Flying with Toddlers

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • My wife and I are planning to hold out as long as possible before letting our children watch screens.   (I am not 100% certain why, other than an intuitive sense that we want them to learn to be creative and imaginative BEFORE mainlining Disney.)

    The only issue is we are flying to Colorado next week and our 21-month old boy will sit on our lap in the airplane, and he is extremely active.  I am actually a little worried about how this is going to work.  So we are thinking of letting him watch Moana - whose soundtrack he loves - or something.   

    Any thoughts on whether letting our 21 month-old watch a movie on a plane is a bad idea?  Thanks

    Do it. On the airplanes, make an exception and let the kid watch and indulge on screen. You know your child best. When ours was a little before 2 years old, we armed ourselves with a bunch of short films — classic Disney shorts like Ferdinand, how the grinch stole Christmas, Mr. Rogers, and Sesame Street episodes to fly to the east coast. 2 year olds often can’t sit through a 2 hour movie although yours may be an exception, so many different things helped.  Comfortable noise cancelling headphone is a must. Good Luck!

    I think if you let him watch on the plane, you can associate TV/screens with travel and not with your routine at home.

    I'd definitely do it. And if you're generally uncomfortable with them watching TV, this can just be a plane thing. It doesn't mean they start watching at home if you don't want them to. We all do special things on vacation that we don't do at home. :)

    I would say though a child that age is unlikely to watch a 90 minute movie. You might try content that is geared more to 2 year olds and is shorter. Sesame Street comes to mind of course. Commonsense Media is a great website that you can search by age and has recommendations for shows.

    I happen to be flying to CO next week with my 2-year-old very active son! I was also apprehensive about screens. We started showing him Daniel Tiger and Sesame Street but it’s very limited (maybe 20-40 mins only on weekends) and it’s basically a way to fill time. He only recently started sitting still for more longer periods of time to watch. We went on a family vacation with his older cousins last week so I knew there would be more movies/TV on. He was enamored by Luca and Moana (he had listened to the Moana soundtrack a million times) and loved it. It kind of freaked me out how much he did, but we’re back home and back to barely watching anything so I know it’s the daily longterm habits that matter, not one-offs. I plan to bring paper and crayons, tons of snacks, one of those activity boards with snaps etc, Daniel Tiger figurines he hasn’t seen yet, and anything else I can think of, in addition to an iPad. The iPad will be used strategically and I know it won’t be the whole time so I’m totally fine with it. Screens are inevitable so I’m trying to take a healthier approach of thinking about it. Also, I’m due with our 2nd in a few months so I’m sure #2 will be seeing screens much earlier! I’ll have to get comfortable with and navigate that…Good luck with your flight!

    I flew alone with my very active son on my lap until he was two and for years after in the seat next to me with no screens for flights that were up to 20 hours. Get some little toys you can bring out every hour or so and a few activities. You will get to engage your child, not check out  on your screen, it takes effort but I always enjoyed the time with him:) 

    We were in a similar bind when my youngest, also very active, was going on his first trip back East. For us it would've involved buying a tablet and I felt like once we did that, and once he understood what it offered, it would be an uphill battle to manage limits, and I didn't have the wherewithal to tackle that at the time. So I googled something like "toddler plane activities" and stuffed a bag of goodies that I took out at intervals in between snacks and walks up and down the aisle as needed. His favorite was a roll of blue painters tape. We'd break off bits and let him tape it to the seatback etc then spend time removing it. When the flight attendant gave us a worried look we assured her we'd remove it all and it wouldn't leave a mark and she let us be. Blue tape became our de facto cheap, portable diversion toy!

    I was very screen-strict when my child was younger, and one way that it paid off was that in very select situations, I could introduce it as a special treat. If your home itself isn't centered around TV usage, a special "airplane treat" movie will probably be just that-- a treat, and not one that will turn into constant viewing. (At your son's age, he might end up thinking that movies only exist on airplanes!) Enjoy your trip!

    Go for it. But make sure that you have other options for activities for your kid. A 21 month old who has never watched TV is unlikely to be interested in watching a movie for very long. Also, if your child is sensitive, he could be terrified of the movie. One of my kids is really sensitive to violence or scary (even mildly scary or suspenseful) parts of movies & I wouldn't have wanted to find this out the first time in the middle of a flight. Even at age 8 he covered his eyes for part of Moana ... even though he's seen it a few times.

    I'd also recommend trying to get a seat for your son if possible - usually they'll give you one at the airport if the flight isn't full (Southwest is especially good about this). I stopped flying with lap infants after my kids were immobile infants. It was well worth the money to be able to strap a wiggly mobile child into a carseat they were familiar with and that they couldn't escape on the plane. Our kids tended to sleep in the car & we found that if we put them in the car seat on the plane, they often (not always) fell asleep and slept through most of the flight. It was so much easier. 

    We held out to three including flying to Australia. Yikes! not sure how we did that. Any way, a trip to Colorado is no problem at that age with some good books and a few new toys and some snacks. But screen time only on the plane is also completely fine if that is what you choose to do. It isn’t all or nothing. As your kid gets older, putting limits on screen time is key. It isn’t really about yes/no screen time or none. Mr Rogers and calliou were good first shows for our boy as they were gentle and slow paced and not too frenetic for a young brain. Maybe because we took it slowly with screens my son was still scared of Moana at five, fwiw so maybe have a few different options ready. 

    Before COVID when our ability to travel & screentime limits were simultaneously put on hold we strictly limited TV with our toddler *except* on planes or, less often, long road trips. Yes, opening the door a crack led to the occasional requests outside of aircraft but for the most part she accepted the context-specific nature of the permission and didn't beg for screens all the time thereafter. The bigger issue was that the screens weren't 100% effective on the plane and we still struggled to keep her entertained/contained on longer flights. I would just be *very* thoughtful as to what you pick (we love Moana!) because you will open the door irrevocably to requests for various marketing items afterward as we learned to our chagrin after picking Peppa Pig somewhat at random. We like Magic School Bus, Sarah and Duck, and StoryBots for that reason (plus lots of old musicals and Miyazaki!).

    We do screens for our 3 year old (weekends and trips/hard weekdays) but we found when she was that age she was more into audio stories like Cuentos for Kiddos on Spotify. There are tons out there. Also stupid Vtech toys like their music phone with a headphone Jack could be good. You set the rules so even if you do screens on the trip you can still limiT or forbid them at home. Make that the expectation. 

    First of all, I agree with you that there is something to be said about allowing kids to be bored, instead of offering them endless entertainment, so that they learn creativity and self reliance. I did my best to restrict screen time for my son when he was young when I noticed that he would become hyper, scattered, and unable to focus after screen time. He even (no kidding) ran a fever. Taking the screen away from him was a no brainer. That said, because he wasn't allowed any screen time when he was younger, he showed little to no interest in the screen on long flights. It held his interest for about 10 minutes and then he was done. I don't think kids can sit on a plane with an iPad for hours until they are at least 3, maybe older. So you can try giving your child a screen, but also be prepared with tons of toys, sticker books, coloring pages (those that change color with a pen full of water are great because they don't stain), and lots and lots and lots of snacks. As for whether you will hurt your child by offering him a screen on a plane--no, you won't. Screen addiction with children that age are entirely a parent problem. Preschoolers/toddlers don't even know how to turn on a device, especially if you lock it. Just be strict about not caving in to requests for more screen time when he gets home, and within a few days he will forget about it. When we used to travel internationally with our son (after he was older), he got as much screen time as he wanted on the trip, then we went through a one week detox of no screen time at all when we got back, and he was back to baseline. Good luck!

    Whatever you decide about screens, check out BPN archives for how to entertain toddlers on planes. I got so many good ideas! My kiddo could NOT sit in a lap for long but we were successful bringing her car seat on the plane and letting her have her own seat starting at 19 months. She would nap in her car seat (but not on a lap.) Introducing a “fresh” toy or snack every 20 minutes (and put away the “old” one really works. Colorado is not too long or far. If there are two adults one can board early to get carry-ons and your space set up and the other can run the kid around until last call. They cuts 20 minutes out of the sitting time. 
    Good Luck! 

    When we traveled with our 22 month old (prepandemic) but for 5 hours, we individually wrapped his toys and books (mostly toys he already had and a few new toys and books) and the time it took to unwrap added to his enjoyment and surprise even if it was an ‘old’ toy. Plus he enjoyed shredding the wrapping too! (Since it was a 5 hour flight we did one every hour or every 30 minutes depending on need)  We also have a runner but he seemed to stay busy with various snacks and toys and books but every child is different!!

    (The child behind us who had screen time most of the flight had a much harder time and cried a lot but again every child is different! And we all do what we can to survive!)

    A similar question was posted a few weeks ago. From CA to CO is very doable without a screen, especially if you've been going without it for long. We flew from CA to NC, CA to Europe, and most recently CA to Caribbean all without screens. Our kid was ~3 and ~4.5. The first flight is already exciting. Some suggestions: 

    Make sure you have a window seat so you can point out all the exciting things during the flight. It might not seem exciting for you, but it's exciting for a 2 year old! 

    Bring snacks, LOTS of snacks. We let our kid open all the snacks himself to kill time, and we also let him eat the plane snacks which are totally new. We're also a no/low sugar family, so we made the exception for airplane cookies. 

    Books. A couple of new books, if he's into being read to. 

    Our son listened to music via headphones and also audio stories. 

    We gave him a new toy in the beginning of the trip that he got to play with during the flight and we promised one more toy when we arrived if he cooperated. 

    Our kid is approaching 6, and we are just recently introducing screen time (maybe a couple of Sesame Street episodes a week, and he gets to watch the 6 minute MLB summaries with his Dad every morning). But still no movies, no Disney, no Paw Patrol, etc. More recently we've been doing flights of 1.5 hours or so, and he just looks out the window and asks for snacks, doesn't even occur to him to watch anything. 

    Regardless of how you feel about them in everyday life, screens are a life-saver on flights - let go of that guilt! In case sitting through a 2-hour movie is too much, I'd also highly recommend episodes of shorter shows (you can find semi-educational things from PBS like Wild Kratts and Sid the Science Kid if that seems better) and even toddler-friendly iPad or phone games if that's an option - at that age my youngest could sit still for quite a while playing alphabet and shape games, which seemed *sort of* like learning. Plan on variety, like some snacks, a small new toy, a favorite book (Richard Scarry books were a favorite with my kids because there are so many details to look at - he has a slim paperback called "A Day at the Airport" that made many trips with us), a screen, some crayons/coloring, etc., because at that age you never know what will capture their attention and for how long.

    Absolutely do it. While kids in general don’t understand exceptions well, I think most understand that being on an airplane is very different than normal life, and therefore can follow that that is an exception.

    I think a full length movie will be too much for your little one to pay attention to. You will have much more success with short things specifically targeted to that age. The “Little Baby Bum” series on Netflix was good for mine.

    Practice with the headphones at home. 
    Good luck!

    Our daughter believed until the age of 6 that the tablet ONLY worked on airplanes, and didn't in any way translate watching TV on the airplane to the potential to watch TV at home. She has kid headphones that don't go above a certain volume and look really cool. Her very active 20-month-old sister just took her first flight and gazed over her big sister's shoulder at whatever was happening on the screen the whole time and it was a godsend. (She didn't have any sound, and I'm not sure would wear headphones. Given that, maybe instead of Moana just some downloaded kids' shorts--like Sesame Street--would be visually enticing enough to actually not *need* the sound? Especially because he doesn't, you know, need to know he's missing out on anything.)

    Anyway, you're not going to ruin your no-screentime rule. Travel is a magical exception and it's your trip, too.

    We started letting ours watch TV around that age.  For what it’s worth, he is now a four year old who enjoys watching TV but also has no issue turning it off and loves active play and imaginative play just as much. Even if you’re not ready to start watching TV as a habit, I definitely think it’s worth it to make an exception for the plane. I can’t imagine how you’ll keep a 21-month old still or a couple hours otherwise.

    one thing to consider: Moana may actually be too advanced for him. Not because there’s anything inappropriate but it may be hard for him to follow the plot and he may get bored. I’d suggest something geared toward very young kids with minimal plot (we started with Daniel Tiger, Sesame Street and Peppa Pig). Good luck!

    I was (am) of the same mind as you.   You don't need for me to say this, but holding out as long as possible does amazing things to developing a child's creativity, imagination, physical coordination, etc.  being all-in of the 3-D world means more practice at using ALL of their senses, social interaction, social-emotional development and more! 

    After saying all of that, I am absolutely not a purist - our family has a fairly typical number of screens, and we use them (for reference, my kid is now 14, and i'm sure I and my whole family uses screens way too much these days).   But the more you can delay the onset of screen habits, the better. 

    In answer to your real question, about whether to let your 21-month-old watch a movie on a plane, I totally would.  Maybe a couple of toys first, then pull out the screen when you need it most.  One of the benefits of holding out on screen time is that when you make exceptions for special circumstances, it is a novelty.    I steadfastly resisted handing my phone to the kid for everyday things like waiting in line or grocery shopping, because I didn't want to set that kind of precedent, but it was a fine distraction during a blood draw, for example.   Keeping a screen as an option for sanity on an airplane is reasonable!

    My husband had to fly to Cambodia with our son alone when he was 18 months old, and we made an exception with TV on the trip. My husband found a couple of shows that captivated our sons attention at the time (Tayo the bus and Titipo the train), and it helped with the long hours of air transit. We also used TV when we had long car rides on the trip, and there wasn’t too much hassle weaning off the tv when we got back. In general, our super active kid does better with no tv, but we make exceptions when it’s helpful, like travel. Good luck and bon voyage! 

    I'll second letting your toddler watch on the plane. I also agree that, when I started letting my toddler watch something when traveling, I noticed that she couldn't hold her attention to a full movie. If he knows the music it could be different though! I'd also download a couple of little simple games or short movies/shows, just in case. Good luck!

    Whatever helps you all get thru the flight - just do it! 
    we were also holding back on TV for a while with my firstborn but we flew back to my home country for a visit when he was also 21months old and we had to endure 20hours of flight time (2 separate 10hr flights - Yikes - won’t do that in a rush again with an active toddler). 
    we decided to let him watch some kids TV but much to our dismay he would only watch for about 10mins at a time. He was most interested in running up an down the aisles so that’s where we spent most of our time. But a flight to Colorado is so much shorter. You’ll get thru it! Your toddler will probably take a nap, watch a little TV and want to walk the aisles a little too. And before you know you’ll be at your destination. Good luck!

    Do it. Consider downloading the Moana music videos (and others) off of YouTube if your kiddo is into the soundtrack. The short videos and familiar sounds that can be replayed should work well.

    I'd also include a few Daniel Tiger episodes, maybe Tumble Leaf, or Elinore Wonders Why, or Cocomelon. I suggest a few different shows only because you don't know what your kid will gravitate to and some characters just resonate better than others.

    Best of luck and safe travels!

    For the sake of other passengers and for your family's sanity, let the child watch TV on the plane!  Our children have watched lots and lots (and lots) of TV on planes, car trips, and at home since they were toddlers, and they are bright, active, creative, and kind people.  Our 17 year old used to watch a movie at dinner every night as a toddler and she just took 4 AP tests (including AP Calc) and is an incredible artist.  Our other child is an outdoor enthusiast and sports nut.  You kid will be fine, and your fellow passengers will thank you. 

    Go for it, definitely! You want to do everything you can to keep that little kiddo happy and comfortable, because if he isn’t, there’s not much you can do on an airplane if he’s screaming or crawling off of you, or into everything. Be as prepared as you can be. You might want to download some short videos, as a movie is much less likely to hold the attention of a youngster that age. On the other hand, if he has never seen the screen, he might be entranced no matter what. If you are worried about it becoming a habit, don’t worry! If the airplane is the only place he is allowed to watch a screen, he will just think it is something that happens on airplanes. We flew with my son for the first time when he was 22 months, and we used little videos like truck tunes, which we got on DVD, and other short videos like baby Einstein and I think Nickelodeon Junior DVDs, that might have been when he was a little older though. We also invested in a pair of noise canceling headphones for him, which seems ridiculous given the price, but it was well worth it in terms of having a calm toddler on the airplane. We were also well prepared with plenty of snacks, small new toys to produce if security lines were long, and his favorite stuffy and a little blanket for a possible nap (which unfortunately never happened). We also let him have a cookie when the wait at the gate was long, which we never did at other times in regular life. Basically, we were prepared to bend the rules quite a bit for the airplane ride to make it go smoothly, and I recommend the same. It makes a big difference. 

    Having traveled internationally with our two children, I fully agree that you should go for the screens, and have a variety of options (including some shorter things) although we had more luck the more language our kids understood. Our kids loved Mr. Rogers'. Neighborhood, Daniel Tiger, Tumbleleaf, and Stinky and Dirty (all on Prime) and Bluey is amazing (Disney+) - some things you can download and some you can't. Our son loved Cars and Cars 3 - he liked Moana and Frozen around age 2-3 and then later got scared of them. Apps like Metamorphabet are also good screen options. 

    Our pediatrician recommended that we get a few new airplane toys (small things that squeeze or twirl or flip are great) and wrap them like presents. Then you get the unwrapping time also. We also had some luck with things like WikiSticks (the wax sticks that you can bend and shape) or pipe cleaners, a hand puppet, a piggy bank you can put "coins" in and then open up and get them all out (I cut rounds out of cardboard for coins), and the "poke-a-dot" books are bulky and well worth their weight. The no-mess pens and coloring books were hit-and-miss for us, and be prepared for the pens to end up on the floor. When all else has failed, ask the flight attendants for some clean empty drink cups - they can be stacked and squeezed and you can look at your fingers through them, and napkins can be ripped into pieces (and for bonus points the pieces can be put into something!)...

    You'll manage and the travel time IS finite - and if you bring enough to do, your kiddo might just sleep through it 🤪. Good luck!

    We also have a 2 year old and have been very guarded with screen time/TV watching. We just moved to SF from NY, which is when we finally capitulated and got her a tablet to watch on the flight. We'll sometimes let her watch on long car rides now. We don't let her touch our phones or otherwise have a screen unless there's a specific purpose (flight, long drive).

    My suggestion would be to watch the show first to make sure it's not what I call crack-cocaine TV. I put a show on for her called Masha and the Bear once... it was a frenzied explosion of colors and rapidly playing music, flashing screens, excentric scenes... clearly engineered to solve for maximum brain stimulation/dopamine release. A lot of media feels very sinister like they know exactly what they are doing. It's meant to be unhealthy and addictive with zero nutritional value. Like a 1999 supersized McDonalds combo meal.

    We let her watch Winnie the Pooh and Peppa Pig, which feel much slower-paced, gentler, and somewhat educational.

    Well, I traveled from SF to Michigan, once with a lap child and once with a 3 year old and an infant with no other adult and no electronics, because it was before the cell phone.  I brought books, crayons and paper, magnetic blocks, and snacks and had no difficulty finding something to do what with reading stories and drawing pictures and looking out the window.  I’m sure it’s much simpler with a movie on, but it can certainly be done without.

    Agree with the previous poster. I wouldn’t worry about “breaking the seal,” as it’d be easy to make it a special thing you only do on planes or long car rides until it feels appropriate to do more. We caved and let my daughter (now 2.5 y/o) have some screen time around 22/23 months, when we were at the end of our ropes during COVID. Though I can’t say anything about its long term effects, so far it seems to have only led to an absolute explosion of imaginary thinking. 

    I think indulging on an airplane is lifesaving. Sanity saving! Especially if you are super strict all other times--it's easy to compartmentalize the iPad or screens or whatever. If they are only allowed on an airplane, they are only allowed on an airplane

    As for content, I would avoid long-format movies in favor of short things (long-formats get boring for kids who aren't used to them because they can't follow the story) in lieu of smaller, more bite-sized programs (our family favorites for that age are Puffin Rock (Netflix) and Daniel Tiger (PBS)), which also have the benefit of not having the scary, incomprehensible jokes and drama that movies made for older kids and adults have.

    I’m impressed that you’re holding out on allowing tv. I’m so happy to have done that with my kids (now 17 and 19) but it was easier when they were little because smart phones and tablets weren’t so common then. When we flew with them as toddlers, they were excited by being on the plane so that helped. Also, bringing fun, novel snacks and a few small gift wrapped activities (that don’t have small pieces that can get lost) may keep him occupied. Maybe keep the movie in your back pocket in case he starts to fall apart. Just because he’s allowed to watch one movie on the plane, doesn’t mean you have to keep allowing it at home. Good  thing is it’s a relatively short flight! Good luck!

    Every kid is different, so YMMV from ours but — our approach to screens was similar, we had the same dilemma, we decided to watch movies on planes…and it was totally fine and our now nine-year-old has not at all become addicted to screens, in fact she not-infrequently turns tv/movie opportunities down in favor of other activities. The one thing I would be on alert for is scary things in movies—I personally find the lava monster in Moana utterly terrifying and I think kids who aren’t exposed to screens as much can be overwhelmed by the visual/audio flood of fast-paced stuff in movies. This is even more intense when the kid has earphones—it’s a more solitary experience and the flood is more intense. And children often are frightened by things adults don’t necessarily register as frightening. Mine was super scared of the witch in the Wizard of Oz, for example, and she was six when we saw that. For a child that young you might want to instead consider downloading Mary Poppins or even Mr. Rogers episodes (I was not a fan but my kid LOOOOOOVED him, and they are all on Amazon, and did you know his show included a bunch of operas for kids, yes operas, and that his multitalented cast included two professional opera singers from the Met?! I kid you not. The operas are trippy but fantastic and we can sing a lot of those songs by heart.) Or shell out for in air internet so you have more chill options for media. But YES screens help for long plane rides and won’t ruin your child. Good luck!

    This sounds like a great time to bring out the reinforcements and go for some tv!  Based on your intuitive parenting so far, you will probably do this but I would just hold off on the screen until you’ve exhausted other activities on the plane. Not sure how sensitive your child is but Moana has a couple scary scenes (as do most Disney movies). Daniel Tiger is a fun show to start with also and includes lots of original music written by Mr. Rogers. In fact, we listened to music from Daniel Tiger before ever watching it and it’s fun to watch the show and already know the music (similar to your Moana plan!) It’s great that you’re following your intuition and limiting screen time based on what is best for your family. Plan rides are a great time to take advantage of having the screen option without overusing it.  I also agree with another poster, make sure to get comfortable headphones. Kids headphones usually have a volume limit so they can’t blast out their ear drums. You could also get a headphone splitter so you could watch together, both on headphones.  Hope you guys have a great trip!

  • Hi BPN folks, just wondering how people travel to far-flung places with little ones. We are about to embark on a cross-continental trip when baby is 1 yr and brother is 2.5 yrs and down the line, we'd like to do international trips too. In all these scenarios, we would be flying and plan on staying with family and friends, who may not necessarily have baby equipment on hand. I've been googling a lot on travel hacks but wanted to know what worked for you! I have also heard of and while that may work for the East Coast trip, not sure if I will have much luck with international, so it might just be that I could invest now in some equipment anyway.

    • Sleep - Both are accustomed to sleeping in their own space and sleep better that way. Buying two travel cribs (like the Lotus/Guava pack-and-play) gets really $$ and might be overkill, also too much to carry. I am thinking of investing in one. Anyone with success with packing some kind of kid's tent and just putting bedding in there (I'm thinking for the toddler)?
    • Strollers -  Bring our double stroller (I already have the lightest one - the Zoe), or just travel with one umbrella stroller? I know we can check strollers in at the gate, but if we are sightseeing and such, I am not sure if the double stroller will be more of a pain to lug around. Yet, I don't know what else to do if both kids get tired (and we are tired of holding them...)
    • Car seats - I have no idea what to do here. We will still need an infant car seat, and my toddler will still need a forward-facing car seat. We likely won't need to rent a car because we are always going to be with family/friends, but their cars aren't equipped either.
    • Anything else I need to think of? Tips for entertaining kids on long plane flights are always welcome too. Unfortunately we still have to have our little one be a lap baby because tickets get so expensive... I remember when I was very young, my mom just asked for extra bedding from the attendants and would make a makeshift bed for me on the floor at her feet (not the aisle, lol). Probably would get raised eyebrows now, but heck I was able to sleep!

    Thanks in advance!

    [Moderator note: Lots of advice here from past discussions: Advice about Traveling with Kids ]

    We traveled to Toronto and had the same dilemma with our three and four year old. We had my brother purchase used car seats on craigslist for less than twenty bucks a piece. Our youngest slept on a lululemon yoga mat that we placed on the floor next to our bed and our oldest shared a bunk with her cousin. The flight attendants on Air Canada were very accommodating- they gave us blankets, headphones and pillows which are usually only used in first class. They also had these goodie bags with crayons and a small coloring book. Definitely pack lots of snacks, keep offering food, drinks etc. and try to keep them entertained with a few walks up and down the isle. 

    Hi! I have a 14 month old and in this past year we have traveled 4x to New York, as well as to India, the Maldives, Singapore, and Argentina with our baby, and several of these trips I did alone with the baby.

    For me, what matters is to keep the gear as minimal as possible since you already have a lot to lug around/keep track of in terms of babies and baggage. This is what I do:

    • stroller -- we travel with a Contours Bitsy stroller (umbrella/travel stroller), into which we can fit the Nuna Pipa car seat (and many other infant car seats) as well as the Cosco Scenera convertible car seat (the only convertible car seat that will fit into the stroller). Contours Bitsy is an awesome underrated stroller, collapses and opens super simply with one hand, very light, and has held up to some serious throwing around, offroad use, in and out of airplanes with no stroller bag. It's pretty cheap, maybe you could get two. I would definitely not want to travel with a double stroller, that is super unwieldy. You will have difficulty fitting this along with your luggage into any normal car trunk.
    • car seat -- since my baby turned 6 months old I always travel with a car seat on the plane, though I'm generally desperate to keep the gear minimal. This is because it makes the long haul flight so much easier/safer if you can put the baby down, safely strapped into a car seat. Alternately, for long haul flights with lap infants, you should call and request a bassinet seat -- generally the first row of the economy section with fold down bassinets. Times have changed -- you will certainly not be able to put the baby down to sleep on the floor. If you carry the baby they will ask you to wear a second seat belt to loop in your baby. It won't be comfortable and neither you nor your baby will be able to sleep much. 

      As to what kind of car seat to bring for your toddler, consider buying a new car seat specifically for travel; we use the Cosco Scenera convertible car seat. It is super light and slim, and only around $50 from walmart. It fits well into an airplane seat. My baby can sleep pretty well in this car seat, especially if we upgrade to economy plus and it's possible to do the full recline position while rear-facing.

      Google the laws for using car seats in international destinations. For example, in Singapore, babies must be in car seats in private cars, but not in taxis. We were able to go sightseeing using taxis without lugging the car seat which made a big difference. Public transport is also a good option for leaving the car seat at home.

    • sleep -- If you're staying with friends, that's tough -- either they provide the cribs or you have to bring them. I've traveled with the Guava Lotus a couple times but much prefer not to, and it usually works pretty well. Stay at a hotel and request that they provide cribs, almost all nice hotels will do this for you. Hotels are great with this kind of stuff. They also make life much easier with concierge to get you taxis, room service to bring warm milk in the middle of the night, blackout shades for jetlagged babies, daily cleaning service that actually makes you feel like you're on vacation, etc. Alternately, you can use an airbnb type service like Kid and Coe to get an apartment with all the kids gear you need including cribs. 

    Good luck!

    I love Lucie's List for these types of recommendations - she's truly done all the work for you, in terms of research, and you can take it from there:

    Since you're staying with family/friends, see what they can arrange for you on their end - like if they have friends they can borrow gear from, or I've even seen lots of requests on NextDoor from people looking to borrow baby equipment for their family members coming to town. You'd be surprised what people have and are willing to lend out - car seats, high chairs, travel cribs, even books and toys. 

    My daughter is 4 right now (turning 5 in October) and my wife and I have traveled internationally since she was 2 months old (7 different countries to date). Just so you know jet lag with kids is no joke and is probably the hardest thing to overcome. When my daughter was young we bought a portable crib and kept it at the grandparent's place and pulled it out every time we visited so if there's a location you plan to visit a lot that would help. Another option we've used is a blow-up kid size mattress but it can be pretty heavy and we only used it for extended trips. When we aren't visiting family/friends we just all share a bed which works for us now. For the stroller I'd recommend an umbrella stroller. Having a larger one is nice but a pain to lug around. Plus a lot of larger cities (particularly European cities) weren't built with strollers in mind. Case in point, a lot of metro stations in Paris have no elevators/escalators to get down to the train level. I don't know how many times I've seen people having to carry strollers down the stairs. For the carseat we use the RideSafer travel vest which we like as it's small, light and easy to get on/off. It's also tested to the same standards as regular carseats so we feel comfortable using it on our travels. It also comes in handy when our daughter has field trips for school and needs a carseat for the carpool. It's only for a toddler and you'll still need an infant seat as you noted. The long plane rides aren't fun. Bring lots of toys, coloring books etc and be prepared to walk up/down the aisles. When the kids are older then ipads etc are helpful. Sleeping on the floor might have worked for you when seats were more comfortable and had more leg room but these days it's super cramped so I'm not sure if that'll work. I've seen kid sized carry-ons that double as seat extension so they can sleep but not sure how effective they are. 

    Congrats and hooray for you! 

    • Sleep - the Bjorn travel crib is lightweight, and we stuffed extra things in it (like diapers). For non-babies, Shrunks inflatable bed rails pack small and are easy to blow up. We even ended up using them at home later. TBH, though, a lot of the time parents and kids end up co-sleeping - there's less stuff to carry, and they do better with a parent when they're in an unfamiliar space.
    • Strollers -  If you have to take a car seat, I suggest a stroller where your car seat can clip in (like AND, an umbrella stroller if you'll need it for the older child, which does make moving through the airport a lot easier. We also used the Ergo in back-riding mode until the kids were about 2...the kids can be heavy but the backpack-style makes it pretty do-able and it's better than lugging around a double stroller.
    • Car seats - The Immi Go fold-up carseat is great for travel and is a breeze to install. We now have one for both kids (ages 3 and 5). It's fairly lightweight and fits inside a large tote bag for carrying. (We always meant to get a sturdy suitcase or bag so we could check it, but never did...we just carry. It's not ideal, but it's fine.
    • Plane rides - don't be shy or puritan with Benadryl! Use it! Amazon sells cheap Kindles for kids that we pre-load with some long movies. Melissa & Doug's Water Wow art boards are great and easy to carry. I always meant to make necklaces out of Cheerios...they take a long time to eat, and it keeps them contained. Take 1-2 of their favorite small books. Ergo's are great for wearing on the plane because it can help the kids sleep (and save your arms from holding holding holding).
    • Don't stress if you forget something. We had fun shopping at a baby store in Stockholm when our umbrella stroller missed the connection and ended up in Finland. And we bought a sit-on scooter in Spain that then doubled as a second "stroller" for the older kiddo.

    Have fun!

    We fly to the east coast 1-2 times a year. It is no fun. Although it is a long flight, we feel that a direct flight ends up being better than lugging kids and car seats and the all the stuff to try to make the connecting flight is hard. And if there is a delay with the connecting flight, the travel is that much longer. 

    If you can ask friends and families to borrow car seats at the destination, please do it! Within their communities, someone usually can borrow car seats. For your 2.5 year old, you will probably need a seat on the flight, so bring a car seat for the older one but get a travel car seat roller like go go babyz. That makes navigating the airport with a car seat much easier. Alternatively get a back pack style car seat bag, so your hands are free. We have tried both options. Our kid doesn’t for stroller, so back pack was it for us. It’s easier to strap the 1 year old in a baby carrier. 

    You can also gate check stroller but again, our kid hated stroller and insisted on walking from age 1, so we strapped the kid onto us in airports. We also had a leash when the kid liked to toddle and dart away.

    If you have to bring both seats with you, check one but note that checked bag can be lost. Our checked seat didn’t come with us one time so southwest loaned one for us. Yucky but better than nothing. Also, you need a proper cover for your seat.

    Bring lots of everything - food, drinks, 2 or more changes of clothes for kids and at least one change of clothes for adults. Lots of wipes, sanitizer. Blow outs and throw ups can and do happen. We have experienced both in mid flight and at airports.

    try to walk up and down aisle. We let our kid watch Disney movies, Sesame Street and stuff. Naps happen at weird times. Make sure they drink and suck on things during take off and landing. Have a stash of toys and new books for the older one. If you can manage,  let the older one stay outside the airplane as long as possible. We like boarding late but if it’s Southwest one adult goes in to get seats and the other one stays behind with the toddler as long as possible. Bring your empty cups at one so that you can transport drinks. Good luck. My youngest is 4 now so I am so happy that travel has gotten much easier.

    I have a 3yo and a <1yo. We traveled a lot with our oldest before #2 came around, and only a little with 2 now. My 2 cents based on that experience:


    We have traveled with and without our own car seats and found that unless you have a clear plan for acquiring one on the other side, it's best to just bring yours. We got a lightweight convertible car seat to use for travel (11 lbs) and it's served us well - just check it in when you get to the airport.


    Definitely opt for the lightest/smallest stroller if you'll be doing international travel. The big strollers really only work in North America. If your little one is still willing to go an a carrier (Ergo, Lilebaby), then bring a single stroller. The older can mostly walk, and if s/he needs a break, the younger one can go in the carrier for shorter stretches. Way less work than a double stroller!


    Pack & plays are heavy and a pain to travel with. They're also pretty cheap, so you could buy one to leave on the east coast with your family (we've done that twice). Can your toddler sleep in a regular bed? We've done that with a blanket rolled up along the edge and placed under the fitted sheet to keep her from rolling out. Also love the idea of "camping" on the floor with a mat and pillows for the older one.

    Take a look at Rick Steeves' Europe traveling forums for traveling with kids...  Especially to Europe.  It can be done and there is no reason you should not go.  We've traveled with 9 month old and a 3 year old to London for 10 days.  (Nine month old was still breast feeding.)  We just returned from a vacation to Paris, Zurich, Venice, Zagreb, Zadar, Dubrovnik, and Montenegro.  And was very surprised by the number of foreign travelers who were pushing around baby carriages with infants.  Some had to be just 4 months old.  What's funny is we don't see or maybe notice very many kids in the 3-8 year range.

    Anyway, guess what I'm saying is there's no reason not to go.  In our travels we found the most the most traveling with young kids countries were Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Montenegro, Croatia, and Greece.  I can't tell you how many memories and pictures we have with our kids from these countries and many more.  While traveling with our kids in Austria and Germany we met up with my brother-in-law and his 2 kids which were 5 and 3 at the time.  We have pictures of them running around castles, acting like the kids in the Sound of Music/dancing in Mirabell Gardens, sliding down the salt mine slides and playing in parks with the local kids from Germany, Austria, England and Greece.  You should be doing the same if you like to travel.

     Hope this gives you the encouragement to go. No need to lug along a lot of baby items.  There are babies in Europe and they sell all of the same times you can by in the states.  What we did was by prams/strollers or what ever we needed in Europe including clothing.  Make sure you kids are vaccinated especially for measles.  Cases of measles are at an all time high do to the anti-vaxxers.  Last thing you want on a vacation is a sick child or have a child who is quarantined.

    Make those memories now before your kids get any older.  You know, the Christmas holidays are coming up soon.  You could make some incredible memories spending the holidays in Europe.  We did, and so should you. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Airplane entertainment for a 2 year old

Jan 2009

Before a long plane trip, we gave our 2 1/2 year old son a Bob the Builder imaginetics magnet set, and it kept him busy for 3 hours straight. We have more trips coming up. Can anyone recommend other toys to keep a toddler busy on a plane? Jenny

I have traveled a lot with my now 2.5 year old daughter. We ALWAYS take our magnadoodle. They come in all sorts of sizes, but we take the big one made by ''Parents'' brand. It has a big board and 4 magnet animal heads to move around the board. It is large but I pack a duffle bag with her favorite snacks and toys and squeeze it in there.

Also the crayola wonder markers are great for coloring (they come in all sorts of coloring books). The markers only color on the ''special paper'' crayola sells.

You can get all this stuff at Target or any other toy store. Flying Mama

We have had a lot of success with some large magnetic ''Create A Scene'' boards. There are about 20 or is an example of one:

We bought about 10 different ones from another website, but I can't find the website right now. Nikki

Our nearly two and a half year old is entertained by playdough, coloring books, stickers, finger puppets, stories, dinosaur lacing cards (cardboard shaped like dinosaurs with shoelaces to lace in and out of little holes, from Mr. Mopps on MLK in Berkeley), and a reusable vinyl sticker book also with a dinosaur theme (from the Ark on 4th street). All of these are small and lightweight for airplane travel. -frequent flyer

Here's what worked for me (and still does): -Playdough works well in a small ziplock bag. -Color Wonder markers and coloring books or blank paper. -books -DVD player with their favorite shows burned on DVD -Story Reader (with headphones) and different books that are read to them -magnetic pattern blocks -small magic doodle boards

We pack a carry-on just for her things. Snacks are good too. travelling mom too

We just took our 21 month old on a trip to the midwest (SFO - Dayton, OH, 1 hour layover in Minneapolis, first leg about 4 hours, 2nd leg, 2 hours). We brought small board books, crayons & scribble pad, and an iPod with Thomas the Train videos on it. Some small toys such as wooden airplane, truck and car. He loved to read and color and he napped during the first leg for at least 2 hours. His favorite blanket and sippie cup were also brought along. Marisa

We've always flown a lot with our two kids, since both sets of grandparents live far away. I've kept a list of some of the airplane activities that have managed to keep us sane during cross-country flights. Each of our kids preferred slightly different things, so your kid may vary!

Best general tip I can give: Get new toys and books for the plane -- novelty goes a long way -- and wrap them in wrapping paper. Unwrapping the toys takes some time, and wrapping paper is a fun toy by itself!

Also, bring plenty of snacks, including some special treats that you may not ordinarily have around. For example, we sometimes give lollipops on descent (can help with ear trouble to suck on something).

We often fly JetBlue -- they have TV screens in each seat back with Animal Planet, Nick, and cartoons. A few years ago we also invested in a cheap portable DVD player, which has been a lifesaver on long flights.

Here are a few specific toys that have entertained our kids as toddlers, in addition to magnet sets: - Small photo album with pictures of family & friends - Toy cell phone - Eggs-in-carton puzzle - Small plastic tea set, or pan with spoon (cooking, tea party) - Finger puppets - Sticker activity book with reusable vinyl ''cling'' stickers -- if you can find one of these, the stickers will stick to the window of the plane, lots of fun - the famous Magna Doodle - Color Wonder markers & coloring books - Little tubes of plastic animals - Tiny squeeze flashlight - Post-it notes - Tiny tub of play-doh - Matchbox cars - Small cotton blanket and stuffed animal (if your child likes to put things to bed... animal can also come to the tea party)

When all else fails, the seat back tray is very entertaining, along with the safety instructions in the seat pocket! Alison

Cross-country Flight with 1 year old

August 2006

Against my better judgement I am flying across country with my one year old. (going to visit my husbands family) It is a direct 6+ hour flight. I am loosing sleep over it already. I have purchased and extra seat so at least there will be no one sitting in our row, but I am in need of some advice. He has a lot of energy and is walking now and I am not sure how we are going to make it without him going ballistic the entire flight. The flight takes off right about the time he takes his morning nap. How do you get a child to nap on a plane? Any tricks for entertaining a toddles for 6 hours in a seat? Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Nervous Mother

You are going to be just fine. I travel with my VERY ACTIVE kids all of the time. It can be done with a minimal amount of pain.

Don't try to get your child to sleep before the flight. Let the airplane engines do it naturally. Don't stress too much about getting off schedule a little. If you can get an hour of awake time for him at the beginning, then the nap time in the middle will help break up the trip a little.

Bring cool stuff for your child to play with...I always pack art clay (it is easy to manipulate and has a cool texture...sort of silly putty and sort of play-dough. Crayola makes it.), crayons, color wonder, books, things that are quiet but still make some noise (I found some cool tube things that are bendable and can compact and stretch out and some other fun things at the Lawrence Hall of Science) and just something that fills whatever need that child is going through (for instance, my then one year old played with a plastic mug filled with plastic spoons that I borrowed from my elder daughters tea set for more than an hour on a trip last spring...she was in that emptying and filling stage of her life then).

If you are flying jetblue then turn on animal planet. My now 18-month old and I have fabulous 'conversations' about whatever is on the screen. If your child watches tv at home in some form, then bring along a dvd player and show him whatever he watches. Don't stress about headphones, but just keep the volume low.

Take your child for walks during periods of time when fasten seat belt sign is not lit. Many passengers are going to stop your little guy for a chat (many won't). Head to rear galley and make friends with the flight attendent for about five minutes.

Alternate every hour or so with your partner with who is 'in charge.' If you are not 'in charge,' then try to find another row in the plane where you can go hang out and read and recharge.

Finally, don't stress about your kids behavior. Do your best. Most people on the plane have kids or grandkids and remember what it is like to be in your shoes. Those who don't have kids may be empathetic or not. But, who cares. You will never see them again jan mitchell janm

Maybe if you prepare for the worst it won't seem so bad! I've found that it's better to take the car seat on board and strap it in. I think that raises the chance that your kid will nap for at least part of the flight. Other than that, bring a lot of snacks, stickers, and books, and expect to be doing a lot of walking the plane. It's not fun but sometimes you just gotta do it! Good luck anon

Dimetapp, or any antihistamine to help with the ears issue. With babies/young children, if they have any sign of congestion, this could lead to a screaming baby by the end of the flight. As an adult, it's pretty painful as well, so I know it is for kids. The antihistamine makes them drowsy and they will sleep on the plane. If you're one of those parents that don't want to give drugs, then I would let go of that hangup if you want a calm baby for a 6-hour flight Anonymous

Don't stress! we have traveled to the UK - 10+ hour flight - twice with my son. first time he was 5 months, second time he was 1 1/2. the second time i took him by myself! Here's a few things to do:
1) bring the car seat on the plane. The biggest reason for that is safety & if you read the safety reports, even mild turbulence & little ones, you will not hesitate to bring this. It also helps get them to sleep.
2) s/he probably won't nap right away. he will be excited with all the new stuff, but don't worry about it. bring all the stuff you normally use to put to sleep like blankie, etc. & when he starts being a little tired, do your routine as much as possible. He may not sleep. but you could still have some quiet time
3) bring a portable DVD player & DVDs. even if you are someone that doesn't usually do TV, this is as a life saver
4) bring lots of toys, some new. Put them in plastic bags. crayons, paper,books, mini flip books (where they flip the little part to see what is under it).if you can go to Mr Mopps get those etch e doodle things.They also have bins of toys.
4) it's unrealistic to expect a little one to sit in their seat the whole time.if you insist they do you are asking for him to be a nightmare. take a lap around the cabin then read a book. then do it again
5) bring food! check with the airline with the recent flying situation but bring food. don't skimp. all you need is a crying child & airplane food they won't eat. (don't forget milk/formula)
6) if you haven't flown before it is very important that your child eats or drinks during take off & landing. they can't pop their ears & chewing helps. at one year old i usually gave a bottle. they say a pacifier isn't the same as they need to SWALLOW, not just suck. now that my son is 2+ we use raisins, bread, sippy cup. just think of something they can chew or drink for awhile.
7) bring an extra set of clothes for him & shirt for you
8) don't worry about the other folks on the plane. most people are really nice & helpful. there will be some jerk but ignore him. it's six hours. you will get thru it. you will get there & think 'that wasn't' so bad'. hope that helps

I was PLEASANTLY surprised to find out that my very active little one was a FANTASTIC plane traveller early on. The one- on-one attention he got from me - the entire plane ride, really made him happy. He wanted to walk some, but was incredibly sweet during most of the flight - and happy to be near me.

Here are some specific suggestions to fill the time:
*Little wind-up toys that flip, walk,etc. (I found a bunch of these in Lora's Closet on College Ave. near Ashby)
*Activities (crayons, mini-water colors, stickers, play-dough)
*Favorite books
*Portable DVD player with Baby Einstein or other videos he likes
*Also try used toy store on Solano (Toy go round) for little puzzles, other ideas. GOOD LUCK!

I had to take a long flight with my 1.5 year old. I didn't have an extra seat for him, I just had him on my lap for 5 hours and the plane was packed.

2 things. 1st, it isn't easy and will most likely be very challenging. 2nd, that doesn't really matter. Just remember that you are not the only person who has ever flown with a toddler, and flight attendants are very cool about helping keep kids calm. They have an interest in keeping everybody as happy as they can, and they generally like people, including kids. My son is generally very mellow, but even he didn't want to sit still for 5 hours. I read to him as much as I could, and then when he got all squirmy the flight attendant came back and took him for walks up and down the aisle. He got really tired eventually (planes are like cars that way) so he did nap for about an hour. Then he woke up and the flight attendant kept him busy by feeding him crackers. She seemed to enjoy interacting with him, so she was either really good at faking it or she liked kids a lot.

We did have one jerk of a passenger directly in front of us who yelled at me for letting him drum with his hands on the tray table. But the minute I put the table away he started a crying jag that lasted for about 30 minutes (he had been quiet up until then). I think she had it coming, but anyways. Don't worry about what the other passengers think. You're probably never going to see them again, and they were all once annoying screaming toddlers too. flyer

We've flown a lot with our daughter, now 16 months, with some cross-country and transatlantic flights right around your son's age. My daughter is extremely active (think dervish) and was walking well at the time. I was pretty nervous about it, since she hadn't been mobile on a plane before, but it was actually pretty easy.

Your timing is good. As soon as we were taking off, I nursed my baby and rocked her to sleep. I held her through her whole nap. She woke up almost two hours later (I watched a whole movie!). Hopefully, your son will sleep through a good part of the flight.

I had prepared a big in-flight entertainment bag, along with a snack pack of enticingly packaged favorites. The bag had a lot of books, some old standards and some new. I also included a few new and old toys (small, not too noisy), stickers to put on her hands and feet, a little purse with other small containers in it and things in those (in and out was a big interest at that age) and other things like that. Make up something new with your son's interests in mind. For example, my daughter was always trying to grab my wallet and take the credit cards out. So I bought her a little cloth wallet and filled with old video store cards, outdated school IDs, etc. She hadn't seen it before the flight, so she was pretty fascinated. Some people's babies like those Baby Einstein DVDs so they bring some and play them on the laptop. Just think about what your son likes and cater to that, with novel twists. Between her nap and these activities and snacks, would you believe my little wild child didn't get down in the aisle once? I was shocked.

The ride to London was easy, too. Coming home was a bit harder, but I think it was because the novelty was wearing off (we took some shorter flights in Europe as well), and we had some long delays.

But here's the thing: even if it is hard and he's wiggling and fussing and driving you nuts, you'll get where you're going eventually and you'll be glad you made the trip. Anon

I have 18 mo. old twins. My family is on the E. Coast and have flown with the babies 2 times. When they were 4 mo., then this summer at 15 mo. and have tickets for Christmas. We have one lap child and one in a car seat. Our rambunctious one stays in the car seat. Our twins always nap the first hour or so on their nap schedule. When they wake up their hungry and so they eat some of what we bring and some of the airplane snacks (depending on what it is, ofcourse). We bring small toys and board books to read to them...but the best thing we did was to buy a $99 portable DVD player and let them watch Baby Einstein. Each DVD is about 40 min. We do this as a last resort and it's usually the last hour or so of the flight. The sound does not bother anyone, because most cannot hear the sound over the engines of the plane. Our flights have been very resonable so far. We were very relieved. We also give them snacks at take off and landing so that the chewing will pop their ears or give him a bottle if he's on bottle feeding and so far it's worked. The airlines will allow formula, but not milk or any other liquid. You will need to buy milk after you go through security. Good will be fine I'm sure. wj

I was in your place 2 years ago when I took our first long flight alone with our 1 year old. I got great advise here and read every single thing in the archives. There were even things discussed that I didn't know to panic about yet!!

Now that is behind us, I smile because it really isn't that bad.

So with that: the archives (every word)
2. don't check the stroller with your luggage, take it down to the gate with you (ask for a tag when you check in though)
3. know in advance that security will make you take your entire stroller apart and take your child out
4. I would get your child undressed before you get in line so that you can safely store clothes & shoes (they will not help you) and not have to worry about dropping things as you try to assemble the whole lot again
5. Once checked, let your child walk, run, push his stroller around until it is time to board. Since you have the whole row and can use the place under both seats, I would get on as one of the last passengers
6. Before you leave, go to dollar store and buy 5-10 new things. This will distract him as each hour goes by. Buy extra for delays
7. If you are boarding at usual nap time, hold him in your lap and nurse or feed with bottle as soon as the plane starts moving down the runway. Don't start when you sit down because there might be a delay. Once asleep you can move him to his car seat and have that time to yourself.

Good luck and be prepared and you'll have a great time. been there before

Last Christmas break when I flew,every familyhad brought those portable DVD players. I think that this was when DVD players really reduced in price. We had also brought one, but our kids seemed content peering throught the seats at another kid's DVD player, so we saved our videos for a later ''emergency'' Susan

Try not to worry too much. You WILL make it through the flight. Children will naturally sleep on the plane because the loud drone of the jet engines lull them to sleep. My son (now two) has had several plane flights and usually starts passing out as the engines turn on as we leave the gate, or when the engines become even louder when we take off. We also try to let him walk/run around as much as possible before the flight to get some of that energy out of him. I often buy some new books or toys for the plane ride and these surprises will occupy him sometimes for a long time and sometimes for a short time. Also be prepared to walk him up and down the aisles when he needs to. We flew across the country when my son was 16 months old and he's VERY active and we walked around the plane a LOT!

Other kids will be doing this and it's totally normal on the flights. I don't let my kid watch TV much at home but I am considering renting a DVD player for our next cross-country flight at Xmas time. That is something to try too for your sanity. Good luck You'll be fine!

I have a 21-month old, very active daughter and we just got back from a trip to D.C.(6 hour flight). Try not to worry to much. You will never see these people again. You can do what you can to try to make the flight as smooth as possible, but it is ultimately in his hands. If he is a good sleeper in his car seat - bring it on board. Here are some additional suggestions that may help:

1. Portable DVD player, portable DVD player, portable DVD player. This was a life saver. We are not fans of letting our daughter watch much TV, but for the flight we let her watch as much as she wanted. I'm sure a friend has one you can borrow.
2. Get some small toys that you introduce as needed. Garage sales are good places to get some cheap ones.
3. Magnet books, sticker books and/or coloring books - new to him

Good luck! Oh, and just to warn you - people will make annoying suggestions if you child does get unruly. Try to let them roll off your back. Remember, you will never see these people again. Mother of 21-month old

Active toddler on X-country flight

July 2004

I've read the recommendations about travelling with a toddler in the past and have gleaned lots of ideas for distractions. What I am wondering is if anyone has any suggestions about helping a toddler sleep on the plane. We just flew to the east coast 2 months ago and I tried the Benadryl suggestion. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect. Despite the fact that the flight was during naptime, she was up the entire time. On the way back, without Benedryl, she slept 1 hour, in my arms (she's never been able to really sleep in her car seat). You can imagine how wired this kid, who usually takes a 3 hour nap, was during the flight. She's already extremely active -- the added mania from lack of sleep was really challenging. Also, she didn't want to sit in her car seat and when she did finally sit in it, she kicked the seat in front of her the entire time (long legs!). We have decided not to take the car seat on board this time as it takes up too much room if she's not going to sleep in it. Any suggestions for making this an easier and more restful flight? Thanks!

We've found that taking the red-eye is what works for us. Then the little one is ready to sleep. Hyland's teething tablets also have a calmative effect, and won't cause the wired reaction like benadryl. Mike

I have no relevant personal experience, but my cousin recommends taking a nonstop red-eye going east. David

My 2.5 year old also has the opposite reaction to benadryl, and he also struggles with falling asleep on the airplane. But he does sleep well in the car. So the last time we flew (in June), we took along a portable CD player and headphones. Listening to his favorite CD mellowed him out enough to have him sleep. I would be VERY hesitant not to bring a carsea! t, because at least in the carseat he's constrained, not jumping all over, looking over the front/back seats, etc. As far as kicking goes, the only solution I have found is to sit in the front row (like on Southwest, where it's open seating), or get a non-exit-row bulkhead seat, so that there is no seat to kick. Good luck! Heather

Hi, Our baby had the same problem with Benadryl but we also experimented with ''Walcare'' which is just the Walgreen's cough supressant, antihistamine. For her, it really knocks her out and she has slept her way to Costa Rica and most of the way to Malaysia. Highlands teething tablets also mellow her out and help her sleep a bit but not as well as the Walcare...experiment with it before you leave! Good Luck! Renee

Unfortunately, there's no way you can make her sleep if she doesn't want to. The Benadryl has never worked for us either. Our solution is electronic: we bring a l! aptop, a pair of headphones, and a pile of our son's favorite DVD's. We normally limit his tv viewing, but on a flight, we leave it on as long as he will watch it. Desperate times call for desperate measures! Good luck and enjoy your trip. Catherine Scholar

If you're asking about sleep, what I'd suggest is Dramamine -- we started using it because my daughter throws up when the plane lands, but the side benefit is that she sleeps through a lot of the flight. Activity on the plane is pretty tough with a toddler or even an older kid -- the physical confinement is tough -- what we've done is lots of little toys & those small sticker books; anything new helps. WHat I find difficult for myself is that I have to play very actively to keep my daughter from getting bored, when my inclination is to doze or read on the plane. Good Luck. hates flying

I've traveled a fair bit alone with my toddler, and some of the tips that worked for us are as follows: -I make a habit of picking up inexpensive, light-weight and small toys on an ongoing basis, which I then wrap and have in a hold-all with me. Of course they LOVE getting little gifts over the course of a flight. Some of the biggest hits have been a Nemo sticker book, a little farm with all of the animals from Rainforest Cafe, Russian stacking dolls (this was the very best one--probably occupied my then 2 year old for a good hour or two!) I usually stock 5-7 of these goodies for cross country when changing planes. It always pays to have more rather than less. -I tried the Benedryl too on a friend's advice. It totally wired my kid-one of our worst flights ever. I spoke to the Advice Nurse about it. She said this happ! ens with about 10% of the kids, and if so to use the opposite. So, if I recall I may have used Sudafed then on another flight successfully, but I would check with your pediatrician. I myself only used it when he was coming down with a cold and I was afraid his little sinuses could clog. I have ear/sinus problems while flying and I definitely did not want my toddler to experience that kind of pain. -I save ''special'' snacks for airplane rides and other extreme situations-those goldfish that kids love (they now have trans- fat free ones, so I don't have to feel like I could possibly be harming him), maybe some animal crackers or for a while trail mix worked wonders. I never depend on the airline and their meals. I bring complete meals for my son, including a protein, carb and fruit/veggies. This is whether we are going to LA or cross country. You never know when or where you could get stuck. For me, hunger and being tired is what starts whining. Full and happy kids that are tired just sleep.. -Under no circumstances do I let him eat or drink the hour or so before taking off. I once did, when a flight was delayed, and lived to regret it. In my experience it is imperative that they are eating or drinking (preferably both) during take-off and landing. This is the only way to insure a cry-free flight. -I didn't take his car seat for the first time just recently (he is now 3 1/2). We both loved the fact that he could have his tray table down without it, but I think before he felt more secure with it than without---I also had a much more difficult time keeping him in a seat belt than the car seat. -In my opinion, as a million mile traveler myself, under no circumstances do I allow my son to kick the seat in front of him. I've been in that seat before, and ! did not appreciate it when a parent let that go on. They paid for a quiet, safe ride too- -My friend swears by gum for her kid, but my son simply swallowed it-- -Love that Jet Blue and their Direct TV! Fly them, if at all possible. I also found their employees to be the most helpful and sympathetic to kids. -And, of course, I always travel with several of his favorite books. Yes, I know this sounds like alot of stuff, but I bought the biggest back pack I could find and basically fill it with his stuff and two things for me-my wallet and ticket! Good luck and enjoy your little traveler! Flying Mom

I empathize. We are about to take an active one-year old on a trans-Atlantic flight. Definitely don't bring the car seat on board. It will likely be much more comfortable and interesting for your child to just sit in the seat. She will feel much more grown-up, and it will be more difficult for her to kick the seat in front. When my older son was a toddler, we used to ''rehearse'' the plane ride, so that he would know what to expect and what was expected of him. We also got books about planes to help him get excited about the flight. It helps to have at least one new toy that you introduce after you are on the flight and some new books. Be prepared to spend the entire flight working to keep the child entertained. The biggest mistake I have seen parents make on airplanes is to attempt to read and leave their small ch! ildren to entertain themselves. As for books, something about Dr. Seuss always used to put my son to sleep. We would read to him in a very quiet unexciting way, and he would go right out. World Traveler

Flying cross-country with a very active 15 month old

Feb 2004 I'm going to be flying from Oakland to Wash DC in February on a non-stop flight and in a small way I am sort of dreading it. My son is very active (not overly active, but active enough) and while he will sit in his car seat for maybe an hour in the car happy, I know he won't want to sit there for 4-5 hours. So my question is this: what ways can I distract him or play with him so he's not a totally huge nuisance? He's pretty good natured and moderately distractable, but I'm worried it won't last long. The flight is during the day, 9-12, so I hope he'll nap, but I can't count on that. As far as car seats go, should I even take it on the plane with me? If there's a big bulky seat in the way, the open seat can't be played on or whatever...I could keep him on my lap with me during takeoff and landing. I dunno-- suggestions please suggestions...

I flew to the east coast in August when my daughter was 15 months. I got lots of great ideas on keeping her entertained from the archives. One of the most succesful items was a small Magnadoodle, which was much easier and neater to use on the plane than crayons and paper and exciting for her because it was novel-- she both liked drawing and telling us what to draw. Another activity that kept her amused for quite a while was using tape to stick cut-out magazine pictures of her favorite objects (puppies, babies, kitties, etc) on the upright tray infront of us and the plane window, etc. I cut a bunch of small pictures out of catalogs and magazines and put them in an envelope before we left.

Also, I went to Mr Mopps and bought several little toys to amuse her for under a dollar each-- a few small animals, a little fan, a top, etc. I brought along some catalogs with lots of pictures of kids and toys in them and some paperback books (much lighter than board books to carry) which I hid from her for a few weeks ahead of time. I tried to avoid things that could roll away. Thanks to advice in the archives, we safety-pinned an organizer designed for cars to the back of the seat in front of us and our daughter loved opening the various pockets to get out her water and her toys, and it kept things easily accessible for us even during meal times.

Also, I didn't use this at the time, but when I got home I discovered that she is completely fascinated by Mr Potato Head, so I now keep that out of her reach normally and get it out when I need 15 minutes to myself. My daughter wouldn't sit happily in her carseat for anywhere near an hour normally, so maybe you won't need to bring quite as many distractions as I did. We have always brought the carseat in the plane because she will nap in it, but I did sort of regret it this last time. We have the Britax Roundabout and when she's in it you can't put the tray down and she pretty much tortured the person in front of her everytime she was in it kicking the back of his seat. As a result, she was basically in our laps or pacing the aisles the whole time she was awake. I think it would have been a lot more comfortable for us without the carseat, but we'd have had to trade the safety of having her in the seat for take-off and landing and the ability to have her nap well. Good luck and happy travels! Caroline

I said I would never do this, but we have recently been on lots of long flights with our 18 month old, very active son, and we bought a por! table DVD player. It saved our lives. My son normally doesn't watch a lot of TV, which made him all the more excited to watch some Elmo DVDs on the plane. I don't know what we would have done without it. In addition we also had a bag full of new small toys and books which we brought out one by one over the hours. that helped. Also, it was very very helpful to have his carseat on the plane. He was strapped in just like he is used to being in the car. He napped in his car seat too. So anyway, good luck. anon

We flew a few times when our twin boys were about that age from Hawaii to LA and from Hawaii to Chicago! The first time we tried to be safety conscious parents and bring their carseats with us but it was a huge hassle lugging them around and they never wanted to sit in them anyway. On the return flight we checked! them and they were much happier sitting in the roomy chairs playing. We had a portable DVD player for the 9 hour Chicago flight and that was a total blessing. Not cheap but worth the few hours of entertainment value. They also were very well entertained by a big sheet of stickers which they stuck to the back of the seat in front of them and by a couple of magnadoodles. I don't enjoy flying and hate it even more with kids but those were a few of the ways we made the trips bearable. Good luck, CB

OK, some people probably won't approve of this method, but it sure has made my life a lot easier. My son is two and I first discovered the magic of DVD's on the airplane after a miserable trip when he was 15 months old. I can keep him quiet for 45 minutes to an hour and he doesn't even need the sound on (I bought earphones and he uses them off a! nd on). I bring my laptop and a few DVD's (well worth the extra weight) and just pull them out and play whatever he chooses. It only works for a short period of time, but the peace is rejuvenating. That said, I almost never get direct flights, so there's always a break in a coast-to-coast trip to alleviate boredome. Other good tricks are snacks -- keeps him busy for a little while. Crayons (washable) and stickers. Books (hide the ones you want to use on the way home so that they're ''fresh.''). We also take occasional trips to the restroom and gawk at the other passengers. As far as the car seat goes, I traveled with one for the first time in December. It was heavy, but well worth it because it kept him sedentary and out of trouble, and enabled him to nap since he occasionally sleeps in it in the car -- he was used to the concept. When he was on my lap, naps ! on planes were hit or miss. I plan on using the seat for future travel until he gets big enough to sit comfortably in an adult seat. Personally, I think that airlines should provide car seats (like car rental agencies) for a small fee so we wouldn't have to lug the darn things around in the terminals! Digital Media Mom

Entertainment for toddler on plane trip to Europe

Jan 2002

i have a 15 month old and am planning a trip to europe. we are looking for good, not too bulky plane entertainment. we have books what else is worth shclepping? jessica

We have been taking long plane rides ( some as far as from the US to India, which is the other end of the earth) with our son since he was 6 months old. He is six now . The following things have worked well for us----- a new book that your child has never seen before( on a topic that is interesting to him/her), a tape which had all his favorite songs in one ( you will have to make the effort to put all favorites together so that you carry only one tape) with one of those little casette players with headphones -- the sporty ones, small objects with sparkles and materials and fluids filled inside that you can shake and look at ( like those Las Vegas key chains), good thin activity book ( you can buy good ones for your child's age at sweet dreams on college), favorite small soft toys, favorite snack in a funny colorful box ( preferably one that takes a long time to eat like dry cereal) and even though we are not big on TV watching on international flights the cartoons have rescued us many times. They give you food many times on international flights and I have seen that many children like to open up the silverware and generally like to play with all the small salt and pepper packets etc. Bipasha

One thing I always took (once I thought of it) was a length of 1/4 inch wide elastic a yard or two long (your can take two and give one away!). If you tie one end to something like your wrist, you can tie a toy to the other end and reel it in instead of spending the whole trip retrieving it from under the seat. You can tie the neck of a baby bottle to it, instead, or a pacifier, or almost anything. If you tie both ends to the seat in front of you and/or the baby, thread toys onto the elastic and they move back and forth. Your little guy can even play games snapping it on the back of the seat (not too obnoxious).

Part of the difficulty is packing what you need, and no more. Definitely a toy or two (that you can attach to the elastic), and a book or two. I also always took finger food like Cheerios, diapers for 24 hours (in case you are delayed) a change of clothes for me, and two changes for the toddler. Cabin attendants are often very helpful, if you ask them. Have fun! Heather

I've done this trip to Europe many times with small kids. For a 15 month old I recommend small puppets of some kind. They (or rather, your fingers operating them) distract the child from the overwhelming and repeated desire to run up into First Class from about hour four of a 10 hour flight. Good Luck! Hilary

I swear by the mini Magna Doodle for long airplane flights. It's very engaging and doesn't have any parts that can drop on the ground, roll away, or otherwise get lost. We also got a lot of entertainment mileage out of a simple hand puppet and a big sticker book. And of course, we saved all these new items for the plane ride so they were extra exciting. Janet

I recommend a travel Magna Doodle. ( Mr. Mopps probably has them) It's the small size of one of those drawing tablets that is magnetic or something and you slide the levor to wipe away the old and start a new drawing. My kids traveled with them for years. Also if your child likes music or stories you might try an inexpensive walkman tape player. This works great with older kids but 15mos maybe young for that. lynn

on a recent plane ride, another mother lent my daughter (21 mos.) a set of those Russian dolls, one inside another. Kept her busy for probably 40 minutes! Might be a bit advanced for a 15-month-old to manipulate, but just thought i'd pass that on. Nice and compact for travelling. The main thing is new toys. Or new objects of any sort. Mary

My daughter loved the following at that age: small amount of playdough (in a baggie) and a plastic garlic press to make playdough noodles, a child's rolling pin and a few cookie cutters; those boards that have holes in them where you can weave yarn through to complete cute pictures; a child's tape recorder with headset (they are light) with favorite music tapes (this occupied her a great deal of the time!); crayons/paper/coloring books; sticker books (Mr. Mops and Cody's have nice ones). I always bring a koosch ball to keep in my purse for the long airport lines to toss back and forth (15 months may be too young for tossing/catching; I can't remember!). I also always wrap age-appropriate surprises (tiny little dolls, fairy items, small jewelry) that I dole out at intervals on the plane.

A trick that saved us: bring an EagleCreek type of zippered bag that has several mesh (see-through) compartments to store your crayons/etc in. Attach two large safety pins to the top of it. When you board the plane, pin the bag onto the seat in front of you. You will be able to pull the tray down under it for eating and drawing (because the bottom of it is free). It enables you to have ready access to the toys, crayons, etc. without having to close up the tray to get to that woefully inadequate and hard-to-get to pocket storage that's already too full of barf bags and airline programming magazines. Good luck! Linda

As for toys, depends on your child's age, but Target offered a good selection of small, new things--colorform storyboards, stickers, playdough keychain. Once on a trip to Ixtapa our daughter (then two and a half) played with a .99 set of plastic animals from Toys R Us for an hour. Consignment stores also sometimes have great finds for small bucks. carolyn

I see you got some good responses but here are some from flights with my 15 mo old:
* stickers - not for art but for sticking/peeling over and over * tiny squeeze flashlight - I bring one anyway, but it's my ace in the hole on the plane in case he gets really bored * bubbles in a tiny container (wedding favors)- can be messy but fun * new tiny popup book Ideas you don't have to carry with you: * familiar songs/rhymes - these I whisper in his ear to stop wails * in flight magazine - usually magazines are off limits but I let him mangle every one, and spent a LOT of time pointing out every doggy,phone, etc. in the pictures * looking around/standing on my lap - friendly fellow passengers can be a great distraction * generally, think creatively - use tone of voice, repeating movement games, and take advantage of their fascination with manual dexterity (ie playing with a jacket zipper) to distract and amuse.

Enjoy! Frankly after a 2.5 week trip (7 flights in late Sept.) with our 15 mo. old we decided that travelling with him we had more fun than we would have before he was born, despite twice the hassle and three times more gear. -Charis

I got this trick from a Reader Tip section in one of my Parenting magazines a couple years ago.

If you have a hand-held camcorder, you can record your child's favorite videos onto 8mm tapes (my husband put the camcorder right in front of the TV, turned the volume very high and put the speakers next to the camcorder, then pushed play on the TV and record on the camcorder and that's how we did it! \\) and then play them for your child on the plane.

This trick also works well if you don't have a TV/VCR or DVD/LCD screen in your vehicle on long trips. Our camcorder is a SHARP Viewcam so it's perfect because we got the larger screen (4 inch) and it's not flip-out so it can actually rest on something facing the children. I'm sure if you're creative enoughand desparate enough, you could figure out a way to use the flip-out screen model as well.

On the plane, however, either model would work as you could just place it in your lap for the child to see. We used this for our then 11 month old and 23 month old on a trip from Oakland to Florida (we actually switched three times and rode 5 different planes) last year and it worked like a CHARM. And everyone around us was so grateful for our creativity and ingenuity in keeping our children occupied during the five PACKED-OUT (four of which had not ONE seat left available) flights (which could have been a NIGHTMARE with two toddlers!). Happy flying! April

I traveled alone with my then 22 month old back East last year. It was a grand tour that involved 12 hour, and two 9 hour train rides in addition to the flights there and back. I couldn't carry as much as liked since I had all of our baggage and equipment to manage. I did bring a variety of new toys and books, but these were not worth their weight. The things that really saved the day were construction paper, scissors, and a roll of scotch tape. I cut out animal shapes and let Isaac tape them onto to the window to create dioramas. Then we made puppets. Then we made collages. You can use a paintbrush dipped in water to make Zen paintings on the colored paper. Try paper dolls or little farms with cabbages. It was a lot of work but very fun. Debra

Re: Entertainment on Long Plane Rides & Editing Ads out of Kid's Videos Both of these pieces of advice involved re-recording video using a camcorder.

Double check your camcorder's manual. Many modern camcorders, such as the Canon ZR-10, or any of the Firewire cameras compatible with Macintosh iMovie, can be directly connected to a VCR, to make a high resolution, copy of a video tape. Much higher quality than pointing your camera at a TV. I just did a test on a Disney tape, and got a high quality copy (even though the original Disney tape is presumably protected with the Macrovision copy-protection system.) Once you've made a copy in the camera, you can make a second copy back onto conventional VHS tape to omit the ads. (I didn't test this.)

Also, many modern laptop computers can record VHS quality signals onto DiVX;-) format video. See the web site: for more information. You can either leave the movie as a file on your laptop's hard disk, or you can burn it onto a CD-R. The and are two inexpensize video digitizers.

-- David

I've seen previous posts asking for advice on plane trips with babies, and wanted to share what I feel was a flash of genius on my last trip with my 15-month old during our four hour flight to Chicago. He had his own seat (an expenditure I personally believe to be well worth the money), and before I buckled his car seat in, I took one of the big blankets that the airline provides and anchored one end under the seat and tucked the other end into the seat pocket, creating a sling in front of his seat. That way when he got tired of a toy and dropped or threw it down, I didn't have to repeatedly unbuckle my seat belt and wedge myself into the tiny space between my seat and the seat in front of me and wrench my back trying to reach the toy on the floor, but instead I could simply pluck it out of the sling. Also, his favorite toy was the strap on my carryon bag - I detached it and gave it to him to work with, because it has a similar mechanism to the straps on his stroller and high chair, which he finds fascinating. Fran (July 2000)