Airline Survival Kit for Toddler Travel

Planes…trains…automobiles. Whatever your mode of transportation, traveling with a two-year old can be tough. Because of the miles we need to cover, a trip to Walt Disney World means flying.. I don’t think I would survive the 18+ hour trip with my five and two-year old and still have my sanity intact.

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Flying with our toddler is not a frequent experience so I’m willing to purchase travel gear I otherwise wouldn’t with the hope of being prepared for every eventuality – I won’t know if it works until I try it. The marketing firms must see me coming a mile away. :)

Here are my thoughts on some of the travel I brought on our recent flight.

Umbrella Stroller. Must- have. Even though we rent a double stroller from Orlando Stroller Rentals, the umbrella is indispensable in the airport to safely get my little guy from curbside check-in, through the security line, and to the gate. It’s small and lightweight enough to easily fit through the x-ray machine at security and I can gate-check it.

Child’s Carry-On. Nice to have. My son didn’t carry or even wheel his luggage through the airport and we didn’t expect him to. We brought it because it was small enough to easily slide under his seat and it was a single “go-to” place for his toys and snacks.

CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System). So-so. We weren’t renting a car this trip so the idea of lugging an unwieldy car seat through the airport, installing it on the plane, and reversing the process to disembark was not very appealing. Something was needed to keep my son safe (and in his seat :) ) though. The CARES restraint wasn’t cheap but since it’s approved by the FAA, I thought it was worth a try.

  • Pros – easy to install, light-weight, small enough for a carry-on, comfortable for my son (as much as a “restraint” can be to a squirmy two-year old)
  • Cons – No strap between his legs so he could (and did) wiggle and slide down, making the restraint less effective in my opinion; our restraint loosened during the flight to the point that I felt it was less secure at the end of the flight

Would I use it again? Yes, I would. It wasn’t ideal as we had to make sure our son was sitting up straight to get the desired effect but it was effective at keeping our small son in his seat during take-off, landing, and most of the flight. He’s on the lower end of the approved weight limit so I think that it will work better next trip after he grows a bit.

Portable DVD Player. Must have. We purchased the most inexpensive one we could find and it worked great. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Sesame Street kept him entertained for most of our flight home.

EarPlanes. Not sure. The box claims “Relieves Air Pressure Discomfort.” I honestly don’t think my son would have kept them in his ears throughout the whole flight so they never saw the light of day. I did purchase them, however, as “insurance.” If my son suffered from severe ear discomfort due to air pressure on the outgoing flight, I would have nothing to lose by trying them on the return flight.

Snack Trap and Disposable Sippy Cup. Nice to have. I love the Snack Trap. Fill it with a dry snack like Goldfish or Teddy Grahams and our son is a happy camper. With no mess. Our toddler is learning to drink from a cup and a water bottle but needs more help and supervision than he would drinking from a sippy cup. Given the tight quarters in the plane and the stress of air travel, it was easier to pour water in a disposable sippy cup for him than to make sure we didn’t have an unfortunate spill.

GoGo Squeez. Nice to have. I recently reviewed GoGo Squeez and became a buyer. No fuss, no muss with these healthy fruit snacks. Each package is also small enough to be allowed in carry-ons by airport security.

There you have it – the items that made traveling with our toddler a success. Do you recommend any products we should try for our next flight?

Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers and the co-creator of WDW Fan Zone. When she’s not chasing after her little ones, you can most likely find her at the beach or in the kitchen trying her hand at a new recipe. You can follow her on Twitter @DisneyExplorer or become a fan of Beyond the Attractions on Facebook.

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Airline Survival Kit for Toddler Travel was last modified: July 21st, 2013 by Chip and Co Guest Blogger

  • Lisa

    Hi Brittiany and thanks for reading. We purchased water after security to use in my son’s sippy cup as well as brought one of the Horizon shelf-stable milks. We had no problem at the Newark airport with the milk. Departing from Orlando, they inspected the milk but ultimately returned it without a problem.

    As to the DVD player, my advice is to bring it! Since they board the plane so early, we were physically on the plane for a good 3+ hours which is tough for a 2 year old. The DVD helped a lot. Good luck!

  • Lisa

    Hi Kelly. My sister-in-law did rent the CARES system (I wish she asked me – she didn’t know I had one to lend her) so it is possible. I think she used Craigslist. Good luck!

  • Brittiany Sells

    I got the GoGo Squeez already in the bag, but I hadn’t thought about the snack trap. We usually just get the small bags of snacks and haven’t had many issues. It might be worth it to get one though; I’d hate to leave a mess for the flight attendants. I also got our little guy (who is also 2) a sippy cup for the flight and got a couple of the small juice bottles. I read you can bring juice for small children. I went ahead and got the small 4 oz. bottles just in case. Did you bring your own juice? Any issues coming through security?

    We have a portable DVD player, but for some reason my mother-in-law doesn’t really want me to bring it. I don’t know if she thinks it’ll be a hassle or what. Personally i wouldn’t mind whatever hassle it might be if it keeps him calm and entertained… so wish me luck there!

  • Kelly

    Lisa I just love all of your tips. Ditto to the stroller, DVD player and snack trap. While my son has a wheeled cars mini suitcase, I never thought to bring that rather than a chunky bag…thanks for the tip! I will be looking into the GoGo Squeeze for our upcoming trip. Someone told me that you can actually rent those CARES systems on ebay…that may be a thought. :0)