I will be the first to admit that flying with a toddler can be extremely intimidating. I think that traveling with a two year old is a lot scarier than traveling with an infant. There is still the potential of screaming, uncontrollable crying, and the embarrassment of looking like you don't know what the heck you're doing but now you've also got a little person who can talk back, knows exactly what they want and when they want it, and is big enough to kick the backseat of the person in front of you and stand on the seat to press the call button every five minutes. Toddlers are terrifying. Flying with toddlers is equally as harrowing.
I have good news, though, mama! At this point I have survived flying with a toddler twice in my motherhood experience. I learned a lot from my mistakes from the first experience and my second was an astounding success. Is it because my child doesn't throw tantrums and I am a ultra-organized, always prepared, perfect mom? Nope. It's because I did my homework before hand and incorporated these 10 strategies that make flying with a toddler stress free when planning my trip.
Flying With A Toddler
In order to make sure you have a smooth trip when flying with a toddler, you'll need to start planning with your toddler in mind right from the start and think ahead all the way to the very last moments of your trip. What will you need? How will you feel? Follow these steps to make sure you think of everything.
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1. Book Your Trip With Your Toddler In Mind
The first thing that you want to think about before you even book your tickets, is how long you're going to be flying with a toddler in a plane. Even the most well-behaved toddler can only hold their attention on something for so long before they get antsy and need a new distraction or a new environment.
If you have the option, book nonstop flights whenever possible. The last thing that you want to go through is a long layover (or any layover) with a toddler that is so done with traveling. One long flight is infinitely better than two flights + a layover in the airport.
Also, while you are booking your seats, do your best to take up the entire row. If you are buying three or more seats, then you are golden! You won't have to worry about your toddler wanting to sit by the window and needing something out of the overhead bin 10 times. BUT if you are only booking two seats, try looking for flights that have two-seater rows instead of three. This way you are not trying to contain your child from crawling all over the person you are sharing a row with. Yikes!
2. Plan To Get To The Airport Early
I think the standard suggestion is to arrive at the airport 1.5 hrs before boarding time. If you are flying with a toddler, you should tack on an extra hour to that suggestion. I know that it doesn't sound pleasant to sit around in an airport waiting area with a toddler, but it's much more stressful to be sprinting across the terminals because you are cutting it close.
Full disclosure, I actually missed my flight my first time flying with a toddler. Yep. Missed it. Bye, bye, airplane. See ya in five hours! Yeah, you read that right. I had to sit around with a toddler in the airport for FIVE HOURS waiting for the next flight to my destination. It was absolute torture and a vow to never make the same mistakes again.
You need extra time to check your car seat, sort out seating arrangements, have potty breaks, take shoes on and off at the security check point, get in and out of the stroller, diaper changes, you name it. Things happen when you toting around a toddler. Don't let these things postpone your vacation by five hours like I did.
3. Prepare For The Security Line
Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the security line get's more and more complicated all of the time. Fortunately, there are ways to make the process a lot simpler and much less stressful.
It all starts with the way you pack your carry-on. Follow these essential tips and you'll fly right through security without any issues:
- Pack all snacks separately– You will need to remove all snacks from your bag to go through security. This means that, when packing your carry ons, make sure that all of your snacks and food items are lumped together in one zipper pocket of you bag or in one big zip-lock that you can easily remove. You don't want to be rummaging through your carry-on looking for that granola bar you're sure you threw in there somewhere.
- Keep all electronics together– Like snacks, you will need to take all electronics out of your bags. This includes cell phones, tablets, and laptops. To make it easier on yourself, keep all of these electronic devises in the same place to make sure that removing them goes smoothly.
- Ditch the laces– Slip on shoes or Velcro will be your best friend in the security line. Taking the shoes off isn't the problem, it's gathering all of your things, putting your snacks and electronics back in your bags, putting your shoes back on, putting your toddler back in the stroller, AND trying to tie shoe laces while your toddler is asking to go potty and saying that he's thirsty and you only have twenty minutes to get to your gate. If that was exhausting just to read, imagine living it.
4. Backpacks Are The Best Carry-Ons
I pretty much figured out as soon as I popped out a real life baby that diaper bags are trash and backpacks are the way to go. What mom has enough arms to lug around a diaper bag on her shoulder and carry a baby or chase after a toddler? Not me. I only have two.
The same goes with traveling with toddlers. If you have a backpack stuffed to the brim with all of your toddler airplane essentials, it will still fit under the seat in front of you, it won't fall off your shoulder every time you bend over to grab your toddler, and it zips up securely to ensure that everything is safe and snug within your possession.
Even if your toddler is wildly independent and you have a top-notch stroller, you will still likely be carrying him around at some point during your travels. The prime example is getting through those tight airplane isles. I can almost guarantee that you won't trust your toddler to walk through the isles independently. You'll probably be carrying him. Have you ever walked through a tight airplane packing every other person with your shoulder bag because you're focused somewhere else? Yep. Backpacks don't pose that problem.
Bottom line, hands-free luggage is never a bad idea when it comes to traveling with a toddler.
- Related Read: How To Prepare For Motherhood The Smart Way: Must Have Baby Items Experienced Moms Swear By
5. Over-Pack The Snacks
Make sure you pack more than enough snacks because there won't be many options for you to pick up in the airport. Bring a variety of favorites such as clementines, seeds, granola bars, fruit snacks, apple sauce, cheddar bunnies, and pop corn. This way there won't be any fuss about the snacks that you brought aren't the snacks that they want.
Whether we like it or not, the truth is that snacks are a major way to distract a fussy toddler. Snacks are always a toddler's favorite thing and if you have enough of them, you'll be able to whip out something different each time you think that hunger might be the cause of the current melt down.
Remember that these snacks should last you during the waiting time in the airport, layovers, flight times, and unforeseen delays. The last thing you want to do is run out of snacks while traveling with a toddler.
6. Plan For The Potty
Having a recently potty trained toddler myself, I have learned many a hard lesson when it comes to planning for the potty. One of the biggest pieces of advice for you, mama, is to anticipate the need for the potty at every chance that you get.
Even if your toddler is not potty trained right now and you are still using diapers, you can still use this tip as a plan for diaper changes. I know that you don't want a toddler with a red bum all vacation long because you didn't make the time for frequent diaper changes.
I quickly learned not to wait for my toddler to tell me he had to go potty during travel. This is one of the reasons why planning to get to the airport early (point #2) is so crucial. You're going to want to stop at the bathroom at every opportunity to prevent soiled underwear, accidents, multiple outfit changes, or blow-outs during your travels.
When you arrive at the airport, before you check in…potty. After you get through security…potty. When you get to your gate…potty. Before you get on the plane…potty. When you land…you get the picture. Just plan for it, keep an eye out for bathrooms near by and avoid the unpleasant surprise that you can't find a restroom when your toddler is saying he has to go pee-pee right now. I just have to mention…many airports require trams, shuttles, or subways to get from one gate to another. This doesn't always apply to you, but when it does, it can come to a surprise and keep you from a restroom for longer than you anticipated.
- Related Read: An Essential Guide To Successfully Potty Training Your Toddler Without Completely Losing Your Mind
7. Get Your Toddler's Energy Out In The Airport
If you do have an unfortunate layover or if you are a smart mama and you got to the airport with plenty of time before boarding, don't waste your snacks, activities, or screen time on the airport. During the time that you are waiting in the airport, find an isolated spot in the waiting area where you can have some space and encourage your rowdy toddler to run, jump, climb on the chairs, look out the windows, etc.
Get your toddler's energy out while you still canto avoid a restless toddler on an airplane.
8. Help Your Toddler's Ears During Take-off and Landing
Take-off and landing are always the worst for kids because they don't know how to release the pressure that builds up in their ears during the pressure changes in the plane. It's not so simple as to tell them to yawn; you need to prepare for this discomfort and have a way to manage it.
The simplest way to prevent pressure in their ears is to allow them to suck on something during take-off and landing times. If you are still nursing, then these are perfect times to do so. Otherwise, saving your toddler's sippy cup for this time is super helpful.
Other ways to get your toddler to suck during take-off and landing are pacifiers and lollipops. Although, neither of these were options for my son. We weaned from the pacifier after he turned one and he's never had a lollipop. If you are in the same boat, then snacks will have to do the trick. Whip out a crunchy snack that requires a lot of chewing and will last the duration the take-off or landing and this should help ease some of the pressure.
9. Make Comfort A Priority
Be smart about what you and your toddler are wearing during travel. I recommend dressing your toddler in clothes that are as comfortable as possible. Even pajamas are appropriate for over-night flights.
Put your child in sweat pants that have an elastic waste, a short-sleeve t-shirt under, and a sweater. Layers are important for climate changes and unexpected temperatures in the airport or airplane.
As soon as you sit down in your seats, make sure that you adjust your outfits and comfort level as needed. Remove shoes, remove or add layers, introduce a blanket, and bust out the lovey. Make your toddler immediately aware that the airplane is for relaxing and kicking back. I brought out the blanket and pillow right away and never regretted it.
- Related Read: How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Well Right From The Start
10. Use This Carry-On Packing Checklist
I have created a Toddler Carry-On Packing Checklist for you because what you bring in your carry-on will affect your entire trip.
I made sure to include all of the airplane necessities for a toddler, toddler airplane activities that I brought, and everything that I found was essential to making traveling with a toddler as stress free as possible.
Make sure you have everything you need in your carry on and nothing you don't when you're flying with a toddler. Print it out and don't forget it when you plan your next trip!
Do you have experience flying with a toddler? Comment below with your tips!
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