How do I travel with a toddler without annoying everyone involved?

by Christina Geyer on October 24, 2008 · 20 comments

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In less than a week, I’m making a transatlantic flight including a stopover with a 15 month old.  Who’s got advice for me?  Cause I’m bugging just a little about trying to keep him from being a huge annoyance to everyone on the plane.  He does have his own seat, not sure if I should put the car seat in it or not.  Seems it would be good to put him to sleep in there, but bad in that it takes up play area (he’s still in the backwards facing seat). I’m leaning towards gate checking the seat.

I’m gonna bring his favorite books, his favorite teddy, and I’ve been told introducing him to Play Doh during the trip will keep him occupied for some time.  I got a puzzle, but he hasn’t shown much interest in it yet.  I’m also bringing along a silk square for playing peekaboo, etc.  I read online that painter’s tape is a good thing.  Is this true?  Cause it’ll require a special trip to the Baumarkt to get some, which I’d rather avoid if at all possible.  Oh, also an empty water bottle that he can screw the lid on and off of, plus plenty of snacks.  Anything else I should bring? Any other advice on keeping 15 month olds happy on planes?

  • Ann
  • NewWrldYankee

    I have no idea. Babysat a lot of kids, but never on a plane. Is your baby one that watches movies happily, or like music, or likes to play with things. It all depends. Although give him something to put in his mouth during take off, because the lower pressure make irritate him, especially with his ears. Having something in your mouth, makes that better.

  • Blythe

    Sounds like you are well prepared.
    Theo had a seat for the first time ever on this last trip. We went back & forth on the carseat question and, in the end, we were glad to have it on board. It was really nice to have a place where he could be/sleep besides our (crowded) laps. That was especially true since we did not have the bulkhead row. He ended up toddling around the aisles when he was out of the seat and that worked out OK for us.

    I also went to the 1Euro store and bought a big pad of stickers and a little notebook to stick them in. He wasn’t adept enough to peel them off the sheets, but he liked sticking them in the book. It was a good quiet activity for when the seatbelt sign was on and he had to be in his seat.

    Blythes last blog post..Away We Go

  • Maria

    Well, with The Boy, I make sure to take plenty of activities to entertain, and on planes and long car rides, I make an exception to the TV limits in our house (which is generally 1 backyardigans a day). I suggest nursing during take off and landing. It makes a big difference, and keeping yourself hydrated so your supply stays up. Does he color yet?

    Marias last blog post..TU football!

  • Maria

    Oh yeah– the car seat. I liked having it on board, even more so now that he is older, and recommend bringing it on board.

    Marias last blog post..TU football!

  • Alice

    When we flew back to the States, Bubba Joe had just turned 2. He had his own seat but we did NOT take his car seat. He’s never been a huge fan of his car seat and we were VERY glad to NOT have to lug it around during our layover.

    We had at least 2 rucksacks just for him – one had diapers, wipes, change of clothing (including socks), blankets and a few ziploc baggies in case something got soiled. We also had smelly bags for dirty diapers (they have a powdery smell – got them from a friend a long time ago in the states).

    We also took a DVD player with LOTS of dvds – all stuff he loves.

    In the other rucksack, we packed sticker, books, markers (only the ones that are washable) and paper, Bob the Builder toys, Thomas toys, building blocks from Bob that are magnetic (WAY cool, especially for travel), building blocks made from foam (don’t make noise when they fall all over the place), etc. I grouped them into what he plays with, and placed each in seperate plastic bags.

    My best advice – no matter what you pack, pack more than you need. And make sure that everything is EASY to get out of the bag.

    When you board, ask for an extra bottle of water – and everytime they go by, grab some and refill his cup. They can get dehydrated quickly … and it doesn’t hurt for you to drink up too! :)

    (If you need any advice on where to get some of this stuff let me know!)

    Good luck! And have LOTS of fun!

    BTW – I always have problems with the time adjustment thing – not with a 2 year old! No chance! :)

  • Sarah

    Just a quick note about playdoh from an art teacher for toddlers – that gets sorta crumbly and goes everywhere, so I recommend a kids art product Crayola makes called “Model Magic” – it’s less messy and can be mixed (squeezing and strtching 2 colors together) to make new colors, which can fascinate some 2 year olds I know… I don’t know if it’s available in Germany, though! When it dries the shapes are nice and light and you can color on them with markers, too.

  • Sarah

    Oh, and whtever you use, bring good ziplocs to store it in for the trip back!

  • Bopper

    Do bring the car seat and put him in it. He is used to staying in his car seat when in a car, so he will be used to staying in it on the airplane.

    Bring extra clothes for him (and an extra shirt for you, just in case).

    Don’t let him kick the seat in front of him.

    Be aware that depending on what type of bottle/cup you use that the pressure changes in the airplane can affect the pressure of the liquid in the bottle. When you land, unscrew the top of the bottle/cup to relieve the pressurs so you don’t have a fountain of juice spraying everywhere.

  • christina

    You seem like you’re pretty prepared but I second the Play-Dough caution: like any proper 15 yr old, he’ll mash it into the seats/his hair/his clothing/your clothing and the list goes on and the little bits that don’t get mashed will fall onto the floor.

    I saw some parents on a plane once with a shoe lace strung with buttons of all sorts of different shapes, sized and colours and fiddling with that kept their daughter happy for quite while.

    Yeah, and more changes of clothing than you think he (or you!) will need – spilled juice, suprise throwing up, etc.

    P.S. When our youngest was 16 months old we flew to Vancouver with both kids, and the little guy jumped up and down in my lap *the whole 9 hours*. That was fun. I’m sure Oliver will be better behaved. :-)

    christinas last blog post..come on over and have some pie

  • christina

    Oop, I meant “like any proper 15 MONTH old”!!!

    christinas last blog post..come on over and have some pie

  • Mariecel

    The only extra piece of advice that I can give you that you haven’t gotten yet is to take occasional walks up and down the aisle to break the boredom. If the cabin crew isn’t too stuck up (which I’ve had once in a while), they’ll enjoy a toddler walking around.

    Just in case, check with your airline about your car seat. Most airlines have very stringent rules of what type of car seat is allowed, the dimensions, set up, and whether or not they are permitted for take-off and landing.

    Hope you have fun on your trip!

    PS – You’ve been tagged:

  • Modernmommy

    Well since I wrote a blog about this not too long ago I will share my experience. Instead of painters tape I would bring stickers, those kept my daughter occupied for a long time. Also Color Wonder Markers and book. She didn’t really want to color with the markers but she took the caps on and off and put the markers in and out of the box for what seemed like hours! Dum Dum lollipops were a life saver when she didn’t want to sit on my lap but had to because of take off or landing. They are small enough not to make a huge mess. She also spent a lot of time taking the cap on and off of the water bottle so that is a good idea. And your right, LOT’S of snacks, whatever his favorites are that he doesn’t get all the time. On the way back we had Jelly Beans and those worked really good too.
    Good Luck!

    Modernmommys last blog post..Tagged!

  • Christina G

    Thanks everyone for the great advice. I feel better already. The stickers are a great idea, also Ann’s link to the toy on a bootlace. I’m gonna look for that Crayola stuff instead of Play Doh, the last thing I need is a big crumbly mess. You guys convinced me to bring the car seat too. Oliver likes his car seat and we often make 5 hour trips to visit Oma and Opa, so he should be used to sitting in there and playing/sleeping. Oh yeah, and plenty of clothes, diapers and snacks. Our last trip we got stuck for a day in Madrid and had to fly back in stinky clothes. I’m packing for worst case scenario now.

  • Sarah

    You’ve got tons of great suggestions here! And honestly, the fact that you’re even concerned with this makes the likelihood that you’ll disturb your fellow passengers pretty slim. How did he do on your last trip to the U.S.? He seems like a pretty cool customer the majority of the time.

  • Christina G

    He was a perfect angel the last trip, but he was 6 months old then and that’s probably the easiest age to travel with. But thinking about it, he was absolutely fine in the car to and from Croatia (as well as for all our car trips). So I’ve probably been worrying over nothing. It was just the added stress of other people judging me that was getting to me. I think as long as I let him run around like a crazy man in the airports in Munich and Amsterdam, he’ll weather the plane rides just fine.

  • Harvey Morrell

    13 years ago, I took my 18 month-old daughter (who was teething at the time) to Germany to “meet the relatives.” At that time, Lufthansa did not let me use my car seat even though it was airline compliant. From Germany they also did not do the pre-boarding of people with infants, nor did they board by row, so I got stuck near the end of the line and had a heck of a time getting my stuff into an overhead bin.

    A water bottle is a good idea, especially during take-off and landing – drinking helps them even out the inner-ear pressure.

    Stickers, reading and drawing did occupy her for most of both trips.

  • christian

    my experience (= 2 little transatlantic travellers) is: a couple of NEW toys will keep them busy for a while. but then make sure to bring the favorites as well. apart from that, 15 months was not the best time to travel for our kids… the key is to keep them distracted from seat belts etc. and help them to be comfortable enough to nap a little. also, timing is key – since you need to let your infant loose at some point so he can move around a little you’ll not be able to do it while the flight attendants are blocking the aisle serving stuff, or while you are going thru turbulences. all in all: for us some times travelling with them worked better than expected, some times it was the other way around… you never know what you are in for. BUT: the flight attendants know that it will be difficult for you and help where they can. good luck! christian (new york)

  • Modernmommy

    One more piece of advice. When I told my mom how nervous I was to take dd on a plane because I didn’t want people staring at me or giving me dirty looks if she had a tantrum, my mom told me of a joke the priest told them when they were baptizing my oldest sister. “If people give you dirty looks when your baby is crying in a restaurant or other such place just tell them ‘don’t worry there are no babies in hell.'” That made me laugh so hard just picturing telling some jerk that on the plane and it made me feel a lot more confident that it is the other people’s problem if they can’t handle your child crying not yours.

  • cliff1976

    That made me laugh so hard just picturing telling some jerk that on the plane and it made me feel a lot more confident that it is the other people’s problem if they can’t handle your child crying not yours.

    I think that’s valid for situations where kids are appropriate and/or there’s an escape method.

    What bothers me is when the parent doesn’t make the effort to calm a screamer down or entertain a bored, trapped toddler or expects special treatment — compared to childfree me — from the staff or fellow passengers, customers, etc.

    Any reasonable adult will appreciate your efforts.

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