Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On Flying with a Two Year Old

We just returned from our week-long cross country trip (all the way to Pennsylvania!).  Many, MANY more pictures to come from that trip, but first: flying cross country with a two year old.

I can sum it up in one word:


Truly, it wasn't that terrible.  Partly because I have the coolest two year old around, and partly because I researched the HECK out of "flying with a toddler".  Seriously, my google search box automatically completes that sentence when I put in the letter "f".

Here's some of my personal helpful hints:

1. If you have to take a long flight (our flight from PA to San Francisco was 5.5 hours!), maybe try taking a short flight before your long one as a "practice" flight.  A year ago, Cole and I flew on our own to Seattle to meet up with my parents - a ninety minute flight that helped prepare me for flying single with my little man.

2. The best decision I made?  To bring our car seat on the plane.  I seriously had a hard time deciding if I should or not (you can get a car seat with a rental car), but I knew my little man would have a hard time sitting still in his seat and napping in his seat on the plane.  In his car seat, however, he rarely tries to get out and naps really well.  He knows that when he's in his car seat, he stays strapped in until Mama takes him out - something I thought would be helpful on the plane.  And I was right - Cole napped like a champ on the plane in his seat, he never even asked to get out of it, and when I did take him out (when we landed) he was all over the place pushing buttons and getting into things. 

HOWEVER - it was a HUGE pain in the tushy lugging the carseat through the airport.  I mean HUGE.  Also picture this: walking onto the plane holding the car seat, Cole's backpack, pulling the suitcase, with the diaper bag on my shoulder bumping into people in their seats, trying to herd Cole down the aisle.  It was awesome.  But I decided it would be worth it to guarantee his good behavior on the plane - and I think I did right.  I had dozens of people comment to me on how quiet and well behaved he was.  Many people were even surprised to see he was on the plane as they were exiting - he was so quiet they didn't even know he was there!

3. If you do bring the car seat, a few tips:

   - I made a version of this car seat luggage strap:

    It worked amazingly!  It's only $15 on Amazon (I made my own for around $4 because I am super cheap like that) and worth every penny.  This way, I could check the stroller (one less thing to worry about), and not have to carry Cole OR the carseat.  It was easy to attach the carseat to the luggage and pull it along, with or without Cole.  Cole was super happy and content to ride in it all through the airport - I seriously should have made a few dozen more because I could have sold them all to admiring strangers!  It was a bit of a pain to unhook the car seat to go through security and also when getting onto the plane, but no more than a stroller would have been.

  - If you bring the carseat and install it on the plane, ask the flight attendent for a seatbelt extender as you board the plane.  The way airline seatbelts work, it's impossible to open them when you belt in a car seat - with an extender, you can open it from the side.  Saves you from having to call in maintenance to remove the back of the airplane seat.

4. Some people swear by the ipad or portable DVD player - we truly had no use for them.  Cole napped for a bit, snacked for a bit, played with stickers for a bit, and read for a bit.  We brought along a TON of snacks (most of them super unhealthy carbs like goldfish, animal crackers and Annie's bunny grahams, but oh well...), a TON of soft cover books (including some new ones to bring out in emergencies), pipe cleaners (I made them into letters while Cole told me what letters they were...then he had to find the letter I told him to pick out), and Gram brought Cole some stickers which were a huge hit. 

5. We purchased a toddler-sized backpack for Cole to pack his own entertainment possessions in.  I'm a big believer in that if they are big enough to have their own seat, they are big enough to be responsible for their own things.  If you can walk, you can help out carrying luggage.

So there you have it!  My little world-traveler's advice for traveling with a toddler!  Anyone else have anything to add? Leave me a comment!

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