Skip to main content

Southwest Airlines Community

Toddlers take to the skies

psacco
Not applicable
Summer is right around the corner, which means that families across America will soon be packing their bags and heading to theme parks (SeaWorld, Disney, etc.), beaches, mountains, or maybe just to Grandma's to show her the new baby. Either way, planes will be full and parents everywhere will be holding their collective breath as they board their flights and pray that their child doesn't decide to scream all the way across the country. As a parent of three little busybodies myself and an avid traveler, I can vouch for the fact that we parents are well aware that the prospect of sitting next to a family with young kids is about as enticing as a root canal to the average childfree traveler. But having logged thousands of miles with the kids on international flights, my wife and I have learned a few things along the way: 1. The local dollar store is your friend. My wife often stocks up on a few new toys to present to our kids at appropriate times on flights. New coloring books and crayons are great for toddlers, so is a set of plastic dinosaurs or farm animals. The toys can be used as incentives or rewards for good behavior for toddlers. The baby-safe items are great for distracting very young children at just the right moment. 2. Be prepared. It helps to plan out activities in advance and make sure you've got all of the supplies you need. For babies, bring spare diapers, bottles, baby food jars, formula, etc. We used to put pre-measured formula powder in empty bottles so that we would only have to add water to the bottle and not have to worry about spilling powder during the flight. Later, we bought Parmalat pasturized milk that comes in individual serving boxes that don't have to be refrigerated. Oh, and it's usually a good idea to bring a plastic shopping bag or two so that you can quickly seal up any particularly maloderous treats that the baby blesses you (and your cotravelers) with during the flight. Now the youngest is three, so our main worry with her is that we've got enough to keep her occupied. For her and her siblings, we bring drawing materials, a couple of her brother's favorite cars and trains, card games, and her baby doll. Oh, we also learned the hard way not to forget her threadbare "blankie" if we want to have any hope of her sleeping during the trip. 3. Enjoy the one-on-one time with your kids. I've had some great quality moments with my kids while traveling on planes. They love the attention, and it might just keep them from kicking the seat in front of them or uncomfortably staring at the passenger in the seat behind them. If you've got a young baby, play pattycake, peek-a-boo, whatever it takes. One game that my kids like to play is flashcards. You can buy them or make them on the plane. We practice numbers, letters, words, addition, subtraction, etc., depending on who I'm playing with. If you don't have flashcards, you can pull out a magazine and have them identify letters or tell you about what they see in the pictures. Or get an Origami book with simple projects for kids and create some paper birds. 4. Finally, there's the secret weapon. No...it's not medication...it's personal DVD players (laptops also work). Prices have come way down in the last couple of years and they're worth every penny. We also purchased a three-way headphone splitter at Radio Shack so all three can listen and watch at the same time. On long flights, we try to delay DVD use until the kids are close to a revolt, due to battery constraints. That usually works out perfectly. The kids generally get more fidgety as the flight goes on, so if we can keep them occupied for the first part of the flight, we're good to go for the last bit. On short flights under two hours, we don't bother with it, but it definitely accompanies us on anything longer than that. It also comes in handy if we get to our destination airport but still have to drive an hour or two to get to our ultimate destination. As a postscript, I have to say that our kids have been awesome travelers. We've dragged them across the country and over to Europe numerous times and have never had uncomfortable scenes in flight that lasted more than a couple of minutes. Oh, one more thing…if you're planning on flying this summer, you should consider booking before this Thursday. Flights are filling up fast and Southwest's summer sale ends Thursday at midnight. After that, you'll have to hang around your computer and pray for a Ding! offer.
17 Comments
John18
Not applicable
Our daughter Reganne is almost two and has traveled to many places with us. As a baby, the most important tip is to bring a bottle or pacifier to suck on at take off and landing to help with the dreaded "ear popping". Also, we found that trying to time flight time with nap time is a good idea. On the way to Hawaii and back, Reganne slept for most of the flight. Also, a stop over of an hour to an hour and a half may be a good thing instead of trying to go direct on a 5 hour flight. One last tip, a life saver for us, is to invest in a travel stroller that doubles as a car seat. We got the one from the SkyMall magazine at a baby shower from relatives, and it has been an absolute life saver. We do not envy the parents lugging both a stroller and a car seat through the airport with toddler in tow.
Wanda
Not applicable
>>>I can vouch for the fact that we parents are well aware that the prospect of sitting next to a family with young kids is about as enticing as a root canal to the average childfree traveler.
Tucano_Bandeira
Not applicable
Most of my flights with my 6-month-old baby are on Southwest. I know times are tight, but I *highly* suggest buying a seat for your child. It's going to be a busy summer, and odds are high that there will be free seats on your flight. On my most recent flight, 3 parents had to put their children on their laps, not having bought a seat. And Southwest is great about giving you a discount from the regular fare so you can give your little darling his/her own seat. And your fellow passengers will appreciate it too!!
Kristen_Thiebau
Not applicable
Paul, I'm always amazed at your calm demeaner especially when it comes to travel with your kids. Thanks for the travel tips and suggestions, you are a great one to learn from! KT
DC1
Not applicable
Also, Southwest has an entertainment kit onboard that includes an activity book a coloring pencil for the younger kids and playing cards. Feel free to ask for them!
Kami_Huyse
Not applicable
I haven't traveled overseas with my son since he was almost one, so now that he is two, and fully a toddler, I was concerned. We are planning a trip overseas again later this year to see his Oma and Opa. These are great tips and have changed my mind somewhat about the DVD player. However, the last trip overseas he just didn't sllep very much, does anyone have any tips to get the little ones to sleep on long flights? I know getting a bulkhead seat is one idea.
Adam_Howe
Not applicable
As a Southwest Employee, I'd like to give all of you parents one tip: before you fold leave your stroller at the end of the jetway for your friendly neighborhood Ramp Agent to pick up, make sure to remove all toys, books, blankets, bottles, etc. from the pockets! Once you fold the stroller up, these things tend to fall out without anyone knowing, and I'd hate for your child's blankie or favorite toy to become one more piece of FOD (foreign object debris) I pick up off of the ramp!
Hannah_Cook
Not applicable
I hate it when toddlers fly becuase all they do is cry, cry and I get a headache from it and just want to say shut up and let me enjoy my fight. Uhh, stupid punks always becoming an annyance.
Melissa_Petri
Not applicable
Since I am expatriate, my whole family and I log on thousands of miles everyday. My 2 year old has already logged on 3 roundtrip 14 hour flighs and several more intra-EU flights that lasts from an hour to 3 hours. I have seen the look of utter horror from people as soon as they see that they will be sitting near a toddler. But, several flights later and we have proven a lot of people wrong. If parents prepare for the flights, incidences of toddler going crazy will be limited. For parents, that means, a very creative mind and a big carry-all.
Melissa_Petri
Not applicable
*ever year not every day
Patrick_Fehring
Not applicable
Great suggestions. Even though I don't have kids of my own, I am prepared for others kids on flights. I travel a lot. It started the first time that a 7 year old was annoying me on a flight. I just happened to have in my carry on some comic books for my nieces and nephews and gave one to this young man and lo and behold he was quiet for the rest of the flight. He was even more surprised when at the end of the flight I told him that it was his to keep. This happened over 25 years ago and to this day I keep a small supply of things for kids. If I don't use them one time I for sure will use them another.
Kelley_Roshka
Not applicable
Why not create a kid friendly zone on some planes? Cluster the cuties closer to each other to help distract'm... paint that portion of the plane with cooler wall graphics and colors... offer some toys or games or coloring pages... and, yes, I have to admit... condense the noise for other passengers who seem to dislike disgruntled bambinos. (not I of course... I'll probably ask to be seated in the kid area - sounds like fun to me). And... if you can't book the seats... you can always make it your shuttle to Vegas with equal success... wink.
Scott5
Not applicable
Kelley, I think that if every one with a toddler or toddlers exercise their preboarding rights (See Contract of Carriage) then those families with the youngest children will probably graviate to the front of the plane (your kid-friendly zone) by default. However because this great airline has open seating there won't be a guarantee of this.
Scott5
Not applicable
Kelley, see Deborah Claybrook's May 11th post regarding great things to keep them occupied.
Not applicable
Jack... Usefull post. I learned so much. Thank you....
APO
Not applicable
Hi, this is totally off topic from your blog, but I go to Baylor and I'm in Alpha Phi Omega. I was wondering if you are the Paul Sacco after which the Sacco family is named. If so please email me, if not sorry to bother you.
hope
Not applicable
Another good idea to entertain the tots is an unusaul item that is in every seatback pocket - the barf bag! Use those crayons you brought along to color the bag. You can make a puppet by drawing a face on the bottom of the bag. You can use it as a goody bag - tell your kiddies that if they behave well enough then there may be some treats to put inside when you arrive to your destination.