Kids on a Plane: Long Trips (Two-Plus Hours) with Toddlers

This post is one of a six-part series on our recent family trip to Perú. The dentist will be visited. Jorge el Curioso will be watched. Paracas will be braved. Bread will be eaten. Spanish will be spoken. Mmm, Spanish will be spoken badly. And more bread will be eaten.

“Just Don’t Do It!” That’d be our tagline. We’d have an upside down swoosh.

Just Don't Do It

One of my favorite blogs is Its author, Christine Gilbert, has been non-stop traveling (she and her husband Drew have lived in thirty-eight countries, thus far) since 2008. For a large chunk of that time, they have flown, walked, and biked the globe with their two babies/toddlers. She describes a typical travel day and a typical writing day with small children here. While she certainly enumerates the challenges and rewards of such an undertaking and gives unique insight into the nuts and bolts of their daily lives, she cannot capture what it’s like to travel long distances with toddlers for someone who doesn’t travel all that often and for someone who has toddlers in tow for the first time. She is too much of a damn expert! She and her husband are too amazing! They are too cool and because they have been doing this like champs for so long, they and their kids think of this as normal everyday life. They can’t fully convey how traveling with toddlers is surprisingly even way more exhausting than you could dream it.

So, I will attempt to convey.

11 a.m. After squaring away cat needs, getting all two-feet-tall people dressed and diapered, running through the checklist for the umpteenth time, and drying last-minute clothing stowaways, we left our house to drive the two hours to the Orlando International Airport. The kids slept for nearly the entire ride, their little Ooo-so-cute! pink-cheeked faces nuzzled into the side headrests on their car seats, giving us a false sense of calm for the trip ahead.

1 p.m. We dropped the car at the chortle-inducingly named Park Me Fly, a parking facility close to the airport, and it began to rain like only it does in Florida, wicked frickin’ hard. As the driver shuttled us to the airport, Roberto leapt from his seat—”The black bag!” The black bag is our diaper bag. In it we had the diapers, wipes, and warmer clothes for the kids to switch into once we got to the colder climate. Ah, well, thankfully, it was nice and safe back in the backseat of our car between the car seats.

1:30 – 3:30 p.m. Immediately inside the airport (Roberto and I were wet and dragging three suitcases, two backpacks, a stroller, a stuffed bear named “Bear” and a stuffed leopard named “Animal”), Kid Number One wriggled out of my grip and ran, pressed the Up button on the elevator and nearly hopped on, yelling, “Dinosaur Train! Dinosaur Train!” before Roberto caught him. Kid Number Two then began crying. He wanted milk. I gave him a peach. We had no more milk.

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Animal Pre-Trip

We got through security—each of us holding a kid who was desperately trying to break free and make a run for it while we disrobed, folded the stroller, and threw the backpacks on the conveyor belt. Then, we found a corner of the airport few people were in, so the kids could run around and look at the planes, and we could try and solve the diaper situation. Closer to boarding—Oh, did I mention that Kid Number Two woke us up at 4 a.m.? Yes, we had been up since 4, and it was about 3 p.m. at this pointthe kids were all over us and squirming and making happy screams because they had slept for two hours in the car trip to Orlando and were full of awe-inspiring energy. Kid Number Two slapped me in the face  and did a flip in my arms as he struggled to break free while we tried to have a conversation about our stroller with the Avianca representative.

Once we boarded, the kids were super jazzed about the individual TV screens and the remote attached by a retractable cord. There was yanking, banging, licking, and pushing. There were screams of “Ya-a-a-a-ay!” when the retractable cord snapped the phone back into place with a “Thwack!” At that point, I had to pull out the big guns. I had to pull out the International Bag of Fun.

International Bag of Fun

4 p.m. The International Bag of Fun included mini bags filled with popsicle sticks, moist towelette packets, trash bag ties, tinfoil, stickers, and crayons. There were catalogs and magazines to rip pages from. There were books and jar lids and cars and lots and lots of string. I immediately set to work fashioning a 4-square-knot necklace for Kid Number One’s leopard doll, “Animal” (the “I” is silent). I handed Kid Number One the giant twenty-color ball of thread, and Roberto and I took turns manically exclaiming, “Wow! Planes! Look! Look at the Planes!” We varied the tone to keep their interest peaked. Roberto held Kid Number Two, who repeatedly pressed the stewardess service button until they realized no one needed a moist towelette or pillow or anything. Kid Number Two squirmed and stretched and made irritated squeals. He slapped Roberto’s face and then began his love scratches and pinches.

At that point, five minutes had passed. We still had a three-and-a-half-hour flight to Bogotá, Colombia. Then a layover in Colombia for two hours. Then a two-and-a-half-hour flight to Lima, Perú, and then an approximately half hour drive to Roberto’s family’s apartment. We would arrive at about one in the morning.

Roberto and I love our kids. I mean LOVE them. And we absolutely heart traveling. But traveling more than two hours anywhere with our kids as toddlersnever, ever, ever, ever again.

Have you globe-trekked more than two hours with your toddler(s)? How’d it go? What did you do to keep them smiling?



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