Nervous about traveling with kids? Don’t be! Yes, traveling with babies and toddlers is a challenge and takes a solid plan of attack, but it’s nothing you can’t handle, especially armed with these great tips from other moms who’ve flown with young children. Whether you’re gearing up for a two-hour jaunt to Grandma’s for the holidays, or an 18-hour international flight for a big adventure, these ideas for flying with infants and toddlers will help you sail through your flight with minimum kid-related turbulence.
- Book with a sleep strategy in mind. Try to overcome the instinct to book the cheapest flight available. Instead, look for a flight that coincides with your child’s normal sleeping times. For long distances, an overnight flight is ideal; for shorter flights, sync the flight with your child’s nap time. Bottom line: Use your child’s sleep schedule to your advantage.
- The airport is your playground. Once in the airport, keep your toddler moving until you board. Find play areas or make-up your own games—whatever you can do to get them to burn off energy so they’ll be more comfortable sitting on the plane.
- Board last. If you’re traveling with another adult, send one adult on the plane early with carry-ons to get everything settled, and let the other adult stay with your child in the boarding area—the less time on sitting on the plane, the better!
- Prep for pressure. Changes in air pressure during takeoff and landing can hurt little ears. Have your babies and toddlers drink, suck or chew something to help relieve pressure. (If you’re nursing, this is a great time to do so.) In our Toddler Moms community, Kathleen A. suggests bringing a bottle for infants, while Gabrielle N. brought gummy snacks for her three-year-old. Child-size silicone ear plugs can help relieve the pressure for children over 12 months.
- Toys, Toys, Toys! Don’t underestimate the power of new toys for keeping your child entertained during trips. Stock up on new books, crayons, and games and unveil them one at a time; you can even wrap them up individually to make them extra exciting. “I packed his backpack with new books, sticker books, hot wheel cars, and kids meal toys. Everything was new to him and he had the extra distraction of opening things,” recalled Jennifer R. in a Toddler Moms conversation. And it was cheap, too: “I had gone to the dollar store and it wasn't all that costly.”
- Forget your screen-time rules. Go ahead, encourage a movie marathon. If you’re traveling with toddlers or older children, a portable DVD player and movies can be a lifesaver. Jenny K. flew with a 14-month-year old from Germany to Florida and remembers, “The thing that saved my life for the first 3 hours was our portable DVD player.” Airlines with individual TV screens may also have children’s channels and games.
- Don’t depend on the in-flight menu. Bring plenty of your own food, including extra milk and formula for babies, finger food for toddlers, plus special treats just in case. And don’t forget clean bottles and sippy cups.
- Keep first-aid supplies in your carry-on. Keep essential first-aid items that you typically use at home, such as children’s acetaminophen, antibiotic ointment, and Benadryl, in your carry-on in case your child gets sick on the flight.
- Expect a mess. We’re not sure yet how she’ll do it, but we’re betting your baby will make a mess. And chances are the little darling will get something on you too. Arm yourself with two changes of clothes for the baby, one for yourself, a plastic bag for dirty laundry, and lots and lots of diapers and wipes.
Looking for more baby travel tips? Got a great tip we missed?