Toddler Travel Tips
We are, by no means, experts in traveling with toddlers. In fact, I was able to shy away from planes with my boys for almost 2.5 years before a quick trip back to Colorado called us all to the airport. But even with our newb status and nerves turned up to eleven, we managed to make it there and back with relatively good spirits, relatively low frustration, all thanks to a few tricks up our sleeves that really helped us all out immensely.
1. Take their car seats Not only are car seats safer for a child on the plane, but so much easier. I'm 100% positive that our car seats are what made the plane ride tolerable. We used these carts to tote the boys car seats through the airport and installed them on the plane. We kept them rear facing, like they are in the car, because it is safer and because we then were facing them the whole time and could talk to them. They're used to being in their seats in the car, so they were comfortable in them and they didn't try too much to get out of them, which meant they stayed put the whole plane ride. It does add a small bit of inconvenience getting through the airport, just because they're bulky and require a separate inspection at security. But installing them on the plane was actually pretty easy, and the inconvenience was well worth the two - 2.5 hour plane rides that they sat comfortably. Plus, I felt better knowing they were able to use their own car seats instead of rental seats in the rental car.
2. Give them new toys in their own bag I don't mean go spend the same amount in the toy section as you did for the actual plane tickets. We gave the boys heir own little backpacks (these!) with new toys just for the trip. It was about $15 between the Dollar Spot and the Goodie Bag section in Target to stock them up with stickers, little notebooks for their stickers, window stickies, play dough, suction cup balls, etc. I threw in a couple of their favorite small toys from home as well, like trucks and little animals, as well as new little airplanes for the trip, and a mini Magnadoodle for Jude the artiste. We didn't let them play with stuff or see what was inside until they started getting bored on the plane and then they were two happy campers and those activities lasted us through many a toddler meltdown while we were there. I should mention, too, that we definitely used their tablets on the plane and when they needed some quiet time (because they wouldn't nap while we were there). We downloaded their favorite movies and games, made sure to charge them, and they saved our butts a few times when everyone's patience was shot. (We have these from Amazon)
3. Choose outfits before you go. I made a whole chart of all the outfits we would need while we were there, and tried to reuse as much as I could. It was invaluable in helping us to not overpack and stay organized. I knew what events we had coming up and what we'd need, so I packed those clothes and one extra outfit for each of us, and 2 pairs of shoes each. That's it. If all else failed, Colorado has Target and I could always grab something in an emergency. I also made sure to keep all the clothes in one bag. All shoes, toiletries, etc were in our second smaller suitcase, but everyone's clothes clean and dirty stayed in one bag, each person with their own little section. That way, when we came home, that entire suitcase went straight to the laundry room and got unpacked into the sorting bins for laundry day.
4. Book flights right after meal time. Not only is this a good way to kill some time in the airport with antsy kids, but full kids are happy kids. Nobody wants a hangry kid on a plane. We flew out right after dinner and flew back in right after lunch meaning we only needed small finger food to keep them happy and occupies on the plane.
5. Dress your kids alike This isn't just for twin moms, but this is something that I, as a twin mom, have found to be super helpful. When we're out in public, it's hard to keep track of my littles. And I don't dress my kids alike all the time, but in places where it's easy to get lost (like the airport or at the park), I dress them alike. On the way there they wore matching Disney pajamas, on the way back it was matching striped shirts and blue pants. It's easier to look for two people wearing the same outfit than it is to find your kids' noggin in a sea of people. Once they're older and know not to run off, I'm sure this will change. But for now, it's something that really really helps.
6. Try to stay in a good mood. It's amazing how much our kids will feed off of our stress and bad moods, and the same goes for good moods. When we were traveling, if Tomas and I got stressed and moody, so did our kids. If we could pull ourselves together and just try to be in a good mood even when it was hard to be, our kids seemed to try to do the same. And I know it's stressful traveling with children. It's so hard. But thank them for being good in the plane, thank them for using their manners, thank them for trying to help pull the luggage even if it takes a little longer to get to the counter. Get excited for the plane ride, for the new to you car, for the adventure. If nothing else, it's the fake it til you make it technique which always surprises me with out well it works.
So those are the tips I have. Tips from a newbie, I guess. So tell me - seasoned and new travelers, what are your favorite tips for traveling with littles? Any fun stores you want to share?