I know there are a lot of posts and articles out there offering best tips for traveling with kids, but in the past fourteen months I’ve learned that “kids” is an umbrella term that encompasses so many different ages, stages, and characteristics. I’m pretty sure I wrote a “travel tips” post over on Babble Baby, when Cullen was just a few months old. I probably recommended traveling with the Boppy, using the Ergo for chest naps, and breastfeeding during takeoff and landing. But those tips are of no use to someone with a one-year-old.
Kids change, and so the tips must change as well. We just returned home from a last minute trip out to Indiana to, sadly, be with family after the death of a loved one. I usually prepare for trips a week or two in advance — making packing lists, doing endless laundry, and even buying some new in-flight entertainment — but this time was much different. With a day’s notice, we just had to wing it. And of course, it turned out just fine.
Traveling with toddler is always scary, but here are 10 tips to help ease the journey…
1. Try Not To Stress
Easier said than done, right? I mean, traveling with a toddler is scary. It’s like having a loud, grumpy bomb with you – just waiting to go off when you least expect it. But you know that going into it, so relax and just do your best to get through it, and maybe even enjoy it. Expect your toddler to cry or do something annoying at least a few times. Have reasonable expectations. And be very apologetic to fellow travelers if things go south.
2. Embrace The Window
I always book myself a window seat when I travel with Cullen. The aisle is too distracting and everyone hates the middle, right? The window provides entertainment, privacy, and something to lean on during naps.
3. Try To Find An Empty Seat
We lucked out on this latest flight, with empty seats next to us on both legs — a true travel miracle! That extra foot of space is priceless once you’re up in the air. If you can’t afford to shell out for an extra seat (if they are under 2), ask the flight attendants if there are any empty seats you can sit near. In my experience, staff are very happy to accommodate if they can – you just have to ask!
4. Enjoy The Uninterrupted Snuggle Time
How often do you have several hours of just sitting with your toddler on your lap these days? Now that we’re done breastfeeding, these lap snuggles are a rarity. Ignore the loud drink cart and the unidentified smell coming from the seat behind you. Give extra kisses, take a few deep whiffs of that smelly baby hair, and enjoy a few hours of being unplugged together.
5. Wipe Down E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G
I am not a germaphobe mom, but something about airports and travel really makes me want to travel in a plastic bubble suit. Cullen’s first instinct as soon as we board is to touch and grab absolutely everything within reach. I start each flight by grabbing a few baby wipes, and doing some preventative cleaning. You never know who was sitting there an hour ago, and I’m not risking any of us getting the flu.
6. Travel With Toys
This is a no brainer. Since space will be limited, try to pick things that have multiple uses. I brought some of Cullen’s favorite books that have removable pieces, along with a few toy cars, and stacking cups. These kept him pretty busy!
7. Pack Tons Of Food
What do we do when we’re bored? We EAT, right? Well traveling is boring, and snacking helps pass the time. For this flight, I packed peanut butter and banana sandwiches, a flip cup of sliced grapes, mini carrot raisin muffins, and several fruit and veggie pouches. Just make sure you wipe down those little hands before snack time!
8. Utilize What You Have For Entertainment
Toys and books are great, but things like keys, sunglasses, chapstick, and a wallet are just as fun (if not more!). Cullen got a good kick out of taking my sunglasses on and off over and over again.
9. Plan Around Naps And Sleep
As Cullen has gotten older, it’s been more difficult for him to sleep on airplanes. He’s too big and awkward to comfortably sleep on my chest at this age. We learned the hard way that it’s too hard for him to have nap time fall right in the middle of a flight. One thing that does work though? Flying through bedtime. His sleep is deeper then, so we try to book evening flights around 6:30-7pm, and hope he snoozes the whole way there!
10. Embrace Technology
I know technology will be a big part of Cullen’s life soon enough, but I’m in no rush to expose it to him in high doses just yet. With that said, all rules go out the window at 10,000 feet. I have a number of children’s apps on our iPad, and they keep him entertained for long stretches of time – priceless.