24 Hour Airplane Trip With A Toddler

In what can only be a cruel twist of fate, I opened my family’s upcoming airline reservation to India to discover to my utter dismay that one leg was MISSING from the ticket! I thought we had dream prices for our family of three (with her own seat for our 22 month old), but turns out it was just a dream and a 16 hour leg was missing from the reservation. This revelation was followed by frantic calls to the airlines, the travel agent, hefty cancellation fees and a new, much more expensive booking where our daughter would be a lap infant or more appropriately, lap toddler!

24 hour plane journey with a toddler

We were now resigned to a 22 hour plane journey with a 22 month old, extra tall toddler as a lap infant! Any one traveling with toddlers would understand my distress at such a situation. Thankfully, the trip is now over and we are none the worse for wear and here to tell our story.

At the risk of being called paranoid, I over-prepared. I hit Target, Dollar Tree, Costco, Amazon and flooded the house with cheap mass-manufactured products to occupy my toddler on the confines of my lap for such a long duration. I perused dozens of mommy blogs and was alarmed to find stories of sweet, well-behaved toddlers coloring on planes and knowing my toddler was not even close to such stellar behavior.

How We Survived our 22 hour plane journey with a ‘lap’ toddler

I prepared and planned for many activities. I asked our day care provider for her favorite day time activities and the provider, in a sweet gesture, gifted us with a bunch of stickers and colored paper for her to play with (they were a hit! Said she got them from a school supply store)

  • Stickers and sticker books – I bought tons of stickers, including a 9-pack roll of stickers from dollar tree (turned out to be too small for Tot-P) and purchased sticker activity books from Amazon. We packed a cheap composition notebook that cost $1 and its now littered with stickers.
  • Pom-poms and an empty water bottle. This was another dollar store find. We kept transferring pom-poms to the water bottle. Next time I will bring a pair of forceps for another game.
  • Chenille Stems – glittery chenille stems. I used a hole punch to punch holes all around an old greeting card. She really liked doing this, even though not a lot on the plane.
  • Pencil stackers – I found these at the $1 section at Target and got the idea from another blog. I also took a pencil along and we stacked this for a while. I got the ones resembling a birthday cake and now my toddler sings “happa tee tee toto” when she sees this! I believe Japanese pull apart erasers are found on Amazon and are a hit with small kids too.
  • Small zip loc bag filled with cheerios and some colorful ribbon – the goal was to show her how to string. She found it a bit hard. I think she’ll do better in a future trip or I’ll buy larger beads.
  • Paperback story books – We eschewed hardcover books this time and went with paperback books to read.
  • Missed – should have packed a small stack of paper cups as I discovered that my daughter loved stacking cups!
  • Did not take crayons or play-doh as she tends to eat them!
  • Phone loaded with some apps and videos that she enjoys watching – this was great for the way back. India has free offline Youtube videos! I downloaded her favorite nursery rhymes and she watched them a lot on the way back to the US on a really low volume.
  • As we’d have our laps full, we dressed her in her pajamas and a light fleece jacket right before we left for the airport. She was comfortable and we were too.
  • Lap infants do not get their own meal on airplanes! So we planned ahead and packed enough food for at least 2-3 meals. We also got snacks between meal services from the galley (sandwiches, juice, crackers, peanuts etc).

LUGGAGE, BAGS and SMALL BAGS for quick retrieval of stuff

I packed the activities into two zippered bags, to contain the mess and keep her entertained for longer. I found these in a set of 4 packing bags at Ikea for $2.99. I use the drawstring bag for diapers and the rest to organize activities and hygiene items. I also packed the following into seperate modules:

  • Mini diaper change kit – 2 diapers, travel wipe pack, small diaper pad
  • Hygiene kit – tissues, hand wipes, anti bacterial surface wipes
  • Snack kit – snack size ziploc bags containing dates, cheerios, nuts, protein bars which all of us like, small packs of Nerds and M&M candies to console Tot-P if she were to cry uncontrollably.

All this went into a daypack along with my wallet, our passports, green cards, cash, keys, phone, tablet etc under the seat in front of us.

Our carry on luggage was our old Eagle Creek 50L backpacks which went in the overhead bins. My husband wore two backpacks (front and back) while I wore one pack on my back which left my hands free to carry Tot-P if she tried to run into restricted areas!

With really smart toddlers keeping us on our toes, us parents need all the tips and tricks we can get to ensure a smooth journey. I am always on the lookout for ideas on keeping TotP busy. Would love to hear your comments!

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