Did you know that before kids turn two, they fly free?! So, when my kids turn two, you can find, at the top of the birthday gifts list, “Frequent Flyer Number”. We have family and close friends all over the country. Weddings, new babies, reunions, work — there is always a reason to get out of town, and we almost always say “yes”. We travel a lot. Since we’ve moved to Birmingham, my kids have been to the airport more times than they’ve been to McWane, the zoo, and Target combined.
With all that travel, we’ve had some easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy flights and some no-good-very-bad flights. Flying with little ones is not for the faint of heart, Mama — but sometimes, it must be done. So, I’m here to equip you with some of the things I’ve learned from my many hours of parenting in the air at 35,000 feet.
I think that one to two-and-a-half years age range is the hardest for airplane travel, and I have some tried and true tricks up my sleeve. It takes a bit of planning, some preparation, and one trip to Target. That little bit of work will save you hours of wrangling once you’re in the air. So, here you go!
- Car seat. If you’re on an airline where you know there’s an extra seat next to you, bring the car seat. Hauling a car seat through the airport is a pain in the buns, so I recommend a car seat caddy like this one. (Your car seat will clip into it just like the LATCH technology, so don’t worry if it’s a different brand.) Keeping your kiddo strapped down will provide you much peace of mind and keep your hands free. We typically fly Southwest, where they don’t assign you a seat, so we bring the car seat every time and just ask once we get to the gate if there are any extra seats. If there aren’t, you can gate check the car seat; the agent will put a tag on it, and you take it down the jet way and leave it just outside the plane. It goes under the plane, then you pick it up as soon as you get off the plane.
- Washable window crayons. If you take anything away from this, let it be these. They’ve kept my kids busy for hours. (Okay, like 15 minutes . . . but in kid time, that’s like two hours, right?!) Kids think drawing on the windows is the coolest thing! Just keep your baby wipes and a dry napkin on hand to clean it up.
- Stickers, paper, and tape. Tape a sheet of paper to the tray table and let your little one peel the stickers off the sheet and stick ’em to the paper. Add some crayons to the mix and they can create a masterpiece!
- Feathers. Sounds so weird, but I bring a small bag of colorful feathers and we blow them around and let the kids play with them. They love it.
- Snacks. Lots of ’em. And preferably something that takes a very long time to eat.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I want to share something with you. When my kids are old enough to sit still, the tips above get almost wholly tossed out. For that age, my travel tip Numero Uno is this:
When your kids are old enough (to sit still — not to have “screen time” — silly AAP), bring an iPad and snacks and let them run free with it.
For your sanity. For their sanity. For the sanity of everyone on that flying tin can. Let go of that judgmental pre-parent, “I’ll never let my kids do that” nagging. Just bring the dang tablet, forget about counting the screen time, and sit back and enjoy your flight.
Are you still curious what it’s really like flying for the first time with your little one? Check out Kristin’s awesome post about hopping on her kiddo’s first plane ride here!