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Monday, February 18, 2013

Flying with a 2 year old

We just got back from a trip to Tampa and I thought I'd share my experience on what worked and what didn't as we took Sam on his first airplane ride. Like I do with most things I'm trying for the first time I researched the hell out of flying with a toddler. Thank the lord for blogs and google!

1. Talk about the upcoming trip. We started this a few weeks before the trip and I ordered this book from Amazon so Sam could see and be able to identify some of the things we might see in the airport. It was less than five bucks and we took it with us on the airplane. It's also a good distraction since there are tons of things to look at on each page. I could ask him to find the alligator or the bananas and he would search for it and it would help pass some of the "no electronics" time during takeoff and landing.

2. This little sticker book was essential. Seriously. I wish I had bought one for each leg of the trip since the stickers really didn't re-stick as well as I would have hoped but for $1.50 I couldn't complain too much. This one only came out when we were actually ON the airplane. And once we got home I actually threw it away. This way if we fly again we can get another one and it won't have lost its luster. This actually wound up being the best entertainment for the plane. I've never really let Sam play with stickers since I'm too scared they will wind up everywhere so it was quite a novelty item.

3. I got Sam his own backpack which he liked the idea of but refused to put on his back. (I actually ordered the Skip Hop Fox one off amazon but it didn't arrive in time so I ran to Target and bought the Monkey one. I'm still a little devastated that the fox had to go back because it was the cutest thing ever but really who needs two toddler backpacks? It's hard for me to talk about but I'm getting over it.) It did work great as a diaper/snack/toy bag throughout the week since I didn't bring our regular diaper bag with us. But mostly I just used it to pack his toys for the plane in. In the bag I brought two wooden spinning tops and a wooden jacob's ladder, cheap plastic animals from Target's birthday party section, Imaginext Toy Story figurines, the Hess truck race car that winds up, the books above plus two Dr. Seuss board books (Go, Dogs, Go! and Put Me in the Zoo), his JellyCat sheep and the blanket MeeMee crocheted for him as a baby that he sleeps with every night. *Ugh I just saw they have an elephant backpack! And here I am stuck with this dumb monkey. Grrrrr.

4. Like I said above, I left our regular diaper bag at home. We have this Skip Hop one (in a pattern called Blossom that isn't available any longer) and I like it alot since it hooks on the stroller, is messenger style, and is masculine enough that Reid will carry it. But the messenger style isn't always my favorite so I used Reid's old college book bag to carry our things on the plane. This way my hands were entirely free and I didn't have to worry about the flap coming open and stuff spilling everywhere when I had to kick it under the seat for takeoff and landing.

5. It goes without saying that the iPad was involved when electronics were allowed on the plane. I didn't download any movies or get any new apps. I did purchase a pair of children's headphones which Sam was excited about at first but then refused to wear. They are like these but have chickens on them! I didn't really worry about the noise from the iPad since the noise on the plane muffled the sound of his games and he didn't seem to mind not being able to really hear anything so it worked fine.

6. It also goes without saying that there was food involved. But not the food I expected. I definitely overpacked when it came to the snacks department but I figured better safe than sorry. Sam loved the individual bags of Quaker Oatmeal Squares cereal which he's had on car trips before. I packed plenty of lollipops and fruit snacks as a last resort and not once did I have to pull them out. Sam enjoyed getting his own cup of orange or apple juice from the flight attendant and we also snacked on a couple of GoPicnic boxes I picked up at Target! Those things are seriously the best. I will definitely be using them in the future. On our way back we had some long wait times at the airport so we took that opportunity to sit down and eat instead of grabbing something and waiting at the gate. I think this helped keep Sam on track with meals even though they were a little later in the day than usual.

7. We chose to do flights with one layover as opposed to going the direct route. Not knowing how Sam would react we didn't want to be stuck with him on a plane for four hours. We had less than 5 minutes of crying on all four flights and that was only when we walked onto the first airplane and had to sit in our seats. I'll admit I had a little panic attack myself since it was early in the morning and one of those tiny airplanes but he got over it after a few minutes and it was smooth sailing from then on out.

8. Run! We had to return our rental car to the airport at noon and I thought our first flight was at 2 but it was actually at 2:40 so we had some extra time in the Tampa airport. We were stuck in that particular terminal because of how their security is set up otherwise we would have rode the tram around to kill some time. Instead we took turns letting Sam run the length of the terminal. He got a kick out of us "chasing" him and killed some time all the while burning off some energy. I'm convinced the running helped him get tired enough to take a nap on this flight which was a blessing and a curse.

9. If you can afford a seat for your child, do it. I couldn't imagine holding Sam on my lap the whole time. He's only two months past the age limit to do so but I just think it would be miserable trying to juggle all that.

Now for things that didn't work......

1. Masking tape. I had seen someone suggest that you bring some and let your kid stick pieces of it everywhere. Cheaper and easier to clean up than stickers I suppose but Sam didn't want to touch it. It DID come in handy when it came to patching the tear in the stroller bag though.

2. Window seats. Sam couldn't care less about looking out the window and we kept the shade down most of the time. On one of the flights he sat in the middle seat next to a stranger and that didn't seem to bother him either. I just didn't want him on the aisle since I figured he might try to make an escape.

3. Sitting in the back of the plane to help mask any noise he might make. This was a recommendation I saw online somewhere and I imagine it would be good if a child was crying but truthfully I hated this. We sat in the very back on the flight out of Tampa which is when Sam fell asleep. I could barely hear him when he would ask me for something since it was so loud and there was a non-stop trail of people using the restroom the entire flight which meant I kept having to shift his head over as he slept in my arms to keep people from bumping him.

Do I look like I just spent the week in a hotel with a toddler or what? I'm pretty sure I could no longer feel my arm.

We did the early morning flight on the way down and the afternoon flight on the way back home and I would say both were fine. Sam does alright when he goes without a nap for a day or two so we can be flexible that way but if I had a choice I would do mornings. I'd rather arrive at my destination and still have some time left in the day as opposed to getting home at 10 pm and having to go straight to bed.

I was brave (or crazy depending on how you look at it) and didn't bring a gazillion changes of clothes or diapers on the plane with us in the event our luggage was lost. I had a pair of pjs for the flight home and put those on him once we landed in case he fell asleep in the car on the way home from the airport.

I went through the hassle of buying a new stroller (off Craigslist naturally) since our Graco stroller was over the 20 lb. weight limit that American Airlines has for gate checking and I was glad I did. I couldn't imagine using an umbrella stroller all week. I ordered a padded bag for it but like the backpack it didn't make it in time so I used the red gate check bag they sell at Babies R Us and it did ok. I brought two bungee cords and secured the stroller before putting it in the bag since some people complained that theirs got jostled a lot since the bag is so large. I just used the bag for laundry once we were at the hotel and kept the bungee cords in the basket beneath the stroller and it all worked out great. There is one small rip in the bag and a few dirty scuffs but nothing that can't easily be repaired. I was really worried about it since it gets such terrible reviews online but I would say it did it's job just fine with the precautions I took to keep the stroller closed. 

Phew! What a long post. Sorry for the lack of pictures but there really isn't much to show except for all the products. And all of my links go to Amazon but the majority of the stuff came from stores that almost every big town would have so it shouldn't be too hard to find any of it.

*I feel like I should also mention that I was not flying alone since a lot of other posts seem to be about that. I had my husband as well as one of his coworkers with me although they sat behind or in front of me and Sam on every flight. I don't know how I would handle things differently had I been alone but truthfully I think it would have only affected getting luggage to the gate to check in since I didn't have to do any of that myself. 





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