“Her palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. There’s vomit on her sweater already, mom’s spaghetti.”
These may be the lyrics of a very popular 90’s rap song – they also might be exactly how I was feeling before I boarded an 8 hour flight with my toddler.
Gosh was I naive. I remember writing a blog not too long ago about tips for traveling with a baby. I remember taking Max on his first flight and handing out goody bags to everyone sitting around us. But that wasn’t the travel companion I should of been afraid of. No, babies are easy – babies sleep, they don’t talk back, they don’t know the word no, they can’t move! It is the toddlers you should worry about – and worry I did. But alas 8 hours later we landed in London and it wasn’t that bad. We survived. And I wanted to share some tips on how you too can survive traveling with a toddler.
Tip #1: Bring all the snacks
On a long flight you never know when the food cart might come around, and since we hand’t bought Max a seat he didn’t get a meal -thankfully we were loaded up with snacks for the entire flight and then some in case there were any delays or issues. It was also great to have them on hand because once we arrived in Portugal a lot of the snacks we found didn’t have a lot of nutritional value or were very high in sugar.
Tip#2: Bring the right toys for the plane
Toys for a long flight are essential, but there are some that work better than others. On my firsts flight with Max I brought a bunch of balls that he just threw around. I have been bringing a lot of toys now that can attach to the front of the seat. I also found stickers to be a very big hit. Another tip for toys is get a few new ones and wrap them up – it is a double win because your toddler will have fun unwrapping them and then playing with a new toy.
Tip # 3 Don’t panic if things don’t go right
I remember on our first flight it was way past Max’s bedtime and I was worried that we were going to have a really grumpy child if he didn’t stick to his schedule – but here is the thing, you are traveling and there is no such thing as sticking to a schedule. And guess what everything will work out. We put on a bit of screen time (something that for us was a life saver but might not be for you) and eventually he fell asleep. And you know what, despite my original panic it turned out perfectly because when we arrived in Europe he was on the right time zone.
Tip #4: Book an early morning or late evening flight
There are advantages and disadvantages to each – but I have found our best success has either been really early flights or closer to bed time. Early flights mean less risk of delays (something we had to deal with in London and it wasn’t pretty). Everyone is probably pretty tired so good chance of napping on the plane. Also the airport is probably less busy. But I am so not a morning person so I prefer to try and get an evening flight that will match around his bedtime.
Tip #5 Prepare for pressure changes
You know the uncomfortable feeling during take off and landing when you just need your ears to pop? Ya it is way worse for your poor toddler and so have a bottle on hand. The sucking motion really helps deal with pressure.
Tip #6: Book a direct flight or a longer layover
Sometimes direct flights are impossible – but alas if there was one we would of avoided a major meltdown in the Toronto airport. If you do have to do a layover, try and book a longer one that gives you enough time to get from gate A to B without having to run with car seat, stroller, backpacks, and oh ya a toddler. One thing we did with this trip was actually break it up and do 2 days in London. It was really cool to be able to explore this city.
Tip #7 Take advantage of pre-boarding
I had a new mom in the airport asking if she should do the pre-boarding or wait until the end to avoid spending extra time on the plane. I told her to do the pre-boarding. It gives you time and more space to get organized and settled. I also like making sure we get some overhead space close to us in case we have to grab anything out of our bags.
Tip #8 Gate check your travel gear
On our trip we decided to leave the stroller at home and only bring our travel backpack (the last thing we wanted to do was deal with the steep cobblestone roads with a stroller but that is a different story). We always gate check our gear though because it doesn’t count against your checked bags, we can use it while we are in the airport, we know it is going to be there when we arrive at our destination but we don’t have to try and stuff it into the small carryon bins.
Tip #9 Prepare for security
The good news is your allowed to travel with liquids like milk and water for your toddler or baby, but it also means you are going through security with liquids. I try and back all the liquids together (pouch snacks, tylenol etc) so that I can easily take it out for security. That way it is shorter for you and you aren’t holding up any lines
Tip #10 Bring those wipes
I have a toddler in daycare and thus he has a runny nose and cold 364 days a year (or so it seems). And so one thing you can do to try and keep your toddler from getting sick on vacation starts on the airplane. Kids like to explore and they will be touch and eating everything they can get their hands on so bring those wipes.
Tip #11 Tantrums will happen and it’s ok
We were pretty lucky and 3 out of our 4 flights were extremely smooth but after a a couple hours of delay in London our flight to Portugal wasn’t pretty. In my memory Max cried for 2 hours straight but in reality it was maybe 10 minutes. It isn’t as bad as it seems I promise, and guess what a lot of people have been there and get it – and if not well you never have to see them again right.
So mamas, don’t be afraid of booking that flight just because you are worried about traveling with your toddler