Posted by: ladybughugs | June 24, 2008

Traveling with a Toddler

Last Fall, my mother and I took Lil’bug with us traveling from NJ to HI with a layover each way in Dallas-Fort Worth. Lil’bug was 1y10m at the time. I did a ton of research before the trip and brought about 50 lbs. of distractions to keep her occupied. In addition to carrying two or three times as many diapers and wipes as I expected to use (just in case) and a change of clothes, and all her favorite snacks, drinks, Tylenol and Ibuprofen, first-aid goods, and a sedative (not that I expected to use it. But. just. in. case.), I had crayons and coloring pages, ColorWonder markers and pages, PlayDoh, Bingo markers, thumb print art kits, stickers, and gummy snacks for take-off and descent (there’d be eight total). And, last, but not least,…the stroller (gate checked).

When all was said and done: the crayons fell off the tray and I had to go searching for them. Markers AND their caps, ditto (separate, of course, for twice the hide-and-seek fun of searching under tray tables and seats). She loved dabbing pounding with the Bingo markers (in daycare they do art with Bingo markers), but the mess, ugh! The PlayDoh got broken into little pieces and fell on the seat and floor. The stickers were interesting for about 1.45 minutes. Using the bathroom was good for a diversion, but there’s only so much time you can kill going back and forth to the bathroom…and public restrooms(?), ugh.

The portable DVD player with back-up battery AND headphones (because no one wants to listen to Dora once, never mind eleventy-thousand times) was our lifesaver. Even if you’re against TV in general on a day-to-day basis, if you allow that you’re on vacation and that the rules can be relaxed a little, the portable DVD is the way to go. At least in our case. I could have left the other 48 lbs. of distractions at home and just take the DVD and we probably would have been good. And boy, I would have felt a whole lot better not hauling those extra 48 lbs. across six time zones (and 5,000+ miles).

We were also extremely lucky to have the middle seat between us for Lil’bug’s use (I prayed for, and received, divine intervention on this one, along with sending ‘you-really-don’t-want-this-seat’ vibes out to the traveling universe every day between the time we booked the flight and take-off on the last leg). On one leg I think hers was the only seat open on the entire plane. On the return trip (a late flight, after her bedtime) she slept most of the way. I think she fell asleep even before the wheels were off the ground on the first leg. She woke up when we landed, ate breakfast with us in DFW and fell asleep on the second leg.

On the outbound flight I put her car seat onto a wheeled thingy that converted it to a stroller-type thing. This required disassembly and reconfigured reassembly at the gate which was cumbersome and time-consuming. On the return trip we packed the wheels and checked her car seat with the luggage and were much happier for it. If we had purchased her seat on the plane we could have taken her car seat on board and put her in it, but in the end I think it would have been difficult and unwieldy to get the 21 lb. car seat to the seat and would have used a huge amount of space in an already cramped situation. Also, I couldn’t imagine her sitting in it, buckled in, for 13 hours of flight time.

Yes, there are definitely things I would have done differently, knowing what I know now. What experiences have you had traveling with toddlers and small children? What were your triumphs? and disasters? What did you do right? What would you do differently?



  1. WOW! You most definitely get a gold star. Maybe two!

    I can’t imagine doing that trip with Short Stack and Lulu Belle. Short Stack is, the vast majority of the time, a great kid and well behaved but from the east coast to Hawaii? Eeek.

    My wife and I made that flight three years ago and I had a hard enough time keeping HER happy! I don’t call her Action Girl for nothing. She hates sitting still.

    So was the little kid cart thingie worth it? I say them advertised a while ago and was dubious about how useful they would actually be “in the field”, if you will.

    How was Hawaii? Did Lil’bug enjoy the islands?

    Turkish Prawn

  2. Hi there!

    Though not as long a flight(s) as your’s, I did have to prepare my 3 year old for an 8+ hour flight too.

    Though your experience would still be more challenging, as each sleep session would be about 7-8 hours, my Caitlin would have had enough sleep for the subsequent legs, and would then also need some other distractions.

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