Any new parent can get a little anxious when a flight is on the horizon. Vacations are great, but actually getting to your destination with babies and toddlers in tow? As a great man once wrote, Therein lies the rub.
Let me start this post off by saying, I’m not the kind of mom who is going to write you a preemptive apology letter before boarding a plane with my baby. If my kids are fussy on the plane, here is my apology for you to reference: Sorry, dude!
As it turns out, even people who haven’t mastered bladder or emotional control have to get places too. And while I also prefer she not cry on the way to wherever it is we’re going, sh** happens. (And trust me, I will be just as frustrated as you are if she’s crying.)
That being said, I do to try to prevent any potential meltdowns by going into every airplane trip with an arsenal of tools to make sure that we are giving it our best shot for a no-cry experience.
And I’m happy to share a few things we do every time that have worked for us so far. Hope they help you and your little ones too!
(And by the way, we are 5 for 5 on plane rides for No-Cry Experiences. #boom)
For the Trip
Snacks, Snacks and More Snacks
This may sound like it’s going overboard, but I bring at least three different kinds of snacks for each kid on each flight—a mix of salty and sweet. Our favorite no-fail, kid-pleasing snacks are: pretzels, Goldfish, gummy snacks, lollipops and honey-roasted peanuts. It helps if you save the “treat” for toward the end of the flight. It gives your child something to work toward and look forward to.
This doesn’t have to take up a ton of room, either. Just portion them into Ziploc baggies and put into a separate lunch bag inside your carry-on. This is the one we use; it’s small enough that I just pack it into my own backpack. (My favorite backpack is no longer for sale, but this one is very similar. I highly recommend!)
These snack organizers are also in heavy rotation at our house. They store a ton, travel well, and wash easily.
For babies, make sure you pack one more bottle of formula than you think you’re going to need. Yes, it takes up more space, but you need to account for the possibility of delays and holdups, and no one wants to be stuck on a plane with a hungry baby. Not even her parents.
And if you’re nursing, allowing the baby to nurse during takeoff and landing can also help any potential ear pressure issues that may make baby uncomfortable.
Leave No Time Unplanned
For us, this means opening up that tray table as soon as the kids sit in their seats, setting up their iPads (you can leave these smaller devices on throughout takeoff and landing now, THANK GOD), popping in their headphones and letting them relax as soon as they sit down.
We also like to set up coloring books on the tray table when we are in flight, and also bring a pack of stickers for them to stick all over the book.
My almost-3-year-old is also huuuuge into lip gloss and lipstick these days, so we eat up some serious time by packing a makeup bag full of old lipsticks and lip glosses and letting her go to town. (Sidenote: If you are walking down the aisle on our plane and see a tiny person with makeup application in the style of a deranged clown, that’s us.)
Whatever activity you choose, get them seated, get them situated, and get them busy. The less time they have to fidget, the better off you will be.
Talk It Up!
In the weeks and days ahead of your trip, tell your kids that you’re going to be flying on an airplane, show them pictures online or point at a passing airplane when you’re outside, and get them excited for the trip to come.
Kids love having something to look forward to, and by allowing them to get familiar with what you’ll be doing, it minimizes anxiety and builds excitement. Getting something like this in the weeks leading up to their trip, and showing them where they’re headed, can help get them mentally ready for the trip.
Extra Clothes/Baby Gear
I always pack extra outfits for the big kids as well as the baby, and I always bring two swaddle cloths that can function as nursing covers, blankets for the baby to lie down on, and car seat covers (if your little one naps in her car seat and you need to block out the sun). You can also use them to set the baby down on during diaper changes, eliminating the need to carry a separate changing pad.
Pre-Load Your Media
If you’re bringing along an iPad or other media device, load up on TV shows, movies and apps. The Crayola app is good for distracting kids and letting them “draw” without the mess. And don’t forget headphones for the kids! Our son loves these, and they’ve made it through at least a half dozen trips without breaking. And of course we had to get these for our daughter, because #allFrozenallthetime.
I always load my own iPad with a book on my Kindle app, too, since it’s easier to turn on my iPad and read a few pages while the kids are distracted than to page through a magazine.
For the Stay
For babies, it’s a great place for them to sleep. (I am currently still co-sleeping with the baby, so we didn’t have to pack this on our last trip, but they are always nice to have.)
You can also call your hotel ahead of time and ask if they have a crib for you to use, which could eliminate the need to pack this. We have used a hotel crib before, and while it wasn’t the greatest, it worked just fine for our three-night stay.
Don’t forget to pack small sizes of your baby’s shampoo and wash for your trip! This is a good travel kit.
Portable Activity Mat
For infants, this is super helpful to have so you can lay baby down while you get ready or just relax in your hotel room. This one folds up to be compact, so it’s easy to pack!
And a few other things I like to do when we settle into a hotel or a house where we’re staying:
- Set up a diaper changing station: Take the opportunity to find a corner of the room where you can lay down a towel or blanket, and set down your diaper cream and diapers, etc. Having a designated changing area makes things a whole lot easier. I also stash their toothbrushes and toothpaste, and all other toiletries in the bathroom right away.
- Unpack right away: I immediately take all the kids’ clothes out of the suitcase and put them into an open dresser, arranged in piles by kid. I roll up the shirts and bottoms into a little “outfit burrito,” and that way you can grab quickly and go!
- Don’t forget the lovies! …or pacis, blankies, or whatever other object of comfort your child loves. Vacation can and will be immediately ruined if your kid doesn’t have what she needs to relax.
- Upgrade to a suite, if possible: Having the ability to put your kids to bed and shut the door is huge. It will also help keep some semblance of routine in your vacation, although if you can’t do this, or it doesn’t work, remember this…
- It’s okay to ignore your typical schedule: Vacations are a break from reality for everyone in your family–not just you. So while it’s not advisable to totally give up on nap time or trying to keep your kids in routine, it is okay if they deviate a bit from their normal routine. It is vacation, after all!
Well, that’s about it! Hope these tips help keep you a little more sane on your next vacation! Travel safe, and have fun!
Do you have any fail-safe tips to travel with toddlers or babies? I’d love to hear more in Comments below!
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