It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.
However, many of us with young children are trying to balance working full-time, decorating for the holiday, buying gifts, and you guessed it – booking travel plans.
(This blog post will mainly focus on flying with young children (infants and toddlers), but you can apply many of the tips here to long car rides)
Flying these days is stressful enough. Add in five straight hours with a toddler and infant, and I’m sweating bullets.
I think I’ve mentioned in my prior Cosco Scenera car seat review post that my husband’s family is in California, while we live in North Carolina. Hence, we make two trips across the country each year to go see them.
I love to see family on those trips, but man, it is a beast to plan, organize, and pack for those trips. Trying to anticipate the needs for each kid is tough, and then you still have to take care of yourself and your partner as well.
After many trips with an infant-now-toddler, and now another infant, I’ve put together my five best strategies for flying below. Hope these help!
1. PACK A SPARE OUTFIT FOR EVERYONE IN A CARRY-ON
I cannot stress this one enough. When we first started flying our infant daughter, we took the whole “feed your baby during takeoff and landing to help with air pressure” seriously, and tried to give our daughter a bottle each time.
Unfortunately, she ended up drinking too much milk and threw up on herself and my husband.
Our mistake? We had a spare outfit for her, but not for him. Lesson learned – ALWAYS keep at least a spare shirt handy for everyone so you don’t reek the rest of the flight.
2. BRING SOMETHING BRAND NEW ALONG FOR THE KIDS TO PLAY WITH
If your toddlers are like my toddler, their attention span is 3 seconds, especially with items that they are familiar with. However, when you show them something new, it (fingers-crossed) can be a game changer.
When choosing your item to bring on, make sure you pay close attention to your child’s interests. Some of my best suggestions? A small container of Play Doh, Melissa and Doug’s Water Wow books, crayons and a new coloring book, or a new app on the iPad.
Some of you might worry about the mess you’d make with play-doh, crayons, etc. Trust me, when I tell you – you paid a lot of money for your flight. People get paid to clean up your mess. It’s okay if you leave some things on the floor, especially if your kids are happy and engaged when playing.
3. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SCREEN TIME
So the AAP just came out with new evidence screen time for toddlers older than 18 months old can be beneficial, especially if parents are watching along with their kids. That is fantastic news, especially for those of us trying to distract little ones on a flight.
The solution? Baby Einstein videos, Daniel Tiger, and other educational videos we downloaded to bring along on our iPad. We started doing this religiously, even if she wanted to look out the window the whole time on some flights. We had it available just in case.
And now Netflix has introduced offline streaming... this made my year!
4. THINK HARD ABOUT WHAT YOU CARRY ON THE PLANE
This is the diciest one by far. You want to be prepared for EVERY possible scenario, yet you don’t want to be SO laden-down that you can’t find anything or have any room.
We’ve run into both situations. I’ve brought every possible medicine, enough food for 3 days, a nose frieda, and two cartons of almond milk aboard one of our flights. (TSA had a field day with me!) On a separate flight? I forgot to pack enough diapers.
The key is balance. Think hard about what you need for everyone, and make sure you account for delays on the tarmac, not making connections, etc. Run through the scenarios in your mind about where your flight might get delayed or cancelled, and then try to pack the absolute necessities for those.
My rule of thumb is always bring enough food & diapers for the kids to last a day beyond when the flight would originally end. This sounds like a lot, but keep it it to portable, easy foods – pouches, crackers, apple sauces, raisins, etc.
5. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY – GET COMFORTABLE WITH BEING THAT FAMILY
At the end of the day? There is no fail-proof solution for traveling with children, short of a magical pill that would put them to sleep the whole time. And even that could fail!
My biggest lesson is learning to set realistic expectations. I was petrified of being that family with a crying baby or screaming toddler.
You know what? Life happens. People understand. It’s a small moment in time that no one will remember, except you, and it will be a funny memory in the future.
Get comfortable with it and get over your anxiety – because your child will never remember it and he or she will be fine, and all flights (and car trips) do end 🙂
Safe travels to all of you and good luck this season! Also – If you happen to be that family this season on a plane, know that other moms have your back!