When I used to travel for work, I would find it so relaxing. Grab some food at a place that looked good in the airport, board the airplane with my carry-on bag, and climb into my window seat, pop in my headphones, and fall asleep for most of the flight. My only concern was if the plane was on time and where my next meal would be on the road before I got to my hotel. I gained a ton of weight traveling for work (but we can get into that on another post).
Traveling with a toddler though, is a little bit different and might I say a little less relaxing. To say you need to be on your toes is an understatement. And if you have more than one toddler, it’s even more fun.
So how can you make it through the airport and airplane and to wherever you’re going without all your hair falling out? Well I’ve laid out a few hacks that can help you along the way.
For the Airport:
#1: Use A Stroller
Now I know some toddlers aren’t big fans of the stroller, but it’s such a useful mode of transportation for kids that I would do everything in your power to make your little one like it. An airport for a normal person involves a lot of walking. Honestly if someone wanted to push me in a stroller, I would enjoy it (my wife probably wouldn’t appreciate pushing me and my son in tandem strollers though).
With your child in the stroller, you don’t have to worry about them walking all over the place and God forbid getting lost. Besides that, if you want to get to your gate before the plane leaves, having your child walk, or carrying them may take a lot of extra time. I know a lot of times strollers get folded up when you go through security, but once you’re through, pop it back open and get your toddler back in it.
Once you get to your gate, you’ll probably want to take them out and let them stretch their legs out and walk or run around. This is an untitled hack because you SHOULD do this. Don’t keep them in the stroller the entire time especially if you’re flying somewhere far. They need to have a way to get their energy out, so once you have made it to your gate, find an area where you can set up camp and let them walk around.
#2 Make the Security Checkpoint a Game
This was something I didn’t really think about until we got in line and my son asked me what the security checkpoint was. Knowing he’s a big fan of the car wash, I told him they were giving us a car wash. Somehow, he didn’t realize that there was no water there whatsoever and was excited to go through the car wash.
The security checkpoint could be a little scary for kids if they don’t know what it is, so making it s something fun is important. You don’t want to be in a situation where they’re fighting you and don’t want to go through; especially if the line is long. So whatever kind of game you can make up, make something up and make the experience of going through a full body scan and metal detectors something fun. (which, it’s annoying)
#3 Bite the Bullet and Buy Them A Toy
I know, airport stuff is expensive. I had to take a second mortgage out on my house just to afford 2 sandwiches 2 bags of chips and some drinks. Unfortunately, when you’re stuck in the airport waiting for your plane, your child is going to see stores and want to walk around and probably see some toys. I’m not saying you need to do this every time, but if you could find something that’s not expensive, it’s a good way to keep them occupied.
Let’s face it, if you brought some toys with you in your carry on, they are going to be tired of playing with them by the end of your trip. And you’ve spent how much on the vacation already so if another 10 bucks is going to break the bank, you might want to re-evaluate the whole vacation thing anyway.
Being in the airport for most kids isn’t a frequent thing, so it’s okay to get them a toy or something fun to play with while you’re on your trip.
For the Airplane:
#1: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Depending on how long your trip is, the more you’ll have to prepare. If you don’t have an iPad or whatever the non-Apple equivalent is, you might want to invest in one. Make sure you download whatever your child’s favorite TV show is and have as much content on there that your device can hold. Unless you hit the lottery and the in-flight entertainment happens to be what your child likes, you are going to need to bring the content yourself. I would highly not recommend rolling the dice and letting the airline decide what your child watches because you’ll be disappointed.
Also, you should bring plenty of snacks. Ideally, stuff that’s not too sugary because you don’t want to rev them up. I had a whole bag of gummy bears and felt the sugar rush but didn’t have anywhere to go. In addition to bringing a lot of snacks, make sure you spread them out throughout the flight. Sometimes my wife and I think we have enough snacks for our son, and 10 minutes later they disappear.
It’s a good idea to bring some crayons, coloring books, stickers, whatever activity will keep your child engaged and make them forget that they’re on a plane and don’t have space to run around.
#2 Don’t Pay for the Upgrade
Listen, I know it’s tempting to get extra leg room, but really, it’s not worth the money. One time we wound up upgrading to the first row behind First Class and I thought it was going to be great. Sure I had extra leg room, but there were no tray tables to set up my son’s activities and food and we also were right next to the bathroom, which if you haven’t gotten the joy of sitting next to the bathroom, you should try it. People with bladder problems are exempt from this rant, but if you’re a grown adult and can’t go to the bathroom before the flight and wait until it’s over to go again, you should probably get your bladder checked. If it’s more than 3 hours I can understand, but less than that, sit down and stop drinking so much beer.
Anyway, with, paying for extra leg room may sound great, but you’ll be surprised that it doesn’t have much of an effect on how your child does on the flight. I would recommend buying the extra seat if your child can sit up (on most airlines I believe if the child is over 2 you must buy a seat anyway).
#3: Try and Make it a Fun Experience
If you are afraid of flying, you better get over your fears quickly. Your child will sense something is up and they too will become afraid. It’s not every day you get to fly up in the sky with clouds next to you and buildings and houses beneath you. Point out these things as you’re taking off and landing. Talk to your toddler about how the plane has a big engine and wings.
Most of the time, people in your general area will understand that you are doing your best to keep your toddler as behaved as possible, so if you have to let them listen to their music or tv show without headphones, it’s okay. The plane is loud anyway, and most people have their own headphones in, so you won’t be disrupting the plane. Try not to let them get up and walk up and down the isles though, because that could be annoying for other people and potentially dangerous.
I understand traveling with a toddler is not the most relaxing thing in the world, but remember you are the one that’s setting the tone. Make it a fun experience and it’ll be a fun experience. Make it a miserable experience and it’ll be miserable.
Good Luck and as they say in the industry Godspeed.