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How is it flying with a toddler ~ need advice please!

How is it flying with a toddler ~ need advice please!

Mar 2nd, 2007, 09:58 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 9
How is it flying with a toddler ~ need advice please!

Hi all. We are thinking of flying with our 21 month old, but I am nervous & have a few questions for those of you who have flown with a child. The flight will be relatively short, NY to FL, 3 hours. Here are my questions,

1. At 21 months should we bring a car seat? We are definitely buying a seat for him on the plane (so the 3 of us can have our own seats together), but is it worth it to bring a car seat? My son usually likes to walk around a lot, he gets fussy if he is in his car seat for longer than 20 minutes (we have never taken him on a long drive either). I also thought I might not need a car seat because we were thinking of renting a car in Fl with a car seat (can you do that?)
Also, if you rent a car with a car seat, is it already installed (I ask this because I have not installed my own car seats, I usually have our local police dept. do it)

Also, I have heard comments about kids having a lot of ear pain w/ takeoffs & landings. Does this pretty much always happen? (My son has never had an ear infection.)

Overall I just wanted to know is flying with a toddler. I want to go on vacation & have my son experience the ocean, but Iím mainly concerned about the ear-popping thing & the fact that he likes to toddle around instead of being in a car seat.

I really appreciate any/all feedback,
~ Marina
oceanmarina is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2007, 12:50 PM
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 3,221
We've been travelling with our daughter since she was 6 months old, so here are my thoughts...

Wouldn't hassle with car seat on plane, BUT do check with your airline. Some of them have restrictions/requirement. They all generally have info on their website about travelling with infants/children. Very smart to get his own seat on the plane.

Yes, you can rent cars with car seats. Generally, you'll have to install it yourself, but you could certainly ask rental company for assistance. You should probably learn how to install it yourself anyway since you may want to use it outside the car at times.

Many if not most kids have ear problems with takeoffs and landings. They are very sensitive to the changes in air pressure and ear infections have nothing to do with it. Bring something for him to drink, eat, suck on (juice, sucker, etc). Give it to him when you get on the plane (and when the plane starts its initial descent). Don't wait until you're accelerating down the runway - it's usually too late at that point.

Definitely have some things to entertain him. As you know, he won't be able to walk around at will. Whatever small things entertain him at home, bring them - along with one of his favorite things (stuffed animal, etc). My wife found some plastic decals in a variety of shapes that would stick on the window, tray tables, etc. and then just peel off. Our daughter spent hours peacefully playing with those when we went to Hawaii.

And don't forget snacks.

I know 3 hrs seems "short" - but it won't be if you don't do some pre-planning.

You should do fine. Good luck. BTW, we never encountered any problems that couldn't be solved/addressed and travelling with our daughter has been a joy.
dfr4848 is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2007, 01:10 PM
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Toddlers can be quite difficult to fly with because they do not like to stay put in one place for longer than 3 seconds. However, of all the things they love in the world, undivided attention from a parent ranks highest. Even if you spend a lot of time around your son, getting 3 consecutive hours of being the prime object of your attention is likely rare.

So this will be a new flying experience - don't even bother bringing a book for you, craft or planning to nap on the plane. Instead, bring toys for your son, books for you to read to him, etc. If you occupy him, he will likely do great.

For safety, there is no substitute for a car seat - you don't put him in a car without one, so why put him on a plane without one. However, it is a pain to haul around, install, etc. Only you can weigh out that choice. He may do better in one on a plane than you think, since his usual experience is riding in the back of a car while someone else concentrates on the driving.

Bring a collection of "bribes" - there really is no better word - preferable wrapped. Even a cookie bar or juice box is more fun if you get to unwrap it. A couple of new small toys wrapped up as well - and remember to keep some in reserve for the return trip.

While most of us are careful about food and beverage with our kids, relaxing home rules while on the plane also works wonders. A non-caffeine soda with a straw at 10 AM was such a treat for our kids at that age, it kept them happy for a while. Our son spent 10 minutes examining the emergency flight info card on a trip (I have no idea why it was so fascinating). He also enjoyed shredding the in-flight free magazine.

Takeoffs are less troublesome than landings - give him something to eat or drink during that time - the swallowing will help.

If they let people with kids pre-board, have one of you get on the plane during that time to get things (and car seat if bringing) settled and the other stays in the terminal with your son until almost last minute - to board early just adds another 30 minutes to confinement time.

Make sure you bring food and drink for him - with airport and tarmac delays, you don't want to get trapped on a plane with a hungry kid. Same for extra diapers.

Bring a stroller to gate and "gate check" it prior to boarding - airports are difficult enough to navigate without trying to carry, hold onto small child and luggage.

And don't let him kick the seat in front of him or bang the tray table incessantly or we will be talking about you here after your trip. It is OK to play with the window shade, though (another thing that amused my kids).

Travel with kids of any age is still possible - just different. Wait until you discover you will bring more in carry-on stuff for him than you would bring as total luggage for a couple BC (before children)

gail is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2007, 02:39 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Ear pain and popping afflicts even a healthy ear, so you should be prepared to deal with it.

The best solution is swallowing, which tends to equalize the pressure inside the ear with that outside. Some people chew gum for relief, but I don't think that is a good idea for a child.

An adult or older child can be told to swallow and will understand, but I think most young children do not understand, so the best solution is to have something that they will swallow. Some people use a pacifier with a very young child. A drink will work, but will fill up the child and then you have to deal with a bathroom break. So your challenge is to find something that will be safe and convenient for your child, and will cause a lot of swallowing.

I no longer have infant children, but I urge my children to keep their infant children in their own car seat, as it is familiar to them and you know how clean it is.

Frankly, I cannot understand how a parent can fail to keep their infant in a car seat; if the child fusses, that is just behavior that the parent should train out of existence.
clevelandbrown is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2007, 10:24 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 124
Here are my toddler flying recommendations:

1. There are lots of children's books about planes and taking trips. You may want to get one and read it to your child in anticipation of the trip. By the time you get to the airport, he or she will recognize things from the story.

2. Security will make you take your kids shoes off.

3. I have both carried the carseat on and checked it with my other checked baggage. Checking the seat is a LOT less of a hassle, and we have been on turbulent flights where the plane's seatbelt was enough to keep my son safe. By the way, if you rent the seat from the car rental people, you're more than likely going to have to install it yourself, so practice taking your own car seat out of your car at home and putting it back in.

4. Get new toys just for this trip and don't let the kid see them till you get on the plane.

5. I always try to feed my kid those "tired" foods before travel such as turkey, milk and bananas to increase the possibility of a nap.

6. For some reason landing is harder on my son's ears than taking off. Drinking out of the sippy cup or yawning helps.

7. Backpacks make the best carry on bags as your hands will be full of something. Bring a backup outfit for the kid and a backup shirt for yourself.

8. Bring your sense of humor and extra wipes. Have a glass of wine on the plane and make your husband drive when you get there.
msjames is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2007, 03:24 PM
Posts: n/a
A young couple behind us had a young child about age 1. They had earplanes for her and said they worked great. They sell the child size at Wal-mart among other stores. Whether a 21 month old would keep them in his ears is another question.
I would buy them now and get him used to them...might work??
Mar 4th, 2007, 09:12 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,525
Some great ideas suggested above BUT:

tearing up the inflight magazine-why? and did you clean up your mess?(I have worked flights that people have allowed kids to do that and it was terrible for cleaning people.)

glass of wine during the flight-please don't even think that when traveling with a toddler!(parents get tired or tanked and then child is running around alone on the plane-happens alot)

Take extra outfits,diapers/wipes and food. A 3 hour flight can turn into a longer one as evidenced lately with Jet Blue and others. Its always amazing to me as a flight attendant the number of parents that do not have a change of clothes,diapers,etc. when traveling with their kids.
I would take the carseat with you on the plane-how hard is it to buckle the seat in? I would start taking him on longer car rides so he understands that he is to stay in his seat when told. There have been some really strange weather patterns in the past year and kids need to understand that they cannot always stand up and walk around when they want as the turbulence is iffy.
I would bring a DVD player with some of his favorite DVD's or possibly a new one.This really seems to keep kids busy on my flights.
New books, play doh,puzzles,blocks(for building something on tray table,etc.)
Have some "gifts" wrapped is a wonderful idea too.
Take along the cheerios,special treats like carrots or celery with ranch dressing(you can find them prepackaged in grocery store) and other special eats that he likes.
Good luck!
dutyfree is offline  
Mar 4th, 2007, 11:41 AM
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dutyfree - yes, we cleaned up the mess from the shredder. I would rather spend 10 minutes cleaning up paper shreds and have my kid quiet than the alternative - it is not like we let him shred the captains routing instructions.
gail is offline  
Mar 4th, 2007, 12:16 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 409
Since when is tearing paper quiet? On overnight transatlantic flights, who is going to be able to sleep if someone is tearing paper? No offense gail, but I would lean towards quiet games. No need to agitate your neighbor...
freeman0819 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2007, 06:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 124
I did not advocate getting drunk and letting the toddler run wild. It appears that oceanmarina will also be travelling with the child's father, who is perfectly capable of keeping things under control while oceanmarina enjoys an adult beverage.
msjames is offline  
Mar 5th, 2007, 09:53 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
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In addition to other helpful comments previously posted...

* as dutyfree mentioned, bring a spare pair of clothese. Just in case of motion sickness or delayed flight or missed luggage.

* make sure you bring a few extra diapers. Air pressure seems to do wonders with my kids BM. I also try to change my toddler right before you board. Airplane toilets are quite small to work with. Be prepared for the worst--small aircraft without a changing table. (I found plastic folding changing mat quite helpful.)

* Toys--just avoid anything that makes noises or has small parts that can get lost.

* Ear pressure--I found letting my toddler drink AFTER taxing (but before take off) was the best timing. You want him/her to swallow/drink as the air pressure starts to change, not too early. (Make sure you have the bottle handy, not in the overhead compartment you cannot access during take-off!)

* Snacks--bananas, cheerio, cooked plain pasta (without sauce), cheese cubes, cucumber sticks, raisins all seem to work fine with our kids. Don't count on the airlines feeding your little 'uns. With the regulations on bringing liquid, we just get a bottle of water and juice after security.
W9London is offline  
Mar 5th, 2007, 11:03 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Ask the airline about the car seat. I would either take the car seat on the plane or check it in and use it in your rental car.

Ear pain - take snacks and drinks, chewing and sucking tends to reduce it.

Take more of everything than you think you will need, especially snacks, clothing and things to do.

Interesting books and hand held games work well. Toys with parts that can be dropped don't. Small action figures worked well with my son - he once sat playing with a few batmen type figures for hours! Gameboys were better still but your child is too young for that.

Clothing - I found sweatpants and t shirt + zip up sweatshirts worked best. I always carried 2 spare pairs of pants and 2 spare t shirts. Also, plastic bags for dirty clothes.

Take something you could change into aqs well - drinks get spilled etc.

Good luck and don't worry. My children are teenagers now but I have been travelling to Europe with them since they were very little and never had any real problems. I have on occasion been very glad of spare clothes and extra snacks though.

Carolina is offline  
Mar 12th, 2007, 05:42 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 96
Arrive early to ensure you get three seats together. Even if you book seats early, the airlines can and do change seats at check in. While in the military my wife and I travelled all over the world with our little girl. She loved it! Enjoy your trip.
sherm99 is offline  
Mar 21st, 2007, 06:47 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 532
Adding to this great thread -
If your child even occasionally sleeps in the car seat, BRING IT! Unless you have a child old enough to be past nap time, the car seat can be a lifesaver. My DD will no longer sleep in my arms, but is out like a light in her car seat.

I go to Once Upon a Child (gently worn clothing & toys) before the trip and buy about five things that are totally new. They're new & cheap, so if they're left on the plane it's no biggie.

Stickers & crayons: These are things my 16-month-old has just discovered. I'm working on a laminated contraption for her for our upcoming flight so that she can color and place stickers on a mat without worrying that she'll deface any part of the airplane.

More snacks than you can count. I know this has been mentioned but seriously, even with 1.5x the amount of food she normally eats it was gone before our last flight landed. And I save special treats (like goldfish) for airplanes.

Ditto on the diapers. Even with a short flight you never know if it will be delayed. Last trip we had a 4 hour delay and spent the night in FL. We were down to swim diapers which are a poor substitute but better than nothing.
hlphillips2 is offline  
Mar 21st, 2007, 08:42 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 640
Did anyone mention the new child seatbelt harnesses that are now approved for airplanes? Much less bulky than a carseat, but safe too.

How about Earplanes? They're earplugs that regulate air pressure changes and can prevent ear pain.

[email protected]
KidsToLondon is offline  
Mar 29th, 2007, 03:00 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 380
Let me know which day and flight you are on - I will b on the later flight - Only kidding

But seriously be aware that your darling child is not everone elses, so do control the running around and bumping of the seat in front as much as you can and have a good vacation
blightyboy is offline  
Mar 29th, 2007, 04:30 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,341
Here's some background on the "landing is harder on their ears than taking off" question. In cruise, the cabin altitude will be approximately 8000 feet; during climb, the cabin pressure will gradually decrease from whatever ambient pressure exists at the departure airport, and any gas contained in the body will find its way out. Not hard on the ears at all.

Coming down is another thing entirely; cabin pressure will gradually increase, pushing inward on the eardrum, and this can be painful if the pressure is not equalized by swallowing, using the valsalva maneuver (forget it for kids of any age), yawning, whatever works.

The chewing gum remedy of years gone by works because the jaw motion opens and closes the eustachian tube's opening into the mouth, equalizing the pressure.
Bobmrg is offline  
Jun 20th, 2007, 01:45 PM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 1

I am a mom who loves to travel, and who doesn't believe that having small children should mean the choice between very high maintenance travel VS. not traveling at all. Stories like the one about the family asked to disembark the plane perpetuate these negative perceptions and don't address what's at the heart of the problem.

Most children have temper fits on planes for one of two reasons, if not a combination of both:

(1) They are confused and scared as a result of being unfamiliar with airport/airplane environments

- or -

(2) They are ill equipped for air travel: not allowed to move around before being expected to sit for hours in a confined space, given sugar snacks or juice to 'calm' them (?!!), not having distracting quiet toys/books/activities to entertain them

How can we as parents expect children to be well behaved - especially when traveling - if they don't know what to expect and what is expected of them?


- Pack sugar snacks. Instead, pack carrots instead of fruit snacks, goldfish instead of lollipops. Grapes are easy to pack, easy to eat, and with rehydrate as well as satisfy snack urges.

- Have your child sit before the flight. Walk around the terminal, have a look out the windows at the airplanes. Having a child sit in a stroller while waiting for the flight is the worst idea of all. It is foolish and impractical to expect a child to sit, sit, sit without wanting - needing - to move around.

- Forget essentials like extra diapers/pull-ups, wipes, ziploc bags, change(s) of clothes. An easy packing checklist is available at http://www.jetwithkidsclub.com/checklist.pdf


- Prepare your child for the trip. Involve him in the packing process. Show her the airport ahead of time (if possible). Buy a book or movie ( http://www.goodlittletraveler.com/Fa...Resources.html ) to illustrate the process.

- Arrive early for the flight. Allow children to move around while waiting in the terminal.

- Bring distractions. Experience has taught us to bring only items that: (1) have few (or no) extra pieces that aren't securely attached to the game; (2) pack easily and don't take much room and (3) will hold attention and be reusable. A good sampling of products and reputable vendors can be found at http://www.goodlittletraveler.com/Go...velerShop.html

- Be EXCITED about traveling by airplane! If you are stressed, you child will be too.

Both referenced resources were designed by traveling mothers in conjunction with travel professionals and child development specialists. Full disclosure: I am the creator of the I'm A Good Little Traveler!TM Series and Shae by Air. It is a personal mission to change the discussion from "how to prepare for (the hell of) traveling with children" to "How To Prepare Children for Travel". I wish more families with children WOULD travel. There is nothing like travel to make a more aware citizen or to make a person appreciate their home country more. Questions or comments? Feel free to contact me directly via the Good Little Traveler site: http://www.goodlittletraveler.com/AboutUs.html
GoodLittleTraveler is offline  
Jun 21st, 2007, 11:23 AM
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Let's hope the OP got the answers they need from this 3 month old post.

Looks suspiciously like an advertisment for goodlittletraveler's website.
swaymock is offline  

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