Monday, May 25, 2015

Travel with a Toddler: Readers' Airline/Airplane/Airport Tips

Ready to take to the skies!
Earlier this month, I asked my readers to share their best toddler travel tips in a bunch of different categories. Want to know which category elicited the most tips? Yep, air travel. It's something that many toddler parents dread (and if you read some of the stories below, you'll know why!), but it's also something that many parents seem to have a pretty good handle on. Read on to learn from those who have it all figured much as you can have anything figured out when a toddler is involved.

(Note that these tips primarily deal with the practical aspects of air travel, airline recommendations, etc. For ways to keep your toddler entertained during your trip, check out my post and links on that topic. And, as always, I would greatly appreciate it if you'd shop via the affiliate links in these posts. Thank you!)

Now for my readers' tips:
  • We are on a trip right now! Try to avoid a flight that leaves in the middle of nap time, if you can. We use a Cares harness on the flight and offer him a treat of a couple of mini m&ms (which he doesn't normally get) when the buckle goes on and when the fasten seat belt sign goes off. Sticker books that have reusable cling stickers are fun on the plane. Matching games on the iPad kept him entertained for a while as well....The best advice that we got on his very first flight at 2 months: throw all rules out the window on a, videos, etc. it will be more fun and less stress for everyone. -- Barb T.
    • The reusuable stickers were a godsend on our toddlers first flight. I also agree about throwing the rules out the window to make it less stressful. -- Lisa S.

  • For flights, we are almost exclusively Southwest fliers- automatic family boarding after the A group, super accommodating of kids, and very reliable and efficient when it comes to flights being on time. We have had good experiences with Virgin America as well. At SFO they allowed family boarding right after the business class boarding. -- Kaitlin W.

  • I always book the first flight out in the morning. I've found its less traumatic to get my girls up a little earlier than to risk a cranky kid who is missing a nap. Also balloons are fantastic for layovers. Find a quiet corner and blow one up. Tons of fun for a toddler, they don't take up space and you leave it behind at the airport. -- Jen K.

  • American Air is not kid friendly. Southwest is the best. I avoid layovers for the most part & choose our schedule depending on his age/nap schedule. I always pack tons of food...A lot of prepackaged/individually wrapped. I do usually bring a few snacks in our hard sided containers to use throughout the trip. Usually one or two Uncrustables (they're frozen so they last a bit), nuts, granola bars, Justin's almond butter, Crushers, fresh fruit - all in a small TJs cooler in a backpack. As much protein as I can find, basically. I also bring empty water bottles for all of us. -- Allyson S.
    • Could not agree more about American!! We had a mix up with our seats and we all ended up getting separated. They told us there was nothing they could do and made our 4 yr old and 2 year old sit with strangers! The flights attendants were horrible and it took many people on the plane that offered to switch us seats and me crying hysterically to get it sorted out. All the while they stood there telling us there was nothing they could do. I was furious and will never fly American again. -- Jerrica R.
    • Every flight I've endured with them they emphatically claim they don't do family or pre boarding. Sadly, the attendants all treated me like dirt, too. Even when I tried the "self-deprecating/I promise we're low maintenance" route. Take your time & don't listen to any negativity if you encounter it. -- Allyson S.

  • We prefer to fly Delta with the kids. They have always done an excellent job catering to my kids. The pilot has always given them wings after the flight to pin on their shirts and the attendants ALWAYS come with snacks and drinks if the kids sleep through the usual delivery. We have had multiple occasions where they give them the big bags of trail mix that you usually buy instead of the normal snack of peanuts. We love Delta...When booking flights, I always look for a flight with a 1.5-2 hr layover. Most people hate layovers but it really gives kids time to stretch out, run around and get some food in the bellies. It also gives you some time in case there are issues with a flight...missing a connecting with kids is a nightmare and hustling through the airport to make a flight in 5 minutes is not a picnic. -- Jerrica R.
    • I totally agree with layovers--a chance for everyone to stretch, eat and take a breath. -- Alison B.

  • If you're flying, EVERY kid needs a seat and carseat. The peanuts are tied down, your child deserves that safety as well! -- Rebecca K.
    • If you're flying transatlantic this may not always be possible. British Airways has a weird policy that you have to have your under 2 on your lap in a seat belt extender for take-off and landing. Your kid's car seat is just sat next to you in the almost full price seat you paid for until the seat belt light goes off... -- Lisa M.
    • Alitalia was the same way. They follow their own rules and are not bound by the FAA! Foreign carrier do an excellent job with providing amenities for kids on flights, though. We've been to Rome, Spain, Germany and Japan (all separate trips) with toddlers. -- Tracie L.

  • Go-Go Babyz is an absolute Godsend for traveling with a toddler. Also - the Diono car seat is a slimmer seat and fits perfectly into an airline seat. Other than that - snacks and an iPad are the other must haves! -- Jessi B.

  • We also use the Go-Go Babyz car seat transporter. Strap on the car seat and its a stroller in the airport and then my youngest sits in the car seat on the plane. No need to struggle with a stroller and car seat. -- Jen K.

  • Had a great experience on Southwest Airlines with my 2yo twins: small activity packet with colored pencils from flight attendant, they took my complicated drink order in stride and offered lids on every cup (1 ginger ale, 1 water no ice, 1 cup of ice and 2 empty cups)! -- Jennifer L.

  • Gear I would recommend - for younger toddler take the carseat onto the plane (check it fits first some are pretty wide) and a Go-Go Babyz to make the carseat into a stroller through the airport. That helps keep the kid still while you are unloading things in security and also means you don't have to carry the carseat. For older toddler we use a cares harness and check the carseat in. Last time we had a toddler (who still slept in a pack and play) and a newborn so I bought a travel bassinet for the baby and it fit nicely in our suitcase. Carrier was essential for travelling with a newborn! Having our own carseats is so helpful because we changed cars a few times on our last trip. Make sure you have headphones for kid to watch videos. Preparation - I pack away the favourite books about a month before our flight (a 12 hour international one). Richard Scarry Things That Go is perfect because it has so many pictures. I packed one bag to keep near my feet on the plane for easy access with snacks, toys, books, diapers, and one bag to put overhead with things I didn't urgently need (changes of clothes, my stuff etc). That proved very helpful because we had a sleeping stranger sitting next to us and couldn't access the overhead locker easily. Plus I needed to go into the bag about 100 times! For older toddler have a tablet loaded up with videos and headphones. They especially love watching videos of themselves so make sure to put some of those on there. Wear shoes like flip flops that can be removed really easily through security. Pack way more snacks than you think you need. -- Jenny P.

  • We also travel alot and mostly cross country. Red eyes can be touchy. The 3yr old was so excited last time that he stayed up much to the chagrin on the people in front of us. I only do dirext flights with the kids. If we cant go direct, we don't go at this time. With a toddler and a disabled child, it is a big no no. Jetblue and Virgin America are also kid friendly and disability friendly. Super nice staff. -- Carrie W.

  • Check the carseat. Gate-check an umbrella stroller. Bring lots of snacks, new toys, and a change of clothes on the plane. -- Christina B.

  • If traveling abroad exchange currency at the airport! Best to do before you go, but if you can't do it when you land before you leave the airport. Was a nanny on a trip to London. Insisted on exchanging my cash. Doesn't take long and fun to show kids the different money of the country we were in. Luckily I had that money as the 5 yr old got sick a few hrs after we landed and his parents had to take him to ER. I was the only one with cash and none of the taxis would take cards. You just never know with kids and esp in foreign countries good to be safe with some cash ready in hand for emergencies. -- Katie O.

  • I try to book flights early in the morning when we're all fresh. If we're traveling down to SD we pack the car the night before & leave SJ at 4am so that LA isn't a total nightmare (same thing on the way best on the way home) & so by the time the kiddos are fully awake we've completed most of the trip. -- Robin M.

  • I've read about planning flight times around when baby will sleep but I learned that they are either going to sleep or they aren't so book a flight when it's convenient. If you can, buy them their own ticket. Even if you don't bring the car seat onboard, having a seat for them makes all the difference. Weeks before the flight try to adjust baby's schedule to work with your flight time. I would love to hear tips on entertainment for toddlers for long flights. We'll be traveling again soon with a 14 month old. -- Stephanie L.

  • For the past 7 years, I've taken from 1-3 children on long haul flights (Sydney and Hong Kong). What has worked for me is a carrier (Ergo or wrap) for the youngest, one of each child's most favorite books, light snacks galore, and Usborne activity cards and a color/doodle pad for each child who uses them. I also bring hand sanitizer and then wipes for easy and quick clean ups. But most important is setting expectations before hand - I started talking to them about long trips when they were around 18 months of age....and they've all been great long distance travelers! -- Queenie Y.

  • These have been a huge hit! You can buy replacement paper. In my version, the crayons are triangular, so no rolling. -- Bethany E.

  • We're taking our kiddos to Maui in August - granted our kids have flown since they were 6 months but we definitely try and fly midweek (esp the days people travel the least), try and board as early as possible...Big thing we always keep in mind when we travel (esp flying) that their schedules will always get thrown off. So we try not to stress too much about it on vacay. One other thing - we ALWAYS fly direct, at least right now. We feel out kiddos will do better with layovers when they're older. -- Sherri G.
    • Respectfully disagree - try to board as late possible and allow the kiddos as much time to run around as possible. The shortest amount of time being pinned into a small airplane seat/space the better. -- Suzanne F.
    • Suzanne - noted. We do let the kiddos run around as much as possible as well. You make a good point. -- Sherri G.
    • Sherri Shieh Gierer have to tell you with my kids, took them to Maui when Kami was just about to turn one. She turned one while there. We ran that girl senseless and she was still a handful on each way! You've got great kids that, like you said, have flying experience so you'll be ok! Depending on what carrier you take, they may have tv's. We always carry the iPads for the girls. They are much bigger now, but they have so many great learning apps! Have fun! Can't wait to go again soon! -- Chrissy A.

  • I love the idea of a travel section on your blog. My toddler is 2 1/2 now and so far we've had our fair share of air travels (2 trips to Europe (meaning 4 international flights), 4 trips to Florida, 1 Hawaii and a few more within a 2 hour radius of the Bay Area). The toddler holds his own membership for 2 different frequent flyer programs already. Sign them up, as soon as they turn 2 and need their own seat. I always try getting the window seat and the middle one next to it (since I fly mostly solo with the toddler). This way the kid can jump up and down, climb on the seat, stand on the ground and do whatever they do without kicking someone else. Also, I always check the car seat and never! use it inside the plane. I've seen parents not only struggling with installing the bulky thing but also ending up "sitting" in it, because the kid didn't want to be restrained for more than an hour or two. I always travel with a set of clothes to change (sealed in a waterproof ziplock bag) just in case. We always take overnight flights for trips longer than 6 hours (the kid will fall asleep eventually) and morning flights for the shorter ones to avoid nap time. Virgin America and Hawaiian have been the best so far. Arrive ahead of time at the airport so the toddler can run around the airport (after security) and let off some energy before boarding (some airports even have family rooms with playgrounds like the one in Zurich, Switzerland for example). Once on board we have tons of snacks, disposable bibs and wipes and a tablet loaded with toddler friendly apps and a bit of TV as well as toddler headphones. Our travel motto is, whatever works to keep the toddler happy, his parents sane and the fellow passengers somewhat friendly is ok. So all the regular no tv/ipad/phone rules go out the window. We also have some books, the fisher price doodle pro or water wow as well as reusable stickers and a currently favorite toy as well as one or two brand new toys (nothing fancy just something new to keep them busy). We always keep the toddler stuff in an extra sackpack / drawstring backpack inside our carry-on to be able to quickly grab/put it back in the carry-on. During the flight we "hang" it at the armrest or table so nothing rolls around and everything is within reach without having to constantly get up an open the overhead compartment. -- Cotta N.

  • If traveling with a child on your lap book a window and aisle seat towards the back of the plane, leaving the middle seat empty. If the flight isn't full it will be easier for the flight attendant to move someone in a middle seat than a window or aisle. Additionally choose seats towards the back of the plane because middle seats seem to fill up from front to back. Six trips before my son turned two, and on only one leg of one trip did this fail to work and get him a seat! -- Laura F.

  • JetBlue has been very family friendly for us. -- Sarah K.

  • We fly cross country at least once a year with 3 little ones. We love JetBlue for several reasons. The TV in the back of the seat keeps kids entertained and there's lots of channel choices but, bring your own head phones. Bring your kids car seats. They settle faster in "familiar surroundings" and when they're strapped in. Just know that the airline will only allow a car seat to be installed in the window seat because it may block the way of others if it's in the outer seats! -- Jen S.

  • Alaska airlines preboards families with young children. We just flew home tonight and they seated us even before first class. We like to board early to set up the car seat without holding up too many people. They also have one designated bathroom with a changing table. I hadn't noticed that on other airlines. Southwest will board families between groups A&B. We've met families that have paid for group A priority for one parent who will get on first to grab seats before the rest can board. My daughter hasn't ever had an issue with her ears until this trip. She had bad pain upon landing at our destination. We all got sick and discovered earplanes. They are earplugs to help stabilize your ears. We are so sick that it still hurt tonight, but my brother in law said they were amazing! -- Jen W.

  • Babies and toddlers don't necessarily need a carseat on a plane, but it's safer. Also, if you bring one, you don't have to worry if the rental car company has them. -- Dawn S.

Do you have any travel tips to share? Please add your own in the comments section, and I will incorporate them into the post. Thanks for reading!

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1 comment:

  1. Nice post ..I am looking for a place to visit with kids. Do you guys have any idea about the best holiday destination to visit with kids


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