Traveling with little ones can be quite the challenge. They don’t like to sit still for long periods of time, they have tiny tummies, they make big messes, and they can only entertain themselves for so long. Over the past two years, I’ve traveled with my daughter (both as an infant and a toddler) via car and airplane. Having “been there, and done that”, I wanted to share several tips to help you have a smooth traveling experience with young children.
Universal Traveling Tips:
- Pack snack foods you can easily reach that require little clean up. Pouch baby food was my best friend on some of these earlier trips, and more recently, single serving packs of crackers, pretzels, and fruit snacks have been popular with my daughter.
- Bring toys that do not make a lot of noise. Over a long period of time in a car, noisy toys will make you want to drive off the road from the repetitive sounds. In an airplane the sounds are rude, as the noise could disturb other passengers who may wish to rest. Great toys to bring? Magna Doodles, crayons and coloring books, picture books, and dolls or stuffed animals. A note on the crayons while flying: do not take them out until after you have reached traveling altitude. During take-off, they may roll backwards or under the seats, and you will most likely be unable to retreive them, much to your child’s dismay.
- Have music they like on hand. If your child enjoys music, load their favorite songs to an MP3 player. Don’t forget headphones unless you want to hear the Frozen soundtrack (or whatever music they are in to) over and over again.
- Download kid friendly apps. There are tons of apps you can download for free your child will love. Type in “free toddler apps” on your device to locate different options. Just remember to back up all your data prior to leaving in case your child deletes anything accidentally.
- Don’t forget the charger! If you are going to allow your child to use your smart phone, tablet, etc., bring a power cord! Many airports now have charging stations, so if you have a long layover you can recharge. If you are driving, pack a car charger.
Traveling by Car
- Leave in the evening if possible. Your child is more likely to sleep through the majority of the trip, and there is also much less traffic.
- Take note of the distance between rest stops. This tip is especially helpful when traveling during the day or if your child is awake. Will your little one really be able to wait another 30 miles for a diaper change or to use the toilet?
- Allow your child stretch breaks. When you reach a rest stop, allow your child to stretch their legs if they are walking. They will be less restless when you put them back in the car.
- Pack a wide array of movies if you have a DVD entertainment system. Trust me, you don’t want to have to listen to the same episode of “Sid the Science Kid” (or whatever show your child enjoys) 10 times during the course of one trip. Plus you never know when they might change their mind and decide “Sid the Science Kid” is no longer their favorite. It’s best to have lots of options on hand.
Traveling by Airplane
- Pack hand sanitizer. I can not stress enough the importance of hand sanitizer in TSA approved bottles (3 oz. or less). You can find these in any drug store, like CVS. Don’t just pack these – use them! Put them in a convenient, easy to access place in your carry on. Please learn from my mistake – my daughter and I both had positive flu swabs 2 days after our last trip, and this may have been prevented if we were more careful to protect ourselves. On the flip side, if you know you or your child are not feeling well and must travel, please take necessary precautions to avoid getting your fellow travelers sick.
- Wear your baby if possible. While the FAA prohibits your child from being in an unapproved carrier during take off and landing, you are allowed to use a baby wearing device once the airplane hits an altitude of 10,000 feet. Wearing your child in the airport also gives you free hands to place items on the conveyor belt at TSA check points. I once collapsed a large stroller, partially dismantled it, and was able to put it in a duffel bag, all while wearing my daughter who was 4 months old at the time.
- Bring headphones. Pack them in an easy to access place in your carry on. During our last flight, there were free television channels offered through WiFi. If I had packed headphones, we would have been able to take advantage of this option, and Lucie could have watched children’s programming throughout the flights on my iPhone.
What tips do you have to help make travel easy with a little one?