Travel - especially air travel - seems to be full of hassles these days. Between endless security lines, fees for everything and non-existent leg room it might be enough to make you think air travel with baby would be just too much to deal with. But before you put away your ziploc bag with your air travel approved sized liquids, let us show you just how possible family air travel can be.
Start your day out right by being well rested before you fly. If you’re taking an early morning flight, consider staying in an airport hotel with an shuttle. For more information, you can read our [Ian – add link to Flying with Kids, Why Airport Hotels with shuttles…post].
You might be tempted to keep baby in your travel stroller to make check-in and going through security easier and faster. However, if Baby can walk, even for just a short stretch, we would highly recommend having them walk through the airport. While your toddler might be slow, and it might take a longer time to complete the process, letting them walk will help burn off energy and get them ready for all that sitting on the plane that babies and toddlers find so challenging.
Car seats and strollers can be checked at the gate. This means you take them with you right up to the plane, then leave them by the door at the bottom of the gangway right before you get onboard. Remember to ask for tags for gate checked items when you check in. Strollers and car seats that are gate checked are bound to get dirty – they’re stored in the hold of the plane, after all. So we’d recommend buying a JL Childress Ultimate Car Seat Travel Bag and a UPPAbaby G-Lite and G-Luxe Stroller Travel Bag for your travel stroller. (You can read about why we recommend getting an UPPAbaby G-Lite for your travel stroller).
Once you’ve reached the gate, encourage your baby or toddler to run around as much as possible. (You can always look for a gate that's not busy and have your toddler climb on and off chairs, and run around). By the time we get on a flight, our toddler is literally refusing to walk. Tiring them out before the flight will pay off when your toddler doesn’t complain about sitting for several hours in a row!
Plan to bring a sippy cup on board with you. They help minimize spills, which is important when your child will be sitting in those clothes for the next several hours. Flight attendants will fill sippy cups for you - very exciting! To keep that sippy cup from being knocked off the tray table and rolling to who knows where, bring along a Booginhead SippiGrip. (Read this post for more tips on how to keep from losing things while you travel with kids – Ian create link please). Just in case they do go missing after all, we bring Even though we bring along Take & Toss Sippy Cups. We also bring plenty of Neat Solutions Bibsters. These disposable bibs help cut down on the inevitable mess and are perfect for travel with baby.
Once onboard, you’ll want plenty of different travel toys to keep your kids busy. For ideas on what to bring along, check out our posts on Top Ten Baby Travel Toys, 3 Great Toddler Travel Toys, Top 10 Great Toddler Travel Toys, and Great Travel Toys that will "Grow" with your Child.
Besides toys, (and more toys, and more toys) on the plane we'd recommend bringing a complete change of clothes for your child – just in case. Also, bring anything your baby or toddler needs to sleep (teddy, blanket, etc.)
You can never go wrong bringing Ziploc bags. Small ones are perfect for snacks and stinky diapers you wound up having to change at your seat, along with a million other uses. Gallon sized are perfect for keeping dirty clothes away from clean things. Not to mention that you’ll want sandwich sized Ziplocs at your hotel with you. Sticking stinky diapers in Ziplocs will keep your hotel room from smelling like, well, stinky diapers.
Always bring lots of exciting snacks – it is rare to get fed on a flight these days, and even if you do, that doesn’t mean meal service will happen when your toddler is hungry. Snacks can be a great distraction and time-killer, too. Crunchy N Yummy Organic Variety Freeze Dried Fruits (Mango, Pineapple, Banana, Papaya) and Earth's Best Organic Sesame Street Crunchin' Crackers are exciting snacks that will make your toddler or baby happy without making you cringe. They’re also light weight and keep well.
Air travel is unpredictable, so we recommend bringing enough diapers for 2 days on board, no matter how short your flight might be. We put ours in a gallon sized Ziploc with the air taken out – just kneel on them while you seal the bag. This way they take up very little room. We've had flights delayed till the next day - if you're stuck in some other city or at the airport or worse – on the tarmac - you're not going to want to have to go searching for a store that sells diapers. Not to mention trying a different brand of diapers for the first time on a flight doesn’t sound like fun family travel to us. Knowing you have plenty of diapers also means there’s no need to get some right away when you land, which can be stressful.
Many larger planes have changing tables in their bathrooms. These are really helpful, but quarters are still quite cramped. Trying to squeeze yourself and your baby or toddler into the bathroom at the same time is enough without adding a huge diaper bag to the mix (and given all the extra diapers, clothes, toys and snacks you’re bringing, you’re going to want a fairly large one). So, we bring along the fabulous Skip Hop Pronto Changer Diaper Bag for plane changes (as well as taking to restaurants, etc.). We used to have a cheaper version of this travel sized diaper bag, made by The First Years. We got rid of it. The Skip Hop has a strap large enough to go around your wrist – making it truly hands-free. In our experience, baby+airplane=no hands left over for holding diaper bags. The bag snaps shut. Our old one closed with Velcro. After only a few short months, the Velcro stopped sticking and the bag kept falling open. Ridiculous! Now we use the Skip Hop and have been very happy! The bag is super compact, but large enough to hold 5 baby diapers for our son and 3 toddler diapers for our daughter, plus wipes, lotion and antibacterial wipes for changes on the go. Awesome!
Whether your kids are babies or toddlers, you’ll want a safe place for your child to sleep. We LOVE our Phil & Ted’s Travel Cot so much that we now own two! You can read our UPDATED! Phil & Teds Traveller (Travel Cot) Review to find out more. It’s small enough you could bring it as carry-on luggage when you fly with baby.
For more tips on how to travel with a toddler, check out Travel with a Toddler: How to Drive 1,409kms/876 miles and Fly for 19 Hours in Two Weeks with a Toddler and Still Be Able to Call it a “Vacation” and
Travel High Chairs and Why We Don’t Use One. Getting ready to travel with baby? For more travel tips, check out Top 10 Items to make Travel with Baby Easy and Fun and [the post on travel proofing your baby – Ian please add link].
Travel with baby often? Have some great family travel tips? Please share! We’d love to hear your advice!
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