We recently posted about how we planned to survive a four-hour flight with Sally, the busiest 18-month-old we know. Well, folks, we did it. Many of you assured us that it wouldn’t be as bad as we thought, and you were right. That said, we had a few precarious moments when all hell almost broke loose. But, luckily, we were able to contain our little toddler before things got too crazy. Rather than relaying eight hours of play-by-play with Sally at 30,000 feet, we’ll get down to the nitty gritty — what worked, what didn’t, and what we learned for next time.
Just as a refresher, here’s what we planned for the flight out there:
What Worked: All of the crunchy snacks and purees were perfect for the flight. The fruit snacks seemed to be an especially big hit for keeping her happy. She loved the smoothie puree and the applesauce puree, but the “meal replacement” chicken casserole wasn’t very well received when she had other, more interesting options. If you’re worried about purees being seen as liquids in airport security, I can report that we didn’t have any issues either time. And I didn’t even take them out of the diaper bag and put them into my “liquids” baggie. The Craisins, Goldfish, and pretzels were all great snacks as long as we only gave her a few at a time.
What Didn’t: One commenter reminded me that I couldn’t bring juice on the plane. Duh. So I nixed even trying to bring the juice. And I thought the candy was a good idea as a last-resort option, but we ended up not using it at all. In such close confines, it would have been messy, and the fruit snacks were a great alternative as a sweet treat.
What We Learned: We were able to ask the flight attendants for apple juice and water on both flights. They brought Sally’s drinks in the usual plastic cup, but they added a lid and a straw, which Sally loved, and which we’ll ask for in the future. When she started to get too excited about the straw, we switched the drink over to the sippy cup. Southwest also brought around an array of snacks, which was really helpful with keeping Sally entertained.
What Worked: All hail the iPad. Our flights would have been a total bust without it. Not only did she love watching her favorite show (“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”), but she also loved playing one particular game for several minutes at a time. It’s called Forest Flyer by Sago Mini. She flies a little bird around with her finger, and the bird happens upon entertaining scenarios as it flies from place to place. We downloaded the app when it was free, but it currently costs $2.99. They do, however, have a game that’s currently free that’s called Ocean Swimmer. These are the only games that will hold Sally’s attention, so we’re hooked. She played with her other toys a few minutes at a time, but none of them held her attention quite like the iPad.
What We Learned: One of our readers recommended stickers for the flight, and they ended up being a great option on the way home. She played with them for several minutes. We also brought a blanket on the way home so she could sleep more easily. On the way there, we had to use one of our sweatshirts as her blanket while she napped, which wasn’t ideal. Also, the headphones we brought her were okay, but after hearing a few others mention toddler headphones, I think we’ll have to get a pair before our next flight with Sal.
We also made a point of not letting Sally take any naps before the flight. Our flights were midmorning and midday, and it was especially hard to keep her awake before the midday flight. As we drove to the airport, I took away her pacifier, sang songs with her, tickled her, and gave her snacks to keep her from drifting off. Even still, she wanted so badly to fall asleep, but all that wrestling with her actually paid off. On the flight, Sally slept for two full hours. It was amazing! On the midmorning flight, she slept for one hour, so both times we were lucky enough to have her sleep some. In other words, we recommend flying with a toddler who is ready to sleep. For our next long flight, we’ll try to optimize flying when Sally is ready to go to sleep for the night, if at all possible.
Lastly, we decided to take the window and middle seat for our flights. I was afraid that if we chose the aisle seat, Sally would just want to get down and run around the whole time. And for one of our flights, the seatbelt sign was on the entire flight, so she wouldn’t have been able to. I also wasn’t too keen on the idea of chasing her down the aisle. So as far as Sally was concerned, running down the aisle wasn’t even an option. Johnny and I both really liked doing it this way, and we’ll continue choosing the window seat with her in the future. She loved looking out the window, too, which provided several minutes of entertainment on both flights.
Got all that? If you’re more of a skimmer like me, here’s a recap of what we do and don’t recommend — in bullet form:
What We Recommend
- Fruit snacks
- Sippy cup
- iPad loaded with shows and games
- Toddler headphones
- Favorite stuffed animal and small blanket
- Color Wonder paper and markers
- Noise putty
- Any other mess-free activities for keeping your toddler busy
Our final two cents:
- Choose the window seat.
- Fly when your toddler is ready to sleep.
- Keep telling yourself that the plain eventually has to land.
- If you can choose your own seating, sit in the back with other families with young children. Your kid will seem angelic in comparison to some of the others.
There’s nothing like baptism by fire. And when it comes to flying with a toddler, you never really know what it’s gonna be like until you’re in the thick of it. But now that we’ve done it twice, we feel much better prepared for next time. Would you add anything to our list? Any memorable flight-with-a-toddler stories you care to share? Now that the flight’s behind us, I’m ready for ’em!