The first thing that comes to mind when I think about traveling with toddlers: DRINK TICKETS. Unfortunately, sipping your way through what tends to be a high stress situation isn’t even an options because the number of hands you will have available is -6. In this exact moment I am remembering a flight to Florida with a 1 year old Nolan where the flight attendant brought me white wine with a lid and straw – she was a HERO! I wonder what kind of service I could get flying solo with all three kids?! Not sure I will EVER find out. Nolan has been on several flights and I used to bop around with him relatively freely… and then we had twins and we have yet to attempt flying with all three, BUT when that time comes, Marianne would certainly be a go to resource on how to make it happen with as few tears and sweat pellets as possible. Trust me when I tell you that this girl does her research and knows her sh*t! Without further ado… ENJOY!!!!
While I am by no means an expert, after almost 15 round trip flights with my 3 year old, and now with two in tow, I have figured out enough about how to fly with toddlers so that it can be enjoyable… or at least manageable enough that you just might be able to enjoy an in-flight beverage. Traveling with babies and toddlers seems completely overwhelming, but preparation is key to feeling like the traveling parent superman.
***Before the Flight***
Babies under 2 fly free, so capitalize on that and take your baby and travel!!! Make friends with the flight attendants and often if there’s an extra seat on the plane, they’ll find a way to make sure it’s yours. If you’re flying international, look in to booking the bassinets when you’re buying your ticket. On some airlines you can reserve it free of charge if you book early enough. Long flights and fewer layovers are always preferable.
***At the Airport***
On the day of, build time into your schedule because you’ll need to actually go to the counter to check-in. You will need a copy of baby’s birth certificate or a vaccination record in order to obtain a ticket for a baby/child. Check EVERYTHING-car seat (if lap child), travel crib, all the suitcases, all of it so that you have as little as possible. We walk away with the diaper bag and a backpack. Bonus points if it’s a backpack diaper bag so you can truly have all hands free. When it was just my daughter I even preferred to check the stroller and pop her in the Ergo. If you’re flying solo, babywearing is essential.
Pack any pureed food/pouches, milk, formula, etc. in a bag within the diaper bag. Blue gel ice packs are typically accepted. Security will most likely ask they to be pulled out and scanned separately. TSA is notoriously awful at efficiency, so set the bar low, stay friendly and you’ll typically be pleasantly surprised.
***On the Flight***
Wipe down everything. I get building up your immune system, but planes are gross.
Ask your flight attendant not just which bathroom has the changing table, but where exactly it is in there. They’re often disguised.
Try to hold off nursing or giving a bottle until actual take-off. If baby won’t take a bottle/nurse, make sure you have a pacifier, sippy cup, or pouch to suck on to help with the pressure. They won’t let you wear the baby carrier during take-over, but usually you just take off the straps, hold baby and put the straps back on once you’re in the air.
Pack LOTS of outfits. My three month old had two blow outs on a 2.5 hour flight. How. Don’t forget a fresh shirt for mom too. A handful of burp clothes can be helpful for a multitude of fouls, especially if the carrier is a victim of the blow out and you need something between baby and a dity carrier. An oversized muslin blanket makes for an easy floor cover in a quiet corner of the airport to allow baby to stretch out and play before the flight.
Babies under 6 months really don’t need much in the way of activities. Here are some of my favorite activities for older babies and toddlers.
- “Busy” food — Cheerios, puffs, raisins etc. that they need to work to pick up
- Masking/painters tape/mini Post-It notes/stickers/sticker books — Tape things to the tray table or window. Toddlers love picking and sticking.
- Water bottle and pom poms — put in, take out. Repeat.
- Magnatiles 👈🏼 (Click anything in pink to shop)
- Finger puppets
- Fat Brain makes some great toys for airplanes
- Tegu Block
- Teething necklace
- Big PlusPlus
- WaterWow “coloring” books – if you don’t already know about these, purchase NOW for everyday use but also pack for your flight.
A few additional activity recommendations:
- Do NOT take the special lovie, blanket, etc. unless you have a backup in your suitcase. The risk of losing something is too high.
- Wait 30 minutes between each toy being given, if possible, so they don’t burn through everything in the first hour.
- Hold off on letting your toddler run the aisles as long as possible. Once they nkow its an option, there’s no looking back.
***Travel Equipment Recommendations***
**Carseat** Taking a car seat is an absolute non-negotiable. Rental car companies rent seats that are often expired, wrong for height/weight/age, improperly cleaned (and therefore compromised), or not available despite being reserved. As someone that flew four hours, only to be stuck with my luggage and a four month old baby for another two hours while my husband fought with the rental car company over the joke of a car seat and then drove to Target to buy us a car seat, I can tell you- it’s. not. worth. it. The car seat is the only item you pack that has the potential to save your child’s life. It’s worth taking your own. This (Cosco Scenera NEXT) is the absolute best for travel as it’s really well rated, easy to install and very light (plus under $50!). Whichever you decide, make sure it’s certified for use in aircraft. You can buy a cheap carry bag from the counter at Southwest or online. You can also stow some larger, lightweight, oversized items in there too (blankets, etc.).
**High Chair** Depending on where you’re going, this (Mountain Buggy Clip On Seat) may or may not be necessary. But if you don’t want to worry about your hosts having an extra high chair or want to have a place to stick your baby so you can enjoy your rose while sitting at a picnic table at an outdoor winery, this should be in your suitcase. Bonus points for it laying completely flat and weighing only two pounds.
Toddlers- Too big for a travel crib. Too squirmy to put in your bed. Enter the toddler blow up bed. Including the pump, it becomes compact enough to fit in a suitcase!
Secret weapon is the SlumberPod — Yes, it’s expensive, but after the first time when you’re not stuck hanging out in the hotel bathroom because it’s the only place you can turn the light on after you put the baby to bed, you too will understand why it’s worth every penny.
If the baby is going to sleep in a pack n’ play – think about ordering a topper for the mattress so that its more comfortable and less crinkly.
YOU GOT THIS!!!