Let’s face it, traveling alone can be a very taxing and stressful time. The experience, hopefully, always outweighs the stress but it can take a lot of energy, time, and planning for it to go well. Thinking about throwing a kid or two into the mix and the process seems downright impossible! Well, it's not! You will survive traveling with your toddler with a little preparation, a lot of patience, and a few helpful tips!
These are a few things to consider before you tackle the airport with your toddler. Whether you are traveling solo or with someone, these tips can help streamline and ease the process.
Booking Flights: Proceed with extreme caution when you are ready to book your flights. The red-eye or quick layovers might work when you are traveling solo but with a baby or toddler, it is testing fate. Traveling for your toddler, especially for the first time, is already throwing their routine out of whack. Booking red-eye flights or missing a connecting flight can cause an even larger uproar which will only translate to more stress on you. Google Flights and Skyscanner are two great resources to find the best deals on flights.
Documents: Bringing along your ID and Passport is a no-brainer when traveling within or out of the country, but your child’s papers may slip your mind among the fuss of planning. It is better to be safe than sorry, some (not all) airports do ask for a form of identification for your child even if they are very young. It is also just safer to bring extra documentation in case something goes wrong while you are away from home.
Defensive Packing: I often see packing as a defensive driving technique of sorts, you want to have a healthy balance of being aware of your surroundings without overcorrecting and driving 2 mph. Using packing cubes can help streamline the packing process while keeping each member of the family organized with their own color of cubes. With toddlers at least two outfits per day is a pretty safe bet, depending on the destination, activities planned, and the length of the trip. Planning out each outfit per day can also help keep you on track for not under or overpacking.
Snackin’: No one really loves airplane food, your children will probably hate it more than you do. Bringing along their favorite snacks, or sneaking in a few treats that they don’t normally get will keep their bellies full and the flight a little more enjoyable. Age-appropriate gummies and crackers will help if their ears hurt from the air compression!
Activity Bag: When the movies or your phone apps just won’t do you'll wish you had a small backup of something to entertain your child. Packing a small backpack (maybe one that they can carry) with a few activities can be the cure to boredom. Activities to include can be anything from stickers, a small book to read or a coloring book! A great guide to building one is from a fellow blogger How to Make Clutch for Toddlers.
Security Blanket: If your child has a favorite toy or blanket bring it!!! Flying is immersing your toddler in many new experiences, having something that makes them feel safe can go a long way to easing their stress levels.
Getting to the airport seems like one big jumble of trying to get to the gate without losing anything or missing the flight, here are some tips to make the hustle a little less chaotic.
Curbside Checking: Check if your airline offers curbside checking, this is an easy way to offload a lot of your belongings right when you get out of the car. If you are traveling with a crib make sure to check it ahead of time and arrive at the airport well in advance.
Food! Even if you already packed snacks for the plane it’s not a bad idea to sit down at the gate and have a small meal. Packing the car, checking bags, and going through TSA can be overwhelming. A small meal will curb any hangry crankiness for your young one(s) and give you a chance to re-energize.
Pre-Play: If the flight is two hours or 12 take the time before the flight to expel some excess energy. Whether that is taking a walk through the shops or doing a light game of tag it's all going to help tire your little one out. Don't expect them to nap on the plane but it can tire them out enough to sit through a movie at least.
Get them Excited: Talking about the plane, the flight, or the destination can ease your child's anxiety or uncertainty of the airport. Even if they don't appear to be nervous it can't hurt to prepare them for what to expect.
Don’t Unpack Immediately: All the snacks and activity bags are fantastic for during the flight but you don't want to unpack it all before you take off. Wait until after take-off to comfortably unpack a few activities and snacks for your little one.
Make Friends: It is a lot harder for someone to judge when they know who they are judging. Sometimes talking to your seatmates and making light of a rambunctious or melting down toddler is helpful. People are going to judge if they want and you'll just have to accept that. But being nice to those surrounding you will go far for your sake and theirs.
Don’t Be Afraid to Move: Once you are in your seat don’t feel that you have to stay in your seat to make others more comfortable. If your toddler needs to stretch their legs take a walk up and down the aisle (try to avoid during Flight attendants snack cart time!). When you are in flight it really is just about doing what works for you and your child NOT what will make fellow passengers less annoyed or more comfortable.
There is not an exact science to flying with toddlers just like there isn't one too raising them. Do what feels right for you and what you think will work for your family. Prepare for the first flight being the most difficult, plan for anything and everything to go wrong even if you think everything will go right. That way if something does go wrong, like your child crying for 40 minutes straight you did what you could to make it easier.