flying with a toddler

Over Thanksgiving, we spent a week in Utah with Matt's parents to visit Matt's brother and SIL and our nephew. It was such a great trip and so fun to see the boys playing together. During our last visit out there, Xavier wasn't even crawling yet! And when they came in June, he was crawling but still not super mobile. It was a whole different ball game this time!

Speaking of a whole different ball game, I knew flying across the country with a 14-month old was going to be way different than flying with an almost 8-month old, which is the last time we flew. Factor in me being 11 weeks pregnant (and also pretty petrified of flying) and you can imagine how stressed I was leading up the trip.

I tried to prepare as best as I could, and gave myself lots of pep talks about how we'd survive, regardless of how Xavier behaved. We were flying with Matt's parents, and Xavier adores them, so I knew we had extra hands and help if we needed.

All things considered, it went so well! I chalk that up to Xav's sweet temperament, ideal timing for flights (thanks, Karen!), and also our preparations ahead of time, which I want to share here.

The flight time was four hours, so I broke that down into shorter segments. I wanted to have enough activities to occupy him for the whole time, assuming he didn't sleep at all. When we've flown with him in the past (These flights were his 11th and 12th overall), he was a lot younger and a lot smaller, and slept a lot in our laps. Now that he's bigger and much busier, I knew I couldn't bank on him crashing in our arms. Although, he did end up sleeping on both flights, which was a huge surprise and major gift!

So, I broke the 4-hour flight into twelve 20-minute blocks, which felt like a safe amount of time for him to be entertained by one thing. I downloaded a handful of Daniel Tiger episodes to our iPad - with Amazon Prime, you can download episodes for free, and once you're in airplane mode, you have 48 hours to watch the downloaded video, so it worked out great for the flights. We bought this iPad holder to attach the iPad to the tray table, and these mini headphones for him to wear. Although we try to keep screen time to a minimum at home, all bets are off when we're traveling, for our sake and also everyone else on the plane. The holder worked great - it attached to the headrest in the car for the longer car rides, and also worked great on the tray table.

Even after factoring in screen time, I had 8 more 20-minute blocks to fill, so I decided to have a different, new activity for each block. I bought a variety of inexpensive toys and activities, things he's never seen before and that I hoped would entertain him. I got an old-school metal Slinky, a pack of pipe cleaners, a pack of feathers, a little ball, a mini Magnadoodle, a hand puppet, a pinwheel and a package of post-its to stick all over the tray table and window. We also packed a few of his favorite books and a handful of his favorite toys. And of course, snacks and his water bottle, too.

I figured between the screen time, all the new toys he's never seen, walking up and down the aisle, snack breaks and diaper changes, we'd have plenty to do to keep him occupied. And I was right! The flight passed without much of a hitch. We didn't end up using much of the stuff I bought (go figure) because he ended up falling asleep pretty quickly on both flights, but I'm not going to complain about that!

Also, I mentioned this in this post about flying with babies, but I want to mention it again. We considered checking our car seat at the check-in counter and not gate-checking it this time. Xavier is still in the infant bucket seat, which snaps onto our stroller, but he doesn't ride that way in the stroller anymore, he sits in it like a big kid. I didn't think he would like sitting in the bucket seat to be pushed all through the airport. But I read a bunch of articles recommending that you always gate-check a carseat, because of the way luggage (carseats included) get thrown around. I didn't want to take the chance that our very nice carseat would get damaged, so we decided to gate-check and just hope he sat in the seat attached to the stroller without too much protesting. As it turned out, I forgot the attachment pieces to attach the carseat to the stroller (because we haven't used them in months!) so we ended up just slipping the carseat over the handle of our rolling suitcase and carrying it that way. Anyway, my whole point is that I'm SO glad we decided to gate check the seat, because our flight home wasn't full, so we were able to bring the seat on board and Xavier got his own space and didn't have to be held! So always, always plan to gate check and always, always ask at the desk if the flight is completely full and if not, if you can bring your seat on board. 

Traveling with kids is not easy, but it's also not impossible. With lots of planning beforehand, it can be done, and you will survive! Xavier has been on 12 individual flights in his short life - the first when he was 3 months old - and we're still here to tell the tale. I'm so grateful that we're making the most of the "kids fly free" thing, and getting to explore the country (and world - we go to Mexico next month!) and make memories with our sweet boy!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving week! xo!