Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Traveling with a Toddler: Part 1

As many of you know, a few weeks ago Ellie and I went on a grand adventure to St. Louis, Missouri. . . sans Andrew.  It was a complete genius idea of mine.  Of course I could balance a diaper bag, a car seat, a stroller, and a monkey  Ellie on a 2-legged flight to the Gateway state.  I need not tell you that I had daily panic attacks of the whole ordeal for a week leading up to our departure.  My visions essentially included Ellie escaping my clutches as we went through airport security and her streaking through the terminals.

Clearly, I survived.  Ellie survived.  Our luggage sort of survived.

In my state of what on earth have I gotten myself into?!, I talked to several other parents at Ellie's ABA therapy center and gained a lot of tips, which I would like to share with you.

In case you missed it--we celebrated Easter with my parents in STL

1. Have a passenger escort.
My biggest concern was not getting on the plane or sitting through the flight, it was getting through airport security.  I had to lug the diaper bag, the stroller, and the car seat up on the X-ray belt after removing my shoes and whipping the iPad & medications out of the diaper bag.  All of this while holding onto Ellie.  You do know that she is squirmy little thing.  She is also fast.  She is also flexible.  She could also probably sense my fear and would thus act out to her full potential.

Passenger escorts come in two forms--airport escorts and family members.  Many of my ABA mamas used airport escorts by showing documentation that their children have autism.  They were met at the check-in counter with a wheel chair and a passenger escort.  These escorts handled all of the nitty gritty of the security screening.  Andrew was my passenger escort on the way to STL and my mama was the escort on the way back.  I put them solely in charge of Ellie while I handled everything else.  It was still a bit stressful, but it was a breeze compared to my nightmares of what I was expecting if I was alone.  At the airline check in counter, no one even batted an eye when I said my mom was our passenger escort.  They just checked her ID and printed out a boarding pass-like thing.  So my suggestion is if you are traveling alone, ask the person taking you to the airport to be your passenger escort.

My Mom and Ellie on the carousel at Foust Park

2. Donut Holes
Do NOT and I repeat do not underestimate the supreme importance of donut holes.  After clearing security and getting all of your belongs and child back in order, it is imperative find a place that sells donuts.  Be sure to discretely buy said donuts so that the cranky pants toddler does not see them until you are safely on the plane.  This is your distractor for during those times when electronic devices must be "off and stowed away".  Graciously provide your complaining toddler at take off and landing with a few donut holes as this will keep her quiet while you cannot have the iPad available for her use.  If she is eating, she isn't complaining.  Again, donut holes are imperative.

She may look like a sweet little angel, but this kiddo needs some ooey gooey sticky glazed yumminess to prevent of the screaming triggered by turning off the iPad.

3. Use a carseat.

Now I know not everyone can afford to purchase a seat for their wee bambino.  We have looked into it and some airlines offer airfares at lower rates, but typically you have to book via telephone rather than online.  Also, if your child does okay sitting on your lap, excellent!  That makes me insanely jealous.  You will still need the donuts though.

The Bear is NOT a snuggler. There would be none of this sitting on mommy or daddy's lap during the flight.  Instead, there would be running up and down the aisles of the aircraft which is generally frowned upon (and a safety issue). We learned that the best thing was to get the hyper mobile toddler Bear her own seat and to use our own car seat.  Come on, you didn't honestly think the Chunky Chicken was going to sit unassisted in the airplane seat and not get out did you?

When I was pregnant, we registered for the Sunshine Kids Radian 65 (now called Diono Radian) carseat specifically because it is FAA approved and the seat folds up. It folds up so nicely that I was able to set the carseat into the carrier basket of the stroller.  Viola!  I did not have to carry the carseat at all (which is good, because I am certain the seat weighs more than Ellie).

I suppose now would be the appropriate time to say, do NOT remove your toddler from the carseat after safely buckled in.  For any reason at all.  Andrew and I made that mistake on our flight to California.  We were unable to wrestle the strong 22 lb Bear back into her safety seat during a good portion of the flight.

Ellie's first plane ride Oct. 2010  

This post is getting to be a tad long so I shall continue in the next post.  Please share your traveling tips in the comments!

Be sure to visit Traveling With A Toddler: Part 2



  1. But what if I eat all the donut holes before I remember to save some for the kids?

    Seriously though, this is all excellent advice. I've never heard of passenger escorts. What a wonderful idea.

    I had the kids all to myself flying from Tokyo to Hong Kong (4.5 hours), transferring in Hong Kong, and then on the flight to Penang (3.5 hours). Granted, all of mine are older and self-sufficient, but I was still worried. Hong Kong makes everyone go through security even if you never left the "secure area" between flights. The only touchy part was when all electronics had to be turned off, and the only way they could think of amusing themselves was poking each other and whining about being poked. Donut holes would have been handy. (Not that I could have found them in Tokyo or Hong Kong. Octopus balls, perhaps?)

    Coming back from Houston in January, we briefly lost the kids going through security even though there were 2 parents. For some reason, kids are exempt from removing shoes. So my kids just breezed through while I had to pause to put mine back on. Then, the TSA dude stopped me to question me about the Xrayed bag. Hubby was still on the other side loading the conveyor belt. I answered the TSA dude then looked up and realized the kids were no where in sight. It turns out that they were 10 feet away around the corner looking at a funny sign. Hubby chastised me, but I felt that I couldn't just tell the TSA guy, "Can't talk" and then run off into the airport.

    Having said all that, I purposely left them alone in the Penang airport while I searched for an ATM to get money to pay the taxi. With 4 backpacks, 5 pieces of luggage and 3 kids, I was having a very hard time maneuvering through the VERY crowded airport (imagine a church on Christmas sized crowd). So, I parked them in a corner, told them to watch the luggage and not leave, and left them alone for 10 minutes.

    Now my comments are too long and I must stop.

  2. Oh! Do I ever have travel stories! They give people nightmares though so good thing we didn't talk before you flew.

    I will throw into the mix the fact that most airlines cut off "lap babies" at 2 years. And I know it's expensive, but I wouldn't recommend it at ANY point. Unexpected turbulence happens all the time - we once got caught in a downdraft that put the attendant’s head (i.e. the trained professional) into the ceiling.

    [Also, that movie Fearless left a huge impression on me :)]

  3. Oh Michele and krlr, you ladies have the best traveling stories. Sadly, I cannot stop myself from laughing! I would be in such big trouble with Andrew if I lost Ellie (or my wallet, krlr!).

  4. I note that you did not mention what happened to the first bag of donut holes that were purchased! Ellie was not in line but she recognized Dunkin Donuts from a distance! Hence, Ellie had a donut "snack" before boarding and mommy had to sneak back to Dunkin Donuts for the emergency stash:-)

  5. Okay, so are the donut holes for me or the kids? That is a genius idea that had me snickering. I could also totally relate to the panic of a child slipping away at security (that has actually happened to me) so I love the idea of getting a passenger escort. Can't wait to see part two and thanks for linking up today.

  6. I had never heard of passenger escorts - what a fabulous idea to make life easier for parents traveling solo! My kids are much older now but we always flew with car seats - definitely much easier to keep a toddler out of mischief on a flight if they are safely buckled into their seat.

  7. Fantastic tips! I will be using ALL of them when I take my toddler on her first plane trip soon. The passenger escort is a great idea (who knew?), and donut holes? Genius!

    So glad to have found your blog :-)


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