Traveling with a toddler can have its challenges if you aren’t fully prepared. When you decide to travel across the country, there are several layers of stressors for your toddler. From navigating the airport to being confined to an airplane seat for several hours, your little one will be dealing with stress that they possibly never have before. Ensuring you are fully prepared will help you to make the trip as enjoyable as possible.
Preparing for a trip when you have a toddler is a whole different animal than flying by yourself or with other adults, much more than just packing enough clothes and a few toys. You’ll need to think ahead and not only plan what to take, but when and how you are going to travel.
Here are 10 tips to help make your trip with your toddler that much more enjoyable, or at least keep your sanity:
- Consider the time you travel – Early mornings usually work best because you won’t have a cranky kid that is fighting to take their nap. Fewer people travel in early mornings, so you may have a little more room and fewer people to upset if your toddler does get cranky. Also important to note here: KNOW YOUR OWN KID. If they are super cranky in the morning, consider a later travel time.
- Put your toddler in comfortable clothes – Make sure they are easy to get on and off! There are many times you may need to help your toddler quickly get out of clothes or shoes due to TSA lines, bathroom breaks or because it got hot/cold. Make your life easier by using stretchy clothes and slip on shoes. Skip the high-top Converse and clothes with multiple buttons, for the love of all that is holy.
- Don’t forget the wet wipes – Even if your toddler is potty trained, you want to keep a good supply of wet wipes. These come in handy for messy hands, runny noses, and the possibility of accidents. These come in handy on all trips, with all ages of kids. You can never have too many. (You can find the single packs of Wet Wipes on Amazon (currently unavailable) for pretty cheap, or check the travel section at your local drugstore.)
- Pack lots of snacks – Your toddler will be sure to let you and the other passengers know if they are hungry. Pack little snacks that will keep them happy and the hunger pains at bay. Try to think of things that aren’t too messy or noisy. It’s so much better to bring snacks from home versus paying exorbitant prices in desperation at the airport. (suggestions: granola bars, squeeze fruit pouches, trail mix, beef jerky)
- Give them a little backpack of things to keep them occupied – Don’t forget to give them crayons and coloring books, small toys and stuffed animals. You may find little puzzles or travel games that they will be able to play with and not lose pieces. Make it extra special by buying a few new (or new to you) toys and games that they can pull out on the plane as a surprise. Use our “Are We There Yet” bags for inspiration.
- Use a stroller or child harness – An umbrella stroller can be your best friend in the airport. It is lightweight, folds easily and will keep your little one in place. If they are a little older they may not work well with an umbrella stroller, but you may want to think about a child harness. There are many different variations of child harnesses including some that look like stuffed animals. These will make sure that your child doesn’t get out of your reach if the airport gets too crowded. (Cosco umbrella strollers are pretty inexpensive (or just check your local Walmart or Target), so you don’t have to worry too much about them getting dinged up or busted.)
- Sit your toddler away from the outside aisle – Keeping your child away from where the flight attendants will be pushing carts and other passengers may be passing by may help you save some issues. The carts may have hot drinks on them which could spill onto your little one or they may get their little hands/arms caught up as others pass by them.
- Don’t be afraid to use Pull-ups – Maybe your toddler has been potty trained for quite some time, but Pull-ups can be your best friend on a trip. What do you do if the restroom is taken or maybe they just can’t make it there in time? Although it may be a fight with your potty-trained toddler, it could save yourself a big mess overall.
- Load up an iPad with movies and shows, but don’t forget the headphones! – Download several movies and television shows that you know will keep your little one occupied. Be sure to bring some really comfortable, over-the-ear headphones for your little one to use while they are watching the shows. This will help to keep the loud noises from bothering them along with not bothering those nearby with children’s songs and characters.
- Be careful of the early boarding – Yes, with a small child you may be able to be seated first, but that could add a half hour or more to your time in that seat. Before getting that extra overhead storage room or the seat of your choice, decide if it will impact your little one to be seated for that much more time.
- Prepare for things to turn upside down – Maybe they won’t. But if you go in with unrealistic expectations of how your toddler will never fuss, nap the whole plane ride and be super polite to anyone they come into contact with, you will probably be disappointed. Choose from the tips above that work for you, give yourself plenty of time to get to and through the airport and saddle up with a big heaping armful of grace and humor.
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Have you flown with young kids? What are your best tips for making the trip as smooth as possible?
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