And I thought traveling with a baby was hard… with a toddler, it’s a whole new ballgame!

But I’m happy to report that in the past month, our family flew to San Diego (4 hour flight) and Fort Meyers (2 1/2 hour flight) with no meltdowns or hysterics. Woo hoo!

Here are my top 10 tips for traveling with a toddler.

  1. Find a flight that isn’t too full
    Not always possible, but when you can, chose flights that aren’t that full. You can see how many seats are still available when you book your flight and want to chose your seat. If you see lots of empty spots, book that flight! If you see only a few openings in the rear, keep looking.
  2. Schedule flights during naptime or bedtime
    Our mantra is the less baby is awake on plane, the better for everyone around you. Griffin isn’t the easiest guy to fall asleep and even he went down easily on several flights. Having the middle seat open helps a ton since baby has his/her own “space.” You and daddy can then tag team soothing to get baby to nap (back rubs, keeping them from trying to climb all over, singing, stroking hair, etc.) Can’t find a flight that works during normal sleeping hours? No worries. Encourage baby to take a late afternoon or mid morning “catnap” which can do wonders.
  3. Book an aisle and window seat
    This might sound counterintuitive as we normally want to sit next to our husband, child or travel companion but this way you have a better chance of scoring the middle seat and acquiring the whole row for your family.
  4. Arrive at the gate early and talk with flight attendant
    If you book a flight that isn’t full, most airline attendants will move things around for you to get the empty middle seat. One tip, when you go to talk to him/her, bring your baby with you. It brings your challenging scenario to “life” a bit more and helps breed compassion :).
  5. If child is under 2, bring proof of age
    Griffin has been on 1/2 dozen flights and we’ve NEVER been asked this until our flight home last week. According to FAA regulations, all lap children need some sort of identification to show “proof of age.” (Aw, isn’t that cute… they are getting “carded”). Medical records, copy of a birth certificate or even a picture of your child’s certificate that you can show via your phone will all work.
  6. Bring extra diapers, drinks and food
    You want to be prepared for on flight blowouts and the munchies. Just like we tend to eat more junk at the airport, I pack treats for Griffin since it’s a special occasion. Some ideas include: freeze-dried fruit, Wasa crackers (Griffin loves to chew on and 1 cracker takes him 1/2 hour to finish. Great distraction!), grapes, Starbucks smoothies, ice chips from the online drink service.
  1. Bring special toys and books
    This goes without saying but pack toys and books for plane. Since we don’t want to carryon heavy luggage, chose a few of the choicest toys you own. For us, this can include Griffin’s musical book, an etch a sketch and toy phone. Regular old books are great additions since it gets the child to be still and sleepy. Not to mention, they can copy what many adults are doing around them… READING.
  2. Dress your little one in layers
    Planes can be cold. Planes can be hot. If you dress your tot in layers, you can roll with any temperature with ease.
  3. Wear a nursing shirt
    For many youngsters, nursing is a soothing activity for take offs, landings and before nap time. My favorite shirt is Mountain Mama’s Olema shirt since it has 2 layers and keeps my belly covered. Chose one that works for you.
  4. Bring a pillow onboard
    OK, sounds kinda fussy, but find a really soft, packable pillow to bring onboard. This will help soothe the child and make holding, cuddling and nursing much much more comfortable. Even when we didn’t get the middle seat on one flight, Griffin fell asleep on me thanks to the softness of a pillow. And if you DO get the middle seat, you have an instant pillow top mattress!

So there you have it… our top 10 tips when traveling with toddler. Now if I could only find a way to neutralize all timezones… LOL!

How about you?

What are your travel strategies with your little ones? Share with us!