Oh, all the nervousness and stress that led up to this kid’s first flight could have powered a small town. Luckily my constant hours of research is your gain. Here are some tips that helped our to-and-fro flight less stressed.
Be One with the Stress
This is the first and probably the most important thing you must remember. Just go with it. They are going to be cranky and have meltdowns. You can minimize it by going in with those expectations. We don’t even like to go through TSA lines and wait for take-off so its unrealistic to except a child learning how to handle emotions to be extremely well-behaved. Airport staff are used to this. I felt really bad with my son started to have a meltdown at the TSA line and they could see it on my face. They came over with stickers and even travel coloring books. Most airports will have something for you because you are not the first parent to ever take a child onto a plane! Go into this with an open mind and accept that it could happen but it can be minimized.
Bring Items of Familiarity
Think security blanket and best friend. I took along his toddler pillow, blanket, and toy car. Don’t even wash it. The scent and familiarity of it all will comfort and help your child sleep better on the plane and in the hotel. We also brought along his noise machine for night time sleep. It helped soothe him and continue to be part of his routine.
New Snacks and Straw Sippy Cup
Snacks will help occupy their time but also help with the cabin pressure as well. Chewing will help pop their ears. Leave all the boring snacks at home. This is a vacation and they should have fun as well. We usually do the white cheddar Pirate’s Booty snacks and if your child loooooves the usual snacks, then sure, take them. For our trip, I let him eat baked Cheetos. He never gets them, he loves the crunch, and it took his mind off whatever ailed him at the time. We also let him have some of the tiny mini M&Ms. It was chocolate portion control but we also turned it into a color sorting game. If your child is old enough for an apple, pack a couple of apples or oranges. These are plane friendly travel snacks that help keep them busy.
The air is extremely dry so keep those little kiddos hydrated. Sipping through a straw while ascending and descending will also help with the pressure change discomfort. We used the Thinkbaby Stainless Steel Thinkster Bottle.
Fly Right before Nap Time
This one is kind of tricky because all kids are different. I have a friend that flies early because her children are better travelers then. I prefer to book flights around 1230pm because my son usually naps at 115-130pm. By the time we board the plane and get situated, he isn’t tired to the point of no return but by the time we are up in the air, the white noise and soft rumbling puts him to sleep.
Use Night-Time Diapers
My son absolutely HATES to change his diaper in a public restroom. I think it’s the coldness or the suspension of the changing area. We used night-time diapers because who knows how long it will take to do everything. A 3-4 hr flight, plus security lines, checkin luggage time, etc. If they are sleeping on the plane, it also helps that the extra dryness won’t wake them up.
Maps and Hotel Options
I printed a map with all the markers of toddler friendly places we were visiting, our hotel location, and cool parks around town. Definitely the parks! I noticed that even though we were constantly doing something on our trip, our son needed to have a moment to be him. Let them roam, laugh, and scream! We marked all the parks so when we noticed he needed a moment to be outside, we stopped at the closest park for 20 minutes before we headed to our next spot.
We always chose hotels that 1. have a pak-n-play and 2. free breakfast. Our son will not sleep with us because he’s used to being in his own crib, he doesn’t even know how to co-sleep even though we have tried to when we travel. Keep everything as close to normal as possible. I have even laid him down in the pak-n-play then wait in the restroom so it gives him the illusion that I walked out of the room just like at home.
The free breakfast is cost efficient but if you’re in a new area you can put something in everyone’s belly for happy traveling before going to actual breakfast or your first stop of the day. We also look for hotels with mini fridges for hummus and crackers, milk, etc. We haven’t come across any hotels that do not have it but we always double-check (just in case that ONE doesn’t).
Tablets and Battery Packs
Keep in mind that you can’t stream on the plane and wi-fi is slow in the airport. We use YouTube premium for $14.99/month. We download all videos he likes to watch on my phone and the iPad. You can easily access the files in the app but best part is, you can keep it going for landing and take off on airplane mode! This is not a time to be the NO SCREEN-TIME parent. Adjust and survive! Not streaming is great for battery life but we also brought a power pack as well. Amazon has them for cheap and if you forget yours, grab one at the store in the airport but remember to charge it before getting on the plane.
In the end, try to have fun. I know better said than done, but you deserve it too. You paid for this trip and you also deserve the vacation. Give the kid some slack, don’t expect them to be perfect but do anticipate irritability. If you know they like snacks, bring LOTS. If you know they like to watch videos of birds, download them ahead of time. Save Travels!