Toddler Travel Tips Part 1: Preparation

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We have traveled a few times now with Little C and have developed a system that works pretty well for us, so I thought I would share a few tips. I mean, what is the point of earning all these great miles/points if actually using them is a toddler disaster?! In this post I am going to focus on things you can do while planning the trip in order to help ensure the trip goes as smoothly as possible. And please, feel free to share tips with us because I am sure we still have a lot to learn!!

Tip #1. Whenever possible, fly direct. I talked about this some in my post yesterday, but when booking your trips, try to eliminate connections whenever possible. Lugging all the baby’s stuff from one plane to another, risking delays where you are stuck in an airport away from home, moving a baby who has hopefully settled into their seat or dare I say even fallen asleep in the seat just to catch another flight would be the worst!

Tip #2. Take into account the time of day when booking your flight. This is not an exact science, because your baby’s day will already be off-schedule somewhat since you will be traveling to the airport and doing things out of the ordinary. Their normal nap time, if they have one, may not stay exactly on track while traveling. However, it is sometimes worth a shot to try and schedule flights around when you think they might be sleepy. From experience, I would not recommend trying to “keep the baby up” hoping they will pass out on the plane. This may just result in an overtired, hysterical child. No bueno. Just try to keep thing as on-schedule and normal as possible and maybe you will get lucky with a sleeping angel on the plane.

Tip #3. Don’t count on them sleeping. If they are old enough, plan activities that will fill every minute of the time on the plane, plus some extra. Now if you are traveling with a very small baby that does nothing other than nurse and sleep, then obviously this does not apply. However, even babies 4-6 months and up need entertainment on the plane. For us that meant lots of snacks, drinks, and “meals”. It meant ordering new episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Dora the Explorer. We got new small (easier to pack) interactive toys, new books, and anything else we could pack that might buy a few minutes of entertainment. We didn’t let her see any of the new toys until we were on the plane. As a disclaimer, Little C is a bit high-maintenance in the entertainment department. She is not the kind of baby that will just sit their contently unless there is something to see or do. Place all of your entertainment items in one easily accessible carry-on. You will feel like you are carrying on a million bags just for your baby – you are, and you will probably need them all.

Tip #4. Use points (or buy) the baby their own seat. This may seem contradictory as I am all about traveling for free, or as inexpensively as possible, but this is something that I strongly feel you should provide for your kiddo. I know kids can fly free until they are 2 years old, but that would not work for us. Babies and toddlers are safer in their own seat, period. Aside from the safety factor, you truly need the space. I can’t imagine sitting with a 26 pound one year old in my lap for three hours. It just would not work for any of us. End of story. Choose seats together ahead of time for all of you. The baby and carseat will have to go on the window seat for safety issues, so plan accordingly. You can’t crawl over a carseat easily in the event of an emergency evacuation.

Tip #5. Have as many things as possible already waiting for you at your final destination. If you are going somewhere that you can have or ship diapers, wipes, snacks, etc… ahead of time for you then do it. You will have more than enough stuff to lug through the airport, so do yourself a favor and everything other than the necessities for the day waiting for you at your relative’s house, hotel, etc….

Tip #6. Plan to check bags. I NEVER checked a bag until I had Little C. I hate the added time it creates at the airport and I really hate the risk of a delayed or lost bag. However, now the game has changed. We have so much stuff when we travel with her that we just physically have to check bags. You will already have plenty of stuff you need to bring on the plane with you for the baby, so just plan to check all of your stuff. If you have certain credit cards your checked bag fees are waived, so just get the credit card of the airline you fly the most and you will be covered. The AMEX Platinum also lets you select one airline each year to have a $200 annual credit for incidentals such as checked bag fees, on-board drinks and food, change fees, etc… so that is another really good option.

That’s all I can think of right now for pre-trip planning with a toddler. In future Traveling with a Toddler posts I will talk about tips while you are at the airport and while you are actually on the flight. Of course, no matter how well you prepare for traveling with a toddler, in the end, just say a prayer and order a drink because you never know how it is going to turn out. 🙂

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  1. A lot of the ones you listed were excellent! Any tips on airport traveling with a 5 1/2 month old? We’re taking Mia to see Todd and Holly in Montana in 3 weeks. Getting a little nervous. She’s an excellent baby but you never know what could happen!

    Did Cate ever have issues equalizing her ears? I’m thinking Ill just give Mia a bottle for take off and landing to see if it will help. Any other suggestions?

    • Thanks! I think that many of the same toddler tips will apply for a 5 1/2 month old. Obviously they aren’t mobile in the same way as a toddler, but they aren’t just sleeping and nursing like a newborn, either. I would still try to save as much feeding time for the plane as possible. Having her suck a bottle on take-off and landing are essential. If she eats “puffs” or something similar, that can also be good entertainment on the plane. I would still get some new interesting toys for the plane and a few old favorites, too. I would also bring a blanket for her to roll or scoot around on for while you are waiting at the gate. If you “wear” her a lot, she might let you keep doing that on the plane, which would be great. Bring back some tips after your trip – I’m sure you will pick you a few!

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