Flying with toddlers can be pretty stressful. I have learned a lot of lessons over the last few years of flying with our 2 kiddos. My husband’s family lives in California so we try to make at least a yearly trip to visit them. If we were to drive, it would take close to 20 hours to make the trip. Even though the airport is stressful, it is still worth it due to the amount of time we can save. Here are some helpful tips I have come up with along the way to help reduce stress when flying with toddlers.
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1. Family Backpacks
Pack your carry-on items in Backpacks instead of suitcases or bags.
Pack everything else in Suitcases. This made our last trip so smooth! Another time that I flew we had a “food bag” and then a “toy bag” and then the kids had their backpacks and I had my purse and there was another backpack. I thought it would be more organized that way but I was wrong. It was a bit chaotic making sure we got all of our bags off of the airplane. When each person just has one bag(plus I had my purse) it is very easy to keep track of everything. “Does everyone have their backpack? Good!” I love the idea of using backpacks, even for parents, because it allows your hands to be free. Having your hands free is very important in reducing stress!
What should you pack in them?
Both of my kids are still in diapers so I filled both backpacks with diapers. We were going on a 10-day trip, so I tried to bring enough to last us at least half of that. I also packed a full pack of wipes in one of the backpacks plus the pack I had in my purse. You can never have too many wipes!
The kid’s backpacks were for the toys, of course right? I also included a few snacks in them too. I had a variety of snacks in each backpack. I feel like snacks are the ultimate distraction tool. See my snack recommendations below. I also included a sweater and extra pair of clothes for each kid.
2. Check your Suitcases!
The first time that we flew with both kids I was super stoked that we could each bring a carry on bag and avoid the charge for checking bags. That was until we seemed to have a hundred bags to try to carry between me and my husband, and two kids to tote around. I felt pretty dumb. We ended up checking the bags anyways. The last couple of times I’ve flown, I got smart and bought a slightly larger suitcase so that we only bring 2 suitcases with us. One for me and the kids, the other for my husband. We found a good flight through Southwest this time so our check bags are free also. Score!
3. Arrive Early!
Even if you have a small airport it is helpful to arrive at least 2 hours early. This can mean you end up with extra time, but this is better than being rushed. On one of our flights we got too relaxed about arriving early and arrived to the gate after boarding. I was super stressed! This last time we were super early. We had time to eat before the flight. The only stress we had was how to keep the kids busy, which wasn’t too bad.
4. Do you need a stroller or baby carrier?
This may vary depending on the age of your kids and your preference on what would work best for them. I have tried a number of different options so I will share each of them below.
single stroller for each kid
The first time we flew with both kids they were just over 1 and 4. My daughter(the 4-year-old) still had trouble walking a long distance and still loved to ride in strollers. And with the amount of bags we had, there was no way we could carry her. So, I decided to put each kid in an umbrella stroller since my husband would be with me. We could hang some bags on the strollers to help carry them, which was helpful.
Another option would have been to put my son in a strap-on baby carrier. I loved using a baby carrier when I flew alone with my daughter when she was a baby. Unfortunately my son never really liked the baby carriers though. I also considered buying a suitcase that had a built-in seat for kiddos. Or attaching their car seats to the suitcases. We ultimately decided this was more trouble than it was worth though.
The next time that we flew, almost a year later, I decided to invest in a double stroller. I spent a lot of time picking the perfect stroller. I settled on an older model of the sit and stand strollers that I got a great deal on. I was sure it would be perfect. But boy was I wrong. The stroller turned out to not steer properly with 2 kids on board and it was more of a pain than it was worth. Things may have been better if I could have found a less bulky stroller, but this was difficult on a budget.
Forgoing a stroller all together
Based on these two bad experiences with strollers in the airport I decided to forgo the stroller all together this last time that we flew. The kids are now 2 and 5 with birthdays coming up soon. We considered just using a stroller for my son(the 2-year-old) since he is still pretty slow and gets tired. But since we only had back-packs on we knew we could pick him up sometimes if we needed to. We allowed ourselves plenty of time to so going slow wasn’t a big deal.
5. Thoughts on bringing car seats on the airplane
Ok, this is quite the difficult topic. When my daughter was 4 and my son 1 we took my daughters car seat on the airplane with us. I did a lot of research ahead of time that made it seem like this was absolutely necessary. It definitely was helpful once we got on the airplane. But getting it and both kids and all of our bags on board was another story.
The last 2 times that we flew we did not bring our daughters car seat on board. She still did fine. Now if you are going on a long flight, I would say for sure bring the car seat. Or if you know your kid won’t stay in the seat without it. (I saw this happen with a kid on one of our flights). But if it’s a short flight I don’t think it’s worth it. Boarding the airplane is super stressful already in my opinion and trying to haul a car seat on (or 2) just isn’t practical. They do make handy bags that you could use to carry your car seats if you need them. Or straps that make it easier to hook them to your luggage.
6. Best toys for airplane
- Sticker books-I especially love the reusable sticker boards! Both kids love these and they are very reasonably priced.
- Felt books- I made my own a couple of months ago. I’m not super crafty but my kids love these. Read the blog post here: DIY felt quiet books
- Doodle pads- I’m not sure what it is about these, but my kids LOVE them. They are a must-have for airplane and car rides. I love these for church as well. Non-messy coloring/drawing is the best!
- Matchbox cars- My son is obsessed with cars. He loves to drive his little cars around on whatever fun surface he can find. Perfect for airplane or car trips.
7. Best snacks for airplane
Snacks are a must have for airplane rides. A lot of snacks can be messy though, which can be an annoyance on airplanes. Here are a few ideas that aren’t usually too messy.
- Squeezable fruits/veggies- I love these chia squeeze pouches! They have fruits and veggies and chia seeds that are high in protein!
- Fruit snacks- I found a healthy option for fruit snacks! We are trying to stay away from snacks with lots of sugar so these Veggie Go’s are a great option!
- Granola/protein bars- I had a hard time finding anything on Amazon to recommend here. I found some at the grocery store called “snapstick” from Powercrunch that have high protein and low sugar. They were a little messy, but the kids loved them! Whatever your favorite protein/granola bar is, bring it along!
I am by no means a travel expert. I am just a mom who has traveled a number of times with 2 rambunctious toddlers. I have had a lot of trial and error that I wanted to share with you. Flying and traveling with toddlers can be stressful. But there are definitely ways to reduce this stress! Hope these tips were helpful. What are some things that you do to reduce stress when traveling with your kids?
Here are a few other resources I found that could be helpful for you, especially if you are embarking on a long trip(which I have never done). Happy travels!
10 tips for flying with toddlers from Skyscanner.net
13 tips to help parents avoid stress when flying with a toddler from millionmilesecrets.com