We recently embarked on our second airplane trip with our three kids who are five- and two-and-a-half-year-old twins. The first time we flew with all three children was last year and it didn’t go so great. Nobody wants to be the parent of the kids crying or misbehaving on a flight. We finally mustered up the confidence to try again and planned a trip to Minneapolis to visit friends and do some skiing. This meant four total flights there and back. I learned several lessons from my first trip and applied those lessons to make sure this trip went as smoothly as possible. It was (mostly) a success, so I have put together some tips and ideas for flying with toddlers:
1. Packing checklist
This is really for your own sanity, but it helps with the entire trip. I made my list and checked it twice to make sure I was as organized as possible and didn’t forget anything. If you forget something it’s not the end of the world and you can always buy it, but it’s just easier to have it when you need it.
2. Talk with your kids about the trip so they know what to expect
We decided to talk our kids through the trip and how everything would go so they would know what to expect. We also started reading a book about airplane manners several weeks before the trip. This helped prepare and excite them about the upcoming trip.
3. Minimum layover times
This can be tricky and hard to plan, but we have found the right amount of layover time for us is 1.5 hours. That gives us plenty of time to make sure we have everything together, use the bathrooms, grab a bite to eat and get to our next gate. Unless there is a kids’ play area in the airport, anything over that is really too long. We had a three-hour layover once and it didn’t go well. The kids were bored to death and we were frazzled.
4. Snack, snacks, more snacks
We all know that kids love their snacks and buying them at the airport can be expensive. We packed plenty of snacks to eat in the airport and on the plane. My kids think as soon as they get somewhere new, they need a snack, so we went through them all. I also brought each of them a water bottle to fill up at the airport once we got through security. On the way home, we stopped at a drugstore to stock up on snacks for our trip home.
5. Plenty of pull-ups, wipes and extra change of clothes
My toddlers are potty training, but for traveling they wore pull-ups because I knew there would be situations where we couldn’t get to a bathroom immediately. I made sure I had plenty of extra pull-ups and wipes, but I forgot the extra change of clothes. Even with my checklist, I forgot this one major thing that is extremely hard to buy in an airport. One of my twins was using the potty and peed on his pants and I forgot the extra clothes. We were able to clean it up and cover up his pants with his shirt, but it was not an ideal situation.
6. Tablets/smartphone with downloaded movies, shows and games
Judge as you may, but airplane travel is not the time in which I’ll choose to limit screentime. Having our phones and tablets charged and loaded with their favorite TV shows, movies and games was a godsend for us. The twins loved the time they got to spend watching shows on our tablets. They don’t usually get to do this, so it was something extra special. It was very helpful through takeoff because they didn’t really realize what was happening and fell asleep about 30 minutes into each flight. As a side note, I did bring some things for them to color and draw, but that lasted five minutes. Toddlers’ attentions spans are very short.
7. Headphones that work
The first time we flew with my now five-year-old we made the rookie mistake of not making sure the headphones worked before the flight.
8. Portable powerbank
Because you do not want to deal with the meltdown that a two-year-old can have in a middle of a flight because their tablet battery died. You will be doing everyone on the flight a favor.
9. Leave blankets, lovies, stuffed animals in luggage
As hard as it might be to convince your child not to carry these items on the plane, it will save you the stress of not having to keep up with them during the trip. Multiply that stress by the number of children you have and it really adds up. On the first trip we had blankets, lovies and toys to try and comfort the kids and occupy them. It was just too much to keep up with. It really helped to simplify what we were carrying on the plane.