L and I are taking a trip this weekend, so I thought I'd share a few tips for traveling with a toddler, specifically on an airplane. These tips help me stay calm, keep her occupied, and all of us well-fed through the duration of the trip.
1. Pack food. I know that it might seem like overkill, because, after all, there is food everywhere in the airport. But you might not always be able to find the food you prefer when you want it—or you might wind up sitting on the runway for an hour. (It's happened.) And the only thing that can make that worse than it already is is a hungry and grumpy toddler. I pack our food in Easy Lunchboxes, which typically hold a meal and a snack. I also usually stick a Larabar or two as backup into my carryon since they are easy to share with a little one.
2. Include something new. It doesn't have to be brand new, but it could be a book or a toy they haven't played with in months. Packing something novel helps to make the trip seem more special and it can hold their attention longer. I usually buy one new book and pack another activity—whether it's stickers, crayons, or one of the awesome Melissa and Doug travel coloring sets. (We also love their Water Wow books.) Also, including a range of activities can help prevent boredom from setting in—so plan to alternate between reading and a more hands on activity like coloring (or lifting the window shade up and down!).
3. Relax the rules. My girl almost never has juice, so when we fly, she gets to have a small cup of apple juice if she wants. (She also gets to watch Curious George on repeat if she wants—we were super strict about screen time until recently, but we started making a giant exception for air travel after she turned 2.) Flying is stressful enough without being too strict about what you're eating, so if you decide to treat everyone to ice cream at 11 am, so be it! Those small indulgences always make traveling feel like a real adventure and it's one less thing to really worry about. We also tend to graze and snack more during transit than we otherwise do at home, but it's temporary, so I try to take it in stride and get back on schedule the following day.
P.S. Remember to use the bathroom! Since your toddler might fall asleep on you during the flight (hey, a girl can dream!) use the bathroom whenever you have the chance so you can be prepared to sit tight for the long haul if you need to.
P.P.S There was an awesome conversation about traveling with toddlers recently in our Facebook group. Come join us!
You may also like: How to Eat Well When Traveling With a Toddler