Tips Traveling With Toddler – My four year old loves to fly and wants to be a pilot when she grows up. Her eyes light up when we talk about travel and she always asks when we get on a plane again.
We tackled our first flight with our daughter when she was five months old – a cross-country trip from Los Angeles to Boston for a wedding. On our return flight we were delayed on the tarmac we were stuck in the plane for an extra hour, my daughter threw up on me during the descent, and when we finally made it home with our cranky baby, overtired my husband said, “We are not flying with her again until she is 10 years old.”
Tips Traveling With Toddler
…well, we went on to fly with our daughter a dozen more times, including long international trips to Asia and Europe when she was a toddler, and now we’re traveling with two toddlers. Crazy? Yes. Is it worth it? Also yes.
Tips For Traveling With A Baby
Flying with toddlers can be unpredictable and draining – there’s nothing quite like being confined to cramped quarters with a fussy baby or a rambunctious toddler who feels like he’s standing still for a while; but, I’ve also learned that there are surefire ways to relieve and overcome stress and make the experience much more manageable.
For older children and preschoolers, knowing what to expect at the airport and on the plane beforehand will help them feel more comfortable and excited about the experience. Talk about waiting in line, going through security, sitting in a “big” airplane seat (ha!), and about safety rules like listening and buckling the seat belt.
Reading a picture book about airplanes and airports is another great way to introduce your child to air travel and build enthusiasm for the trip. Our favorites include Playtown Airport, Amazing Airplanes, and Richard Scarry’s A Day at the Airport.
Ticketing, baggage check, and security screening can take longer with babies in tow, especially if you’re bringing pumped breast milk, formula, or baby food in your carry-on. Certain liquids for babies and children are exempt from the 3-1-1 liquids rule but require separate filtering, which takes more time.
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Start your trip off on the right foot and give yourself extra time at the airport so you can board the plane feeling calm and collected instead of rushed and frazzled!
A compact travel stroller that fits into the overhead bin and a lightweight car seat made our travel life with children
. We love our Mountain Buggy Nano stroller plus Cosco Scenera Combo another car seat; the nano mountain buggy has a universal car seat adapter system so it can carry a child AND the car seat through the airport together.
For babies and toddlers, using a car seat on the plane has many benefits; it provides a safe, familiar and sanitary place for your child to sit (and hopefully sleep) during the flight. If you’re driving when you get to your destination, you’ll probably need a car seat anyway so investing in a basic car seat dedicated to travel could also save you money (~$50 for the first Cosco Scenera car seat for ~$10 per day to rent a car seat).
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Keep in mind, if your little one is flying as a lap baby, you can always ask during ticketing and at the gate if there are any extra seats available so you can use your car seat on board. Barring a total flight ban, most airlines are quite happy to give free seats to a lap baby. If that doesn’t work though, don’t worry – checking in your car seat is free on all major US airlines, you just need to have a car seat protective bag ready.
I think we can all agree that a baby who sleeps through the flight is the best case, especially for longer journeys. For babies under 6 months old and not yet mobile, flying around nap time is a good bet since the white noise from the jet engines, the dim cabin lighting, and even some mild turbulence do a good job of lulling baby to sleep; but, for more active young children who fight sleep, this strategy may backfire.
Ultimately, choosing the “ideal” flight time will depend on your child’s sleeping habits, mood and your own anxiety level. Consider whether your child usually falls asleep in the car, regularly sleeps through the night, or falls asleep fairly easily. Also, consider your own energy level and motivation for an overnight flight; if you’re really scared of flying itself, it’s probably not a good idea to begin with.
Sometimes the only way to really know is to try. On a trip to Europe, we took a red eye on the way there and a day flight on the way back. The red eye was definitely exhausted, but my daughter slept for most of that flight; on the other hand, entertaining her for 11 hours (of which she only slept for 30 minutes) during the return flight during the day made me want to pull my hair out. So now we know.
Tips For Flying With A Toddler
Avoid the hassle of constantly digging through your bag during the flight by organizing your essentials in separate gallon ziploc bags as you use them. For example, have all the diapering needs in one bag that you can take and take to the bathroom. If you are giving formula, milk or baby food, these should already be grouped together in a ziploc for security screening. Have another bag for all the snacks and another bag for all the toys.
Also, if you are flying with an older or preschooler, pack them a small backpack with their most important items (water bottle, snacks, toys, jacket); this is especially helpful if you are traveling with multiple children to prevent mental fatigue as you have to keep track of everyone’s things.
Navigating the airport with babies and toddlers is much easier when your hands are free. Try to carry as little as possible in your arms by carrying a baby, checking in most of your luggage, using a backpack for transportation, and pushing a stroller.
Your child is about to be buried (fingers crossed) for the next few hours or more so let them walk around and get out as much energy as possible after going through security. Take advantage of any extra time before boarding to fill those water bottles and make sure your baby or toddler starts the trip with a clean diaper!
Tips For Traveling With A Toddler
The walk also continues when we get off long international flights. Whenever possible, I try to walk my toddler off the plane all the way to baggage claim after international flights because after we collect our check-ins, we still have to go through immigration control and that’s when the tie little ones back into a stroller. or carrier. If they are able to get their energy out before that time comes, it will be much easier to wait in a potentially long line.
It has worked very well for our family to go on a staggered board and share the responsibilities. My husband is in charge of all the gear (folding up the stroller, checking anything that needs to be checked at the gate, installing the car seat on the plane, and sanitizing the seating area) and makes tables on start; I handle the kids and usually by the time we get to our seats, my husband will already have everything mostly set up and cleaned so we can focus on getting the kids settled.
There is nothing worse than contorting yourself in the already narrow seat space to reach for a bag stowed under the seat every time you need a snack, wipe or bottle. So, when you settle into your seat, make sure you have some essentials within arm’s reach.
Use the front seat pocket to clean a bottle and a pack of wipes and put ziploc pacifiers, hand sanitizer, or a small pack of snacks in your jacket pocket to save yourself the hassle (and from pulling a muscle).
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Sucking and chewing help little ones avoid ear pain from the change in air pressure so be prepared to offer a bottle, nurse, or pacifier during takeoff and landing. For a toddler, a water bottle, snack, or applesauce pouch works great too!
For some reason I tend to forget about this during the passage (maybe it’s all excitement
) and since your baby will probably already be passed out from the flight, any discomfort during the last 30 minutes of the flight is likely to be much worse than it was at the beginning. So just don’t forget to save a snack or a bottle for the landing too!
The three things that make flying with kids go downhill fast are hunger, fatigue, and boredom. We tackle these three boys by preparing our own arsenal of three: snacks, activities and screens.
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For snacks, bring plenty (domestic flights are quite lacking