5 Tips That Will Make You a Toddler Travel Pro
Taking Toddler Travel From Challenging To Easy Breezy
There are a few things in life that invoke stomach-churning, next-level anxiety: speaking in front of a large group, death-defying heights, big hairy spiders, and flying with a toddler.
If you had a time machine and made my past self choose one of these tasks I would have spoken in front of a thousand strangers while standing on the edge of the Empire State Building holding a tarantula in each hand.
Flying with my two-year-old would have been a distant second.
Present me has conquered several flights with a wild toddler. Hands down I now would choose to fly the friendly skies with my little one than do a single one of the above!
Here are my tried and true top five strategies to make traveling with a toddler easy.
1. The Right Flight Time Will Make All the Difference
There are two schools of thought when choosing a flight time.
One that will coincide with naptime, and one that won’t. If you have a kid who can nap anyplace and in any environment then coordinating your flight around naptime might work for you.
For me, trying this was an absolute disaster. First, you have no control over flight delays. A delayed flight could spell disaster for your perfectly timed inflight nap.
The first and only time I planned a flight around nap time the flight was delayed. By the time we took off my little one was screaming his head off. It never stopped. The entire two hours. Just screaming. I will never be the same.
The next consideration is the environment being new and interesting. Kids are naturally curious. With buttons on the ceiling, tray tables to fold down, drink carts rolling down the aisle, and new faces as far as the eye can see a nap is not going to be high on their to-do list.
When choosing a flight, direct is your best bet.
Not only will you board and deplane once, but also only set up your area once. Sometimes a direct flight is just not in the cards. If it is not an option you will be ok! A two-hour layover is a sweet spot when changing planes.
This may seem like a long time, but it will go by quicker than you think.
I like to be one of the last to deplane and one of the first to board. I don’t like to feel rushed setting up and breaking down the snacks, activities, and bags I need to have easy access to do so.
When I rush I forget things. And when I forget things I feel stress. Kids are highly sensitive to our stress, so avoiding this is best for everyone.
Taking my time cuts into a layover on the front and backend. When we get off of the plane I like to use the restroom, grab a snack, and find a place where kids can run free. Before we know it we are back in the air.
2. Keep Your Routines the Same
As parents of toddlers, we are so often in a transition period. Teething, saying new words and phrases, food aversions, dropping naps, and potty training.
All of these can be exciting and frustrating. We celebrate wins when we make it through to the other side. We commiserate and lean on one another for wisdom and support to get through the trying times.
When preparing for a flight with your toddler it is best to not start anything new before you go.
If you have not begun potty training, hold off until after your trip. If your child is still in diapers there are a few things you can do to make your flight a bit easier.
Be sure to get the ones that have an easy closure on the sides. Mid-flight diaper changes are no fun for anyone. The changing table in the airplane restroom can accommodate a child the size of a loaf of bread. A standing diaper change is your best bet.
You know your kid’s body and bodily functions best.
Feeding my toddler a banana is like setting a 30-minute countdown to a diaper apocalypse. If there is a food that is like kryptonite for your little one’s tummy, do yourself a huge favor and avoid it before your flight! You can have a banana party once the plane has safely landed.
Toddler naps can feel like a high stakes game of chess. Are they going to take a long nap, a short one, or skip one altogether?
Are they going to sleep for just the right amount of time so that they wake up rested and angelic? Or will a creaking floorboard on the other side of the house wake them up 20 minutes into their slumber and ruin the rest of the day for everyone?
Naps are important. They are also ever-evolving. If you can help it do not, I repeat DO NOT change anything about your toddler’s nap schedule before you travel.
A tired little one can go from sweet to scary in a matter of seconds. Keeping their schedule the same leading up to a trip is so important. Travel will inevitably throw off everyone’s schedule. So, wait until you return to make adjustments to sleep schedules!
3. Share the Excitement!
Whether it is your toddler’s first flight or not, the prospect of a plane ride can be exciting! Having something to look forward to is good for children and adults, so share in the fun with them.
You can YouTube just about anything nowadays. From the inside of the cockpit, the safety speech, to take-off and landing, you can literally see it all. This can be helpful in a couple of ways.
If your child tends to be timid in new environments having background information may put them at ease. If they like knowing the ins and outs of how things work this is their time to shine.
If YouTube isn’t your jam you are likely to find a favorite show or character who has gone on a plane ride. This can be a fun reference throughout your travels.
The possibilities are endless, here. But, aren’t they always when it comes to books? You can get technical, go cutesy, follow a favorite character on an adventure, or land somewhere in between.
I love reading my little one The Airport Book. It is a great representation of what goes on throughout an airport. This is where a lot of the hustle and bustle (and stress) occur. Little things you may not think twice about are touched on.
Like where do the suitcases go when you check them in? And why are some people smiling when they leave and others crying? It’s a great touchstone for kids to refer back to.
Hype Them Up
Keep it light and grow their excitement! Help them walk into this experience with a sparkle in their eye.
4. What to Pack
Less is more. I repeat, Less. Is. More. Here are the five essentials you should pack:
Wipe those tray tables and arm wrests down. They are cleaned once a day at best. Keep those travel bugs at bay.
Snacks, Snacks, and More Snacks
As parents, we know our role revolves heavily around that of snack suppliers. Food is a magical equalizer when flying.
Hungry? Have a snack. Bored? Have a snack. Take off and landing ear pressure? Have a snack. When you think you’ve packed enough snacks, throw in a few more. Just leave out the bananas!
Bring a favorite toy, but don’t forget a few new ones. Before our last trip, I found a gold mine at the dollar store.
Activity packs that included cardboard cutouts, stickers, and mini markers with popular character themes. These small all-inclusive activity bags kept my kid busy for 20 minutes and then some.
One tip is to avoid anything that rolls as it may be lost in the abyss of the airplane floor.
Wherever you fall on the screen time spectrum this is one situation when you can be flexible without feeling guilt.
I like to start with toys and snacks, and before things go sideways bust out an Ipad. On our last two flights I didn’t end up needing any screens, but you better believe I have had no problem letting my screen time limit go out the window in the past.
Change of Clothes
One change for you and one for them. Because you never when you might be on the receiving end of a toddler mess. I’d much rather leave out a couple of toys in exchange for an extra top and a pair of leggings.
5. Go With the Flow
An important and ongoing lesson I have learned since becoming a mother is to hope for the best and to be ok with anything less than. I don’t expect the worst, because that’s just a terrible mindset!
I let go of whatever picture I have in my mind of how things should go and enjoy what is. Traveling with a toddler or on your own is likely to have some hiccups.
No matter how much planning and preparation you put into a trip you are never fully in control. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight!
Find the author of this post at keiralafontaine.com