Monday, November 8, 2010

Top 10 Tricks for Flying with a Toddler

Since I've only taken two flights with the arrow, I feel very unqualified to offer up advice on flying with a toddler.  But I did pick up a trick or two on our to/from Phoenix flights that I wanted to share. And my best piece of advice? Just do it. You'll survive, I promise!

Running around the terminal.
1) Waiting in the terminal is not the time to be a lazy parent. Get up and move with your toddler! Find an empty waiting area, explore the people movers, if nothing else, stand at the windows and look at the planes. Just move.

2) A well organized activity bag. I spent a lot of time packing our two carry-ons for maximum toddler entertainment. I think I'll be blogging more about that in the future. If you're the top of person who throws a few things in a bag before heading to the airport, you might want to put a little more thought into your carry-on when flying with a little one.

3) Stock up on drinks before boarding the plane. The arrow was a thirsty guy on the flights, and it helped his ears to pop. But the beverage carts only come around once, so I was glad that I had an extra bottle of water in my bag to refill his sippy cup before we landed. Also, there wasn't milk offered (or at least our US Air flight didn't have any.)

4) Put the plane to work for you. The arrow had fun looking out the window, especially while we were on the ground. We pointed out the guys putting bags on the plane, the orange wands they waved to direct the pilot, and the buildings below us getting smaller and smaller. He liked playing with the window shade. So we spent as much time on all these things as possible, which meant we didn't have to dip into our bag of tricks as often.

5) Don't be terrified of crying. First of all, the engine noise really does mute it. You'll probably only be bothering those seated immediately next to you. We knew when the arrow had reached the point of exhaustion and then we stopped trying to entertain him. He started to cry, so I rocked with him in my arms and whispered some songs he likes in his ear. He continued to cry, but two minutes later, he was sound asleep. I'll take 2 minutes of crying in exchange for a 45 minute nap, and I'm sure my fellow passengers agreed.

6) Divide and conquer. When boarding, my husband got on as soon as he was allowed to with all our bags. He got us situated, bags stowed, etc. Then I waited with the arrow (running around the terminal, remember?) until most passengers had boarded. This cut down on our time on the plane by at least 15 minutes.

7) Pick a few favorites, and a few new items. We brought a lot of the arrow's favorite books, because I knew he liked looking at them over and over. But I also packed a few new treats, and he really enjoyed playing with something new for a while. We saved the new things for when we were struggling a bit, and the novelty of whatever it was reduced the fussiness.

8) Snacks. Always a good time killer. Like the tip above, I packed some of his favorite snacks, and also a few things he'd never had before that I knew he'd like. Same strategy as above. And a shout-out to the Gerber Graduates Juice Treats. Not something I'd ordinarily feed the arrow, but they were really chewy and helped his ears to pop.

9) Forbidden items. Is there something your toddler loves that you never let him play with? Is there a way to take advantage of that on a plane? The arrow has broken two pairs of sunglasses and constantly tries to swipe my husband's glasses, so they are always off limits. Before our flight, I bought a cheap pair of kiddie sunglasses, and packed that in our carry-on. He was thrilled to finally be able to play with glasses!

10) Read what the real experts have to say. I relied greatly on the wise advice of Delicious Baby's flying suggestions. Find a blogger with kids your age, and see what they do to pass the time on a plane.

This post is a part of Top 10 Tuesday at Oh Amanda.


  1. I really liked this post! ...and actually do use some of those tips for my younger brothers (15,11) on our annual road trip to church convention 8 hours away. =) These tips do work on older kids, too! =D Food and games are awesome time killers. I love the forbidden items idea =D - wouldn't probably work with the bros, but if I have children one day, that would be something I would try =D

    I hope you have a great week!! =)

  2. Great tips--I agree, the bring old/new items always works like a charm!

    When my son was still an infant, I just walked to the back and hung out w/the stewardesses for awhile. They gave him extra crackers and oohed and aahhed over him. That was a nice break!

    Thanks for linking up! :)

  3. This is fabulous! We're flying with our young toddler after Christmas, so I'll need to remember these!

  4. Great post! Love the idea of boarding at separate times - what a great tip.

  5. I love the "forbidden items"! I'm feeling confident on the open road but we're tackling the air next year.

  6. I agree with so many of your tips -- running around the terminal is KEY! I also think lots of favorites plus new novelty items is a great idea.