Traveling with toddlers soon? We’ve taken a bunch of flights with Cecilia recently (including our big Italy trip this summer), and now have some good tricks up our sleeves to share with you!
You ready for them? Okay, let’s go!
First off, these are things that have worked incredibly well for us on all of the flights we’ve taken since Cecilia started crawling. Every toddler is different and, honestly, every flight is going to be different since you’re contending with the ever-changing mood of a toddler. Some of these tips were passed down to me and others, I’ve created along the way.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
- Start your pack list ahead of time and add things as they come up. For any trip we take, I start a pack list for Cecilia and me at least a week ahead of time. There is no way I’d be able to remember everything I need if I just started putting things in a suitcase the day before, so I keep it written down and add things as I remember them. That way, we’ve done a few bath and bedtime routines by the time I get ready to pack and all of the little things we need (and that I forgot) get added.
- Add ziploc bags and extra clothes (for everyone) to your pack list. On our trip, we didn’t have any potty accidents (thank goodness!), but on our plane ride from San Francisco to Frankfurt, Cecilia’s sippy cup started leaking and got her completely soaked. It was no problem since we had clean and dry clothes with us and the ziplocs to store them until we could do laundry.
- Buy a travel carseat bag. Before our first plane trip we took when Cecilia was about four months old, we bought this travel car seat bag. We’ve used it on every plane trip and it has been a huge help. It’s padded, so if you don’t use your car seat on the plane, your checked car seat has some extra cushion to protect it. It’s also nice because it can be worn as a backpack and there’s always extra space in it, so we stuff extra things like diapers, jackets, etc in there. I highly recommend it!
- Raid the dollar bins at Target. This is a MUST if you have toddlers! You can find some really great stuff in those bins that can end up being entertainment on the plane. We’ve found Beauty and the Beast window clings, small Legos, no-mess coloring books and lots of stickers. Also, since they’re not pricey items, I’m not sad if they break or are forgotten on the plane.
- Check airline policies for checking strollers and baby items and bringing carseats aboard. Some airlines have limits and requirements for items you check and bring on board, so double check your airline’s policies before you head out.
AT THE AIRPORT
- Take an empty water bottle and sippy cup with you. I’ve never been told to dump our water that’s in Cecilia’s sippy cup, but they do have to scan it once you go through the metal detectors. Generally this isn’t a problem, but if you’re in a rush, you know you’re going to end up in the slowest line ever, so I would empty the cup and refill it once your’e in the terminal. Most US airports have water bottle filling stations near the water fountains. I also take my own Hydro Flask and fill it up, so I don’t have to buy a $7 bottle of water once I get in the terminal.
- Gate check a light-weight stroller. We bought ours at Babies ‘r’ Us and it was perfect for our Italy trip. It’s super easy to fold up (you can do it with one hand) and was great for walking through the airport and around Italy. We always checked it at the gate, so if Cecilia wasn’t riding it, we just popped our backpacks in it so we could chase after her a little better.
- Ask about the airline’s family boarding policy. Most airlines let you board early if you’re traveling with young children. Be sure to ask when you check in!
- Check as much as possible. This x100. We took the bare minimum on the planes with us, so we didn’t have to lug things around with us. We were lucky because we ended up with longer layovers, so we never had to sprint through an airport, but just in case you do, it’s nice not to have to carry all your belongings and your child with you. Also, depending on your airline, most baby stuff is considered “free baggage.” We had to take a pack ‘n’ play with us and it never counted toward our allotted number of bags.
- Check for play areas. These are THE BEST! I have to say that the best airport play area we found was in the Lufthansa terminal in Frankfurt. It was incredible and Cecilia could have spent hours there! There was so much for the kids to do and it was great to let her get her wiggles out after a long flight and before the last leg of our trip. Check to see if your airport (and those you’re traveling to and through) have one!
- Have your child carry their own small backpack. We’re lucky that Cecilia LOVES to carry her own backpack. We always put her yellow blanket and two of her favorite stuffed animals in them and she takes great care of it because she knows her favorite things are in there. Also, she looks absolutely adorable walking with it, so that’s just another reason to love it and carry it with us.
ON THE PLANE
- Have a few new toys for your child to play with (depending on flight time). I found that new toys Cecilia had never seen or played with before were key in keeping her entertained for a while during our long flights. This is where those dollar bin Target purchases came in handy. I also bought a few new books for her as well. Her favorite things to play with during our international flights were Melissa & Doug Water Wow books, magnetic tiles and Crayola Color Wonder books.
- Load your iPad or phone with your child’s favorite show or movie (if you want). I know everyone has their own opinions about kids and electronic devices. We were more than fine with letting Cecilia watch a movie or her favorite show on our iPad if it meant that she was happy and calm. We loaded our device up with Moana and some episodes of Curious George and Daniel Tiger. We also bought and had her use these headphones. They are volume limiting and fold up so they don’t take up a bunch of space in your purse or carryon. An added bonus is that they have a share port, so if you have more than one child and only one electronic device, they can all listen at the same time! Oh, and they come in a ton of different colors!
- Bring along your child’s comfort items. Since we knew Cecilia was going to have to sleep on our flights, we made sure to have her trusty yellow blanket, binks and stuffed Elmo and Boo. Even if you don’t need your child to fall asleep on your plane ride, be sure these things are in your carryon in case your child gets fussy or your luggage gets lost.
- Explore the plane. When the toys weren’t cutting it and we needed a break from sitting, we’d get up and walk and explore the plane. We were lucky on our outbound flights that we had lots open seats, so we could go sit in a different aisle with her once in a while and explore new areas.
- Be prepared with snacks galore. These were necessary for everyone! For Cecilia – we packed her favorite snacks, some fruit and nuts and I even packed a few organic lollipops.
I also want to say, that one leg of our trip was on Lufthansa and they were incredible with all the kids on the flight. The second they saw us board with Cecilia, they asked how old she was and gave us a little bag for her with toys appropriate for her age. She got an airplane puzzle, stuffed bird and a little snack! It was amazing, unexpected and very much appreciated.
On a final note, expect there to be some bumps in the road. If everything goes perfectly, then that is amazing, but if it doesn’t, try to roll with the punches and go along for the ride. We had a hellish trip back to the States, but ended up realizing we had to accept what we couldn’t change and be patient. I know that is much easier said than done (or at least it was at the beginning for me), but now we have a crazy story to tell people about our big family trip!
Disclosure: This was not a sponsored post and I have no affiliation with any of these companies besides the fact that I use and love their products; however, there are some Amazon affiliate links above ? Thank you for reading!