Taking a bright-eyed, excited 2-year-old on a flight from Los Angeles to Dulles Airport, Washington, D.C., requires the following:

  • Digital Camera
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Beads or Blocks with string
  • Portable DVD player
  • DVDs
  • Picture books
  • Pacifier
  • Food they enjoy
  • Sipper Cup
  • Sense of Humor
  • Pointing Out Interesting Items
  • Setting Aside Your Comfort

Diapers, of course!

We took an overnight flight on United Airlines for Christmas vacation and then rented a car to drive from D.C. to Ligonier, Pennsylvania which was a 3-hour trip.

From LAX to Dulles Airport, our granddaughter (whom I wrote about in an article last year on AC) was excited and stayed awake for about the first two hours of the 4-hour flight. She was just several days away from her 2nd birthday. The return trip was 4 hours and 50 minutes.

My wife and I congratulated ourselves since on the return, the person in front of us had his seat reclined all the way back which fit against my knees and then my wife’s knees. I’m 5′ 8″ and she’s 5′ 7″. He would also look back at us during the few times our granddaughter pushed against his seat and gave us a look like “I’d rather not be touched or bumped.”

Here’s what helps me when traveling a distance and knowing it’s not going to be convenient or relaxing. I break down a schedule in my mind – usually in half-hour increments – and think through what we might do for each half-hour.

Digital Camera

Take still pictures and quick videos ahead of time that you know will entertain the child.

Before Christmas, someone had brought a patch of snow to a park near our home just above Pasadena. I had taken our granddaughter and a 10-year-old friend she adores to sled down the 12-foot x 10-foot patch. I had used our digital camera on video mode and had 3 videos of only 10 and 11 seconds each.

Fortunately, these videos kept her interest on the return flight. We’d play the video for her, point out what was happening and she wanted to see it again and again. That burned up maybe 10-15 minutes!

Here are other ideas: do something like a sock puppet show and get that on camera. If you and the child have imagination they’ll respond happily. Do several homemade videos or pictures and plan on using it a few different times throughout a prolonged flight or other similar situation.

Goldfish Crackers

What a brilliant way to help a child count. We packed them in a small plastic container that was used for squash. We had her pick them out one at a time in her hand. And then we had her count in my hand. This used up another 10-15 minutes approximately.

Beads or Blocks with String

We had a pleasant surprise when we pulled out the plastic blocks, that are fairly large, and our 2-year-old was able to string through them. She did get frustrated with the block that we used at the bottom to anchor the others but then she got the idea. We did this several times, too. I don’t know how many minutes it used up.

Portable DVD player  amp; DVDs

On United Airlines, we flew on a 767 going east and a 777 flying west. Each seat had portable video screens which entertained her while she did other activities. But we also brought a portable DVD player and played her favorite, Baby Signing Time – a video teaching sign language to toddlers. This used up a good half hour.

Pointing Out Interesting Items

A plane has a lot of neat little gadgets for a 2-year-old, like the air flow knobs, lights, video screens, the arm rest between seats, the magazines in the front pocket and people with their heads or faces.

Of course, you have to act as their guide in pointing out all the little sights and sounds and keeping their interest.

I suppose many of the other items are common-sense ones.

On the flight from D.C. to Los Angeles, there was very little turbulence during the first half of the trip. So my wife and I took turns taking her to the restroom and we were able to stand by the galley for several minutes at a time.

Flying cross-country with a 2-year-old isn’t usually the favorite part of a trip. However, done properly, it can also be a bonding experience . . . with you the caregiver – not the person near you who doesn’t want to be bothered!