February vacation is upon us—a perfect opportunity for a family trip! But once travel plans involve making it through TSA, bringing a two-year-old with you may make the hassles of travel feel even more daunting. When you're flying with toddlers, you might be worried about arriving in one piece. Here are a few tips to help make your travel plans run more smoothly!
Talk about the trip! Prepare your child as much as possible for what is coming. Talk about what you will be doing and where you will be traveling often. Get your child excited for the plane ride and the new destination they will be visiting!
Get visual. Much like the Language cards you see in the Beginners classrooms, it is very helpful to print out pictures of all that your toddler may see or experience that is unfamiliar—especially if it is their first time flying on an airplane. Print pictures of the airports you will be traveling to and from, where you will be staying, and all the different people with whom they will be interacting: such as the pilot, the flight attendants, the security guards, and even the security machines. The TSA currently uses Millimeter Wave AIT scanner. There are lots of YouTube videos online of these machines that you could watch with your children. There are also really great books for toddlers on flying, such as My First Airplane Ride by Patricia Hubbell.
“To teach details is to bring confusion;
to establish the relationship between things is to bring knowledge.”
— Maria Montessori
Splurge for a seat! Most airlines allow your under-2-year-old to fly for free. This means that your toddler is sitting on your lap for the entirety of the flight. For younger toddlers this may be fine. But consider your child's temperament and age. You may want to purchase him/her a seat. If you haven’t purchased a seat by the time of the flight, ask the gate agent and flight attendant if the flight is full or if they could move people around so your family gets an extra seat!
Keep your schedule. Try the best you can to keep your child’s schedule in tact. Booking a night flight for the long trips is a great idea. Fingers crossed, they will sleep the whole flight! If at all possible, choose flights at the "normal" time your children are meant to be falling asleep.
Pack extra! Pack extra clothes for both you and your children in your carry-on bag. You never know when you’ll need them. And don’t forget lots of extra snacks!
Let them help you pack. Make your toddler part of the packing process! Offer choices on what toys, snacks, books, and clothes to bring.
Lessen the load! Pack your child a plane bag with all the things you want them to have access to on the flight. Then save your backs and let your kids carry their own bag/suitcase/backpack in the airport! There are lots of fun lightweight suitcases for toddlers designed to make traveling with toddlers much easier!
BedBox & RideBox is suitcase where your toddler can sit and ride on top of their bag or pull it using the handle. It also opens up into a bed! The Bontoy Traveler Suitcase is shaped like a dog. Who wouldn’t want a suitcase shaped like a cute Beagle puppy? Your child can ride on the top of the suitcase or press the front button to extend the handle and pull it along. So cool!
Arrive early. Why cause yourself more stress by wondering if you might be late? Get to the airport with plenty of time to spare, and settle down at the gate. Let your kids run off some energy. Some airports even have playgrounds inside!
Invest in a lightweight stroller. Most airlines won’t allow you to bring a stroller to the gate if it’s a 2-piece stroller. They will make you check it. Instead, invest in a lightweight compact stroller. You can bring it all the way to the gate and check it there.
Bring a car seat. If your car seat is FAA-approved and your child has their own seat on the plane, you can take it onboard to use during the flight. You may want to bring your car seat on the airplane for extra safety or if your toddler is more comfortable in a car seat. It also might pose as more of a hassle for you and an extra bag to carry. In the wise words of Maria Montessori, “follow the child”: if your child doesn’t find the car seat particularly comforting, ditch it. Either way, all U.S. airlines and most international airlines allow them free of charge. Keep in mind that most airlines only allow you to check either a car seat or a stroller free of charge, not both.
Prepare for take-off/landing. When the plane is getting ready to take off, give your child something to keep his/her jaw moving to help with ear pressure discomfort—for example, food, pacifiers, lollipops, conversation.
Keep them entertained. Come prepared with activities for your child to do. If you know that your child is really enjoying a certain toy at home, don't forget that toy. Bring books, toys, and games!
Get up and move around. Don’t be afraid to get up and move around the plane when you start to notice your toddler is getting antsy.
Flying is fun! Allow time to appreciate the wonder of flying with your children. They will be quite excited about going up in the sky, so you should be too! If you can, grab a window seat and point out all the clouds, the runway, and all the small houses! Toddlers grow so quickly. It’s joyful to create memories with them through travel, and it is a wonderful bonding experience!
“The senses, being the explorers of the world, open the way to knowledge.”
— Maria Montessori