No matter the age, traveling with kids is the cause of some pretty major anxiety (or is that just me?!)
Traveling with infants and kids over three is a LOT EASIER than traveling with a toddler. Why?
1.Infants sleep, a lot. And it usually doesn’t matter where they are. As long as they are full and their diaper has been changed they are pretty content. Read my Tips for Traveling with A Newborn post HERE. If you have further questions, please leave them in a comment below!
2.Kids can entertain themselves. They can easily feed themselves, express emotions, tell you what they want, and they usually LOVE SCREEN TIME! You can keep them busy with an iPad for hours playing games or watching tv/movies. I am totally for using screen times on planes. You gotta do what you gotta do to survive the day! Limiting their screen time more and more leading up to the trip is also helpful, as they will be extra ready to divulge the day of the flight. Once Miller gets older and we actually take her on a few flights I can definitely do a post on traveling with kids 3+.
Tips for Traveling with a Toddler
I myself had to search tons of blog posts in order to better prepare myself for our flight to Maui (10+ travel day). After a few not-so-great short flights leading up to this one, I was LOST as to what to do on a flight that long. I think the word DREAD comes to mind if you were to ask my husband and me how we felt about it. We were so anxious leading up to it!
Luckily, I compiled all of the advice I read on the web + a lot of help from my readers, and WE MADE IT! And guess what, it was amazing (comparatively).
All kids are different, and there is a huge difference between a 12-month-old toddler and a 24-month-old toddler. Miller was 14 months old when we did the Maui flight, so keep that in mind when reading these tips.
I personally think 12-15 months old is the WORST AGE to travel with a toddler. They have 0 attention span, they have just started walking so HOW DARE YOU hold them back from that, they like to sleep in their crib and their crib alone, and they cannot express or tell you how they feel or what they want. Oh, and Miller has 0 desire to look a tablet and she is too young for all of the games.
Still, with all of that, we had a great flight! Here are some of the best tips for traveling with a toddler:
1.Plan the flight at their nap time. If your trip is very far away this is sometimes hard to do. A good rule of thumb with toddlers is that they take 1 nap and that nap is usually anywhere from 12-1pm. So, you will either want an extremely early flight (getting them out of bed much earlier than usual will ensure they are super tired once you finally get on the plane) or a flight right at their usual nap time. You can run them around the airport up until the flight to tire them out even more to ensure longer sleep on the plane.
2.Get them their OWN SEAT. This is just an added tip because I know not everyone has the budget or means to do this. If you can splurge a little on their own seat you will not regret it. On a long flight, it is almost a must. It gives them more space to play and it allows you to be hands-free at certain periods during the flight.
–car seat or not? We ended up getting Miller her own seat AND we decided to bring the car seat on. We just thought to ourselves, what if there is a lot of turbulence. We would have wasted all that money getting her own seat because we would have to hold her the entire time anyway. WE ARE SOOOO GLAD we brought the car seat on! She also slept for an hour on the first flight and 2 hours on the second flight in her car seat. It was familiar to her and it kept her contained. When she wasn’t sleeping she had a lot of fun playing in the car seat. She would stand in it so she could see everyone on the plane and she would flirt with the man behind us or try to talk to everyone. We also handed her toys and she would kneel in the car seat facing us and play with them. This allowed us to drink or eat or move about freely! Southwest allows you to bring a car seat on with you FOR FREE, without a ticket, if they have extra seats available on the plane.
3, Feed them a bottle as you are going up and as you are descending. Don’t start right at takeoff because they will be done with the bottle before their ears start popping! Give it about 3-5 minutes and then start. You could also try a paci instead of a bottle. As long as they are sucking on something their ears should be ok. This is so important because if their ears hurt on the way up the entire flight could get messy!
4. Bring LOTS of snacks. All different snacks. I recommend things they have never tried but you know they will enjoy or something that takes them a long time to eat. For us, those are:
-Animal Crackers (make sure they are the crackers and not the cookies)
-Puffs of any kind. The small star puffs in the baby aisle are great. Miller would sit there and eat those forever. It gives her something to do for a while but they aren’t very filling. She also loves the cheese puffs in the baby aisle!
-Fruit. Cut up tons of fruit and feed them to your toddler one at a time. This may seem daunting but you will look back at the clock and realize 20 minutes have gone by when you are finished with the grapes.
-Veggie straws. These are great for travel because they will sit there and munch on them for a while.
5. Go into it with LOW expectations. Go into it prepared to spend 10 hours entertaining your kid. If you plan for that, then everything else is a breeze. If you think you are going to be hands-free or watch movies or do this and that you are going to have a horrible day! Have you heard the expression ‘you can only go up from here’? That is what mindset you will have the entire flight when you go in with low expectations.
6. Trade out with your spouse. Troy and I entertained in 30 minute intervals. That means sometimes he would have to get up and leave with her and let her walk around the plane because she usually wants to be in my lap if I am close. Or, sometimes I would get up and walk around or stand near the back to have a breather. DON’T try to do it all yourself mama! You will thank me for doing this trade-off method! It ensures both of you get breaks!
7. Be prepared for lots of walks up and down the cabin, but don’t do it right away. Wait until there is about to be a meltdown or you can tell your toddler is completely restless. You can walk up and down a couple of times, come back to snack or play, and then do it again! Again though, this is the last resort or you will be doing it the entire plane ride.
8. Pack your patience. This one is from Troy. You need a lot of patience to get through a long flight with a toddler. Alcohol helps with this for sure. If you drink, have one. It doesn’t even matter what time it is. If I have a bloody mary before a flight and Troy doesn’t have anything, I can tell a huge difference with our patience levels. I am not saying you need to get wasted! Just have a drink or glass of wine before or during the flight!
9. Be the LAST ONES on the plane. The longer you are on the plane the WORSE. Try to be the last ones on. Use that time to let your toddler run around everywhere. Troy actually used family boarding to get on the plane and put the car seat in and get all of our stuff stored overhead and then Miller and I went on very last. Then it was just 10 minutes until wheels up! Highly, HIGHLY suggest this and it is one of my top tips for traveling with a toddler!
10. Upgrade to bulkhead seating, if it is an option. We did this and we were so glad for it! We had tons more room (which also helped with patience) to store everything and Miller had plenty of room in front of us to play. Also, when she was in her car seat kicking her legs about, we weren’t worried about her kicking the seat in front of us. When she was done being in her car seat we made up a mat for her on the floor in front of us and she slept an extra 45 minutes.
11. Bring lots of NEW toys/activities. Again, this will definitely differ by age. At 14 months Miller wasn’t coloring yet and she also wanted to put everything in her mouth. When she is a little older I will come on this post and update it with toys and activities appropriate for that age! When it comes to tips for traveling with a toddler, great activities is #1!
-Stickers. Bring lots of stickers or post-it notes. There are some window cling stickers at the dollar store or the dollar section at Target you can grab. They will spend tons of time sticking them everywhere. Just keep an eye on them so they don’t swallow too many!
–Squigz. These are suction toys that Miller had so much fun playing with on the plane. We only brought a few, but we know back home she will have tons of fun playing with them too. They are also great for bathtime! They suction to everything and themselves. We spent some time teaching her how to pull them apart from each other and she loved the sound it made.
-Flash Cards. We grabbed her some My First Words Flashcards based on a recommendation and we are so glad we did. She loved pulling them, putting them back in and touching each one. Her favorite was the jelly! When you touch a part of the jelly it is actually sticky! Each card has a different feeling (ex: the puppy feels soft).
–Buckle Toys. We got her a buckle toy but she really wasn’t interested because she couldn’t work the buckles or zippers on them. This would be great for a toddler a couple of months older! They have all differnet ones, this one was just easier to pack.
-A magazine. Bring a magazine with you that they can rip up on the plane. Miller spent 15 minutes ripping up the one we brought. I know they have them on the plane already but who knows how many hands have touched those!
-Peekabo Barn App. This an app we had to purchase on the ipad but it was so worth it! She loved it! They touch the barn and different animals pop up! We spent a lot of time doing it.
–Books. Books always work with Miller. She loves books she can feel or fun pop up books! Bring a few you can rotate through or download an app that will read them to her (this is best when they are at the age that they will leave headphones on- she won’t right now!)
-Favorite song over and over. We played the Puppy Dog Pals intro song over and over on YouTube and she had so much fun watching it OVER AND OVER, haha!
–Stacking cups. Bring their favorite stacking cups from home! Miller’s are only $3.99.
-Anything they can put something in and pull something out of. You can bring a tube of some sort that they can throw balls in and pull them out. So many of you suggested running to Hobby Lobby and grabbing these little pom poms but we didn’t have time! I think she would have loved them!
What didn’t work? This Put and Peek Birdhouse we read about. She just pulled them out and threw them everywhere!
12. Don’t forget the noise machine. We never travel without our Hushh noise machine. Planes are loud, but there is always unexpected coughing and other noise that a noise machine would drown out! Could be the difference in hours of sleep.
13. Lastly, do you have a layover? Use this time to 1. get them fed and 2. let them run around as much as they want for as long as you can. That way they will be nice and tired when they get on their next flight and won’t be as restless.
I hope these tips help! I know many parents also try Benadryl or Melatonin to help their children sleep on the plane. Consult with your doctor before trying one of those methods!
Getting Them Adjusted to Time Change:
If they can nap and play, nap and play, you shouldn’t have that hard of a time getting them adjusted to the time change. We are 4 hours back here in Maui and we just made sure to keep Miller awake until her usual sleep time of 7pm. This meant a lot of running around and exploring the neighborhood, cuddle time, books, etc to prolong it. She woke up crying at 3:30 am (which would have been 7:30 back home), but we let her cry for 10-15 minutes and she was back out until 4:30am. We let her cry that time for around 5 minutes and she was back out until 7:30am! From then on she was completely adjusted!
If you go in and get them when they cry at 3:30, then they will just keep waking up at that time. You need to let them cry a little and put themselves back to sleep. They will be fine! You both will have a much better vacation if you can get them back on their sleep schedule.
Not sure how I would do an 8 hour time difference (Europe for example), but these are my tips for a short difference up to four hours!
If you have any questions please ask away in a comment below! I hope these tips for traveling with a toddler make your flight much, much easier!
I will do another post with what we bring with us when we travel for Miller (pack n play, stroller, etc!)