When traveling with a toddler there can be some anxiousness involved. The stress can become very real when you have a toddler like ours that likes to be on the go constantly. We have traveled quite frequently with Cal especially after my family was safely able to gather again. He is going to be two and has been on more than 12 flights and a handful of road trips. My first blog post about Calihan’s travels was how we travel with an infant – read here. I will say it is a different ball game when they can run or fight being on your lap. This brings me to my first tip –
Snacks were so helpful during these last few flights with Cal! We would bring snacks for the plane and have snacks for when we are waiting at the gate. If lunch time or dinner time can happen before your flight – I’d recommend that so their belly is happy! He would sit in the chair that we wiped down and it kept him still for a good amount of time. The in-flight cart service was happening on our flights also so that helps. The biscuits/cookies they hand out are his favorites! The snacks we brought and his water bottle seemed to help his ears as well during takeoff and landing!
As you can see, this is a benefit for the parents and child all in one. I wrote in my infant blog that having an aisle seat was beneficial because it is easier to get up with your little one and bounce them if needed. I have realized that for a toddler, the window seat was much more beneficial as Calihan was able to look outside and see the clouds and other planes.
He loved pointing out the sky, clouds, planes, drivers with the luggage, and more. This kept him busy as we were about to take off and also landing. I also believe its comfy for him to curl up with his blanket up against the window. Kids can be a lap child up until two years old. We have paid for a seat before to test it out and it was not worth the money. He wanted to be on our laps the entire time and the seat was just empty. Which is why I mention below double checking on if the ticket is worth it.
Pros and Cons of having your toddler sit on your lap
Pros: the biggest one is saving money. I know flights can be expensive so keeping your child on your lap up until two can save some extra money! Another positive is if they wouldn’t use the seat anyways. If your child likes to sit on your lap, then having an empty seat is not always worth it.
Cons: Having less space and we are in a pandemic. Airlines are now filling planes. If your child is a lap child and it’s just you and your significant other, you will most likely have someone sitting next to one of you. We always make sure the parent not holding Calihan is sitting in the middle seat. This makes less contact between Calihan and someone else. We are in a pandemic still and vaccinated or not we still choose to be as careful as we can be while traveling. The extra seat makes sense for the space, but was not worth it for us.
I would determine if purchasing a seat is worth it to you by what is important. We do not mind Calihan sitting on our laps (also less for him to touch) but we also know people that do not want their child on them the whole time and that is perfectly fine! This was his last trip he is able to do that and I did bring his birth certificate just incase they asked!
Important Item and Choosing Tickets
As you can see, Calihan is quite long and is really pushing it to be a lap child. The age is under two years old – but safety is also important. He was thought out to be three years old from a few random people at the airport and the final kind lady at boarding also questioned his age. I figured this would happen and so this last trip I brought his birth certificate. Realistically you should bring this anyways but they never ask for it. I fully believe that the lady boarding wanted to ask for it but ended up not because they were trying to board quickly.
I also would try to get straight flights. This can be difficult but the quicker they can get to the destination, the more sane you will all be. There are certain locations that this is not possible and when we eventually take him to South Africa I will be able to write a better post on those SUPER long flights. Purchasing a direct flight will be easier. Also if you can be picky, timing is everything. Flight times used to not matter but now getting a flight that doesn’t interrupt their sleep times is helpful. We try to get a flight during nap time or some time earlier in the day because the one time we flew late at night, he slept but then was wide awake until 2 am. We landed at 12:30 am and he was incredibly confused. Again, this is not huge but I would just look into options and if the price point works – go for the easier route.
Distractions & Burning of Energy
Distractions are key to also surviving a flight with a toddler! This is not on purpose, but screen time is a treat to Calihan because we are usually outside or playing as much as we can. Lyall and I aren’t big tv watchers unless we have it on for background noise. The best distraction however was Disney+ on our phone so Cal could watch a Disney movie or Bluey. Airplanes can have TVs as well on the back of seats which has helped a ton in the past with shows. This time however we did not have that so making sure his tablet or our phones were ready to go was a must! He has this blue tablet I will link below and it has been a life saver with games and shows for him during these flights.
Another fun thing that seems to work is window stickers! The little stickers you put on windows are a great distraction for kids if they are in the window seat on a lap. Just know they are for ages 3+ so watch to make sure they do not go in their mouth. I have also found bringing one small car has helped with him focusing on the car driving on the table in front of us. Other options that I will include below are coloring books, especially the ones that only work on the specific paper, and books in general. Snacks, books, toys, screen time, and if nothing else works – we bring out the blanket and his favorite stuffed animal (an Okapi) and that will at least calm him down.
We also love to burn as much energy as humanly possible before we board! We walk around with Calihan and go to an open spot away from others and let him run it out. The last time we were in an area that did not have that many people so we were able to let him walk from one side to the other on the moving walkway (walking escalator). That made him pretty tired when he was boarding. The less energy – the easier the flight is.
All items below are items we have and use!
Always have extra clothes accessible! Calihan opened his water bottle on the flight and water went flying everywhere. This was because of the pressure (yes that also can happen). So another tip is make sure to be careful opening certain sippy cups. He was soaked. We laughed it off with him and grabbed out his change of clothes quickly. This situation could have been horrible but it’s not like he knew that would happen! They could get messy from the snacks or water or absolutely anything. The extra clothes are always worth it.
Enjoy the Flight!
Last but not least, try not to stress over things that are out of your control. Just like at home how each day is unpredictable with a toddler, a flight is a new experience. Your child will most likely feel the pressure in their ears or feel like they want to move more instead of stay seated for 2+ hours. The best thing to do is try to remain as calm as possible. The other thing is many people on the flight either “remember those days”, “going through those days”, or aren’t in that stage yet so they can’t judge something they do not understand. The calmer I was, the better Cal handled all situations.
Try to breathe, and enjoy the flying experience with your little one! You got this!