Traveling With Toddlers
Traveling with toddlers can feel as if your running a marathon. Quite frankly, with all that walking in the airport and most likely carrying a 35 pound human (or two) at some point, you might as well be burning enough calories to have ran a marathon. And then, add on the hours long ride in the plane, while tackling the art of occupying a little wiggle worm and restricting their volume to try and spare your surrounding neighbors. Let’s just say, it’s no easy feat. There are some hacks to have up your sleeve though, that may make your trip a little more enjoyable.
The first couple times we traveled with my toddlers, I did so much research to ensure a somewhat smooth traveling experience. Honestly there’s no way to be sure of how things will go down because, well… toddlers. I’m by no means an expert but from my experience, there’s definitely some things that can at least help fight the good fight. I’m going to share some of the tricks I used to occupy my boys, as well as what I pack when we travel to ensure an enjoyable traveling experience with the toddlers.
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Board First … And Last
From my experience, this helps A LOT. Boarding the plane as early as possible allows you to get everyone situated in their seats, as well as become accustomed to the new surroundings, especially if you opt to use a car seat (depending on airline policies). Plus it helps to not have to be stuck in a tight aisle with a little one, while everyone around you is scrambling to shove their belongings in an above head compartment. The same applies when you are exiting the plane.
The one and only time we chose to board the plane with everyone else, in the zipper method, the boys weren’t able to walk fast enough for the less than patient folks behind us, and we kept ending up getting pushed to the side. So from there on out, we decided to just wait until everyone exits and then move at the boys leisurely pace. The kids get to say hello to everyone who passes, usually get greeted by the captain and it’s a whole lot less stressful.
Bring Mini Backpacks
I ended up buying mini backpacks for the boys like these. Each boy gets his own backpack and we fill them with snacks, a hoodie and other goodies. It’s adorable to see how proud they are to carry their own bag! I like it because it gets them involved and teaches a little bit of responsibility for their belongings and plus it helps keep my hands free so I can manage them more properly. Every time we’ve done this it’s worked out really well.
Snacks (Especially Fruit Snacks)
This is hands down the most important thing to bring, next to diapers or wipes. I don’t know about your kids, but mine get HANGRY. And a contained plane is not a fun place for them to be experiencing hunger pains. So we load up those backpacks with whatever their favorite snacks are at the time and make sure there is no shortage. Also, just something I’ve experienced, that fruit snacks are a really great alternative to gum to help with ear popping. We’ve never really had a problem with ear pains and I attribute it to this. If you feel like this might be a problem, carry a couple extra packages just in case.
If your littles are still in the sippy cup stage it’s always helpful to bring these along. Even though my boys are probably fine without them I still like carrying them with us just in case so we don’t chance spilling all over their clothes and then having them be soaked.
My boys LOVE stickers and this can keep them busy for hours if they had enough of them. However I highly suggest bringing something to put the stickers on (not that I have any negative experience with this or anything… ha!). I actually bought kid headphones that had a sticker kit with it, like this one and they’re actually able to decorate their headphones which is pretty neat.
Small Toy or Stuffed Toy That Comforts Them
My 3 year old is obsessed with having a mini car or plane in his hands at all times. It’s something that comforts him and keeps him occupied. So when we made our first flight with him out of the infant stage, I was sure to purchase mini planes (from the dollar section at Target) so that he had a new toy that he was excited for but also something small that would provide some comfort. He ended up keeping it in his hands the entire time!
Crayons and Coloring Book
I love to use the little kits you can get from Target’s dollar section. You know the ones that have a mini coloring book, crayons and stickers in a ziploc bag? I like them because they give you what you need but maintain contained until opened. Just make sure your kids don’t end up coloring on the back of the seat… or tray… or armrests.
Sweatshirts or Hoodies
I like to bring an extra hoodie or sweatshirt for the boys and pack it in their little backpacks. You just never know how cold it’s going to be on the plane and making them as comfortable as possible is key.
Change of Clothes
Ok, this is serious. I have been in a situation where my son peed through his diaper and if it wasn’t for the extra change of clothes brought on the carry on we would have been SOL. On that same note, I have also been running late to the airport and my son got car sick on the way. If it wasn’t for an easily accessible change of clothing we would have most certainly have missed our flight.
Extra Diapers and Wipes
I don’t think this one really needs much explanation. It’s just a reminder that you don’t want to be caught up in a shitty situation (pun intended).
Airports have tons of people and lots of germs. Keep those little hands clean by carrying around some hand sanitizer. You never know what kind of nasty stuff you’ll come across.
Use your own preference on this one. My first flying experience with the boys ended up with me baby wearing my little one (I highly HIGHLY recommend this carrier! and bringing a car seat for my older one. I tried to be prepared and called the airline to see what their policy was and ended up being told two different things by two different people. We knew we needed a car seat once we arrived at our destination so we brought one regardless. When we got to the airport, after going back and forth with the attendant they allowed us to bring it on the plane to use.
However after all the hoopla we went through and seeing how my son endlessly kicked the seat in front of us, I wish we had just checked it from the beginning. Now we plan ahead by renting one car seat with our rental car, and checking one car seat with our luggage. Even though I was nervous for them to constantly unbuckle themselves, that proved not to be the case and actually, both boys do wayyyyy better just using the good old seatbelt. Like I said though, no expert, just my own experiences.
Your Own Backpack
The first couple of times were flew with the kids I packed a diaper bag or a tote bag. One day my husband looked at me and said why don’t you just use a backpack? Umm, it was like a lightbulb went off. Maybe I was late to the party but, I never even thought of that, but I’m so glad he suggested it because it makes life SO much easier. Carrying a tote or heavy purse hurts my shoulders after a while and having that giant bulk on my side while manhandling children in a busy airport is tiring! A backpack is way more convenient.
Tablet and Headphones
Ok, when desperate times call for desperate measures, go ahead and bring out the big guns. I’ve learned that the earlier I bring this out, I risk the possibility of them losing interest before the flight ends, so I make sure not to take out this bad boy until the absolute last resort. Also just a quick side note, those freshly sticker decorated headphones would now come in handy. Trust me for your own sanity, you want to utilize them. And I think your flying companions around you will appreciate it too.
Oh! Also, having the games and movies downloaded ahead of time is helpful ( not that I know from experience or anything) I say this to warn you, it’s not fun for your toddler to see the tablet and not be able to PLAY on the tablet. It’s also a good idea to have it …charged (facepalm). Yes, all mistakes I have unfortunately made. Let my mistakes be lessons for you.
Any who, this seems like a lot but I promise it’s better to be prepared. It’s nice to have options and not be in a panic trying to figure how to occupy an upset kid, have a poop accident, or better yet, a puke accident, and not have a change of clothes readily available. I hope these suggestions help make your travels a little smoother so you can get back to what’s really important, seeing the world and spending quality time with your family.
- Board First and Last
- Bring Mini Backup
- Snacks (Especially Fruit Snacks)
- Sippy Cups
- Small Toy for Comfort
- Crayons and Coloring Books
- Sweatshirts and Hoodies
- Change of Clothes
- Extra Diapers and Wipes
- Hand Sanitizer
- Car Seat (Your Preference)
- Your Own Backpack
- Tablet and Headphones
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