How to Travel with Toddlers (& younger)
No one is keen on the idea of flying with kids as it stressful for all. There is honestly nothing worse than lugging a ton of luggage around an airport with an unhappy and probably tired toddler. The sheer idea of keeping a tiny tike quiet, seated, and entertained for multiple hours in one place can be seriously intimidating. While there is no guarantee that your kid will not throw a tantrum or have a meltdown, the tips listed below can help make your travel time a little easier with a toddler in tow. Streamline your travel time and everyone, including yourself, will be in a better mood.
First and foremost, it is imperative that you arrive to the airport early. Traveling with a toddler can be extremely time consuming in an airport as you will have to keep them behaved through check in, security, and gate seating. This extra time will allow your child to get acquainted with the idea of traveling. It will also give them time to run around and exercise in hopes of tiring oneself out prior to flight. If possible, check into your flight at home online. This not only allows you to secure your seating assignment, but also lets you skip check in which will save you time at bag drop. Make sure to print your boarding passes when you check in at home!
Things to remember when getting ready:
- Pack your itinerary. Include a map of your destination with any telephone numbers you may need. Struggling to find your hotel in a foreign place with a toddler in tow is truly a nightmare.
- Pack extra toys in your carry-on to keep your child busy. You will thank yourself later.
Please make sure that you have checked in online and only need to drop off your luggage. This will make your check in easier by heaps and bounds. The tips listed below will further ease your check in process.
- If the line for baggage drop happens to be long, let your children run around a little as you wait. Have one parent stand in line while the other watches the kiddos. Just be sure to stay close in case the gate agent needs to check id.
- Be smart and do not check your stroller. Today, most airlines will permit strollers all the way up to the boarding gate. Once at the gate, the agent will check the stroller for free and even have it waiting outside for you after you deplane at your destination. Plus, some airlines will just bring your stroller on board if the space is available.
- Tag your stoller. Make sure to tag your stoller with the following: your name, phone number, and address. In the case that you choose to check your stroller, consider asking the airline to mark it as a fragile item because there is no airline policy in place that will reimburse you for damage.
- Those travelling with an infant whom they will lap should bring a carrier seat with them until they find out whether or not there is a free seat on the plane where one can put it on the seat with baby in tow. If no seats open up, the attendants with either check it for free or find a place to store it during the flight.
- Review your flights baggage restrictions prior to check in. On some international flights, your lapped infant will be allowed a free baggage check while others exclude baby items like strollers and carriers from baggage allowances.
- Avoid bringing car seats at all costs. Baggage handlers do not handle luggage including car seats with much caution. Therefore, you will not want your child to utilize a damaged car seat after it has been checked. This is much like how you would not use a car seat after it has been in a car accident. Instead take advantage of the CARES Airplane Seat Harnesses and once at your destination make sure to travel around on trains or subways where car seats are not needed.
Going Through Security
The key to a smooth security check is to have everything organized in advance. Have everything put away with nothing hanging off of your stroller or packed in the basket underneath. Utilize your diaper bag and compartmentalize all of your belongings. This way you will leave nothing behind and everything will stay packed away in one place during security. The following tips will help ease your child through TSA.
- Explain, in detail, exactly what is going to happen when you go through security. It can be a little scary for kids to put their belongings on a big conveyor belt and say goodbye.
- Place everything onto the security belt, including everyone's shoes, before removing your little one from the stroller.
- Use the family lane! Family lanes have been implemented at several popular airports for a reason people! These areas provide extra agents and wider lanes to help families gather their belongings while helping their kids along.
- Keep your ID and tickets out until you board the plane. Luckily, babies and children do not need an ID for US domestic flights.
- For those traveling with an infant, remember to travel with baby in a metal-free sling. This way your baby will not be required to be removed from the sling which allows baby to fall asleep and not be disturbed while traveling. This rule tends to vary from airport to airport, but is worth looking into.
It is important to stay close to your gate and listen for the agent to announce when pre-boarding commences. It is extremely helpful to get on the plane as early as possible! This way you can get organized prior to the rest of the flight boarding. If possible, send your spouse ahead of you to pre-prepare your seats. That way when your kids arrive, everything is already ready and all they have to do is get into their seats. Remember any item you may need during takeoff should be within your reach while seated. If your child is expected to sit in their own seat during takeoff, expectations should be discussed prior to boarding. You do not want to be the family holding up take off because your child is refusing to sit and be belted in their own seat.
Unfortunately, babies and toddlers do not understand how to clear their ears to reduce the pressure during takeoff and landing. Thus, you will need to help them do so (unless they are asleep). Older children can use gum as an aid, while babies can use a bottle or pacifier. Not only with bottle feeding help reduce ear pressure, the milk will also work as a mild sedative to help them drift off to sleep during flight. To help a toddler sleep during flight, practice your normal sleep routine such as reading stories or singing quietly. Let your child know that they will be sitting for quite a while and that sleeping is a good idea. It is typical for young babies to nod off during a longer flight as the motion of the plane will provide a soothing environment.
Behavioral expectations should be set ahead of time so that your child does not cause any trouble during flight. Talk with them about how it is really hard to sit still for long periods of time but that you know they can do it and that you will help them when it gets challenging. Remind them that you are going somewhere really fun and all of the sitting will be worth it in the end. Travel toys need to last through your flight, so try to hold out on utilizing them until your child gets really bored. Your children will be most amused talking with you. However, when you do need to bring out the toys, bring them out one at a time! Maybe even bring a surprise gift to add excitement and entertainment to your child’s flight. If they associate good times with flying, they are likely to be excited to fly the next time around and behave accordingly as well.
Remember to thoroughly support your infants neck during flight. Turbulence can happen unexpectedly and it is better to be safe than sorry. Additionally, be cautious of your child’s nose. Sometimes babies and toddlers noses will become stuffy during flight. To relieve this problem easily, pack saline drops and a small syringe in your carry on bag. A couple of drops into your child's nose and the stuffiness will clear up quickly. A couple sources even report that cleaning your child's nose during flight will help reduce their chances of getting sick. Utilizing your breast milk instead of saline also works because it is antibacterial and non-drying.
Just like with takeoff, you will need to once again help your kids relieve the pressure in their ears. Many report it is easiest to deplane after the other passengers have exited. This way you are not rushed to gather your belongings as well as your children. Plus, if you have checked your stroller, this will give them time to get it ready for you! Your children can also take a peak in the cockpit during this time too!