Traveling with a toddler

Most parents of internationally adopted children have traveled with their children. It’s in that whole international part. But once we get home the thought of getting back on an airplane gives us flash backs of being somewhere over the Atlantic with a screaming poo bomb who won’t eat or sleep to save his life. Honestly, who wants to repeat that? Some parents work up the courage to go visit family elsewhere in the country right away, but others are happy to hide in their homes and forget the whole flight from hell never happened.

I will admit that I was a little scared to get back on an airplane with the boy. Our trip home from Russia was a breeze compared to other stories I’ve heard, but still… flying with a 2 year old no matter what age is hard.

The trusty husband and I were one of those couples that delayed having kids because “we wanted to travel first.” Well, we traveled to get our child. When we realized that seeing the world was not going to happen prior to having children we changed the game plan to “we are just going to take our child with us.” Why not? After 8 days in Alaska this new plan seems to be a good idea.

A destination that was only a 3 hour flight away was perfect. The length of the trip was a little long. So I’ll give you “What I learned from traveling with a toddler.”

1. Try to schedule your flight during nap times. The best chance you have for your child to sleep is if it is during a regular sleep time. Take a red-eye, or fly mid afternoon. We did neither of those so the boy was awake the entire flight.

2. Take a small bag of toys for your child. Don’t bring their most valued possession, but rather a close facsimile. Of course Steve the Cat had to go with us. The boy had a little Dr. Seuss bag with a color book and colors, Richard Scary’s A Day at the Airport, 4 hotwheels, a paintbrush (don’t ask), a travel magnadoodle, and Steve the Cat. However his favorite toy on the plane was the seat belt.

3. Don’t be afraid to do non kid related excursions. I visited every quilt shop in Anchorage (there’s only 3). The boy was happy and only screamed and pitched a fit in one.

4. If your child is a good eater go local. Our eating while traveling motto is eat where you can’t eat at home. If there is a TGIFridays in the town it is a big NO. We have one here. Not that I eat at Friday’s here. Most restaurants have some sort of kids menu or you can get 1/2 orders of dishes on the regular menu.

5. 4-5 days is a great length for a trip if you aren’t going to visit family. 8 days was a little long even though we spent part of the trip with friends. All 3 of us were ready to get home.

6. If all else fails find the nearest zoo or playground. Always a great fall back for us. Heck, we do that at home.

7. Stay at a suite style hotel. It was nice for us to have a hotel room with 3 separate rooms. After the initial falling out of the bed incident our stay was much more pleasant.

8. Take the time to talk to your child about the trip. Explain you are going on an airplane and try to get them excited about it. The boy loves airplanes so when we finally told him we were going on one (the day before the trip) he was ready to go at that minute. When we got home Neal (who picked us up) asked the boy if he had a good trip. The boy replied, “AIRPLANE!”

9. Give your child the window seat. If you are smart you will buy your child their own seat. Yes, it’s more expensive than a lap ticket, but worth every cent for a 3 hour flight. The boy’s favorite part was looking out the window and saying, “up der.”

10. Don’t be afraid to travel with your toddler. The more you do it the more they will get used to it. The flight is only a small portion of your trip. Your final destination is the most important part. Besides you are creating great family memories that you child will cherish.

8 Comment

  1. Great advice Elle, we just travelled with seamonkey and it wasn’t a bad as we anticipated. Thought I would mention that we brought the carseat on, but I’m not sure I would do that again, because the person in front of you is then unable to put their seat back. The guy in front of us was not too happy about that.

  2. good advice – not that I have a toddler, but a lot of what you shared transfers to our age brackets.

  3. Rhonda says: Reply

    Yeah, we’ve flown four times since being home with the kids, and they have done great every time. We put them by the window and let them sit next to each other. B and I split the flight up in half. He entertains them for half of it and I do the other half. Then at least one of us gets a break. Bonnie is old enough to watch a digiplayer, so that’s helpful also.

  4. Cindy says: Reply

    I’ve traveled a good bit with both kids and I can swear by your advice! We even made it to Italy with the same tactics!

  5. Great advice…thanks for sharing it with us!!

  6. DebiP says: Reply

    Timely reminders for me as I am about to take a 3 hour flight with my 2 boys…thanks for making me think more about it…sounds like the entire thing was a blast…

  7. Mom says: Reply

    Sounds like your worst fears can now be laid to rest. There is no doubt in my mind that he’s bonding quite nicely since the trip was so successful. YEA!!!!!!!!!! Memories of these moments in time are the greatest treasures you will ever own… so hold them close!

  8. Wendy says: Reply

    One tried and tru thing that always got us through flights was a box of bandaids. Better than stickers because they easily peel off of the tray table, and you can spend hours imagining boo boos, bandaging and kissing them.

    The other thing I learned was to always buy a seat and use a carseat. We were flying in a small plane last summer, Levi was strapped into his carseat and happily watching the DVD player, when the plane was hit by lightning. It threw the plane violently and I can still see the toddler girl, on the lap of the people in front of us, sailing through the air and her head crashing into the overhead bin. She ended up with a very large goose egg and her parents were completely traumatized. Levi, on the other hand, briefly looked up and then continued watching his movie. The extra money and effort were so worth it!

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