In mid-April, my husband Matt, our toddler daughter, and I embarked on a mini vacation to Phoenix, AZ. I spent the weeks leading up to the trip planning, organizing, making lists, re-organizing, and planning some more. As our departure date approached, my stress level increased. This would be our first time flying with a toddler. I didn’t know how someone who loved moving around would handle having to sit still for the whole flight.
On the flight to Phoenix, my heart rate stayed above 120 bpm. Looking back, it was all in vain. Gracelyn did great overall! As we lined up to board, it made me feel better that there were five other babies and toddlers in line to board with us. When there was about an hour left in the flight, chaos erupted as all the toddlers on board, ours included, had had enough of the flight.
Here are my tips for what made our trip better and what I will do differently the next time I’m flying with a toddler:
Tip #1: Pack lots of snacks
Gracelyn does better snacking than she does at mealtimes, so this was easy for me. I shopped for some of her favorite snacks and placed each type in quart-sized Ziploc bags. Then I put everything into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag for easy access. I packed goldfish crackers, graham crackers, rice crispy bars, puffs, and granola bars. In addition to her snacks, I had a sippy cup full of milk and another one full of water. (Unlike liquids for adults, milk/breast milk/formula/water for kids are allowed through security. You just have to inform the TSA agent before going through security that you have them. Learn more about TSA’s rules here.)
Tip #2: Pack lots of distractions
Matt and I normally have a no-screens rule for our daughter, but we gladly put that aside for the sake of flying with a toddler. Before our departure, I downloaded a free 30-day trial of YouTube Red which allowed me to save videos offline. I downloaded Sesame Street videos and videos of fish and puppies (animals she’s currently obsessed with). I also brought crayons, a handful of her favorite books, post-it notes to stick to places/color on, and downloaded an app called “Peekaboo Barn.” Each activity kept her interest for about 10-15 minutes. When she was bored, we just rotated to the next one, then started all over again. When all was at a loss, we got up and carried her to talk to the flight attendants. We had some turbulence on our flight, so we didn’t let her walk by herself, but she was content in just moving.
Tip #3: Babies cry, and it’s okay
My biggest fear was that Gracelyn would cry the entire flight. Thankfully, this didn’t happen. But, there were a few of the other babies who did cry. And honestly, except for one time when they walked by us, I didn’t hear their crying at all. It might have been due to the loud engine noise, or the fact that I was focused on keeping my own child content, but even as I looked around, the other passengers didn’t seem to be bothered by it either. They were sleeping or had headphones in. But even if they were upset, I reminded myself that it would have been a minor inconvenience for them that would end when they disembarked and went on their merry way. Babies cry. It’s okay. Don’t feel guilty about it and don’t stress about it.
Tip #4: If you can help it at all, change diapers before and after the flight
Boy, are those plane bathrooms tiny. It’s hard to fit a grown person in there, try fitting a squirmy tiny human, too. Before we were called to board, I changed Gracelyn’s diaper and hoped to not have to change her again until we landed. Unfortunately, we had a bit of a leaky situation and I needed to utilize the bathrooms. It was cramped for me, but a welcomed change of scenery for my daughter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful the plane had a changing table, but if you can avoid it, please do.
Tip #5: Anticipate the extra essentials that the hotel won’t provide
The first time we stayed in a hotel with Gracelyn was when she was a few months old, and we were attending a family wedding. I was exclusively pumping at the time and while packing, I didn’t think about how pump parts were going to be cleaned at the hotel. It was late at night and I asked Matt to go to the front desk to ask if they had dish soap and a sponge we could have to wash the pump parts. They didn’t. I had to settle for a wash cloth and hand soap. From then on, whenever we travel anywhere where we’ll be staying in a hotel, I pack a small bottle of dish soap and a sponge in a Ziploc bag to wash bottles and sippy cups with. I also pack two sets of crib sheets for the crib or pack-n-play that the hotel provides.
There were minor hiccups, but we had a great trip overall! Flying with a toddler was not as bad as I feared, and I look forward to the next family vacation. Hopefully these tips will help you when you’re flying and traveling with your toddler. Bon voyage!
Have you flown with a toddler? What other tips do you have?