My husband, Scott, and I love to travel. A few months ago, we flew our entire family down to Mexico for spring break. Yes, all three of my children! I know—call us crazy, but we survived. Is it always easy? No. Traveling with kids is never easy. However, it doesn’t have to be a complete nightmare either. Trust me—I know from experience.
The key to traveling with little ones is planning ahead. Prep is everything. Believe me. As long as you are well equipped with the accessories, toys, games, snacks, extra clothes, and diapers you need, it doesn’t have to be stressful (or at least it will be less so). Keen to know how I do it? Here are eight tips I swear by when traveling with my babies to make sure everything runs as smoothly as it possibly can.
Book Your Flights Around Naptime
Kids always respond better to structure around naptime and mealtimes. Since travel days are unpredictable, it can be hard to keep this routine. To avoid meltdowns, book your flight as close to their nap as possible. I know it sounds easier said than done, but trust me on this one. The sound of the engine tends to lull them off to sleep faster, and they’ll be quiet on the flight.
If you have multiple kids with different schedules like I do, use your best judgment. If I need to, I’ll skip a naptime earlier in the day for my 2-year-old, Scarlett. I know it seems like a catch-22, but I’d rather her be cranky at home than on the plane.
Invest in a Good Backpack
Traveling with kids comes with its baggage… lots and lots of baggage. Suitcases, strollers, car seats, diaper bags, you name it. It’s exhausting, and there never seem to be enough arms to haul it all around. That’s why all moms need a backpack. Two hands are better than one. Be sure to choose one that’s durable to withstand traveling and big enough that it can also double as a diaper bag, snack bag, or items you know you’ll need in flight. Less baggage, fewer problems. This Mansur Gavriel is my go-to!
Buy a Suitcase Your Little Ones Can Manage
Speaking of less baggage, don’t be afraid to let your kids handle their own suitcase if you think they are ready. I know this sounds pretty terrifying, but as long as it’s small enough and easy to roll, they should be fine. When we travel, Brooks is obsessed with carrying his own suitcase. He loves feeling responsible and in charge. The bonus is that it will lighten your load too. Everybody wins. For options, I would check out the brand Skip Hop. It carries tons of cute suitcases made especially for kids.
Always Prepare for a 24-Hour Period
Okay, so I learned this lesson the hard way. When Scarlett was 5 months old, we flew from NYC to L.A., which is only supposed to be a five-hour flight. I wanted to travel light because I had the baby with me, so I only prepared for the travel time from gate to gate plus the ride home. Big mistake! Our flight ended up being delayed for hours. At that time, I had stopped breastfeeding because my milk had dried up, so I was substituting with formula. Halfway through the flight, somewhere over Kansas, I realized I didn’t have enough for her to feed when we landed.
My husband ended up meeting us at the terminal with milk in hand, but it was still a terrifying experience. From that point on, I’ve always prepared for at least a 24-hour time period. I’m talking two outfits for each child, extra underwear, blankets, tons of snacks, formula, diapers, anything you can think of. I’m all about packing light, but when it comes to the essentials, you must over-prepare.
Don't Forget the Lollipops
Add these to the packing list stat. Ear pain from air pressure on the plane is a lot more painful for little ones. It’s heartbreaking. A lollipop or chewing on something gummy like a fruit snack really helps my kids. As long as I give them one of those options, we rarely have any ear pain. Just make sure it’s as sugar-free as possible. No one wants a sugar-crash meltdown in a confined space. If you’re flying with your baby, try to plan your feedings around takeoff. The swallowing will open up their ears and relieve the pressure.
Get Creative or Keep Them Occupied
The key to getting through a long flight is to keep them busy at all costs. I normally pack coloring books, stickers, and even pipe cleaners. Scarlett loves making shapes and bracelets with them. I know it sounds weird, but she loves it. A friend of mine even wraps up little toys from their house, and her kids will spend a good portion of the flight opening them. Sure, it’s essentially tricking your kids, but it works.
And if all else fails, pack the iPad and don’t feel guilty about it. I know this sounds bad, but my screentime rules while traveling are super relaxed. As long as it keeps them quiet, I’m all for it. Just make sure to fully charge it beforehand.
Pack Disposable Changing Pads
Airports are pretty disgusting, but airplane bathrooms are even worse. If you’ve ever tried to change a dirty diaper on an airplane, you know what I’m talking about. It’s an absolute nightmare. To keep everything clean and contained, I use those disposable dog-training pads to place under the baby while changing. I also use them to wrap up the dirty diaper to throw away. It will never be an enjoyable experience (ugh!), but it has to be done. This trick alone makes airplane diaper duty a lot easier.
Drop All Expectations and Breathe
The second you drop the expectation that everything will go according to plan, the easier your travel day will be. If things get chaotic, just breathe! It’s not the time or place to feel any mom guilt. I promise you that no one is going to think you’re a horrible parent if your kid has a meltdown on the plane. It happens, and we’ve all been there.
Good luck, mommas! You’ve got this.