Flying with a toddler...
This will be my son's second flight, but first with his own seat. He's 2 1/2 years old, but big for his age (39", 36lbs, wears 3T-4T depending on brand). My wife and I are still going back and forth on whether he should sit in his car seat (Britax Marathon) or in the seat with a CARES Harness. I've read up on both options, but still unsure which way to go. It sounds like the car seat would be more comfortable, especially for sleeping (which he might do on the flight there since it's his nap time), but I am concerned about him kicking the chair in front of him and not being able to use the tray (coloring, playing, watching movies, etc.). With the CARES harness it sounds like we would still be able to use the tray and would not be able to kick the seat in front of him (not that he's likely to do it anyways), but may not be as comfortable for him sleeping wise.
We will be bringing both and if we do check the car seat it will be at the gate, so we pretty much have up until the last minute to decide.
I would appreciate any thoughts, suggestions, or previous experience.
He sounds similar to my younger son at that age (he was over 10 pounds at birth and never looked back!) Despite being one of the first places in the world to introduce mandatory seat belt laws for cars, here in Australia we have never had a culture of bringing the car seat on board the flight, so I have never done that. Can you buy a car seat in the US that is safety-rated to 36lbs weight? You're lucky if so - we were out of car seats and into the larger booster seats by then, anyway (really too big to lug on the plane). But from experience of very long-haul flights with our young boys, I would be hesitant to adopt a strategy that prevented access to the tray-table for a busy 2 1/2 yo!
If you don't already have an iPad, my best suggestion is to get one! Lots of educational games, interactive books and pretty good TV, and he will be entirely absorbed for most of the flight! We would never take our boys on a flight without one. And then, of course, you'll be needing a cache and a Synapse for him to carry it all in.... ;)
It has been 10 years since I had a 2-year-old. However, between the 2, I would chose the CARES harnass. Looks like it might be the most comfortable to me, especially if you had a kiddie neck pillow for your child (which doubles as a travel buddy). And certainly more convenient to schlep and manage.
Amazon.com: Noodlehead Travel Buddies Neck Pillow - Cat: Baby
Do the CARES harness and the neck pillow! Your kid sounds like my boss's and that is what we do! We let him pick out his own neck pillow at the airport and he loves it! Works perfect.
OK keep in mind my friend Susan wrote this for my site about 12 years ago, but hopefully you can still get some tips: Travelite.org
Some parents consult their pediatricians about using Benadryl to calm their children. I don't really have an opinion; it's something you can discuss with your child's doctor.
That said, I think it's very helpful for both your toddler and those seated nearby, that your son be as comfortable during take-off and landing as possible. He's probably too young for chewing gum, so I'd recommend something like fruit roll-ups or something that requires a lot of chewing. That will keep his ears equalized so he won't feel the pain of changing cabin pressure--that's a lot of what causes babies and toddlers to cry; they're in pain! And once they start to cry, their sinuses get clogged, and they have an ever tougher time clearing the pressure.
My parental-unit-type friends have told me that kids LOVE fruit roll-ups because they're fun to play with. It will keep your son occupied and happy until you can bust out that iPad for him to play with, maybe?
The CARES harness looks excellent, by the way. That's a great idea.
Lollipops!!! That is what we give the kiddos for take-off and landing! We use the small dum-dums ones because they can't eat all the big ones and those are a good size. We've also dosed them with Benadryl when they are super fussy or it is close to nap time and they won't go out. The key is to have several different things to keep them entertained while on the flight. Movies, games, colors, food. And try to bring at least one new toy for the plane ride that they've never seen before. Sometimes little kids tend to not want to play with their normal toys while on the plane. It won't be as bad as you think, just prepare! :)
Oh, and I remember either reading or seeing on TV where one mom took one of those makeup/jewelry roll things and filled it with fun thing for the kids to do/play with. They just unrolled and somehow hooked it on the back of the seat in front of the kid. This way the kids had their own little seat bag with everything they needed including snacks. I can't find the exact article to it, but here are some more ideas:
Southern Disposition: Entertaining Kids on an Airplane
7 Tips to Entertain Your Kids on a Long Flight
With a child that age, don't underestimate the value of under-stimulation. My kids enjoyed being read to when they were little, and that is what we did on planes. And we talked a lot. Having a parent as a captive audience is bliss for a kid! Eventually they go to sleep when they've had enough :) I also found coloring books and stickers useful at times. (sorry I can't help on the seat; we used the regular seatbelts)
Thanks everyone for all the suggestions! I'm pretty sure we are going to go with the CARES harness and we also got the neck pillow. I'm not so worried about keeping him entertained... The flight is only about 2hrs long and the flight there will be during his nap time. Just in case, we do have a few things that should keep him busy.
Last time I flew cross-country, I had an aisle seat and sat next to a dad, with his (probably) 4-year-old son in the window seat. As we got settled in, I looked across the aisle to my husband (yeah, we like sitting aisle/aisle) and gave him one of those "Uh-oh" glances; I was a little concerned that the child might be out of control.
Well, that turned out to be completely unfounded. Dad was an AH-mazing dad! He really paid attention to his son, and they had nice little chit chatter, and let his kid watch some videos on his smartphone, and was generally wonderful. The son, in return, was abso-fantabulous. Quiet, happy, content. No screaming, no tantrums, no kicking the seat in front of him. It was delightful!
I wanted to thank everyone for their comments and suggestions. We just got back and discovered neither the car seat or the harness were the best option. He seemed to do much better just using the regular seat belt. The first flight to our destination did not go so well as he got scared the second we boarded, but on the return trip he was much better. I think as he gets older as does it more it won't be an issue. He had flown before, but was probably too long ago for him to remember. Thanks again everyone.