How to Contain Your Toddler on a Plane

Toddler on a Plane

I didn’t tell you we spent 10 days in America in July. Something about jet lag and family and babies and toddlers and “life” getting in the way.

We flew from London Heathrow to Minneapolis. “Eight point five hours on an airplane with a 2 year old and a baby? Have you gone MAD?” you ask? Well, perhaps. Of course we were delayed an hour after boarding, too. The thing is, I set my expectations realllllllllly low. I packed Pull-Ups for the toddler (which he has only ever worn at night since potty training, and at that never used). A backup bag of spare clothes, diapers, snacks, formula, everything, was fully loaded. I told myself I would get no sleep (I didn’t), that the toddler wouldn’t sleep (he didn’t) and that the baby might sleep for an hour and a half total (exactly). What I didn’t anticipate? That my two year old would sit in his seat and entertain himself the entire way.

The kind folks at AmSafe sent me a CARES Child Aviation Restraint System to test drive on my little big guy. No thanks (thanks?) to the military mail system, it arrived the day before we left. Phew!

The CARES system attaches to the plane seatbelt and around the seat back, creating a harness much like you have in your toddler’s car seat. If you’ve ever flown with a tiny person in their own seat, you know that lap belts are pretty much pointless. As much as you’d LIKE him to sit down when the captain turns on the fasten seatbelt sign, chances are he’s squirming out to peek over the seat or just Be Obnoxious. The CARES harness takes care of that. It’s small, comes in its own stuff sack and is easy to install. Since you’re allowed to check your car seat with your luggage, it really is a no-brainer. Unless lugging a massive car seat down too-narrow aisles of the plane and hissing at your child to stop kicking the seat in front of him the whole way sound like a good time to you.

That said… we didn’t use it on the return flight. Our guy played with an iPad Mini for pretty much 10 hours straight. Except for take-off and landing, when he played with a space sticker book with his dad. Probably not the best parenting move, but, come on. It worked.

If you’re keen on the iPad, I recommending downloading a new movie and some new games for the ride. My guy loves Duck Duck Moose apps, and More Trucks was a home run surprise. He is also learning how to write letters with Letter School. Seriously. He’ll be three in November and he can use his finger to draw – not just trace! –the letters. I’M impressed. And I’m much less terrified for our next flight to the States next month.

Read more of my adventures in transatlantic toddler travel here.

KidSafe provided the author with a CARES safety harness at no charge for the purpose of this review. All opinions are the author’s.

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