Use these tips for traveling with toddlers or kids to keep your kids in their seat, entertained, and happy for your entire trip!
Since my son was born in 2013, he’s flown at least 50 times and half of those have been since he hit the dreaded toddler stage. That stage where sitting in an airplane seat for a couple of hours without running up and down the aisles sounds absolutely miserable. Over the past few years I’ve learned a few tricks that keep him in his seat, entertained, and even happy. Most of the time at least. So here are my best tips for traveling, specifically flying, with toddlers.
Tips for Traveling with Toddlers
Choose the Right Suitcase
There are SO many suitcases out there but seriously the right suitcase can make or break your trip and I’ll tell you why. We have a couple of new suitcases and a couple of old suitcases. The old suitcases only have two wheels, the wheels break easy, and they are HEAVY!
When you’re chasing a toddler down the hallway, you don’t want to be dragging a broken and heavy suitcase behind you. And when you’re trying to fit as much as possible into your suitcase while still staying within a weight limit, it’s super important to have a suitcase that the actual suitcase itself doesn’t weigh a ton.
A perfect suitcase for traveling with toddlers is the expandable Atlantic Ultra® Lite 3 21” Carry-on Spinner and right now you can get a Special offer on Atlantic Luggage 21” Spinner on Amazon!
The Atlantic Ultra® Lite is perfect for traveling with toddlers because it only weighs 7.2 lbs, has 360-degree spinner wheels (if you don’t have those on your current suitcase, they are life-changing!), and it expands allowing you to pack a ton without ever coming close to the weight limit.
One of my favorite ways to pack clothes for toddlers is to pack outfits in individual gallon-size bags so that it’s easier to just grab and go in the morning; the Ultra® Lite 3 gives you plenty of room to do just that! I have the Atlantic Ultra® Lite in black but am considering buying myself either the purple or turquoise one and giving my husband the black. My luggage should match my blog colors right?
Pack A Ton of Snacks
This is a big one, especially now that a lot of airlines no longer serve snacks or they serve a bag of crackers. You and I both know that one small bag of crackers if not going to keep your toddler happy for an entire flight, no matter how long or short the flight is. I pack up my son’s favorite Avengers lunch box full of his favorite snacks and drinks, including ones that he doesn’t get all the time like fruit snacks and sometimes even a couple suckers or too. And by the way, suckers are perfect to keep your toddler happy when you’re changing their diaper in one of those too small to even breathe let alone change a diaper bathrooms.
One thing to note is that you can typically bring juice boxes and other juice for toddlers through security, however, you will always have to get things tested after you get through the line. That’s sometimes more of a pain than it would be to just buy a juice or water bottle once you get through, especially if you’re traveling alone.
Choose Your Flight Times Carefully
Just like choosing your suitcase is important, so is choosing the time you fly. Sometimes you don’t really have an option either due to schedule or cost, but if you do, I have two recommendations. First, don’t fly first thing in the morning. I can almost guarantee that if you book a flight before 9AM that you are all going to be at each other’s throats the entire flight, unless you get up at 5AM on a regular basis.
My two favorite times to fly are either in the late afternoon or in the late evening. Late afternoon is perfect because if you live close enough to the airport, you can get up in the morning, finish packing, and let your toddler take a short nap at home before leaving for the airport. A nap before flying does wonders for everyone involved. And if you don’t live close enough to the airport, encourage your toddler to take a nap in the car on the way there. Just be warned, afternoon flights tend to be pretty full from my experience.
If you’re looking for a flight that’s not as full, I recommend flying in the evening around 7PM if that’s doable for your schedule. So far while every flight I’ve taken in the afternoon has been mostly full, my evening flights are almost never full. And if you’ve traveling by yourself with your toddler, you know that having an empty seat in the aisle with you can be heaven sent. I know this is around bedtime for most toddlers so if you’re taking a really long flight, this may not be the best time for you.
Embrace the Surprise Egg
One of my favorite things to do is to pack my son’s toys in individual bags, or these little metal cans that I picked up at Target a few weeks ago. I fill one can with one toy or activity (e.g., cars, dinosaurs, a puzzle) and take a couple of the cans with us on each trip. The surprise egg phenomenon is real, and he loves getting to open a can to see what’s inside. And because it’s a surprise, he doesn’t even care that they’re toys he already owns! Make sure to keep the other cans hidden or put away in your bag so that your toddler doesn’t want to open them all at once. We open one can, play with what’s inside for however long he will, and then put those toys away and pull out another can. Or a snack. Or a new toy.
Buy Something New
Speaking of new toys, hit up the Target Dollar Spot or Dollar Store and pick out a couple of toys or activities that you know your toddler will love. Break out those new toys on the plane, alternating with the surprise cans, snacks, and screen time. I’m telling you $3 spent in the Target dollar spot is nothing when you see how long those new toys can keep your toddler entertained and in their seat on the plane. It’s seriously amazing.
And when all else fails, or whenever you feel like it…
Give Them Some Screen Time
This is a great option for keeping your toddler entertained for a longer period of time, especially if they don’t get much screen time at home. We actually have both a portable DVD player and iPad that we’ve used in the past for trips, although we typically only use the iPad at this point.
I download a new movie and a few apps that K has never tried before each of our flights and just those few things will typically keep him entertained for a good hour or so. Pick up some kid-friendly headphones, make sure your iPad is fully charged (and that you have the onboard player for the airline if necessary), and let them at it.