Traveling with little children can be really challenging - especially if you are in the midst of potty training-. And while there are a ton of gadgets out there that promise an easier flight, at the end of the day these are the top tips that have helped me travel over 30 countries with my two little children (and now including our little Maltipoo dog, twice).
How to best travel with little kids will vary by age. A little baby will need frequent feedings and a comfortable way to sleep on their parent's arms. For a small infant, traveling with a nursing pillow is a great idea to provide extra comfort, especially if you aren't getting an extra seat for your baby.
Once your baby becomes a toddler, things tend to become a bit more complicated, as your little one will want to run around, and get bored.
If you are very much against screen time... I'd say this is a great time to forget about your rules and let your children watch as many shows/movies as they want. The same rules won't apply home, and the plane will always be the "fun place" where they get to watch and watch and watch. It is ok, I promise. (just make sure you get kids earphones and ask if they plane you're taking comes with screens or the new-and-very-inconvenient "bring your own device" system).
What to bring on the plane with you when traveling with little kids
- Snacks. Little snacks, a mix of savory and sweet, some familiar ones, some new and exciting.
- Milk. This is a tricky one, as TSA has a ton of restrictions.... I normally fly with small boxes of milk and I get stopped every single time... which results in a full pat-down and all sorts of tests (since I don't let them open the sealed boxes to preserve them). If you are running late or you don't think you have extra time for this step, see if you can buy some at the airport. Most Starbucks will have small boxes.
- Small, new and exciting toys. The Dollar store to the rescue here. Bring coloring books, small toys, small sets of legos, even playdough. Make sure you only introduce one at a time, so you have plenty of entertainment, especially if you are taking a long flight.
- If you are potty training your child or they are newly trained... bring pull-ups. You really don't want to be dealing with accidents in such small seats and bathrooms. Trust me.
- Change of clothes. Pants, shirts, socks, and if you have space... an extra t-shirt for you. You never know...
Do you need any special gear for a long flight with a toddler?
After traveling so much, the one thing that I find the most inconvenient is the need to carry so much stuff. Everything is so heavy, and then my kids request to be carried... and by the time we make it to our destination my husband and I have a back sore and are exhausted.
If possible, try to rent baby gear at your destination. We have had really great experiences with baby rental companies, although some of them can be really pricey. Do your research before flying so you know if you can work it in your budget. I always bring one stroller and one baby carrier - but last summer in Amsterdam I ended up renting a second stroller when my oldest had a severe case of jetlag and needed to take long naps during the day when we wanted to keep touring around. Just keep it in your back pocket as an option if needed.
If you are renting a car, you can rent a car seat from them directly. They are normally just ok (sometimes not the cleanest or newest... to be completely honest... but much easier than lugging my own). If you are very worried about car safety and bringing a car seat is a must for you, then there are a few options in the market for very lightweight and foldable car seats. For small babies, we love the Doona, while for older kids there are great options by HiFold and Pico.
We have tried seatbelt attachments for the plane... I'd say skip it. It really isn't needed and it is more of a nuisance to get it installed and remembering to bring it back.
Have you seen those super cute wheeled trunks for kids that they can ride at the airport? well... not that great. I've seen kids falling out of them all the time, and then it ends up being yet one more thing you have to carry, along with your children and all your luggage. Yikes!
The same goes for those inflatable seat extenders that allow your kid to stretch out and sleep on the plane. In my experience, all planes are different and you don't get the same amount of legroom. Some flight attendants may not allow you to use it, and sometimes the pump can be an issue. Save your money here.
On a final note, traveling has been challenging with 2 little kids (not to mention when we bring our Maltipoo Bernie alone...) but at the end of the day, we have amazing memories and our kids are learning so much about their world, that I think it is completely worth the inconvenience of a few hours on a small airplane seat.
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