Flying with toddlers can be a daunting task for any parent. From dealing with the ear-popping, to the lack of personal space, to the unpredictable mood swings, nevermind worrying about others judging you- it’s easy to see why many parents dread the thought of boarding a plane with their little ones. But fear not moms, because I, your Sweaty Traveling Mom, am here to provide some tips and tricks for a successful flight with your toddler, and maybe even some laughs along the way.
First things first, let’s talk about packing. As a toddler, your child might have very specific needs and preferences, and it’s important to cater to them as best as you can. But be sure that you’re not making your life harder by having to carry extra luggage. Bring a couple snacks they’re sure to eat (pack in small tupperware to avoid a baggie of Cheerio dust). Toys and books can keep your little one entertained during the flight but can also be bulkly and heavy. Think 2-Dimensional! One of the best times my toddler had was ripping up the pages of an old magazine I’d finished. Don’t worry, it didn’t create a life long destructive habit- she reveres books now. Window clings are another fun and space saving activity and you can toss them as soon as you’re done. More importantly- don’t forget to also pack a change of clothes (or two) in case of any accidents. You might even consider a clean shirt for you. On one of our first mommy/baby trips, we flipped an entire green smoothie all over ourselves and only had baby wipes to clean up with!
Now, let’s talk about the flight itself. As soon as you board the plane, you’re going to want to wipe down your seat and tray table with disinfectant wipes. Keep these in an easily accessible and not overly crowded pocket of your bag. We all know how germy planes can be, and the last thing you want is for your toddler to catch a cold before you even reach your destination- and believe me, they’ll stick anything in their mouth, including the seatbelt buckle.
Next, it’s time to buckle up and prepare for takeoff. This is where things can get a little tricky with babies and toddlers, especially when it comes to the dreaded ear-popping. To help ease the pressure, make sure your child has a sippy cup or pacifier (or boob) to suck on during takeoff and landing. You can also try distracting your child with a toy or book to take their mind off the discomfort. Planes with TVs in the back of the seat in front of you are amazing for entertaining kids, especially when they have retractable remotes, but don’t count on these on shorter flights.
Speaking of in-flight entertainment…. While some airlines do offer kid-friendly movies and TV shows, it’s always a good idea to bring your own entertainment for your toddler. This could be anything from coloring books to sticker books to handheld games. Especially if screentime is limited at home, an iPad can give you hours on a plane. And don’t worry about creating bad habits again. This is about surviving a tough situation and if this is the only time they get unlimited screen time, they won’t be expecting it every day.
Alright, let’s talk about the bathroom situation. If you’re traveling with a potty-training toddler, make sure to pack plenty of pull-ups and wipes. And if your child is still in diapers, bring along a diaper changing pad and plenty of diapers and wipes. If you’re feeling really ambitious or the flight is longer, be sure to stop at the bathroom as soon as you’re able. You never know when access will be limited due to turbulance or lines. Just give your kid a little warning of how loud the flush can be. And if you’re flying overnight, don’t hesitate to throw a pull up on a fully potty trained kid. My daughter wore them on planes until she was almost 6 years old. Between changes in routines and jet lag, accidents are more likely and it’s really not easy to deal with a seat full of pee for most of a flight.
Now you know, flying with toddlers doesn’t have to be a nightmare. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you can have a successful flight with your little one. Don’t feel like you have to pack an entire suitcase of kid stuff- they will find something to play with. And who knows, you might even be able to get some much-needed rest while your toddler is happily occupied with their snacks and is strapped in tight. And if your kid has a tantrum or your baby cries, don’t give a second thought about bothering people around you. You’ll meet cranky complainers anywhere you go and it’s more about them than about you. Get up and walk the aisles with them and ignore the haters.
Happy travels, moms!