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. Read more

Air Friendly Car Seat

When flying with a toddler or infant, you will most likely want to bring a car seat to make traveling easier. The first thing the flight attendant is going to say when she or he sees you carrying on the seat is, “that needs to go under the plane.” Most of them are shocked you actually want your child to sit in it, or they know that most people that bring car seats on board are not bringing flight approved car seats. There are three lovely words that will get you out of this conversation early, without having to explain your intentions at length, five-point-harness. Other seats are not approved for air travel. When I found out that I was going to be traveling all the time with small children, I made the upgrade from my standard Graco seat to a Britax air travel approved seat. I’m not saying you have to, but it’s much more comfortable for my 2 year old. Just make sure you do indeed have a five-point-harness, you’ll be fine, and hopefully your little sprout will be able sleep much of the flight away.

Kati on a flight from Los Angeles to London, 14 months old.

We use a Britax Next Gen Boulevard Convertible Car Seat. I have read other people complaining that is is heavy and way too difficult to put into the airplane seat. It is a bit heavy, but we don’t carry ours around. Please don’t bother purchasing an expensive car seat trolly… do this instead. We have a special strap that hooks it onto our rolling carry-on luggage so we can roll the car seat, with our daughter in it, around the airport. It makes life a lot easier. It is also not that difficult to buckle into the airplane seat. The only thing I would recommend is bringing a small pillow (or you could use an airline pillow) so the buckle from the airplane seatbelt does not dig into your little one’s back. The buckles are usually pretty thick so they might poke a bit into the back of the car seat, although I don’t think there is anything they could have done to prevent this. Our daughter loves this seat! Before we got this she wouldn’t sleep in the car or on the plane. We are really happy we ended up buying this one.

Britax Airplane Approved Car Seat.