Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Flying with an 18 Month Old

Our trip to NJ last weekend was worth the hassle and lots of fun.  We saw Henry's great grandmother, grandmother (celebrating her 60th), uncle, aunt and a slew of great aunts/uncles and first cousins once removed.  It was not, however, the smoothest of trips.

Henry and I flew direct from Chicago to Newark.  I checked the car seat (free) and pack 'n play ($25).  I packed all our clothes, etc. in my carryon - a lightweight multi-day backpack (camping style).  We got lucky on our flight out:  no one in our row and zero delays.  Yahoo!  Our return flight had a different tune.  The following occurred simultaneously at the gate:  they announced that the flight was officially canceled, Henry started inconsolably screaming and he took a dump.  I cracked.  I was crying, he was crying and everyone else was staring.  Nice.  Chris called the airline while I waited in line and got us on the 7pm flight.  Note our canceled flight was at 10am.  Don't worry, my brother was able to pick us up (after dropping us off earlier).  What potentially could've been a horrible day turned out to be another nice day of visiting with Henry's aunt and uncle.  Our return flight was delayed an hour, but we did have the pleasure of meeting some of the morning spectators who drunkenly recanted the morning events.  They were stuck at the airport all day - what else is there to do, but drink?  The actual flight was fine.  We got the bulkhead and again no one sat next to us.  I think airline employees know to give a break to single parents flying with lap toddlers.  LUCKY LUCKY ME.  Although, Henry didn't sleep a wink on the plane, he was an angel.  He conked out in the car ride home from the airport.

Flying with an 18 month old is not easy.  I'd say it is the hardest time to fly.  They are mobile and determined, but not yet interested in watching movies for long periods of time.  To avoid disaster - remember that something always goes wrong, but you can mitigate the damage by being prepared.

My tips for flying with a toddler:

  1. Before you buy your ticket consider your child's sleeping habits.  Will he sleep on the plane?  If not, try to plan your trip during waking hours.  Per my story above, things rarely go as planned.
  2. Purchase a direct flight.  Changeovers involve more delays and more logistics.
  3. Be extra nice to your ticketing agent.  Sometimes they will block out the seat next to you, or get you the bulkhead row.  
  4. If you can afford it (most of us can't), buy him a seat and bring your FAA approved car seat - I've heard good things about the GoGo Kidz Travelmate
  5. Bring a backpack (hiking style is best) with lots of pockets (Gregory Muir 24 Daypack) in lieu of diaper bag - keeps hands free
  6. Lightweight stroller that can be pushed with 1 hand - I love our Bugaboo Bee for this.
  7. Pack favorite clean snacks and save them for take off and landing - when you feel your ears pop, pop a snack in his mouth (as you know swallowing helps alleviate pressure)
    1. Dried cherries 
    2. Squeezable fruit:  Plum Organics Baby Food, Sweet Potato, Corn & Apple, 4.22-Ounce Pouches (Pack of 24) - See squeezable fruit and veggie post coming soon.
    3. Animal Crackers
  8. Favorite clean cup for take off and landing
    1. Straw cups are helpful so he doesn't have to tip back:  NUBY BPA FREE 2 Handle 8oz. Cup / Flip-It Straw Top, Boy Colors
  9. Sing songs and play lap games before breaking out the toys.
  10. Assortment of new and favorite toys/book/crayons - try www.mybusykit.com if you don't have time to put a bag together
  11. Try a video iPod, DVD player, laptop or iPad for a few minutes of peace.  Henry lost interest after 15 minutes.
  12. Keep things compartmentalized for easy access - reuse clear plastic bath toy totes or ziploc bags.
  13. Opt for clean pre-flight airport meals
  14. Have wipes readily accessible


  1. hi there - i just came across your blog, and i think its pretty cool. i have an almost 14 month old son, so we have lots in common. just curious about the nuby straw cup that you mention in this post - is it easy to use and suck...i am having trouble finding one easy enough for our son to use. he loves to sip out regular soda cups (filled with water of course).

  2. Yes! The nuby is one of the easiest straw cups we've found. He just has to bite on it to get the liquid out, which they tend to do anyway. Plus the straw is bigger than most, so they get more fluids from one sip!