People consistently gasped when we told them we weren’t just flying with our toddler and baby, but that our dog Nahla also had to come for Thanksgiving in Texas. We felt the same at first, but after much trepidation, this became our normal holiday bunch. These toddler and baby travel tips we have learned along the way will hopefully add some ease to your adventures!
We’ve done this little venture a few times and as I prepare for another round- this time with our 3 year old Miles, our 17 month old Ellis and the boston terrier Nahla- there are some things that are a must for a successful trip with this crew.
Don’t get me wrong. I initially panicked at the idea of doing it…more than once. And we’ve had our share of disasters! All those things help us prepare even more and we’ve learned from our experiences, which leads to our best baby and toddler travel tips.
So, Here They Are:
1) Be as rested as possible. Those crazy early flights are always the cheapest and we have done them, but we make sure they are following their daily routines, get them to bed earlier and bring their “lovies” to fall asleep again on the plane. Both of my boys love a soft blanket and stuffed animals.
Have you ever stayed up all night because you had a 6am flight? I have! In my early twenties, I did it all the time. It was pretty rough at the airport, but then I could sleep on the plane. Um, I do not do that anymore and I don’t advise you do either! You will not be sleeping on the plane, unless you are lucky (or my husband), but again you want to plan for the worst.
2) Speaking of, prepare for the worst! Pack a first aid kit, medicine for adults and kids, and an extra set of clothes for EVERYONE. Have at least an extra shirt for yourself- I’ve totally had baby throw up on me before and it made the rest of the trip a little more pleasant when I changed my shirt. I’ve also gotten the stomach flu on a plane, while stuck on a tarmac for over 2 hours. That was the worst!!
3) Channel your excited, happy and relaxed side. Kids pick up what we are feeling and putting into the world. After I’m done packing and we are on the way to the airport, I just like to take a deep breath and know it will be crazy, but just go with the flow of whatever is thrown at us. Except when I almost killed the airport attendant that tried to say our stroller was too heavy to bring on board. Hey, I’m a work in progress too!
4) Play areas. If you have a layover, see if the airport has a play area for kids. They had one in Dallas- Fort Worth and that was a relaxing place to burn off some energy for the kids and us not have to worry about where they are going.
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5) Bring your favorite baby carrier. (This could also be a toddler tip- but my boys are pretty big at 17 months- so we are taking a light stroller this year.) When my second son Ellis was 4-12 months old- I wore him in a baby carrier and having my hands free was everything.
When I traveled with Miles as a baby, he was two months old and wore him in the Moby Wrap. Ellis is 5 months old so I wore him in a Baby Bjorn. The mistake I made was that he was actually used to a different carrier and I kind of sprung this on him right before the trip. Bad idea! The only thing that should be brand new is maybe some toys and snacks, the rest should be as familiar and comfortable as always.
6) Sleeping aides. What does your baby need to be able to nap on the plane? Ellis prefers to put himself to sleep. I know, it’s weird and I’m definitely not complaining. He likes to be lying down and sucking on his fingers to sleep.
When I travelled with Miles as a baby, I knew he would want to sleep in my arms so I just brought his blanket and “doggie”. If your baby likes to be held, this would be the way to go but it’s hard on your arms and you can’t do much else. This time we brought a pillow and Ellis’ blanket and it was amazing! My husband put it on his lap, laid Ellis down with his blanket and he slept soundly. We did this for both holiday trips last year and worked like a charm.
7) Prepared or accessible milk. Regardless of what you are feeding your baby, having a bottle ready during security was a lifesaver! Ellis was hungry while in line and I was able to feed him right there. It was too much for me to nurse while doing a billion other things, but if you are able to do that- then you are already set.
8) Baby toys. I don’t pack too many toys for babies, because they mostly want to people watch and be snuggled. Pretend keys, a soft board book, a rattle, and a stuffed animal could set them up nicely.
9) New Toys or just great travel toys is probably the best thing you can do. This is my longest tip- because it really helps to keep them busy. In my experience, toddlers are crazy little beings- :-), but they are at their best when well rested, fed and entertained.
We make a big deal about the toys, have each kid carry their own fun backpack– the whole ordeal adds to the speciality of traveling. I like to talk up the special backpack with toys that are just for the plane ride, giving them something to look forward to. Definitely wait until the plane so they don’t get bored with them before. At the airport we stretch our legs, go to the bathroom, and look at the airplanes out the window.
2-5 Year Old Toys
If your little one is into coloring, you can grab some coloring packs– we have bought ours at Dollar Tree. We also got some mini puzzles at Dollar Tree and random little items to create discovery bins for our one year old and busy bags for both. More on those soon! Mess free coloring is absolutely the best! Water Wow is a reusable book where the pages get colored with water. Another option is the Crayola mess free coloring books.
Putting scenes together has helped us pass a lot of time on planes! This started to work well when Miles was 2 and even better now that he is 3. We asked him questions and suggested places to move things around to extend the play as long as possible. Our choices were usually vehicles or animals because those are his obsessions, but there are many other themes.
We’ve done both the magnetic playsets, magnetic tins and the sticker books. They are all great. I like the tins because there is somewhere to put all the magnet. But the pieces are a lot smaller and can get lost. My tip for the magnet playsets is to take apart all the magnets before the trip and put them in a ziploc bag. Then you are all ready to play and store when you are done.
One Year Old Toys
I don’t know about your one year old, but mine does not sit still well. He is not into coloring yet or creating a magnet scene- unless it includes putting all the pieces into his mouth.
A few things I bring for both are a few small books and window clings or stickers. For older one year olds, this buckle toy is amazing. My absolute favorite toys for one year olds are a discovery bin and busy bags with sensory activities!
I scour the Dollar Tree and the dollar bins at Target to collect all different sizes of containers (that can fit inside each other) and random little toys- animal figurines, squishy ball, pom poms, pipe cleaners, small stuffed animal, foam stacking shapes, playdoh etc.
Then I put them all in different containers, inside each other- kind of like nesting dolls. This creates a large discovery bin where he can look for different items, practice opening and lots of sensory play. You can also buy a busy bag kit or lacing cards already made!
Finally, we bring toddler headphones and the iPad with downloaded apps and shows. This is our last resort but so very useful if you get to the point where nothing will make them happy.
10) SNACKS! A very very close second to toys is lots of snacks, because that is our best weapon with Ellis now that he is 16 months. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY SNACKS! Lol. I obviously feel passionate about this, but they can truly make your toddlers happy as can be.
There are different viewpoints on this topic and you decide what works best for your family. Some say to not bring any sugary snacks because you don’t want them to have extra energy on the plane. Others say that special snacks they normally don’t have adds to the element of excitement that is flying in an airplane.
We do a little of both! Miles has a small lollipop during take off and landing to help with ear pressure. Ellis may have one this year, but he would usually have his milk if he wasn’t sleeping. Then we do some of our staples- unsweetened applesauce packets, plain cheerios, multigrain goldfish, dried fruit, granola bars and mini packs of honey graham bears.
We also throw in some animal shaped fruit snacks and chips they normally wouldn’t eat. Some DIY lunchables are a great portable meal if needed and I’ll throw some tiny silverware in the diaper bag if we decide to eat somewhere else.
I’ll keep you updated on how everything goes this year. What are your favorite tips for traveling with kids? We have more in the future so all suggestions are welcome!