Are you ready for take off? Tray tables locked, seats up, belts fastened and your toddler quietly, pleasantly sitting in his seat not kicking the person in front of him.
That whole “getting there is half the fun” was clearly not about getting there with a toddler. I highly recommend pursuing your travel goals with children, but it will take a little more prep work to have “a quarter of the fun” getting there.
To get you all there and back with as few meltdowns as possible, consider these five tips:
1. PLANNING THE FLIGHT
If you have a toddler then you already know by now--go for convenience. Be wary of discount airlines as they usually lack customer service and have zero amenities. Also note any carry-on restrictions when purchasing tickets. Some economy tickets do not allow carry -on luggage, so read carefully before purchasing. Seriously, there is no way to survive a flight with a toddler without a carry-on. Choose direct flights when possible, select an aisle seat (obviously) and consider flights during nap times. There is a price for this convenience, but if you skimp here you will most likely pay for it later in a awful way.
If you do have a long layover, which is often the case with international flights, research the airport lounges on the airport website or try the app LoungeBuddy. Lounges are not just for first class and frequent fliers but can also be accessed by certain credit card holders or by simply purchasing a day pass. They are a quiet, contained respite with endless snacks, Wi-Fi and sometimes Baileys to spike your coffee.
2. PACKING = LUGGAGE, CARRY-ONS & TODDLER TRANSPORTATION
Check as much luggage as you can because your “flight essentials” and toddler will be enough to lug around. Most airlines will check baby/toddler gear for free such as strollers, car seats, and baby packs (including hiking backpacks). This info can be found on your airline's website under "baggage." So, unload all of this at curbside check in, tip the attendant and be on your way.
For carry-on bags, use backpacks! Your toddler can even carry some of his/her own stuff in a mini backpack. You can use your favorite daily backpack or opt for a larger hiking one from an outdoor supplier if you need to hold more.
While they like to walk on their own, eventually they will tire, need to take a nap or you'll just need them contained. An umbrella stroller which can also hold bags is a smart choice and it can be checked at the gate just before boarding. If you and your toddler are into it, hiking backpacks are great transportation too.
WHAT TO PACK FOR FLIGHT:
-1 diaper per 2 hours, if still in diapers
-Entire package of wipes
-Change of clothes
-Long sleeve shirt or light jacket for cold planes
-Muslin receiving blanket (has many uses)
-5 travel friendly toys & a few small interactive books
-Sippy cup/ Sport bottle (flight attendant can pour beverage into it)
-Hand sanitizer of choice
For everyone else not as cute as toddlers, there is a strict no-liquids policy. Little ones who still need their “milky baba” (translation: baby bottle of milk) can get it through security, but it will take more time (usually only 5 - 10 more minutes). After going through the scanners, your liquids (milk, juice, water etc) will be taken to an area a few feet away for testing. They sometimes require you to open the containers and can test it without even touching the liquid. So no foreign objects are going into your precious darling’s milk (but they eat boogers anyway). Thus, if your little one still has a bottle addiction, don’t fret getting liquids through, but do be prepared to take a little longer getting through security.
4. ENTERTAINMENT: TOYS & SNACKS
Just like at home, constant entertainment is what they need. A long plane ride is a great time to gift a new toy or, if you plan in advance, hide some favorite toys for a few weeks before the trip to make them new and exciting on travel day. The playspace is slightly more cramped, however, so think smaller toys. A tray table is a great surface for coloring books, driving small cars & trains, and wind up toys. Do I need to even mention a fidget spinner?
As much as we know screen time needs to be limited, iPads cued up with some favorite shows and games are really great entertainment in a small confined space. *Bonus Tip: I add French language cartoons so at least he is learning a new language while having screen time.* In case you don’t have time to download new shows or the more likely scenario of not having enough data, many airlines offer complimentary Wi-Fi or in-flight entertainment on your own device. Make sure to have the airline's app to access the in-flight entertainment.
5. WHAT TO WEAR
It goes without saying that something comfortable will make traveling with a toddler more enjoyable such as loose and/or stretchy clothes and slip on shoes, but it’s the right accessories that will make you feel like a mom travel pro.
-A large but lightweight scarf can double as a blanket for a child in a second
-Slip on shoes (for obvious reasons)
Now that you feel empowered to take to the skies with your wild one(s), roam if you want to! P.S. Take it from a travel addict--it does get easier.