Vera is extremely well traveled for an almost 3-year-old. She has been to Dallas twice, Providence, Rhode Island, the Dominican Republic, and Seattle/Vancouver. This trip makes her third to Dallas in 3 years. We have finally figured out the secrets to traveling by airplane with a baby or toddler, and while every trip has its hiccups, I hope these tips will help your trip go a little more smoothly.
1. Pack as much as you can in your checked luggage
On our trip to Providence, I traveled with V by myself for the first time. Once we got our bags checked, it was a little easier to get through the airport, but there is still so much you have to carry with you for a two-year-old. I packed all of our clothes, extra diapers, wipes, and toiletries in our checked bag so that it would make our load a little lighter getting through the airport. I still had to carry my purse, her diaper bag, and her car seat.
2. A backpack is your best friend
Being able to lug a backpack around instead of a regular diaper bag made my back so much happier and gave me more freedom. I packed an extra outfit, an empty baby bottle I fill with milk once through security, my empty water bottle I also fill after clearing security, our tablets and chargers, and diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes in the backpack. I only had my small purse to wear across my body, which made it much easier and lighter to walk through the airport. The backpack also fits under the seat in front of you, which makes it easy to access when you need items in a hurry and the fasten seat belt sign is on. Other items I like to keep close by are gum, V’s favorite snacks, and a special toy she hasn’t played with before that will keep her occupied. I chose this Vera Bradley backpack because it is functional, has enough space for everything I needed to carry, and it is also stylish.
3.Take your car seat and Get a car seat roller
Taking her car seat was the best idea when V turned 2 since we had to purchase her a seat anyways. It made her more comfortable and secure when she was on the plane, and I didn’t have to fight a squirmy toddler. I think it helped her to understand that even though we weren’t in the car, we were still traveling and she was safest in her car seat.
Since I was traveling by myself the first time she had to have her own seat, I knew I couldn’t carry her heavy car seat through the airport. We opted to purchase this car seat roller that straps to the car seat and essentially turns it into a makeshift stroller. V didn’t mind riding in it and I made it a game when she got antsy. The only downside was that I had to unhook it when we went through security and when we were boarding the airplane. But it is super easy to hook and unhook so it was well worth the extra minute it took to do so.
4. Have a bottle of juice, water, or milk for take-off/landing
Babies and toddlers are still too young to know how to efficiently clear their ears when the pressure builds up. That’s where a bottle comes in handy. The sucking action helps them clear their ears without them even knowing what they are doing. It also gives them a distraction to the feeling of take-off/landing. I usually make a larger bottle of milk for her, or once old enough, had her water bottle filled so she had enough to drink. This has always worked great for us and kept her happy and calm! (A pacifier will also work in a pinch.)
5. Bring their favorite toys or a tablet
Vera loves playing games on her tablet, and it keeps her entertained for at least an hour. She doesn’t have her tablet all the time, so it is like a treat for her to be able to play on the tablet for so long. We have loaded her favorite movies on it as well for when she gets tired. She almost always falls asleep during the movie, so that is great for the flight. Her tablet has lots of educational games on it so I don’t feel bad letting her play since she is also learning.
Before she was old enough to play on a tablet, I made little zipper pouches of fun activities for her to do. We had pipe cleaners, window clings, finger puppets, and dollar store felt activities that she liked to play with.
6. Travel when they are tired
The best flights to book are the flights either around nap time (which for a younger child can be any time, especially mid-morning), after lunch, or later in the evening around bedtime. V travels best at night because she is starting to wind down, and with a movie on, will usually fall asleep. I do make sure she takes a good nap during the day though so she doesn’t get overly tired and cranky. The cabin lights are also dimmed which has a more calming energy. If you travel at night, packing a pair of pajamas or dressing baby in comfy clothes helps them feel more comfortable and more likely to sleep on the plane. It’s also why I still pack her a bottle of milk so that she can have it before “bed.”
7. Plan your flight lengths according to their ability to sit still
Our trip to the Dominican Republic, which is a little over a 4 hour flight from Baltimore, we were with my parents and my sister and her husband. That was great because V was a little over a year old, and she was mobile and much harder to contain for that period of time, and we had six sets of hands to hold her. The direct flight was the best option because we only had to do the boarding process once, but it definitely pushed her limits on being contained. Just 2 months after we came home from the D.R. we traveled to Vancouver, via Seattle. From the East Coast, That would have been 5-6 hours in the air, which we knew she wouldn’t do well with. So we booked an early-morning flight with a longer layover. The plane change was in Detroit, so that broke the trip into almost half. We had a 2-hour flight from Baltimore to Detroit, and 3 hours from Detroit to Seattle. Because it was an early flight, she slept the first leg, and napped part of the second leg.
Traveling with a toddler or infant can be challenging and sometimes frustrating. But knowing your child, what keeps their attention, and their schedule while trying to disrupt it as little as possible will make traveling much easier on you and your child. What tips do you have for traveling with younger children? How about when you have more than one child to wrangle? I’d love for you to share your tips in the comments below.