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Tips for Traveling with Toddlers

The Mom Squad takes on traveling with your little one.

You’ve all heard the horror stories from parents and non-parents alike. You’ve all heard someone mutter at one time or another “there was a baby crying the WHOLE time on my flight”, but I can guarantee you, the parents of that baby who cried the whole flight felt a LOT worse than you!

There is nothing worse than not being able to console your child, and it’s even worse when you’re stuck on a plane. While we can’t promise you that the next time you travel with your children it will be crisis free, we can give you some tips to help you avoid trouble.

I have travelled with my children quite a bit in the small time they’ve been around. My daughter will be 3 in September and my son just turned 1. My daughter has been back and forth to New York about six times, to Phoenix a couple times and on several road trips.

My son has been back and forth to New York twice, and also on several road trips. I’ve flown with just my daughter by myself once and with both children alone twice. And only once did we have a total meltdown of biblical proportions. All in all, I can’t complain too much about that, although at the time I would have given my left arm to get her to stop screaming (and the screaming lasted for THREE HOURS ...).

So how do you travel with your children to minimize meltdowns? Well as mentioned above, there is no guarantee your child won’t meltdown but there are a few tricks that I’ve learned that help quite a bit.

Getting through security is the first hurdle.

It can be difficult if you’re taking a car seat. My first suggestion is to let TSA help you! I have always had really great experiences with the TSA agents. They want to make the line go as smoothly as you do, so ask them for help if you need it. More than likely they’ll be happy to help.

Have everything that you need to take out in one pocket (iPhone, iPad, laptops, etc) and have all of the baby stuff in a baggie because digging around for the things you need to put in the bins can be hectic if they aren’t in one place.

Timing of flights is really important.

Up until the last flight we took, we always flew red eyes. Not the best for the parents, great for the kids (and let’s be honest, kids are the No. 1 priority)! They slept the whole flight and it was much easier to get them onto East Coast time once we arrived. But now that my daughter is older, red eyes don’t work as well so I try to plan it around at least one nap time to get some sleep time in. Just make sure your children don’t get too over tired because that can be a mess too!

It’s always so important to have plenty of activities for your kids.

Keeping those little hands and minds entertained is key! Shorter flights are obviously easier, but longer flights take some planning. Stickers can be a big hit, by the end of a flight I’m covered in stickers!

Books, and age appropriate toys (for my son I brought a lot of sensory toys and soft books and I used those toy chains and chained them to his car seat so he couldn’t toss them off) are important as well. Not everyone has an iPad or an iPhone, and thats totally ok! But if you do, they are a huge help! I loaded my iPad with my daughters favorite shows, movies, and games and she knows how to use it herself so I just handed it to her with some headphones and most of the flight she was totally entertained. Having entertainment is so important because keeping them from getting bored helps avoid tantrums!

Snacks are also incredibly important.

As we all know, planes don’t exactly offer any gourmet treats, at least ones that don’t cost an arm and a leg. I always brings my kids favorite treats! I make sure the snacks I bring are ones I know comfort them: cookies, applesauce, fruit, crackers, etc. I also always bring their sippy cups and fill them with water from a water fountain on the other side of security. When I was using bottles, I would fill the bottles with the appropriate amount of formula and fill them up on the other side as well.
And my number one rule is to remain patient!

As I mentioned, we only had one major meltdown (and I did not keep my head, which did not help the situation), but that’s not to say there were times my kids fussed and remaining patient was key. If Mommy isn’t flipping out, chances are the kids will follow suit fairly quickly.

You also must remain patient with other passengers or airline workers who may not be as understanding as you hope. Remember, they may not have children or had children a long time ago, so they don’t realize how hard it is to have a small child on a flight (or they expect you to stay home until your children aren’t children anymore and let me tell you, it is VERY hard for me to remain patient with those people!) so I try to ignore them, you’ll never have to see them again!

Travelling with your children doesn’t have to be the nightmare you’re picturing! I’ve actually had a lot of fun travelling with my kids because they see the fun in being on an airplane or driving in a car. As long as you’re prepared physically and mentally you’ll be totally fine!

Don't forget to check out Campbell Patch - Mom Squad on Facebook! We answer your questions, take your suggestions, and offer up support to our fellow Moms.

Mayra Flores de Marcotte May 21, 2012 at 09:03 PM
These are great tips! My little one traveled twice to Florida, Oregon and once to the Yucatan Peninsula with me and my husband. Snacks, a goodie bag with fun things to keep them occupied and a phone/ipad with games and videos AND earphones to plug into are all must haves for us when we travel. The only other thing I'd add is make sure to have a blanket, warm jacket as well. The plane sometimes gets cold and having a familiar blankie also helps sooth the young travelers. :)
Bethany Curran May 21, 2012 at 09:28 PM
From our Mom Squad Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Campbell-Patch-Mom-Squad/264361260272684) Amy S: Thanks Nicole, this great! Can I make another suggestion about flying? My son has been flying with me since he was 6 weeks old and has flown probably 8 times in the last 3 years so we have become pros! My #1 life saver, since it is almost always just him in and I, is the sling (or carrier). They can not make you take them out if they are on your front and it also helps you skip the new scan rule and go around. So if you have 2 kids and 2 parents...strap them in! :) Security goes so smooth for us that way! :) We did the wrap until M was about a year and then switched to the ergo! He is still small enough that we can strap him in and go!
Nicole Salacain May 21, 2012 at 09:38 PM
That's a great tip! And you're so right! We brought Evie's favorite butterfly blanket and it was a great comfort to her while we traveled. Thanks for the tip, Mayra!
Bethany Curran May 22, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Mom Squad friend Selvi S. had lots of tips to share on our facebook page too: "When flying with a baby who is taking a bottle fill up the bottle with the amount of water you need. You can do this to multiple bottles, when you get asked at security tell them it's Nursery Water and they won't give you a problem at all. Also when you're checking in with a "lap child" ask if there is an empty seat on the flight, I have always gotten to sit next to it on Hawaiian and Alaska airlines. Southwest is the best to fly with kids because you get to pick your own seats so if someone doesn't want to sit next to a child they don't. You get to avoid all the stares if you're baby is crying. Oh also remember that YOU are going to be more stressed out then anyone else about your baby crying on an airplane. For road trips.... Snacks and a bag of new toys and the iPad with headphones is our best friend! My son also gets car sick so I give him half a non-drowsy dramamine and so far it's worked beautifully. I have tried the drowsy one when I've run out of the non-drowsy stuff.... Eh it works but really makes your kid drugged up and groggy. My son also loves "mom and dad's music" so we have dance parties and see who can do the silliest dance in their seat. It brings out lots of giggles and belly laughs. One of my friends suggested getting a map of where you are to where you're going and then every hour put a new dot on the map to show your child where you are on your trip."

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