’t be so bad then, also, headphones/movies will be a good distraction (for a while…) but bringing stuff to keep him active are a better choice.
    And as soon as you get on the plane( seat for him or not, talk to the flight attandant and ask for an upgrade, ( it will be free and they often let you go to first or business class if seats are available which is mostly the case. Even if not immediately, sometimes half way through they’ll give you their cabin ( in which they take breaks in) just ask!
    Have fun in Spain!

  217. We flew cross country with our little bundle of crazy recently. I filled 7 zip lock bags with toys, books, knick knacks, paddy whacks and 1 snack. Every hour, I gave her a new bag to play with. Also, I brought one of those big wraparound nursing pillows, even though she is well past nursing stage, because it kind of gave her a “platform” to lay down on which made sleep a bit more likely for her.

  218. My toddler daughter will watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood from PBS for hours if we let her. (We don’t, but are going to on our next big car ride.) Also the videos from Little Baby Bum are great too. All nursery rhymes and silly computer animations but she IS captivated by them. Each video is a few minutes long but you can buy them in one pack so they last for a hour or so.

    I am usually very anti-screen time for kids but I totally do not apply that rule to long trips since they are so infrequent for us.

    Also bring some toys in separate bags. Don’t let him see the toys for a few weeks beforehand (or have them be new). Divide them up in lunch bags for how many hours you are going to be on the plane. Then each hour, he can open a new bag and have a new toy to capture his attention. Crayons are nice and he can draw on the bag with them too!

  219. OK, so let me first just say that it DOES get better! We just took our now 4 and 6 years olds on our annual flight from CA to VA and it was pretty darn easy. Usually I’m ready to slit my wrists by the end. One of the things that really helped us is a suggestion my Dr. made for a tonic that she gives her own kid to help her calm down and sleep. It’s Gaia Herbs Tummy Tonic. Yes, it says it for tummies, but it has all kinds of soothing stuff that helps them sleep. I can’t believe how it knocked my (albeit already exhausted but ramped up) kids out. The doc told me to get the Tummy Tonic that has Valerian, but I couldn’t find that one. So I just got the one without. It’s so worth a try!

  220. We flew with my toddler when I was heavily pregnant. Husband and I sat apart. Aisle 1 and 14. This worked like magic cos both of us got some rest. We also brought snacks (lots of em), containers and the rest that the other parents’ have mentioned. Happy holidays!

  221. medicate yourself and the kids!
    xo mother of two gremlin toddlers
    thank you for your refreshing honesty!

  222. When I faced this decision, I chose not to bring the kid. I don’t have family nearby, but very generous grandparents were willing to fly out from the midwest to LA and stay with my kid at our house for some bonding time while we traveled. In our case, paying for their domestic plane tickets was cheaper than buying the international ticket for the kid. It’s not just the flight. It’s the jet lag once you get there. An 18 month old won’t be *harmed* by a trip to Europe, but won’t likely *benefit* from it, either (unless you are visiting family). I don’t know if leaving him in some kind of good care at home is an option, but it’s the best advice I’ve got. (Of course, my kid is *not* laid back. We actually got applauded when getting off of a 5 hour flight, just for surviving the flight with him. ) Good luck with whatever you decide!

  223. Two things: Tonight and the rest of the month train Charlie to fall asleep while you hold him. We strapped our toddler in tight to our baby carrier (not loose!) and retrained him to fall asleep on us as we walked the neighborhood. Make sure he’s tired and in his pj’s. The second tip just helps with overall stress from making such a big mess. Place a big foldable mesh basket at your feet. It will catch all the toys and snacks that fall. (PS My husband and I often joke that airplane ticket prices are our birth control.)

  224. I’m from Oregon originally but live in Boston, and fly back 1-3 times per year to visit my parents. My daughter is now 23 months and has made the trip 5-7 times. We’re actually flying into the Redmond airport next week to spend two weeks in Black Butte! I read through a lot of the comments, and agree with a lot of the things that have already been said:
    1. Buy a seat. We started doing this when my daughter started to crawl and it became really difficult to keep her on our laps.
    2. Use the bulkhead row, if you can. It has more room on the floor and can become a small play area. On many international flights, the bulkhead row has bassinets for those that are under 2, so check that out if you can.
    3. We let our daughter walk up and down the aisles of the plane for hours. She touches people’s legs, takes their shoes, talks to them, etc. Most people seem to enjoy it, and for those who don’t, I’m careful about not letting her bother them again during her “travels.”
    4. Stickers and crayons work well. They make markers now where you can draw on the windows and then wipe them off again. We haven’t tried these yet, but I’m definitely going to buy some for our upcoming trip.
    5. Snacks.
    6. We check as much as we possible can, and so the only carry on items we are left with are activities for the kiddo and snacks for us and for her. I’ve come to terms with the fact that plane rides no longer involve sleeping, reading, or watching a movie. It’s all about keeping baby busy!

    I haven’t had much luck with apps, personally. I feel like most of the ones that I saw recommended in the comments are too advanced for a younger toddler. But my daughter does love looking at pictures of herself, so we use our phones for that. I hope that people that have posted have given you hope for your trip to Spain! Good luck!

  225. I totally hear you… we travelled for an 8 hr. plane trip with our 4 year old son and our 14 month old daughter. We didn’t book a seat for her, but Lufthansa has baby beds for kids up to a certain weight and height (85 cm or such). I had to call the airline in order to book the bed, but it really helped, because I could at least strap her in somewhere. The beds are made up about an hour after the flight takes off and are folded down to approx. lap height from the wall in front of the seats you need to have in order to use the bed. Negative side effects: your together with other babies who might have different sleeping patterns. Postive side effects: usually sympathetic neighbors and playmates for Charlie… Good luck and have a great time in Spain!

  226. Just returned from a trip to Italy with our almost three year old toddler and she was such a trooper on the plane. We traveled to Germany with her when she was 16 months and it was rough but you get through it. It’s a lot easier as they get older because their attention span is longer so they can sit through tv shows, ipad games, etc. 18 months is a rough age for long flights but just try to manage your expectations, know that it will be difficult and it usually always ends up being better than you thought it would be. Oh and buy him a seat, you want to get some sleep on that plane too right? We didn’t on our trip to Germany and totally regretted it, we had a toddler laid out on both of us for the overnight flight and we basically got no sleep at all. Also, the bulkhead seats are so much better for all the extra space you have for them to move around in and sometimes if you are lucky you can get a bassinet which is only available in the bulkhead on intl. flights.

    We found these items to be great for keeping her entertained at 16 months on the plane: pipe cleaners and cheerios, you can string them on and they take them off one by one to eat them, you can also use them to play, make shapes, etc., tape and stickers – we bought a roll of painters tape that kept her occupied forever and she loves stickers, new toys, introducing anything new keeps them entertained for longer than their old toys, lots of snacks

    You will also have to deal with the time change which is a real b**** so just be prepared for that. I read that the age of 1-2 is the hardest to adjust to the time difference, I found this to be true as it was night and day difference from our Germany trip (16 months) to our Italy trip (2.9 years).

    Good luck! At the end of the day, it’s all totally worth it, it just doesn’t always seem like it when you in the thick of it. Just remember, you will look back and laugh and remember these times fondly….someday….

  227. Thank you for this post!
    (from mama of toddler with hawaii and mexico trips booked)

  228. Talk to your pediatrician about Melatonin. Will help him fall asleep and stay asleep and he/she can recommend dosage based on his weight. Our bodies make melatonin naturally, so it’s not medication such as Benadryl. In fact, cross Atlantic travelers use it often to readjust to time zone changes. Other than that, I feel your pain. Mine are flying on their own, well out of that stage, but even as a traveler I feel sorry for the parents as I know it’s worse for you when your child is just being that, a child/toddler. Good luck!

  229. We flew to Italy when my daughter was about 20 months. One word: BULKHEAD! Whatever you have to do, get the bulkhead seats. (Call the airline to see if you can reserve them, show up early, etc.) We set up sleeping bags on the floor, gave a little benadryl, and the kids slept all night. (We took a redeye, too.) Also, go to Target and buy a bunch of little cheap toys, art supplies, etc. that you can wrap before and let him open as gifts. We also brought pajamas to change into, toothbrush, etc. so we could do our normal bedtime routine. It really set the stage for sleep time!

  230. Stickers – any kind, We use the dots for yard sales all the time. Also, colored masking tape. We make race tracks on the trays, pictures on the seat back, wrap our whole hand it tape. So much fun in one small roll. And Richard Scary books. So many pictures, we can look at them for hours. Good luck.

  231. gerber puffs!! I gave my toddler a few at a time and refilled her cup, she was just chewing for a while, lollipop for landing! stickers and cheap new toys.

  232. Great advice from everyone! I go every year home to Europe and
    when my then-toddler-now-teenager went the first time with me,
    I had great anxiety, yet I never had any problems. Year after year, she was a great little passenger.
    One year, there was a mom with her 9 month old baby and a 2 year old toddler on the plane. Both kids were crying and poor mom started too in the end. She was so utterly exhausted. A bunch of women who sat close to her – including myself – came together and started taking turns carrying the kids up and down the isles, so mom could catch her breath. The baby eventually
    fell asleep and the toddler calmed down too.
    I always offer my help when I see a mother in distress or at least be sympathetic towards her, reassure her that it happened to all of us.

  233. We traveled as a family from OK to Hawaii with a 2 and 4 year old this winter. I was so much more stressed about the travel and making our connections than anything else. Here’s my advice…definitely get headphones. If he loves certain shows at home, he’ll love them on the plane. Download more episodes of Thomas than you think you’ll need. All rules about tv go out the window on a plane. 🙂 Milo and Otis is a good, calm movie if he likes animals. At Charlie’s age my son liked anything with singing and dancing (talking lost his attention), so we watched a lot of Backyardigans and the Fresh Beat Band (FBB are real people not a cartoon, but SOOO less annoying or creepy than some kid shows) if you are looking for new shows. Favorite books plus some new books are good. Neither of my kids will color, so those options were out. Dollar Store toys can be a fun “new” thing to play with without breaking the bank. Take more snacks than you will possibly need, including special treats he doesn’t get all the time but loves. The flight attendant gave my 2yo a tiny coffee straw and she thought it was the most fun to drink my cup of water…and she got to eat the ice! Plus airline ice is shaped like a tube, so, even though it was little messy (I kept it from being crazy), it was super fun to put the ice on the straw and slide it up and down. Glow bracelets/necklaces can be fun and quiet if he’s awake in the night. Definitely do the nighttime routine on the plane. Even if it doesn’t make him sleepy, it takes up time as an activity. Take turns with your husband so neither of you lose your mind. And I did the bulkhead thing the first time I traveled alone with my oldest because that’s what everyone suggested…however, you have no seat in front of you to stash all your travel supplies under. I had to put everything in the overhead bin and then spent the flight panicked that he would lose interest in the three things I quickly grabbed before we sat down. If you do get an extra seat for him, whether you pay for it or not, he can lay down to sleep when you put up the arm rests. That was key for my kids sleeping on the plane, and amazingly, the flight attendants didn’t stress about waking them up until the last minute to land. I was so grateful. Charlie is at a tough age because he can’t totally communicate yet and just wants to PLAY, plus you hate to pay for a seat when you don’t have to. Over preparing is your best defense at this stage. Then when you travel alone you cherish the time you can read a book on the plane and carry a small bag. 🙂

  234. Ha! This post brings back memories!! One thing I always stashed away for crazy toddler/kid times on planes and cars was a bag of lollipops(the organic ones are great). For some reason this is a calming treat for the temper tantrum throwing set. Also CupOfJo has some good advice on this topic as well. Best of luck!!!

  235. I have the solution. Wait till he is older to fly with him. 🙂

  236. Yes, the kids’ headphones are key. We’ve flown with our 2 year old a ton since she was born (I’m now 7 mos pregnant with our 2nd), and she is the most rambunctious kid I’ve ever seen. But those headphones, and a selection of kid movies (Frozen, Curious George, etc) kept her entertained for about an hour at a time, between which we’d do a little aisle running or snacks or read books. Also, I pray this won’t happen to you, but when she was 18 mos we took her on a red eye to London and she literally never slept. 9 hours. Just never went to sleep. Fingers crossed for you…

  237. I am so glad my girls are in college and I don’t have to go back to traveling with a toddler phase. It is a total nightmare. I just want to reiterate how much I hate LAX too. I try and avoid connecting there at all costs. I will pay more to go through SFO, PHX, LAS, SAN on my way to and from Hawaii. Good Luck and enjoy Spain.

  238. We have traveled with our twins since they were nine months (almost 5 now). Buy him the seat, it’s worth every penny to let them wiggle around. We found the best time to fly is insanely early in the morning & by the time the plane takes off they usually are sleepy. Lots of snacks, lollipops work well. Stickers, toys wrapped are also a good idea, have a great trip

  239. we live in Hawaii so any time we visit anyone or go anywhere we have to fly. Flights are 6 hours and the only thing out the window for 5 of them is ocean. It’s a long and boring flight. But we have 2 kids and they’ve flown many, many times. Toddlers are so tough, but I do have some advice. First, over-bring. Bring anything you think might hold their attention. Toddlers can watch/play with something for 20 mins max, so bring a tons of things. Huge books of stickers and blank paper have been popular with my kids. Also, bring snacks and toys that are new…dum dum suckers, or a snack he’s had once or twice before and liked; a couple of new matchbox cars, or Lego duplos, etc. Also, forget movies at his age. TV shows are the way to go for toddlers. Mickey Mouse clubhouse has been a huge hit with both of my kids at the toddler age. That show works wonders. There are some pretty good apps for toddlers, too – my kids love the Lego Duplo apps, which are free and totally geared toward toddlers. My rule is that on an airplane my kids can have unlimited iPad time and I feel no guilt. My final tip is that when we had a lap child, instead of sitting next to each other, my husband and I would book seats directly across the aisle from each other so the toddler can get a little bit of walking time going back and forth between us. Good luck! It starts getting better around age 2.

  240. 1. I would call the Grandparents and ask (beg) them to watch Charlie. Pay their travel expenses and bring back awesome presents. We always lived far from both sets of grandparents and they willingly jumped at the chance “to have the grandkid(s).” We were never away long, but everyone was happy.

    2. I agree with the comment. “Set very low expectations.” If you get there without tearing your hair out and still speaking to your spouse. WIN

    3. Stickers might work as well as all the other hints. Operative word: might. Over plan like it’s a special ops mission.

    4. Hold off traveling with your kiddos until they’re in school.

    5. Happy Trails

  241. Oh man. We lived in Europe and Asia for the first 3 years of my son’s life, and 6 months into my daughter’s and there were many a plane trip to the west coast. I vote for buying the extra seat (isnt it 75% ticket price for that age?), bringing his car seat, and also getting the bulkhead. if you have all of these things then you are pretty much guaranteed a decent flight. Make sure he has an awesome nap (or two!) during the day. Sleep begets sleep! Get him ready for bed, pjs on, right before getting on the plane, then do the bedtime routine once the plane lights go off. Which is usually WAY later than you expect – 10-10:30pm- ish. bring his familiar bedtime books/stuffie/blanket.

    As for activities, i second the stickers idea (the “Usborne” books have awesome sticker books including one called “Going on a Plane”, which my kids still love). Also, little containers are key. i always brought my kids’ stacking cups (or at least the smallest 4) for stacking, hiding things in, putting snacks in etc. containers they can open and close themselves are good. raisins are amazing treats for the flight. never show them the whole bag at once. just small containers. and follow up with a good toy 🙂 those little dollar store magnetic drawing boards with the pens attached with a string (how come i have no idea what this is called??) magnadoodle? those are great. draw people or things he knows and he might get a kick out of it.

    It will be fine!!! you can do it!!!

  242. May the force be with you all and by all I mean everyone in the plane as well. Bottom line…almost everyone has been through this or will have to go through it so don’t stress about it too much…most people understand. Remember your little darling feels what you feel so think positive and peaceful thoughts remain calm. I never was one to do the benedryl thing but if you don’t you must try it on land first to see his reaction…he could be allergic or it could backfire. I remember one flight attendant giving us celeste an alcohol wipe the we smeared on the surface around us to mask the diaper changing smell…boys was that a godsent treat for us all! I didn’t even think to ask him where to buy it but bring a spritzer spray of a pleasant smell for the soil diaper change. Courage!

  243. I have no advice as I don’t yet have a toddler but all I can think of is how on earth my mother travelled with four kids all 18-months apart, from AUSTRALIA TO ENGLAND (!!!) on a regular basis. All I recall is when we were older she bought us each Converse mini backpacks and filled them with snacks and activity books. Also, on my first flight with her (London to Sydney, at under 6 weeks old) I vomited all over her an hour into the flight… My poor Mum!

  244. Our two toddler girls love these purple and mint Bose headphones: Bose SoundTrue Headphones On-Ear Style, Purple/Mint https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IUICQ9M/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_wwPLvbHR1SNJB

    The learning apps by Toca Boca are amazing. Especially Toca Boca Doctor. Also, download SoundTouch 1&2, VineKids, and a whole slew of kids music. The blog the kidshouldseethis.com also has good ideas for kid’s apps. Good luck!

  245. My daughter is almost 8 years old, but when she was younger I use to pack lots of snacks, and a bag of small toys, individually wrapped. When things started to heat up, I would pull out a mini gift, or a favorite snack… Play doh, magic doodle boards, craft bag, and finger puppets worked to grab her attention. Good luck and enjoy Spain!

    1. I second the stickers too!

  246. Yes to melatonin. And I’d suggest getting an adorable toddler backpack for his stuff. (Pottery Barn Kids has our favorites.) My kids love feeling big and people tolerate adorable kids better. Truly, them walking up aisles with their backpacks is sure to get an “awww” every flight.

  247. Jesus Christ that sounds horrible both as a parent and a passenger!! You sure you want to do the red-eye? EVERYONE on that flight will be wanting to sleep and what if your kid goes nuts?! I would DIE!! May want to rethink that idea or even just not take him yet? Wait for him to be older and more manageable for such a long trip?

  248. I always buy a new book and a new small toy or two and we pull those out soon as our daughter becomes restless. Also there is an app called Elmo’s ABCs that our daughter loves to play on the iPad. It’s a great learning tool and the videos are the classic Sesame Street ones to help little ones learn their ABCs. Lastly I’m looking to make a quiet book just for travel, look on Pinterest for inspiration and to find links to buy them on Etsy. Good Luck!

  249. Do you have a layover before or after you cross the Atlantic? Maybe you can book him in a separate itinerary just for the long leg of your trip and save a few hundred dollars. The extra space will make a big difference, certainly.

    I live in Spain! I love it — I have been living in Andalucia, about and hour and a half south of Seville, for about six months. I’m looking forward to reading about your experiences here! I am going to Tangier for the first time next week and have a long Emily-Henderson-inspired shopping list! 🙂

  250. 1. Duct tape. Sounds crazy, but you can duct tape the tray up and the buckle portion of the seat belt so they are not slamming the tray and getting themselves out. It was genius.

    2. Test the benadryl ahead of time.

    3. Gel clings, and a goody bag of snacks and coloring books, etc. We had a lollipop in there which we dangled as a treat to well in that worked like a charm.

    4. Bring your sound machine.

  251. I didn’t read all the comments so sorry if some info is a repeat. I realize Charlie is not 2yo yet but I have 2 boys (now 7 and 5) and have used Hyland’s Calm and Restful (homeopathic) for years – it really helps in anxious, stressful travel situations and when they are trying to get to sleep in a new place. Also, I go to the dollar store and stock up on new toys – airplanes, cars, stickers, plastic animals, magnets (again my boys are older now and don’t put things in mouth so this idea is for future), anything that is new to them. And we do have 2 sets of the Kidz Gear headphones – they work fine. For number 2, make sure you have 2 headphone connections or a splitter so they can both watch/hear the video. And tons of food — all types, healthy and not so healthy (suckers to help with ear pain). Food is a great distraction. And their favorite blanket and lovie. (also, extra pants/underwear and socks). And I think it gets easier with each trip!! Enjoy your trip!!

  252. I haven’t read all the previous comments (as I usually do before adding any comment) so forgive me if I am repeating anything! I moved from San Diego to Australia with a 15 month old and a three year old and it was basically 24 hours of travelling. Yes LAX is a biatch. We let each child pack a little suitcase full of toys etc and cars that “go”, a small ball, etc that you can play with and wear out your kid before boarding are good. Probably already been suggested but unwrapping a small cheap new toy every hour or so was a good time killer. Things like those colouring books with the “magic pen” that makes colours, matchbox cars, those stretchy dinosaur or lizard things, a new book, whatever Charlie is into. My son was very clingy so having him stay on my lap wasn’t really an issue; sounds like Zchsrlue is the opposite! I have heard a car seat can be a lifesaver in this case. Also, look into getting a bassinet (if u aren’t already flying business class) once he is asleep u can put him down in the bassinet. Plus you get way more leg room and typically everyone next to you has a bassinet too (kid empathetic) . Benadryl or melatonin can work really well, or it can totally backfire so definitely test it prior to the plane!! Have an insane amount of snacks; now is a good time to introduce a few new things you are pretty sure he will like. And there are numerous iPad apps I could recommend that won’t rot his brain! Try and get him “hooked ” on a few that you are pretty sure would
    Kill some time. Plane time is not the time to question anything parent-wise. You pretty much do whatever it is you need to to survive then tell them it was special because they were on a plane!

  253. Posting as a godfather not a father, but my friends booked their flight for swim lesson day because it exhausted the kiddo. Meaning he was a bear in the terminal but conked out completely on the flight.

  254. I had decent success with Tegu magnetic blocks and those reusable stickers (they stick well to the windows and tray tables!) while flying with my 20 month old last week. He’s also a big fan of Baby TV (there’s an app) available through ITunes. I’ll be excited to hear a recap after your trip; I started reading through all the comments but there were just too many to finish!

    1. Emily,

      I appreciate how vulnerable you are in your blog. Thanks so much for sharing this. I just travelled alone with my toddler last week and it was HELL. I went through so many thoughts in the plane, from shame to plain regret! I don’t know what I would do to make it better next time… I am just glad to see that I am not alone in the world!

      http://www.sandrabestdecor.com

  255. You’ve gotten a lot of great advice, and I agree with the vast majority of it – lots of tiny new junk toys, ipad apps/shows (and introducing the headphones prior to the flight), snacks, and pumping the child up about AIRPLANES YES SO COOL before the trip…. which then leads to the next day problem of the child wanting to go back on the airplane and flipping out about that. There is no perfect solution with kids, lol

    In a different vein of advice – remember that everything that makes airports and planes easier for you as a single adult probably makes it MUCH easier for you when traveling with kids. If you don’t have PreCheck/Global Entry – get it. Probably too late for this trip, but you will love it for the next – possibly when you are dealing with two kids. No hour long ling and not having to take off your shoes whilst holding onto a cranky toddler – heaven. Not to mention the line at customs when your kid is ready to be D.O.N.E with it all. Obviously the 3rd seat would be ideal, but that is a hefty cost. What about upgrading your seat using miles to business class? MUCH more room to spread out, and your pregnant back will thank you for the comfortable seats. Personally, for an overseas flight, I’d actually take the more comfortable seat over the 3rd seat, since you still get a lot of time with a toddler crawling all over you (shorter domestic flights they will perhaps stay confined in their carseats the whole time), but your body doesn’t feel like a crammed up piece of dirt the whole time they are doing it. You own your own business, so you should have control over how purchases are made. If you aren’t using a miles generating card, you should. Beyond the miles you could be reaping in while purchasing things for clients, they also come with perks that are invaluable while traveling, especially with kids. Like Priority/First Class check-in. And priority boarding, but I actually prefer to board at the last possible moment with kids. And a few come with lounge access, which I find HEAVENLY when you have a 2 hour layover in a loud, busy airport with a cranky toddler. That oasis away from it all, where you can find an empty corner to let him run while you have a DRINK is wonderful. Some – particularly at international hubs – also have child playzones.

    Again, it is probably too late for much of the travel tips. But you’ll be happy you did it for the next trip!

  256. Play dough!

  257. benadryl

  258. Remember how fast he’s changed in 18 months. Plan ahead and at the same time know he will be a new/different little boy in a month. For one, he’ll be airplane savvy.
    Don’t drug him and I mean with all the sugar type foods. No sugar, period, unless you want to encourage the hyperactivity.

  259. Emily, I have one word for you: Benadryl! Yes, I know it says on the package not to use it to induce sleep in children, but desperate times call for desperate measures! Just try it in advance to make sure that it makes Charlie sleepy, because it can have the opposite effect (wired!) on some kids. My daughter is OK on airplanes, but absolutely refuses to sleep while on vacation until we tried Benadryl a half hour before bedtime. Worked like a charm!

  260. I once flew Melbourne to London by myself with a 9 month old and a 2 1/2 yr old. I still don’t know how I did it. I remember the 2 year old are Oreos for breakfast and I wasn’t going to argue.

  261. I use lavender oil to calm…me and the kids! Also massaging their feet seems to help. You’re a doll, love what you do. Good luck!

  262. We traveled(or rather had to travel) with little kids a lot, transatlantic flights..
    There were no iPads etc., back then, and I think laptops didn’t even make their appearance yet.
    But there was this amazing interactive computer game for toddlers. It was called Tuneland. My daughter was able to easily concentrate for hour or more on it, and she was not a child with great concentration. Of course it was at home, because as I’ve already said, the computers were really bulky then. But I believe the game would prove its magic anywhere. Maybe look into it when you have time. Tuneland. I hope it still exists out there.

    I agree with everybody who suggested having little surprises, magnetic scenes/figurines sets, etc. Definitely take a separate seat.
    Be very careful about Melatonin-everybody’s different, and while many people handle it perfectly well, and praise it, I had an extremely adverse reaction to it. Never try new pills or mixtures when you’re travelling.
    PS LAX is not that bad, if you compare it to JFK, for example. IMHO.
    I wish you and your family a great flight and better experience next time!

  263. We live in France so we frequently have to do 10+ hour flights (to Oregon too!) and here’s what has worked for us:
    –tons of stickers/travel coloring books
    –hot wheels sized cars
    –books–esp small lightweight ones. This brand is amazing because they are meant for babies (washable, toxin free, rip-proof), you can fit a million of them in there because they weigh next to nothing:
    http://baby.steals.com/daily/deal/id/3005146/workman-publishing-indestructibles-set-of-4
    Also a tip for the books (or any toys for that matter) is to hide them a few weeks before you go so that they’re new again 🙂
    –taking full advantage of layovers/airport terminals to get all the running out of their system that you can
    –small little toys that you wrap up or put in small plastic containers to be discovered over the course of the flight
    –photos/photobook of family members (my daughter can spend ages looking at pictures of family members)
    –a student sized dry erase board to color on and then erase. Etch-a-sketch could be fun also.
    –finger puppets
    –small I spy bottle
    Hope that helps! Good luck! 🙂

  264. So much solid advice, I want to second the snacks! I always pack an extra bag (like a reusable small shopping) full of snacks like cheddar bunnies, blueberries, Cheerios, veggie sticks, fruit squeeze packs, etc. generally healthy so it’s not the end of the world if he eats more than usual.

  265. snacks! also, blue painters tape with a matchbox car (make roads/hills/bridges or whatever else on the plane table pull out thing) – pipe cleaners (or other sort of bendable item that keeps him busy!) – book with lots of different things to look at (ie/ Richard Scarry or other type of book)

  266. We did your exact same trip with a 19-month-old so I feel ya. There are so many fantastic comments here! So I’ll just share a few things from the top of my head:

    1. Build up screen time resiliency – our 19-month-old was only interested in the tablet for about 5 minute intervals and while we’re pretty strict on screen time at home I wish I had exposed her to longer chunks pre trip so that she was used to sitting and playing for a while. Seems counter intuitive but you want them to be engaged :).

    2. Try audio books for toddlers – if he’s a book lover it can be awesome to have someone else reading through their little headphones with a book on the screen (OverDrive app from the public library lets you download them).

    3. Bulkhead! – many airlines offer toddler beds (if they do pass out) for free and the extra play space is awesome. Call ahead to reserve those seats.

    4. Bring your carseat to the gate – gate check it if there’s no room to bring it on board (but there might be…). Also, bring a carseat bag for all toddler luggage (and treasures from travels) because those big huge bags ship for free! We stuffed my husband’s bag in ours.

    All of the awesome comments basically cover it, but I wrote a post on this a while ago over here too: http://www.pepperdesignblog.com/2013/03/19/tips-for-traveling-with-toddlers-2/

  267. After traveling alone every month or so with my two boys last year (at that time 1 and 2.5) I realized a bunch of tricks. Like others have said, finger food that takes a while to eat and is special- honey roasted nuts, goldfish, honey nut cheerios, pretzels, grapes, raisens, and bring at least two more snacks than they’ll need to eat, because you never know when those ten minutes of eating will give you a tiny break.

    Stickers just like everyone else has said. A brand new Richard Scarry book with a million pictures in it has saved me before. Or looking at the inflight magazine together and talking about every mundane detail of every picture. “Do you see the palm tree? Where is it?”

    We never used the iPad with the boys when they were that young, so letting them play with it was like crack. Just opening and closing adult apps was fascinating. Also downloading a few toddler apps can be fun for them. A warning- if it is too challenging for them, it can lead to frustration and anger!

    I got away with singing new songs quietly so no one else could hear. Or talking to them about how the plane works. Or telling them about the new place we’re going and the people we might see there. Talking about the captain and the attendants.

    Also, imperative at that age, is to wear them out in the airport. I quickly stopped taking a stroller, preferring to insist on their walking to wear out their little bodies so that they didn’t need to be active on the plane.

    For sleeping, I’ve had friends who use an eye mask for their daughter and it works like a charm. We’ve never had a night time flight, so I haven’t tried. We’ve also never needed headphones, so I’d rather not lug something that bulky around. I would bring diapers, tons of snacks, a new reusable sticker book by DK, and a new bog scale Richard Scarry book.

    18 mo is the hardest age for a lap child. Good luck getting a seat!

    1. One last thing- a really special treat on planes for my boys? Club soda. They think they’re drinking soda, and it takes them a million years to drink since it is so fizzy.

  268. How about a photo book that shows a day in Charlie’s life? Keep it simple so you can put it together fast – one photo a page, no text.

    Also, how come no one has suggested wrapping a bunch of dollar store toys and doling them out as needed? 🙂

    Ducking and running…

  269. Bring lots of little toys that he can open so that everytime he is squirrely he can open a new toy and play with it (guaranteed to buy you atleast 10 minutes!). You can get colouring books that just use water. THose are a big hit with my daughter. Get some new books, some lollipops, and some treats that you can feed him one at a time, very slowly. We flew 6 hours with my two and a half year old and it was already SOOO much easier than when she just turned 2. Good luck!!

  270. Ok, so we flew denver to Hawaii about 2 months ago with our 16 month old and here is what worked for us (no drugs or TV, but I am not above using either):
    1) snacks. lots and lots of small snacks. Cheerios, pretzels, raisins, grapes, raspberries, blueberries. Also (I know this is weird, but it was her favorite part): we got one of those old lady pill boxes and put kept refilling it with one item in each slot. it would keep her occupied for like 10 min at a time. use it 1-2x an hour. worth its weight in gold. Just pack enough snacks.
    2) I searched pinterest and did a whole lot of the “toddler busy bag” activities. But just the easy ones (that take little or no effort): Like take a plastic container and put holes in the top to push pom moms through. I did like 20 of them in an hour one night while watching tv and we only used half. I hit up the 1$ store and got stickers, crayons, pipe cleaners, 3-4 favorite books, a couple small cars, any small toy that you think can keep his attention. I estimated 1 trip up and down the plane each hour, plus 1 snack, plus 4 toys/games. (10 min an activity). The bag I took for her was ridiculous, but rather that then having a screamer the whole time.

    3) Remember to use everything at your disposal before you pull out toys: bottle of water (put stuff in, take stuff out), Cups from the flight attendant, barf bag puppets, the itsy bitsy spider: It is amazing what just reading sky mall with them will do.

    And when all else fails: Just remember two things: 1) you will probably be “on” the whole flight so don’t expect to relax or sleep and 2) it will all be over eventually:)

    Have fun!

  271. Perfect timing since I just traveled alone with a 18month AND a 2 1/2 yr old! Not sure what I was thinking? The 18month was a lap infant as well. Good God that was a long 10 hr day. I feel like when something works once, it doesn’t work again. All I was hoping for was 15 minute segments of busyness and then on to another 15mimute segment with something else. Headphones, I wished they would work but my two do not like anything on their head! Snacks, plastic cup from the flight attendants, and playing peek a boo with the people behind us (I still am thanking God for those nice people). I also tried the fly during naps, no chance for the2 1/2 but the 18 month old slept in my arms and all would have been great except his brother woke him up! We never use videos or iPads at home with them so I thought that would work…maybe 10 minutes tops. They played with cars on the arm rests and tray table for like 20 minutes but there is always the curse of trying to locate it when they are dropped. Benadryl didn’t work and melatonin I am not a fan of in young kids <5. Good luck and just keep thinking of the flip side! I had a mantra, I'm not the only one who has done this. It's only one day!

  272. I have three kids (ages 18 months, 7 years, and 22 years. Yes, really. Long story!) all have been traveling since they were born. Youngest has made the long trip to Europe 4 times already as well as Africa and the Middle East. Every one of them as a lap child. Most of the time, we have relatively great flights but occasionally you just have the worst. Flight. Ever. Play the odds. It’s always worth it for the experience of traveling with your kids!

    Couple things help:

    Paper and triangle crayons (so they don’t roll)

    Ipad with cheap headphones (forget expensive ones. The cheap ones don’t get as loud so the don’t hurt their hearing and they will likely get lost, stepped on or otherwise destroyed)

    Light up toys

    Blankets and letting go of germ phobia. Let them play and hide on the floor if you can keep your feet up. 

    Washi tape. Rolls and rolls. Cut them and use as stickers. Tape newly drawn artwork to the wall and chair backs. Rip up magazines and tape together. Make tic tack toe boards on the tray. Tape their hands together. Tape empty cups to the walls, napkins, anything you can get your hands on. 

    PJs for them to help sleep and leaves you with emergency clothes in case of blowouts or barf. Fresh shirt for you also. 

    Try to get as much rest as possible. Chances are you wont be getting any on the flight 🙂

    Good luck!

  273. Here’s my first advice on traveling with a toddler: don’t. I seriously call walking to 3 the “no fly zone” because they just don’t listen (at 3, they can be tempted with screen time. Though now that I have a 3 year old boy, I might adjust that upward).

    Since you are traveling with a toddler, BUY HIM A SEAT. Nobody wants a squirming toddler on their laps for 10 hours. The flight there will be OK, probably, since it’s overnight, but the flight back has the potential for horror.

    Buy a whole bunch of new toys and fun snacks – things that are usually not snacks, like fruit roll ups and lollipops, and ration them over the course of the flight.

    Ipads for everyone.

    It’s not the WORST idea to have 2 seats together and one separate and have you and Brian trade off on kid duty.

    Just do long term parking at LAX – if you book through cheap airport parking or the like you can usually get about $10 a day, and you have your carseat, etc. SO MUCH EASIER. You park in one of the hotels and take a shuttle to the airport.

    Did I mention snacks? Lots of snacks.

    In Europe, you probably won’t need a carseat (unless you’re renting a car – then take yours and bring it on the flight and STRAP him in) but you’re going to want a super lightweight stroller – the Maclaren Volo is my choice. Either get a carrier for your carseat that has backpack straps and push Charlie through the airport in your stroller, or strap the seat to the stroller using bungee cords and carry Charlie on your back – oh yeah, you’re going to want an Ergo or similar baby carrier.

  274. Sit separately from your partner! Seriously. Have one parent deal with the child for a couple hours while the other parent is able to relax a bit in a separate row all together and then switch. Switching off allows for a brief recharge session for each parent and is less draining overall.

  275. Um, teaching your brat some manners would be a VERY good place to start. You should be ashamed of yourself for allowing your child to behave like this.

    1. I assume this is a sarcastic comment. Otherwise, it’s totally obnoxious.

      Snacks, snacks, and snacks! But beware of overloading on sugary snacks. Avoid yogurt on the plane (ok in the airport). We grabbed some during a quick layover and ended up wearing most of it/cleaning it off the plane. Go for goldfish, pretzels, raisins, dried cranberries, cheerios, animal crackers, nut-free trail mix (I’ve been on several flights lately where nuts were banned because someone on the flight had an allergy). Have a different snack available for every hour. Love the pill box idea! Will have to try that.

    2. Perhaps take a look at your own manners before calling someone else’s child a brat.

  276. Oh so much advice. I lived in Houston, a 17 hour flight from home and I made the trip alone several times with my daughter.

    On the Benadryl, mine had a paradoxical reaction as well – I would also say check with your paedriatician that its ok to try Benadryl before the flight and the correct dosage. I’m a total worry wart and I would have spent the whole 17 hour flight paranoid if she had fallen asleep with the Benadryl.

    The best tip I received was to pack everything you might need in pouches (diaper pouch, snack pouch etc) and take these out of your diaper bag and keep them accessible, so if disaster strikes you’re not digging around in the overhead luggage in a dark moving plane.

    The other thing that worked really well for my daughter at that age was to fill (more) pouches with a random assortment of small toys and then let her sit on a blanket on the floor and go through the pouch by herself – totally bought me 20 minutes of peace at a time.

    Good luck!

  277. I just flew solo with my 6 month old and almost 3 year old. one flight was fantastic, the other, not so much. The new planes have smaller seats and NO LEG room. I fly a ton and this was the first time I experienced such a cramped space on the plane BEWARE.
    We flew to Italy from Denver last summer with our almost two year old. I would say 18 months is the hardest age as they are super active and can’t be entertained for long periods of time by the IPAD.
    My daughter loves the old vintage mickey mouse

  278. -vintage mickey on i-tunes. New york weenie..etc, they are short and sweet.
    -kidz gear headphones.
    -lots of art activities, if you can swing it…washable markers, coloring book, stickers.
    -individually wrap up lots of little toys from the dollar store.
    dollar store has great little toys that will be new to him for the flight.
    have charlie open one every few hours.
    -BUY HIM HIS OWN SEAT…he will be able to sleep/ stretch out that way.
    play dough.
    lots of snacks too….
    – i agree with the nanny. bring jammies, etc for the plane ride and do bedtime routine on plane.
    – no IPAD before sleep time, I would wait until you absolutely cannot entertain him anymore before breaking it out.
    – take lots of walks…..

    the flying during nap time trick has not worked for me yet….it ALWAYS backfires and they don’t sleep….

    have a great time…make the whole airport/ plane process fun and exciting.

  279. We’ve traveled a lot with our boys, in fact, we even took our first son to Europe at 3 months old. Siince then, we’ve traveled quite a bit, but there was a gap when my second son would not settle down on planes. After a terrible flight from SFO to Maui when he was 9 months old, we tried shorter flights to SD and LA, no luch. Thus, we didn’t travel again until he was 2. The flight to Boston was somehow amazingly stress free, not sure if it was his age or just that he became used to traveling. My boys are 11 and 14 now and have traveled to Europe a few more times, now they are pros…I do remember wrapping small gifts for them on the plane to keep them occupied. I also remember bringing tons of snacks on the plane for them and buying nice chocolates with a note to fellow passengers thanking them for their patience. In the end, it will be fine and the best advice someone gave me was to go with the flow! When you get to Spain, don’t be surprised if the little guy decides to wake up very early — our rule of thumb was 1.5 days of jet lag each way, after that they’re good to go. Have a great trip and please know that the more you travel, the easier it gets 🙂

  280. This is giving me PTSD. I have four kids and we live in CA and the grandparents live in DC so we are constantly trucking back and forth.

    My advice? Kargo Kids!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4SkoJy3D0M

  281. Hi There, I see you already have a billion responses. Here’s another. I may be repeating what others have already said. But honestly, you may want to just go ahead and buy him a seat? It seems unlikely that an international flight will have any empty seats on it. (I just read a nyt article about how airlines are flying fewer planes and over booking the existing flights.) We have a 2 1/2 year old son and we’ve traveled a lot since he was 3 months old — both families live on the east coast. I traveled alone (and quite sick) with him from Louisville to Portland, OR last month. Our flight was delayed 3 hours and rerouted through Atlanta. The flight from Atlanta to Portland is 4.5 hrs. We got extra lucky with a bulkhead seat. Do whatever you can do get a bulkhead! There’s enough room for him to stand up and play and still be contained without bothering other people. And there’s no ones seat to kick. We cancelled a trip to Copenhagen and Rome after realizing the cost/benefit ratio was ridiculous. Good luck to you guys. You’re brave! And have more energy than me! 🙂

  282. Two words. Peppa pig. Best tv show. Short simple and strangely watchable for adults.

  283. the whole Benadryl thing… first, i haven’t flown with my 3 year old yet… but we’ve survived several 10+ hr car trips from Maryland to Buffalo. I never even gave thought to the benadryl concept… my only suggestion there would be to make sure you give it to him on Italy time… you’d hate to have a perfect sleeping angel all flight and then just when you’re jet -lagged and ready for a nap at your hotel, he’s bouncing off the walls from all the rest he got. although the thought of giving my child any medication unnecessarily makes me uneasy… i would try Zarabee’s natural children’s sleep chewables in grape, or Vitiver and Lavender oils rubbed on the bottom of his feet to help calm him down. (yes, i’m that kind of crunchy mom)

  284. I have two boys – 2 and 4 – which provides me with many an eyebrow arch or sympathetic smile when I lumber onto an airplane. My secret weapon is a making a special travel kit. I hit up the dollar store for hot wheels, trucks, (read: boys), puzzles, books, crayons, etc. I wrap them up so they can open something new when we’re on the plane and with our seat belts on. Oh, and I also have a few extra one-offs in my bag depending on the length of the flight so they can have another new thing to play with. True, it could be construed as bribery, but it keeps them occupied and happy. (Ahem…thus keeps me happy). This combined with iPad games, videos and favourite snacks has helped save my sanity on long flights. Happy travels!

  285. > Start collecting small random toys and keep in a zip bag he cannot have access too i.e.. Silly puddy, magna doodle (small one), Little army men, etc ( give these toys only when he starts to get insanely bored do not blow through them)
    <Buy snack and wrap each one in tin foil so ha can open himself
    <get small lotion, rub slowly his bak and arms and legs to relax He can do it to you too
    < Stickers and put on your nose, his nose , your arm his arm You get the drift
    <Try videos with kids music and dancing little kids love to watch that
    < Make a small cheap photo album of all he's family members aunts uncles cousins parents etc even pets so you can sit and lablel them over and over
    Good luck!!! You got this

  286. I recently flew with my 18 month old son and here are some things that worked great for me:

    1. Play-doh! We just pulled down the seat tray to use as a table and we played for two good 30 minute intervals with that. Best airplane toy by far in my opinion.

    2. Sticker books. A train sticker book specifically because he was obsessed with trains at the time.

    3. A “coloring” book with a paint brush that you fill with water. No mess and you can use it over and over again.

    4. Regular books.

    5. Pipe cleaners to make head bands, necklaces, etc.

    6. Lots of snacks.

    The trick we found was to have enough activities so that you basically had something new to do every twenty minutes or so. It’s a lot to pack, but it’s the only way given their attention span.

    As far as movies, my almost two-year-old son loves Finding Nemo. He also likes Frozen. Not many other movies keep him interested. Other than that, Sesame Street.

    Good luck!

  287. I get the impression that Charlie is the love of your life (besides your husband of course). So why risk his safety by having him sit on your lap ? Unfortunately there are plenty of occasions where aircraft hit mid-air turbulence, and infants are thrown around with awful (sometimes fatal) consequences – something I’m sure every parent would want to avoid. So buy the ticket and take the car seat, strap him in and know you have done everything possible to keep him safe. Just my opinion of course.

  288. Hi Emily, so we went to Ireland last year with a teen and a toddler ( I know) and what I learned is… red eye is best, please book the little man a seat… because if they sleep and you don’t and you have to contort yourself in a seat with a toddler you just won’t sleep at all. When you arrive in Europe and it’s morning, they won’t understand and they will just think it’s morning… so good luck with that, someone will end up being awake for 24 hours. Maybe you can draw straws.. although I suppose you have the pregnancy card, that is a valid one. Make sure you have an early check in to the hotel because at least there you can pull the blinds and convince everyone it’s actually night time. Tv is king at all times anywhere in the world, it’s the universal pacifier. Download what he likes in case it isn’t there… Accept that it’s just not fun to travel with children. It’s not at all. I remember looking up travelling with baby while at the airport and one blog post came up, it gave me anxiety reading it because it was basically like “DON’T DO IT” so you can either don’t do it… or just do it and make the best of what it is… it’s just not the same, you will end up in the hotel room at 7 pm watching crap tv and wondering if you couldn’t have done the same thing at home. But you know what, seeing things for the first time through your children’s eyes… priceless. Can’t be beat, ever. No matter what, it allows you to see things anew yourself.

  289. Emily, we just flew JFK to LAX with our 26-month-old, so I totally feel your pain! Headphones are totally key – my daughter loves Daniel Tiger, which we just discovered, and I think it would probably work pretty well even for a younger toddler. We got these and they were great:

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0007NWL70/?tag=headphunboxe-20

    I also recommend either buying 5 or 6 small new toys or taking away 5 or 6 of his several weeks before your trip, then wrapping them and giving them to him once per hour. That actually works really well. Some of these can be new books – on a trip last year I brought Bugs Galore, which I think I read to Mirabelle for a solid hour of the flight, and it’s such a great book I didn’t even mind.

    Good luck!

  290. This was a while ago (my daughter is 32) but we flew to Europe when my daughter was 15 months old. Nervous, ya think? So, in anticipation of a flight out of the Twilight Zone, I asked our pediatrician what she would recommend for the flight. Her suggestion was Pediacare Nighttime Relief. She felt that the added benefit of the decongestant would help keep my babies ears from plugging up, not to mention the sleep benefit. That and a bag ‘o toys that I doled out regularly AND the bulkhead arrangement (we brought an extra blankie and actually put it on the floor (I know, I know, yuck) and she slept like a, well, baby. Bon Voyage, Good Luck and keep on traveling with your kids!!!!!
    P. S. I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your blog and you’re adorable.

  291. I would definitely try and wait to get a seat for free. My husband, my mom and I did a 30 hour (!) trip to Malawi, Africa with our 8-month-old daughter. We planned to have her be a lap infant, and there were a ton of seats on the plane. The flight attendants worked really hard to get us an extra seat for her, so thankfully we had an extra seat for her on the long flight there and back. This made a world of difference because she could lay down.
    My daughter is 18 months now and she loves Daniel Tiger and Dora the Explorer. When I turn the TV on, she says, “Backpack! Backpack!” which is a character on Dora. So maybe you could try those?
    Also, I haven’t tried it, but I hear that Children’s Benadryl works wonders.
    That’s about all I got. I’m really nervous when we go back to Malawi (my husband is from there) with her being the age she is now. And we also have another one on the way!

  292. I go to the dollar store and grab cheap toys that will fit in my bag. Save them for the trip so that my son has never seen them before. Then when things start getting crAzy I pull out a toy and let him play with it. When he is over it, I pull out the next one. Works pretty well!

    Also random…but I’m a nurse and I happened to have a roll of plastic medical tape in my purse from work. This occupied a lot of time. George was obsessed with it! I also love the sticker idea!

  293. Maybe trying a tiny dose of melatonin. It is the horomone that puts our body to sleep, so it’s all natural. I would usually give it for long road trips and flights. It works like a dream! I know it also comes in strawberry dissolvable tablets. 🙂 Also, trying lavender essential oil works great sometimes too and it’s pretty calming.

  294. for us it has all to do with what we do before we get on the plane! When travelling between Europe and Thailand in Feburary our 18 month old got to shuffle the carry on all around the airport 3 times. This time travelling from Europe to US he discovered the “moving stairs” (what are they called ?), what he didn’t understand was that you could ride it up and down if you only had some patience so 10 times he walked down regular stairs and the moving up and 10 times the opposite. An exhausted toddler is happy to sit!!!!

  295. Omg this was a hilarious post!

    #1 for us was going to the dollar store and buying a bunch of small crap and wrapping it up like presents. Then bribe them with a new present every time it’s about to get crazy. Stickers or other art stuff, playdough etc.

    #2 a bunch of bags of tiny amount of different snacks. The variety will keep things a bit more entertaining.

    I can’t believe how many people would give their kid Benadryl. I would not do that but I would make sure not to give the kid any sugar or juice that entire day and they will be so much chiller.

    Maybe you could bring a flashlight and a blanket and do a little fort down on the floor.

    We always just walked the aisles with our toddler and ignored the stares and eyerolls.

  296. Single mom here and very much appreciate the shout-out as you did!

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

  298. How could manage this website in such a great way

    1. That’s really great post again.