Last weekend, Ollie went on his 18th flight.
In retrospect, those first couple flight weren’t really that bad. It was stressful, but a lot of that had to do with my own anticipation and worry. After we got through a that first flight, I realized that we could handle having Ollie on a plane.
Then things got worse.
As Ollie got passed a year old he was moving around a lot more on the plane and sleeping less. With his more developed senses, he required more stimuli. This meant that we spent a lot of time walking Ollie up and down the aisles and attempting to entertain him. He was too young to pay attention to an iPad or iPhone so we ended up having him play with things like plastic cups and scotch tape. As weird as this sounds, there were flights that he would spend almost an hour playing with this kind of random stuff.
We’ve had a number of rough moments. One time I went to the back bathroom to change Ollie’s diaper. When I got out, we ended up being stuck behind a beverage cart being pushed by a not-so-accommodating flight attendant. I ended up standing in the back of the plane trying to keep Ollie entertaining and calm for forty-five minutes before I could get back to my seat.
Diana and I would take turns holding Ollie and trying to keep him entertained. We did this in half and hour chunks of time so that we could each get a break. Before a kid is two years old, he or she can be a lap baby and we did that for as long as we could.
Now that Ollie is almost two and a half things are a lot different. He is comforting eating most solid foods and he know has the attention span and the interest to watch a television show or a movie on an iPad. I bought Ollie a used iPod touch and put it in a case designed for a toddler but of course he wanted to use my iPad instead, so now I watch a show on my iPhone while Ollie enjoys the glow of the larger screen of the iPad.
We don’t feel great having Ollie watch an iPad for most of a plane flight but it keeps him calm and entertained. Also, it allow me and Diana to relax ourselves for part of the flight more than we ever have since Ollie started flying.
Yes, flying with your kid does get easier. It was tough when he was 6 months old, really hard when he was a 1 year to a year and a half and it has gotten steadily easier ever since then.
Here’s some tips for flying with a toddler:
- Bring a cheap umbrella stroller to the airport and gate-check it. Baby carriers are great, but once a kid gets a certain size, a stroller is more practical. Getting a toddler to walk through an airport is really tough, so just use a stroller. You don’t realize how much walking you do in an airport until you have a toddler in toe.
- If you fly a lot get this harness for your kid. If you need to bring a car seat, consider checking it. It’s a lot to handle on a plane. This harness works great and takes up very little space in your carry-on.
- Load up a video device with something your child likes to watch. Most likely they will want to watch the same thing over and over, but you never know. I recommend multiple shorter shows if your child doesn't have a current obsession. These headphones are key. They are a good size for kid and have a volume limit to protect your child’s hearing.