Travel tips for parents and their toddlers
Published Friday, March 4, 2016 6:00AM EST
Last Updated Friday, March 4, 2016 9:38AM EST
Travel can be stressful for everyone but for parents with toddlers or young children, the journey is anything but relaxing. With March break looming, here are some family travel tips to ensure smooth sailing or flying.
**I don't have children, so in addition to a few tricks I have learned over the years travelling with various nieces and nephews, I have relied on some sage advice from travelling moms like Debbie Dubrow and Heather Greenwood-Davis.
Getting through all of the airport lines whether check-in, security or customs can be a nightmare at the best of times. With babies don't check your stroller unless you plan to carry your child in a sling. Take advantage of the fact that most airlines will allow you to push your stroller all the way to the gate where you can then check it and have it waiting for you outside the plane door when you deplane. Make sure that your stroller has a tag with your name, address and phone number on it like any piece of luggage.
When it comes to security make sure to have everything organized in advance. Having lots of loose items, stuff hanging off the stroller and in the basket underneath will make the security line up take forever so gather everything together.
Put everything on the security belt and remove everyone's shoes before you remove your child from the stroller, then wait until you can get your child back in the stroller before gathering up your other items. Some children find the stress of security overwhelming, so explain to your child exactly what will happen. It can be scary for them to put their shoes/toys on the conveyor belt and say goodbye to them. If there is a family lane, use it! At many airports the family lane has extra agents to help families gather their belongings and often there is a little bit of extra space where children can put on shoes.
On the plane, take off is tricky for toddlers and babies as they can't clear their ears on their own. Try to keep them eating, drinking or sucking during takeoff and landing whether that's by feeding them finger foods, nursing them or giving them a bottle or pacifier. You're going to need to feed, entertain and change the baby in that tiny airplane washroom so create an easy and ready to go "changing pack".
Pack several large Ziploc bags with only the things you need for one change (one diaper, a disposable mat…) in each. Keep one of those along with a small makeup bag with wipes ointment, and a distraction toy in the seat pocket in front of you. It'll make it easy to grab and go quick change.
Bring extras of everything. It is guaranteed that the day you only pack two diapers for the flight will be the day your child proves to you that they can do better. Bring an extra of the things, like pacifiers, bottle nipples or baby biscuits too. Don't assume you will find them readily available in the airport and certainly not in the air. Some potty-training gurus may disagree, but if your toddler is still having lots of little accidents then consider putting them back into pull-ups on the plane.
Don't rely on the plane's in-seat entertainment and headphones, bring your own.
Sometimes the entertainment system doesn't work and besides you may not want your toddler watching what they are offering. And as far as listening devices, even if they do hand out ear-buds on the plane they are often the wrong fit for little ears. Ensure the device you do bring has either no volume or good volume control so you don't annoy everyone around you.
Games and toys with small pieces or that will require your interaction to be enjoyed should be avoided. Also consider planning your flight in 15-minute slots of activity. For a three-hour journey plan ten activities to keep them entertained. Likely the first and last 15 minutes they will be caught up in the process of take-off and landing. For the rest of the time a favourite story book, drawing and snacks are all good activities to keep them entertained. Make use of technology as there are some great toddler apps out there. A good one is Bubbles, where you simply have to pop bubbles with your finger… an endlessly fascinating pastime for toddlers.
You know your toddler. And you know best how to manage their moods, and what kinds of things can set them off. Hunger and tiredness are obvious ones, and on travel days both are difficult to avoid. Be prepared with lots of snacks and comfort items.
If you're planning on ditching the pacifier or bottle soon, maybe do so after your trip. And if it's the first time you're flying with your child and you have no idea how they're going to react, consider bringing a bag of disposable earplugs and offering them to passengers around you.
I know of someone who did this and everyone around them was so appreciative. No one took them up on their offer but they seemed glad that the parents at least showed they were being considerate of other passengers.