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The birth of our son has kept me and my wife close to home. We have ventured out on some road trips and train rides, but it wasn’t until recently that we flew with our baby for the first time on our recent Baltimore adventure.
We weren’t sure how flying with a 2-year-old would go, but we were sure that any number of things could go wrong.
He might get scared with every bump. Or, he might have an ear infection that would cause him pain while we flying over the Mississippi River. How could we prepare for these things, or anticipate other issues that might crop up? A quick Google search brings up nearly 22 million results for travel tips, which in it’s own way is more stressful than having no tips at all. Given that, here are a few things we learned from flying with our son.
Begin the “flying is fun” sales pitch early.
Prior to flying with my son, my wife and I began to sell him on the fun he would have flying. Our home sits along the inbound flight path of Kansas City International Airport and we’d point out all the planes coming in, saying “We will be riding in a plane like that.” Our son would get excited and as each plane passed would say, “We ride in that plane?” Unfortunately, we would have to say no (at least to that particular flight).
Invest in a toy plane.
As our trip grew closer, we bought a toy plane to point out all its parts. I would model what the plane would be doing at certain times and my son was awestruck by the idea of what the plane would be doing while we were inside it.
Encourage the excitement on travel day.
It didn’t really hit home for our 2-year-old that we would be flying in an actual plane until we made it through security and saw our plane sitting at the gate. And we knew we had done something right when he was able to look at the plane and point out all of the parts that he had learned about from his toy plane.
You could see his excitement building as he stared at one of the planes and waved, saying “Hi, plane!” And when a pilot waved back at him, it was the highlight of his day. But that was soon surpassed as we headed down the jet-way and he was able to actually touch the plane.
Use his car seat on board.
If your child rides in a car seat in the car, have him sit in the car seat on the plane. It might be clunky to handle as you juggle your carry-ons and child, but in his car seat, our son was comfortable. He was strapped down so that he couldn’t move around the seat, which made it nice for us, and, no doubt, for other passengers who wouldn’t have to contend with a toddler who refused to sit down. As he was in his familiar car seat, napping also came easily for him.
Heed your child’s nap time.
Something else that we attempted to do with our flights was schedule them around our son’s nap time. This meant we couldn’t book the cheapest flight, and of course we had no way of knowing if he would sleep on the plane at all. But the risk paid off and he went right to sleep on our hour flight from Charlotte to Baltimore.
Observe your child in the car.
It helps to observe your child’s habits as well as his likes and dislikes while you’re driving with him. Tricks that work in the car more than likely will work in a plane.
What it comes down to it this: while you won’t be able to anticipate every issue that could come up while flying with your toddler, think about what’s worked for your child in the past when it comes to mentally preparing him for new and unfamiliar situations — whether its traveling, going to school for the first time, or meeting someone new — and build from there.