Traveling with a baby or toddler is a far cry from your pre-child days, when you could do things like (gasp) read on the plane. From lugging baby gear to dealing with in-flight diaper changes, it can feel downright stressful. One thing that can lessen that stress is good planning. In this article you’ll find everything you need to know about smart preparation for travel day (including what to pack in your carry-on).
When it comes to travel day, read on for step-by-step tips.
Talk to Your Toddler About What to Expect
It can be helpful to give your toddler a heads-up about what to expect on travel day. Include details like letting go of their lovey at security and quickly getting it back, hearing loud noises, and having to sit. Pretend play is a great way to “rehearse” going through the steps of travel day.
If Possible, Avoid Skipping Naps or Delaying Meals Before the Flight
It may be tempting to skip a nap in the hopes that your child will fall asleep on the plane, or delay a meal in the hopes that he will happily spend a chunk of time eating on board. But these strategies have a high probability of backfiring, because being overtired or hungry can lead to two things that do not mix well: Air travel and crankiness.
Dress for Less Stress
Dress your child in soft, easy-on /easy-off layers. Elastic waistbands and zipper sweaters are a traveling parent’s best friend. They simplify comfort, temperature control, diaper changes, bathroom visits, and a possible change of clothes due to diaper blowouts, spit-up episodes, or spills.
Remember these Airport Time & Sanity Savers
- If possible, get dropped off at the airport. Not having to park and get your child and luggage to the terminal is a huge time saver.
- Consider curbside check-in if it’s available.
- For indoor check-in, consider renting a Smarte Carte for your luggage.
- Don’t forget a stroller! Having your little one safely strapped in while you check-in, wait in the security line, and get to the gate is another major time saver. Most airlines gate-check strollers, so you can use it right up until you board the plane.
- At security, ask if there’s a special line for those traveling with young children. Many airports have these, which can significantly cut the time you spend in line.
- To pre-board or not to pre-board? Most airlines offer this to those traveling with young children. Pre-boarding allows you to get settled without the pressure of a long line of people waiting to get to their seats. There’s one catch, though: It’s more time being “contained.” Some parents like to let their littles play or run around until the last minute to expend as much energy as possible.
Ask About Empty Seats
At the gate, ask if there are any empty seats on the flight that you can sit next to. That little bit of extra space can come in remarkably handy when you’re traveling with a little one.
Give Your Child Something Safe to Suck on During Takeoff and Initial Descent
This could be a breast, bottle, pacifier, or sippy cup with a straw. As adults we can chew gum or force a yawn to minimize ear pressure. But for a little one little one who doesn’t have those options, sucking is the next-best thing.
Use Cotton Balls or Small Earplugs if Your Child is Sensitive to Noise
These may help little ones who are bothered by the roar of airplane engines.
Put on Your Entertainer Hat
Unless your little one is sleeping, he’ll need your help to stay entertained. Try doing BabySparks activities, many of which can be done anywhere! You may also have long stretches of silly face-making, hand games, or soft singing. For older babies and toddlers, try snacks like cut-up grapes, cereal, or puffs that he can eat one at a time, toys he doesn’t regularly play with, or books with lots of flaps he can open.
If the Going Gets Tough, Keep Perspective
We hope these travel tips will help your child stay calm and happy in-flight, but chances are he may get fidgety or frustrated and cry. If this happens, do your best to soothe him but try not to worry about other passengers. If you’re doing everything you can, the only thing left to do is stay as patient as possible and remember that eventually the plane will land. What’s more, even though some people may appear annoyed, most accept that crying babies are a fact of life.
Now it’s time to have a great trip!