We recently undertook our annual cross-country flight from California to Boston to visit clients and family. This year we were traveling with a three-year-old. Traveling with a three-year-old was a new experience, to say the least. Let me preface by saying that she is a GREAT little traveler. Now let me add the side note that she does not nap. At all. Fourteen hours of travel door-to-door and NO NAP. She was ready to party. Her dad and I were ready to collapse.
We’ve done quite a bit of travel with our daughter since she was born. Nothing too crazy yet (hello, Thailand!) but plenty of cross country flights and long road trips. We’re lucky that she is great at entertaining herself but, as we are practicing screen-free parenting, we can’t rely on the iPad to fill in the gaps. So, here are my tips, hacks, suggestions…whatever you want to call them, to ensure a (fairly) smooth travel-with-toddler experience.
- Pack them. Pack LOTS more than you ever imagine you will need. Hide them away in small packages throughout the carry-on luggage to make sure there is always a “surprise” to unpack. My go-to snacks include apple slices, cheese slices, nuts and raisins, dried fruit, peanut butter sandwiches, carrot sticks and pretzels.
- I always pack my daughter her own little “suitcase” to bring along. I don’t let her open it until we are on the plane (or in the car as the case may be). I go to the dollar store or somewhere similar and fill that bag with all sorts of easy and fun entertainment to keep her occupied. This recent trip’s pack had sticker books, coloring books, Melissa and Doug reusable water coloring, several new books to read (paperback versions are easiest and take up the least amount of space and we are currently loving all things Fancy Nancy), a new doll (Polly Pockets are great for travel!), Mad Mattr (my new obsession!), card games (we had a memory/matching game and Go Fish), and Wax Craft Sticks. Sounds like a lot but trust me, it all fit into her little bag and did not even begin to last the entire trip!
- This may be a controversial one but I stand by it. I give my daughter a tiny bit of sugarless gum and it keeps her occupied for at least 30-40 minutes. She knows it’s a special treat and she knows not to swallow it. Best part is she’s so focused on not swallowing it that she doesn’t talk for a while. Controversial? Maybe. A much-needed break for mom and dad? Definitely.
- Pull-Ups. While we have the potty thing pretty much down, airplane bathrooms are their own beast. I did try to take her in to potty and she freaked out. Not uncommon, I’m sure. In order to alleviate any potty-related stress we gave her the option of a Pull-Up. She was much happier and we side-stepped what could have possibly been an epic meltdown. (…which made the entire plane happier, I’ll bet!)
- If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times. God bless wipes. You don’t have to be a germaphobe to know how nasty airplanes are. I try to wipe down everything (including the kiddo and myself) throughout the trip.
These are my travel-with-toddler tips and this is what works for me right now. I’d LOVE to hear any suggestions YOU might have (our return trip is coming soon…). Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share. Thanks!
Carey Bradshaw, Author (& Nursing Aficionado)
Carey Bradshaw is a working mom just trying to balance it all. She runs Hooter Holster by Carey Bradshaw and Creative Butter. In her (scant) free time, besides perfecting her hands-free pumping bras, she loves yoga, reading, volunteering with All for Animals, and just being outside in the sunshine. Carey lives in Santa Barbara with her husband and business partner, George, their volunteer therapy dog, Buttercup, and their rambunctious and lovable toddler.