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Challenge: Traveling with Kids

A few rules for traveling on planes with toddlers

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About 48 hours ago, just after spending a decent portion of a 2-hour long flight chasing a 13-month-old up and down the aisle of a plane, my husband and I had an epiphany about our rambunctious little flower’s future career.

Given her penchant for approaching every person in her vicinity with a stare, then a smile, then a “HALLO!” we have determined that she is going to be a politician. I have never seen someone more eager to engage with strangers. Like, ever. And that is saying something for someone who spent a decent amount of time interviewing elected officials for her job.


We just got back from our annual Pittsburgh pilgrimage – a tradition that is coming to be defined, over the years, by a certain set of circumstances: A grandparent-induced vacuum wherein rules do not apply; a daily overdose of sugar; and a regular overlooking of normal bedtimes. This all adds up to one thing (or maybe, in this case, three things) – tired, tired and overtired kids.

Trying to travel with overtired kids might seem like it could turn out okay. Why? Well, given the inclusion of the word “tired” in that phrase, one might assume said kids would actually want to sleep or rest in some way in order to feel better.

As it turns out, this is not true. Not even in the slightest.

Like many things in parenthood that defy logic and even the time-space continuum, “If –> Then” statements do not hold true in our world. And our very colorful flight home to Orlando from Pittsburgh reminded me of this.

There was a day, back when our youngest was a tiny little thing, that we fooled ourselves into thinking that we had a modicum of control over the way a flight with kids would turn out, but again, we have been made fools of by the universe.

As it turns out, when children can walk, all bets for comfortable travel are off.

And there are certain Absolute Truths that one must acknowledge when traveling with these TNT Bundles on Wheels, also known as Toddlers.

The sooner you can accept your (hopeless and helpless) fate, the better off you will be. Here are some helpful tips if you are flying with your toddler/s in the near future:

1 – Do not crack open your Kindle and/or magazines, books, not even that damn safety pamphlet in the back seat pocket of the chair in front of you.

What do you think this is, a time to educate and entertain yourself? Here’s the only thing you need to read: “You are about to be owned for x- hours straight.” [Insert length of flight here.]

2 – Do not pop in your earbuds and attempt to listen to a podcast. You must stay alert for the sound of your child screaming when she becomes partially stuck under the seat in front of you.

3 – Complimentary pretzels are for smashing in the bag and then pouring everywhere, not for eating. (You idiot.)


“Excuse me while I lie here and behave all Exorcist-like.”

4 – Planes are always a shoe-free zone–duh–billions of fecal bacteria on appendages be damned.

Also, removed shoes should be stored as far underneath your seat as possible, so as to require Cirque-du-Soleil-level contortions to retrieve at flight’s end.

5 – Diapers are to be pooped in, to near-spillover capacity, and preferably at the first moment that you begin to think things are calming down.

This act of dominance is to remind you that there is no place in the universe worse to attempt to wipe down a dirty butt than a similarly dirty, but also impossibly tiny plane bathroom that strangely already smells like crap. Hmm.

6 – And after all of the aforementioned tasks are accomplished, big smiles with small teeth are to be flashed, reminding you that all this flipping chaos is happening at the hands of a damn cute kid, and one you are glad to be chasing places–even down the aisle of a plane.

Happy traveling, fellow parents. Let’s not pretend we’ve got any control over this racket and just enjoy those big, toothy smiles while we can.

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