I’m going to start this blog by saying : WE’VE HAD OUR SHARE OF BAD FLIGHTS (I mean really – I’ve been that person holding an unconsolable crying baby for 3 hours straight on a red eye flight with surrounding passengers rolling their eyes, handing out passive advise and telling me that I shouldn’t have traveled with him). I wanted to first mention this because sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try, what you bring, how well you entertain, our little humans are their own and we have to have patience and understanding, even when it’s hard. Joshua has been on over 55 flights in his short two years of life and some moments are still challenging for Mathieu and I. Now I’m hoping that we can share the mistakes we’ve made along the way and experiences we’ve gained to better equip you for a stress free flight, helping your children feel safe and loved in new environment.
(If you’re traveling with a newborn, check out my tips from when Joshua was a squishy little baby HERE)
1.Pack Your Carry-On’s Strategically
The best combo we’ve had is packing a backpack for your partner and an easily accessible tote or diaper bag for mama. In the backpack we put the in flight toys, snacks, a blanket/sweater and electronics. This shouldn’t be open until you’re in the air because it’s when you’ll need them most. During your time at the airport let your child run, stretch their legs, see the planes, and look for “children areas” which give them safe room to play. In mama’s bag we pack the necessities for our whole journey- car ride, airport lines, etc. which include : 1 pack of wipes, 3-5 diapers, 1 sippy cup, 1 fruit (apples are mess free), 2 oatmeal pack, 2 disposable spoons, 2 ziplock bags, and our passports and wallets. In detail- the oatmeal is a great source of fiber to level out your child’s blood sugar and is great when you’re seated and still waiting to board your flight. The ziplock bags are for any snacks or leftovers you buy throughout the airport- I focus on getting starches and low sugars. (A favorite is potato wedges- this is an easy finger food that fills his tummy during our flight and although its “junk” its mess free, can always be found, and children love it). You don’t need as much toiletry as you did with your newborn so stay away from packing the things that aren’t necessary! It’s the worst feeling to be in a line and not be able to find what you need so you have to empty your bag or begin to stress out over all that stuff! (So leave those 20 diapers for the check in- you don’t need them on a 4 hour flight)
2. Invest in the Jetkids luggage (if you can)
This is a game changer- and my goodness I wish I would’ve had this since he was born. One of the hardest challenges we’ve faced since he was mobile is keeping him from sitting, laying and crawling in the below foot area of our row. Of course our children want to explore, be curious and play, but in early toddlerhood it’s extremely difficult for them to digest what we’re asking of them, let alone listen and apply our request. This luggage + sleep cot is AMAZING at keeping him in his seat.
You can install it easily and safely after take off- strapping the luggage first and then placing the sleep cot on top of both luggage and seat (you can see a visual here). This gave Joshua SO much room to play, do activities, keep his feet up, lounge and even NAP. (Which has been 100% impossible on a flight with him before we got this). In the luggage there is also storage space where we placed majority of the toys listed below, and a little blanky to keep him warm. (This extra space means your partner doesn’t need the previously mentioned backpack)
The other thing I love about this luggage is the double feature of it being a RIDE ON piece. The actual JetKids luggage was made with wheels, a place to sit, a space for your feet, a holding strap and also a longer strap for mom and dad to pull; so you essentially don’t need your stroller anymore. And because of this feature your toddler will grow with this piece. One of my friends with a 5 year old told me that because the luggage is so lightweight she takes out the sleep cot from inside and uses all the space for toys and activities and he’s able to still sit on it or even pull it himself throughout the airport- that it’s one of his favorite things! I love that idea, and I can imagine it being the same for Joshua one day. He’s barely two and already loves to pull it himself at the airport. I am in LOVE with this product and recommend it to all our family and friends- it has been one of the best investments we’ve made for travel.
3. Play-dough Sets
This is one of the easiest activities to bring on the flight with you. We’ve brought a couple different variations but my favorite is this set. I always grab a couple more colors from the dollar store so that I can keep the “surprises” coming when I see he’s getting restless- and let’s be honest- who’s kid isn’t excited for a whole new color of play-dough. Now the trick with this activity is that you have to be hands on. I noticed early on that if I gave Joshua the play-dough and I would just watch or do something else, it would last 10-15 mins MAX before he was done. If, on the other hand, I would play with him and be present, focusing on making it a learning activity (“Which color is purple? Great! Now let’s make a purple….CIRCLE!”) the activity would last an hour +. And this is a great reminder that it’s not about how many toys you bring but rather how much you can stimulate their mind with each one. These types of activities keep your child focused, happy, and calm during your travel journey. (and always remember- let them win the battles during the flight. You told him not to mix the colors and he does anyways- instead of taking them away or telling him “no,” just let him proceed. A new environment such as a plane is (in my opinion) not the place to discipline. I’ve done it before and immediately regretted it. It is never worth it)
This was recommended to me by a friend and it’s such an inexpensive way to keep your child busy. Window stickers are reusable, easy for a young toddler to use, and will not permanently stick to anything (Because yes, I’ve definitely been the person trying to peel off stuck stickers from the window or tray while being scolded by the flight crew). For this activity I suggest first teaching your toddler how to pick up and place the stickers himself. Let him feel the textures, work on getting it off the paper, see how they drop if he doesn’t push on them. These are not intended for you to open and stick yourself to show him- the activity would last seconds. Guiding them in doing it independently will last 30+ mins and will still be exciting if you pull it out again an hour later. If you’re toddlers are older, like Joshua, you can move on to teaching him to separate the stickers- for example teaching them to sort them in piles by colors, or type of animal, -dependent on which stickers you choose).
Crayola has an amazing collection of “mess free” coloring activities. Everything from a notebook with markers, to paint pods, to crayons on a board. Honestly, it’s pretty amazing. I use these at home too but on the flight I find it extremely important to have a coloring activity that won’t get on clothes, the table, armrests, etc. When we first introduced him to this idea we did the basic notebook and markers, he would draw, Mathieu and I would draw, and it entertained him a whole bunch. As he was getting more into different topics like animals, shapes, letters, I would incorporate learning language and tracing holding his hand. Now as he’s grown, we pick a different mess free set each time we travel. On this last flight we took the paint pods and he adored it! The one thing I would stay away from in this category is the color-in-the-lines books. For example they usually come in Paw Patrol, Dora, Trolls, etc. The reason these work with older kids but not toddlers is because it doesn’t give them enough space to color freely. Until your kids get old enough to color in the lines save the money and get the plane white notepads.
6. Mess-Free Snacks
Okay- this is one I’ve definitely learned from experience. We’ve been the family that’s walked in looking put together and left with stained and soaked clothes because we brought the wrong food onboard. The snacks you choose have to be both mess free and low in sugar. When I see children bouncing off the walls and not able to sit still I always notice endless amount of fruit pure packs, juices, and cookies on their tray table. I have absolutely nothing against these foods- but it is unfair for us adults to expect our children to “behave” and sit nicely if they’re on a sugar high, it’s just physically not possible for most kids. I suggest more high fiber foods- like oatmeal while you wait in the airport, and during the flight keep it stain free. Our favorites are toddler bars low in sugar, popcorn (Joshua’s favorite!), rice crackers, and pure packs that have fiber like quinoa in it (although make sure your babe doesn’t squeeze it all over himself)
7. The Best Apps
If you’re a pro-technology family like we are, this one’s for you. I know it’s uncommon to hear, but I have always been very pro-gadgets and technology. I’m a nerd in that regard and have always imaged having a tech savvy child. You know when mom’s are like “omg that 2 year old knows how to swipe and put in the code in the phone” with a judgment look on her face? I’m the mom that’s like “omg how does she do that? GENIUS. The next Jobs of our generation ladies and gentlemen! applause applause applause” I just honestly believe that if you properly guide the use of technology to your child it can be so incredibly beneficial. Click here to see the detailed blog post I put together for our favorite apps for toddlers.
9. YouTube Channels :
In relation to the apps I mentioned above, I love to make sure that when Joshua watches something he is learning from it. I prefer Youtube Channels over shows on Netflix because I find they’re interactive, have great songs, and all clearly help him learn. You can check out my post dedicated to YouTube Channels for Toddlers here.
8. Picking the Perfect* Seats
The best time to board? The second they call “families.” This way you have enough time and aren’t stressed about causing a hold up behind you. I suggest getting to the gate at least 5 minutes before boarding time so you don’t miss this window- I’ve had such challenging boarding experiences when I went in the regular lines. I also really suggest taking the last row of the plane. We can’t prevent our child from interacting with other passengers around us but we can at least keep it to one direction instead of two. I think it’s great not having to worry about the row behind you. Another perk to this is that you have the toilets near by and the flight attendants are right there when you need something. You’re the last to get off the plane so again- you don’t feel pressure “hurrying” so the people behind you don’t get annoyed.
10. Focus on Being the Best Mom
Focus on being the best mom, not the best seat neighbor. Your job isn’t to make sure others are having a great flight, it’s to make sure your baby is. So forget the “shhhh,” the feeling embarrassed, the idea that you’re annoying other people, and focus on YOU. Focus on being patient, on being understanding, on being kind. On letting your child win all the battles simply because and enjoying this special experience instead of “containing” them. I promise you that nothing else matters except for you and your child, and they will without a doubt mimic your energy. These strangers will not remember if your baby cried or kicked or spit up everywhere, but if you handle it the wrong way both you and your child will resent traveling and that is the last thing you want when this world is so beautiful to visit.
That’s it guys! I hope this (long) post can serve you in a positive way on your next trip! Please let me know if you have any other tips below or how some of these have worked for you!
(None of the products listed below are in anyway sponsored, these are just items that have worked great for us and we love so much that we recommend them to you!)