Flying With A 2 Year Old

This week my youngest daughter, Katienne, will be turning 2 years old! I cannot believe it! This time of reflection made think back to the time when my oldest daughter was 2, and we started our traveling lifestyle. There were so many questions I had about the best way to travel with a 2 year old, and two short years ago, I had a really hard time finding any useful information on this subject. So I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you, my lovely readers, about some tips and tricks I picked up along the way.

Why Two?

When you travel with a 2 year old, you can no longer purchase an “infant” seat and that means that a lot of people who have a 2 year old are curious as to what the next step is. Plus, it is unlikely that a 2 year old will sleep through entire flight, like a newborn would, so you also have to think in terms of entertainment (especially on long flights).

Here is the run down on options you have for an airplane ride with a young child:

Ksena, 3 years old, using her CARES Harness on a long flight.

To car seat, or not to car seat? If you look back at my entry about an air friendly car seat you will notice that I used the phrase “5 point harness” quite frequently. Your flight attendant might be more inclined to let you use a car seat that does not have 5 points on it if you are flying with a young child instead of a baby, but for safety purposes 5 points are always better than 2 or 3. In my opinion, a giant car seat for a 2 or 3 year old is a bit overkill, and you can end up with your little one wanting some leg room. I suggest using a car seat that is on the light, small side, or you could use this. It is a product called CARES, and it can be quite pricey. You can rent one for your trip on ebay for around $13, or you could purchase one used from $50. If you purchase your own, you might consider renting it out on ebay when you are not using it to make your money back. I have used this since our oldest daughter was 2 1/2 and she loves it. I found a pillow at Target with a button strap on it, and I just strap it right onto the shoulder harness for her to rest her head against when she sleeps. As for her actual car seat, I slip it into one of these babies (also known as a JL Gate Check Bag) and check it with our checked luggage.

A fact you might not know: if you purchase a child’s airplane ticket, you are entitled to check a car seat and a stroller in addition to whatever your luggage allowance is. Sweet!

This affordable bag (around $13) keeps your car seat from getting thrashed through checked luggage land.

Ok now let’s get down to the entertainment side of flying with 2 to 3 year old. If you are going on an international flight, odds are there will be personal in flight entertainment, which usually includes a few kids movies and TV shows. You can check the airline’s website ahead of time to find out what they will be showing, and look up movie reviews accordingly. The only thing you will need to purchase in order for your little one to truly enjoy a movie or two is a child sized pair of headphones. On our first international flight with Ksena, we had to use her moose beanie baby to set on top of her head to half keep the adult sized headphones on her. It was actually pretty hilarious. We also tried to let her use a pair of our earbuds, but her ears were too small, and I was also worried about volume control since they go inside the ear. After that we learned our lesson and purchased some child sized headphones from Target for $15. Those things are worth every penny!

You can also bring along your iPod or iPad for your little one to play with. Our kids are pretty addicted to the iTouch my parents got us for Christmas last year. For travel days, we charge it up and it entertains them for at least 2 hours (I’m sure it would be longer, but that’s about the battery life if they are watching a movie or show). Check out games and videos my kids use on our iTouch here. I surely wouldn’t justify spending $600 just for your kids to be entertained on a trip, but if you have one already, why not?

As always, be creative when you are thinking about how to keep your child amused on a long flight. Bring a small coloring book or paper pad and some crayons. Bring a couple Littlest Pet Shop Pets… they are tiny, light, and provide my girls with hours of fun. You have boys not girls? Why not bring along a couple plastic dinosaurs for role playing? We will get a few inexpensive toys or coloring books the girls have never seen before, and that extra sense of surprise always has them looking forward to our next flight.

I have a really great example of thinking outside of the box that my friend Jessica suggested. She is an Army wife and travels a lot with her two boys (currently 5 and 3) because her husband is stationed in Germany. She brings each son a roll of tape to play with. Ingenious! You can let them tape up their tray, the seat, each other, and clean up is a cinch! She said it keeps them entertained at least for one hour.

What are your favorite ways to entertain your young child on a long flight?

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