I am currently in the midst of planning my son’s first mid-western adventure. While we drive back and forth to North Carolina at least every two or three months we have yet to board an airplane with the little fella.
So far he is excellent travel partner and almost never complains during our long six hour haul north or south. We keep him fueled with lots of snacks and try our best to drive during his nap time, but when he wakes he usually smiles, looks out the window and asks if we are at home or the ocean, depending on which we are traveling.
I’m not particularly nervous about taking him on an airplane, but if I have learned one lesson in the first two years of his life it’s that I have to plan as much as possible to ensure easy sailing.
Here’s the advice I’ve gathered so far:
- Take the car seat on the plane. Kids won’t wiggle and ask to run around the cabin if they are strapped into a car seat. They know once they are buckled in they can’t get out until someone assists them. Plus, although it’s a pain to drag a car seat through the airport you’ll have one ready when you reach your rental car. Rental car companies cannot guarantee the availability, safety or cleanliness of car seats you rent.
- Consider purchasing a lighter car seat to make travel in and out of the airports easier. We currently own a a Britax car seat, but a friend recommended the Cosco Scenera, because it’s slim enough to fit within the confines of the airplane cushion and only weighs 11 pounds. (Not sure it’s worth buying an extra car seat when we already have one?)
- That same friend also recommended purchasing a car seat trolley to save our backs and keep one hand free to wrangle and chase after our son. (Anyone own one of these? Are they worth the $65 price tag?)
- Use a baby carrier in the airport rather than a stroller. We own an ergo baby carrier, but haven’t used it much in the last year. (Any advice on this topic? Do you check your stroller with the rest of your baggage and what type of stroller do you bring for a toddler? I am considering bringing an umbrella stroller, but I don’t know how useful that will be if it snows while we are out west. I could also bring an older stroller we used for my son’s first year. If it’s damaged while traveling I won’t be upset about it.)
- Travel with a back pack. Again so one hand is free for wrangling.
- Pack twice as many snacks as I would typically provide. Choose treats that take awhile to eat like raisins or cheerios. This will keep my son occupied longer then a drinkable snack or something that can be easily chowed down.
- Pack small toys to serve as distractions for the three and a half hour plane ride. Stickers, Crayola invisible markers and dry erase boards with crayons are just some of the examples. Pick a few favorites and include a few new toys that might keep him occupied.
- Allow my son to play with my iPhone, iPad and any other digital device he seems interested in. Give up on any rules for limited screen time. If electronics keep him happy then have no fear handing them over to him.
- Bring a change of clothes for my son and a clean shirt for both my husband and myself. This ensures we can change if we get doused in milk or God forbid vomit during our trip.
- Don’t board the plane early. This forces the little one to sit still for an even longer period of time than typically necessary. (Any advice on this topic? I’m a little worried about waiting and then trying to wrestle the car seat into place while people are waiting in line behind me.)
- Buy a book about airports or check out one from the library. Point to the details in the book that explain what an airport is, how people board, etc. This will introduce my son to the process well in advance. My son always behaves better when he knows what to expect and what is expected of him.
- Bring along a sippy cup to help ease ear pressure.
If you have any advice on the bulleted items above or any additional words of wisdom please send them my way. I really could use it.