As some of you know, we recently came back from visiting family in South Carolina.  My husband was away on a work trip, and my 7 year old was visiting family in California for the summer so it was just the two of us girls. As much as I looked forward to this trip, the thought of flying with a toddler alone across the country terrified me. We’ve done it before as a family when she was a baby, and then later a few times when she was one.  After the last trip, I said I was done flying until we were out of the Terrible Twos and Horrible Threes.

Luckily, time has an amazing ability to erase minor pains and remind you of the beautiful memories made together as a family. Kind of like with having babies, right?  As time passes, you forget the pain of delivery because you get to cuddle with a precious little baby in your arms. So when an opportunity to visit family presented, I said “LET’S DO IT”.

This time I was going to be prepared with a full arsenal of toddler entertaining equipment. There were going to be books, movies, stickers, crayons, toys, snacks, clowns, carnival rides… 🙂 You name it, I was going to pull it out of my diaper bag. This time this ship was not going down without a fight.

The day of travel

The day of our travel started with me sleeping through my alarm. That NEVER HAPPENS to me!! I must have heard it, then thought “Oh I’ll just lay here for another minute to fully wake up” – so confident in myself that I didn’t even hit Snooze! – and fell right back to sleep. The amount of adrenaline that shot through my veins when I finally opened my eyes and saw the time was enough to bring a dead person alive.

Luckily I scheduled extra time on every step of the way that morning (getting ready, drive to the airport, get through security) because you just never know. Instead of an hour to get ready, I gave us almost 2 hours (and ended up doing it in 35 minutes HA!), then twice as much for the road in case of traffic, and extra 20 minutes for the van ride form the economy parking.  Such planning was what saved us from missing the flight!  With all the extra time, even though rushed, we still made it to the gate on time.

flying with toddlers watching movies

As though Maria felt that mommy had a rough morning, she was a total angel the entire time. On our first 2 hour flight she was pretty content with snacking on strawberries and watching movies on her iPad.  I could not believe my luck. Then, half was through the flight she put her head down on the blanket between us and slept until it was lime to get off the airplane.

I was not even half way through my toddler entertainment collection, and this trip was already going well!  A big part of it was that this time as a two year old she had her own seat.  Last time she flew with us as a lap baby, she was definitely getting too big for it. So this time around, being in her own seat must have satisfied that deep desire to be independent and to have her own seat like mommy.

After a peaceful first flight, we made the most of our two hour layover. Luckily Dallas airport has plenty of options to keep both children and adults occupied. We found some food and took a ride on Skylink – a train system that connects the terminals.  It’s super easy to navigate and offers a lovely view of the airport, departing planes, plus all the excitement of riding on the train for the little ones.

The second almost three hour flight went just as smooth.  The whole experience must have been wearing off my usually active toddler.  She looked out the window on take off, then watched Sophia the First for about 15 minutes, then announced “maria night night” and fell asleep.

flying with a toddler

We made it!

When we landed my parent’s in law picked us up at the airport and we were so happy to finally hug them! This view too <3 After living in the desert for so many years, I was soaking in all the vibrant colors, the magnificent trees, the sounds of birds and frogs from the pond.

I will be back to tell you more about our trip, but we had a blast. There was my birthday celebration, meeting with cousins, and a few days at the beach.

While on vacation I did my best to stick with my exercise schedule.  The Grandparents graciously agreed to watch Maria while I took a few classes at a local Orange Theory Fitness studio and enjoyed a challenging but fun barre class at Stox & Co Health & Wellness Spa.  A full review coming to this blog soon!

Flying back to Arizona

As much as I’d like to brag about the flight back to Arizona, it was not nearly as smooth. As a matter of fact, it was a bit of a disaster. The first flight was right around my toddler’s nap time, and I was certain she’d fall asleep like last time. This mama was SOOO looking forward to watching a movie on an iPad.  Nope.  She was playful and happy as she found a new toy to play with – the airplane window screen, relentlessly sliding it up and down every 5 seconds. Next was the seat in front which was so fun to kick with her feet. Yes, I was that mom with an unruly child on an airplane that no one wants to seat around.

To take matters under control, I pulled out all the activities from my toy arsenal and asked (=begged) my little peanut to stop as I was sticking Gold Fish crackers (<<<- this toddler’s panacea for any meltdown) into her mouth.  I ended up entertaining my toddler the entire three hour flight with books, sticker activities, coloring books and whatever else I could find in the bag.  It worked and she seemed to have forgotten about the window cover and the seat in from of her.  We made it through.

On the second flight we reached a point of no return.  A meltdown was inevitable and all I could do was rock her as she cried herself to sleep.

If you fail to prepare you prepare to fail

When booking the flights, we made sure to have a window seat.  It was nice to keep my active toddler contained to her own space where she was free to move around and look out of the window.

I also did not bring her car seat.  There was already one waiting for us at the destination, so we didn’t really need it.  And shuffling it around the airport while juggling a toddler, bags and a stroller just for the plane ride was just a bit too much for me.  So I looked into other safety devices for toddlers during the flight and one of the moms from our playgroup recommended Cares Safety Restraint System on Amazon.  It is the only FAA approved device and features an insanely easy installation.

flying with a toddler

We ended up not buying it because this was the only air travel in our foreseeable future. But if you fly frequently, I strongly recommend this device for safety reason as it tightly secures your child in case of unexpected turbulance.  I kind of wish I had it to keep my toddler in the seat during our flights 🙂

You will be grateful for bringing these activities to occupy your kids during flight:

Peaceable Kingdom Sticker Fun! At the Airport Reusable Sticker Tote – hours of fun guaranteed

My Quiet Book for Toddlers by Pockets of Learning – one of my favorites for road trips and flights!

Travel Toy Activity Bundle for Kids – Busy Bag Games for Car and Airplane travel – toy bundle with 6 different travel games, such as Melissa and Doug Water Wow and Wikki stix.

I also brought a few of Maria’s favorite books, her stuffed toys, a bunny blankie, her old baby blanket small enough to fit in a diaper bag and I wouldn’t feel bad to lose and several snack options, including her favorite Gold Fish.

Final thoughts

As you can tell, my philosophy is that one can never be over-prepared for a cross-country flight with a toddler.  I definitely appreciated having so may options to keep my toddler entertained during flight.  However, eventually she was too tired and reached a point where nothing could make her happy.  If you find yourself in this situation, please know that it’s ok.  There will  be plenty of kind people on your flight, many of them are parents. They will understand.

So tell me friends, what have been  your experience flying with kids?  What worked and what didn’t work during the flight?

Hope you have a good day!





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