Flying with a toddler

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Catarina gazing out the airplane window.

As some of you may know, Catarina and I recently took a short trip to Odessa, Texas, to see my sister Tori graduate from University of Texas-Permian Basin. Our trek took us nearly 2,000 miles by way of plane. We flew Southwest Airlines so we had one layover in Las Vegas each way. I have a love/hate relationship with flying. I love the adventure of hurling yourself thousands of miles into the air, strapped to more than 20,000 pounds of metal. Seriously. I love it. But I hate the stress of it all. Delayed flights, hot planes, seatmates who don’t share armrests or worse, seatmates with bad breath!

Catarina has flown  a number of times. Her first flight was with NorthWest Medstar from Kadlec Hospital in Richland to Seattle Children’s Hospital. When she was just six months old she went to Texas for Christmas and this past fall she flew with us to California. Of course all the other times Craig was with us so wrangling her was a lot easier, as we could trade-off from time to time. Now that I’ve endured this latest trip with her as a toddler and as a single parent, I wanted to share my journey and what I’ve learned when it comes to flying with a toddler.

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I made sure to keep Catarina preoccupied with books, coloring books, snacks and movies.

A few days before the trip I looked up the Southwest Airlines gates location at the Las Vegas airport and determined what restaurants were in the area. I didn’t want to waste time checking out the different restaurants after arrival. I wanted to be able to make a beeline toward food so I could avoid getting hangry and so I could get Catarina fed while I recharged our electronics.

Jamba Juice for dessert. Cat loves the carrot mango karma smoothie.
Jamba Juice for dessert. Cat loves the carrot mango karma smoothie.

To keep Catarina distracted on the airplane I had a backpack filled with things for her to do. Board books, portable DVD player and a couple of movies, her favorite snacks, and these Crayola Mini Markers. They only color on special paper so when Catarina decided she wanted to color the plane, it didn’t leave a mark! I also made sure the books and movies I brought were ones she had already seen. That way it was guaranteed to keep her attention. I made sure she drank and ate during takeoff and landing to help release the pressure on ears. Little kids can’t do it themselves and oftentimes that’s the reason they’re crying on a plane.

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A goodbye shot of Mt. Rainier as we flew to Texas.

 

Traveling with a little one can be stressful at times. After being cooped up in our seats the entire flight I made sure to let Catarina walk around the airport on her own. Some airports even have play areas so kids can let off some steam. Overall our trip was pretty easy. I was lucky to have nice seatmates. One lady offered to hold Catarina for me if I needed a break and one guy tried to teach her how to play Angry Birds on his tablet. The flight attendants were also very sweet and made sure to check in on me throughout the flight in case there was anything I needed.

If I could offer any advice to someone traveling with the toddler it would be this quote:

“Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.”

So look at the journey as an adventure and I promise there will be plenty of giggles to go around!

— Veronica Craker

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