Traveling with a Toddler (Little C @ 23 months): Destination Kansas City

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Last weekend my family of three traveled to Kansas City to visit Little C’s grandparents and go watch a Kansas City Chiefs football game.  I’m going to break the trip down into a few parts so you can see how it went.  If you are looking to travel with your own toddler in the near future, maybe you can learn from both the things that worked for us, as well as the things that didn’t.

The Airport:

My parents were nice enough to drive us to the airport – it is such a gift to be dropped off at the airport when traveling with Little C.  As you can tell, even for a weekend away there is tons of stuff that goes along with a traveling family.  It was early, so please forgive the somewhat terrifying expression on my husband’s face!

We didn’t actually need to put C in the stroller, but it served a very useful function as being our “cart” for all of her stuff.  The other good news was that even though he wasn’t so thrilled with dragging around all of that luggage, Little C was ready to help.

She really was trying to be helpful with that bag.  Unfortunately, she had woken up a bit earlier than normal and was also dealing with a nasty cold.  Needless to say, her almost two-year-old side quickly reared its head.

In truth, it actually was somewhat helpful to have her on the floor pouting while we were checking in.  At least that meant we weren’t having to chase her anywhere.  She was a bit sad to see her car seat being “checked” – the agent helping us said she often sees little ones get sad when they see their car seat going away.  Who knew?!  Since we have one piece of checked baggage free for up to two people with our Continental Onepass/United MileagePlus Explorer Card card, we were able to check her car seat for free, and then check two other pieces of luggage for free as well.  I highly recommend you have credit cards (or elite status) that gives you free checked luggage on the airlines you fly most frequently with little ones because the baggage fees alone for this trip would have been $100.  So, we saved more than we pay in annual fees for this credit card just in this one trip .  I don’t usually check bags when flying by myself, but it is essential right now while flying as a family with all this junk gear.

Once we got checked in, it was time to go through security.  Thankfully, the line was very short and I didn’t step on any glass this time.  It was also handy to not have to take C’s shoes off of her.  For those who don’t know, children 12 and under no longer have to take their shoes off to go through TSA security.  Since C had her own seat and our trip was just a domestic hop, there was no need to show a birth certificate for her.  All she needed was her boarding pass and we were good to go.

Once through security, we picked up some breakfast in the airport and headed to the gate.  As I have mentioned before, eating on the plane is one of our big activities for C, so we hid the food as best we could until we got on board.  At the gate we just explored and looked out of the windows at planes.  We found a pretty deserted corner of the gate and let Little C explore some of the chairs while looking out the windows.  Since we had been talking about planes all week, she was very excited to see them out of the windows and was more than ready to get on one herself.

The Airplane:

Boarding the plane is never a fun process, but we are always sure to get on as soon as they will allow us so that we can try to get settled before the whole line is behind us and we are holding everyone up.  This was the first time for us to use the CARES Harness, so getting it installed at first took a couple extra seconds.  I think both Daddy and C were a little frustrated by the process of getting strapped in.  It can be pretty stressful trying to do everything quickly and in a cramped seat.

It would be fair to say that after the somewhat stressful loading process that C was a bit upset.  This meant it was time to start with the “big guns” immediately, and bust out the McDonald’s sausage biscuit that we had been saving for the flight.  She went from 60 to 0 in 1 second flat.  Luckily, toddlers are pretty slow eaters most of the time so that biscuit lasted for just about all of loading and most of taxiing to the runway.

I had gotten her pretty excited about the takeoff process, so we held hands for that and both chanted “faster, faster” until we were up in the clouds.  A drawback of the harness was that she isn’t as elevated as she normally is in her car seat, so she couldn’t see out the window quite as easily.  I was able to lift her up some so that she could see the clouds.  She was so excited to be flying.

I have outlined our flight ritual before in Babies on a Plane Part 1 and Babies on a Plane Part 2, and we basically stuck with that plan for this trip.  On takeoff we drank juice so that her ears would pop and shortly after that we played with toys for a few minutes and then turned on Winnie the Pooh.  For those who are horrified she doesn’t have on ear phones, trust me I could barely hear it sitting next to her.  No adjacent passengers were harmed in the watching of this movie.

I also shut her window to try to encourage her to fall asleep.  It worked.

I learned that before we travel using the CARES harness again, we really need to pick up a child’s neck pillow because her head was bobbing around so bad that she woke up from her nap much sooner than she otherwise would.  This happened on both the outbound and return flights.  Please take my advice on that one, especially if you are using the harness for a younger kiddo who might take a good nap on the flight.  I was so frustrated by her bobbing head – especially when it woke her up!

The Destination:

Once we got to our destination, everything else was pretty much a breeze.  She was pretty tired by this point since she didn’t get a good nap on the flight, but she was kept pretty entertained by all the cool things to see.  We met her grandparents for lunch at Arthur Bryant’s BBQ (recommended by Million Mile Secret’s fiance, Emily!) and it was delicious.  The line was insane and wrapped around the building, but we had food waiting for us since C’s grandparents got there before we did.


After lunch we headed to the Hyatt Regency Kansas City in the Crown Center part of downtown.  This hotel is scheduled to become a Sheraton starting 12/1, but I will go ahead and review it anyway in a separate post in the near future.  We were able to book a very cheap rate of around $100 a night and used a confirmed Diamond suite upgrade to make sure we had enough space for C and Grandma to play while the rest of us went to the football game.  Even though the Chiefs did not have a good showing, it would be fair to say that Grandma and C enjoyed their time together with just the two of them, and the three of us that went to the game had a great time despite the ugly loss.

The trip was a great time, but the last night we were there Little C decided to boycott the pack-and-play that the hotel provided.  She would start screaming hysterically whenever we tried to put her in.  Combine that with some horrible coughing fits she was having and some very restless sleep, and you had a recipe for only a couple hours of sleep for Mommy and Daddy.  That made for quite a long day of traveling home.  I just about lost it when she woke up on the flight home due to her head bobbing in the harness.  I was so ridiculously tired, and so was she.  I actually had to hold her in my lap for some time on the flight home because she was too exhausted to be anywhere but with Mommy.  Again we were very thankful that my parents picked us up from the airport once we landed.

The Recap:

I seriously was on the verge of a breakdown I was so tired the day we traveled home, so having my parents pick us up from the airport and watch C for an hour or so later that night was amazing.  If it is at all possible to schedule a “down” day after you get back from your traveling adventures with kids, I highly recommend it.  I know it isn’t always possible, but it sure would have helped the day after our journey back home.  I’m still tired thinking about it.

For our flights from Texas to Kansas City and back, we each used 20,000 Continental Onepass miles with about $5 in taxes (gasp, we redeemed for a domestic flight!).  🙂  The car rental came to about $65 for the weekend and the hotel came to about $250 for the weekend with taxes – and that was for a very large suite thanks to our Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrade.  So, grand total for those expenses was 60,000 miles, and $330.  We also earned Hertz and Hyatt points for the trip and those points will help make a future trip possible.  Not at all a bad deal to make sure that C continues to connect with her family.


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  1. .
    You mentioned headphones, have you researched that at all? I am thinking of getting some for my son (3yo) for his iPad. It is usually noisy enough on a plane that I don’t think people would notice but it might be worth doing. Just not sure what he would tolerate!

  2. Great post. Nice tip on saving food for the flight. I’d be interested to hear about what is normal age when todler needs own seat and how to book award for todlers. I wonder if for First class award tickets airlines would shy away from little ones in the First cabin.

  3. @Kelly, I have no idea if there is a trend going on about writing about kids who travel. I know it’s a pretty much a staple around here since we travel with our daughter pretty regularly.

    @Ike, we haven’t done tons of research yet, but we do plan to get some for her by the time she is around your son’s age (if not a little sooner). A quick search showed that these good get ratings on Amazon and are quite affordable.

    I’d love to hear suggestions from others who have bought some though!

    @The Weekly Flyer, I am a strong proponent of babies always having their own seat both for safety and practicality reasons, but if you are going to wait a bit to get their own seat I would say do it around the same time that they become really mobile. That is usually in the 8-12 month range. They are much less likely to sit patiently in a lap after that time.

    As for booking awards for toddlers, it pretty much is the same as for adults in terms of searching and booking seats. We are strategic about the seating arrangement we select, and I will write more about that soon. I have not booked us in First with her, but I don’t see how on a practical booking level it would be any different for the airlines we fly. 😉 We may get some nasty looks though.

  4. Great post!!! We did the exact same trip except, we went to the Chiefs game with Minnesota & they won!! Yeah!!! Please share how you were able to get a rental car rate so cheap. I looked and looked (apparently in all the wrong places). I am sure we will go back & that would help a great deal with our travel budget. Thank you so much–I enjoy reading your blog so much!!!

  5. Thanks for a great post. It is wonderful that you make the effort to keep little C connected to her grandparents, and miels are a great way to do it! We use ours for domestic travel every 2 months or so, for the explicit purpose of traveling IAH to NYC to visit little S! While i know some people find it more important to use miles internationally, they must not be parents or grandparents.:-)

  6. My son, who is now 5, has been using the headphones you link to above for about 2 years. We like them – good volume control so that he can’t blow his ears out, and comfy for little one’s ears. We’d recommend them to. One suggestion regarding the car seat, we actually wheel him around the airport (sort of like luggage) 🙂 using a gadget that basically gives wheels to the car seat. He likes riding around (doesn’t have to walk all the way to the gate) and then we gate check the car seat for FREE.

    BTW – met you at the Chicago Seminars (we talked about the early days of our kids’ arrivals into this world) and continue to enjoy your blog and appreciate the advice!

    • @Michael, I remember you very well and very much enjoyed sharing stories about our little ones. Thanks for the ear phone info. Little C may find those in her stocking this year for Christmas. 🙂

  7. Oh, I used to get so tired traveling with my little ones! We did a lot of traveling to Asia and Africa with them because we adopted. One trick: colored pipe cleaners! Kids love them! They can seriously occupy a couple of hours 🙂 Get some rest!

  8. Sorry your flight back was so hard! Glad you got a harness for the little one – it will become more valuable as time goes on. 🙂

  9. i just came accross your log thts for the insights. i am also just wondering when traveling with young kids at the security check point how it is now im dreading the thought of my family with kids gpoing through security checks? In the past they have taken and tested samples of all the baby food, milk water etc. do you know if this still happens these days? im trying to plan a trip and dont know what to do about my daughters baby food and if they test it since it will go bad since it will be almost 10hrs or more with achange of plane in between. id loved to hear any other advice thnks

    • @ma, the worst part about security with families is just the wait to go through (if there is a wait). They haven’t ever tested my food, but they do sometimes test liquids. I think there is a high likelihood you will be fine . They let me bring unopened juice boxes through this last time without opening them. They just did some tests to the outside of the container. You may hit a difficult TSA employee every now and then, but many of them are very willing to work with family’s needs while still maintaining security.

  10. thanks hopefully ill get lucky like that too then! I will be praying hard! Also did your little girl get pat down or groped for that matter or how were there with your child i contemplate just having all 3 of my kids under 3 run through in diapers n shoes to avoid any problems because my kids would completly freak out with an invasive search. any other thoughts on the whole security also i noticed you mentioned sometimes you carry your child on? are you able to take your kid through on you or do you have to remove them or what do you do about your stroller going through security. i know if we( my hubby n me could each carry one through in a carrier it would be somewhat easier to manuveur with hands and kids n luggage. also on the plane can i keep my infant in an infant carrier on me to thanks so much.

    • @Ma, they really are usually pretty good with kids. We haven’t had any searches of our toddler at all. They let me go through once with her in a carrier strapped on my back, but usually they make her come out and I either hold her hand going through the machine or I carry her. We usually push all the luggage in the stroller until we get to security. Then, we put it on the belt to be screened, fold up the stroller, go through, and then load it all back up on the other side. It is a pain, but just stay calm and it won’t be too bad. Good luck!

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