This is another list created from parent conversations and recommendations. Traveling with young children is…challenging…here are some recommendations from folks who’ve done it once or twice before.
Before you board (or heck, even before a long car ride…) Even if it exhausts you, RUN around at the airport and exhaust your child. Makes them happy to sit a while.
Bring activities that your child hasn’t seen or done before. Or pull favorite things a few days before departure and then pull them out on the trip. Parse out activities slowly, over time…let your child really have time to explore and play with what you bring out.
Here are some specific thoughts on things to bring…
- BunMo Pop Tubes Sensory Toys
- Melissa & Doug Water Wow! (I’ve seen these…so cool and not messy…and reusable! Brilliant!) x2
- A 4×6 photo album with pictures of your child’s favorite people and pets. <3
- Mini Books/small board books
- Push Bubble Its Pop Fidget Toy, like this one, but there are scores of them online. These are highly recommended by many parents.
- Wallet with zippers
- Magnet activity book
- Stickers (I recommend reusable ones!) – failing that, painter’s tape!! It comes off easily and is fun to
stick in new places! (For bonus points, get several colors…and don’t forget….YOU might need to use it yourself during your travels!)
- Window seats for the kiddos…lots of things to talk about!
- Headphones for the flight map for entertainment instead of movies or tv. Older children can also play games.
- This is untested, but sounds promising… pipe cleaners and cheerios are an excellent plane “toy.” And
they can also snack on them as they fit them onto the pipe cleaner!
- These suction cup spinners are a big hit for travel or for home!
- But outside of that, I’ve found that despite what toys I bring, empty water bottles, chip bags, and pretty much anything that’s not a toy ends up being interesting. As long as it’s safe, I let my child play with it.
- Muslin blankets! I linked to a large one, but they come in a lot of sizes and they are so light and can be used for so many things- nap covers, towel, bib, park blanket…
Snacks! Snacks! Snacks! (A must!)
- For each flight I pack an actual meal in a bento box with things that are enjoyable cold, and use this bento box. It has a removable ice tray, so you can pop that in the freezer before travel, then insert it under the food and it will keep things cold and safe to eat. I also do an insulated lunch box, which I fill with things like yogurt squeezies… and I got these cute ice bricks for the lunch box.
- On top of that I bring snacks like fruit squeezie packs that don’t need to be refrigerated until open, and puffs.
- I really watch the clock and make sure she still hits her 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. A satisfied belly means a happy baby!!
- I also travel with a few gallon sized zip lock bags for trash, etc.
On the plane…
- Keep an eye on nap time. Not every child will sleep on a plane trip, but offer…you might walk with them, or even consider bringing a light swaddle blanket to drape over the head/eyes (be careful to leave space for nose/mouth) …it works like a mini blackout blind!
In a hotel or home away from home…
- Speaking of blackout blinds, these are absolute life savers!
- And we do pack our sound machine as well.
- I have parents who swear by the slumberpod, too. They can put their child to bed and (with a sound machine) continue with their evening, even in the same room. (Pro-tip: practice assembling at home before you travel. This video helps, but it’s not as easy as she makes it look (at least the first couple of times you do it!)
- For toddlers and up, not taking naps or taking shorter naps in the stroller while traveling internationally helps with jetlag (i.e. sleep better at night).
- If they are sleeping in a new place make sure to spend time in that room during the day, even letting them get into the travel crib to play. Bring a sheet that they’ve slept with a few nights so it smells like they’re used to. Bring other things that brings them comfort at night from home.
- Bonus…use a baby carrier with no metal can go through security without having to remove your baby from the carrier. (Bonus Bonus…with TSA precheck you don’t have to remove your shoes)
- Extra space seats if available/accessible
- Bulkhead seating, again if available/accessible
- Board last. It’s easier for children to sit still on a plane that is moving than one that is sitting still while everyone is boarding and getting settled.
- Don’t introduce walking up and down the aisle unless you want to do that for the whole flight.
- Jet-kids is a genius invention. It’s a smaller suitcase – a carry on with room for toys and books that basically that turns into a seat extender so that the coach seat turns into a bed for naps and snuggles. Some parents have also loved inflatable seat extenders. (Though some airlines don’t allow the use of them!)
- We bring our car seat in this travel car seat bag and check it (which is free) and you can throw a bunch of extra stuff in there, like your big winter coats etc so you have more room on the plane.
Consider ordering ahead from Amazon or other retailers and have bulky items delivered to your destination. For places you will visit again and again (like family), you can plan to have them store items (if they are willing) so you can just pull them out on future trips (stools, potty insert, booster seat, etc.). If it’s a one-off trip, a quick google search will help you ID a charitable organization you can donate the items to at the end of your trip.
Last, and most importantly…
Lower your expectations because no matter what tips and tricks and plans you have, there is a chance it won’t go well. And when that happens just be with your child. On the plane, in the car, in the middle of the night etc. That’s the most important piece.
Please note: I’ve linked to some products on Amazon. Those links are my “Amazon Associate” links, so if you use those links to purchase, I will receive a small percentage back.