Stay Sane On A Plane… With Toddlers

Holiday travel season is nearly upon us. I’m almost breaking into a sweat thinking about it. Nobody wants to be “that parent” on a plane with the crying baby or screaming toddler, but sometimes it happens no matter what you do. Do your very best, but do NOT have a Mommy meltdown if things don’t go according to plan. Remember, these kids smell fear and can feed off our anxiety.  Calm and cool wins the race… or maybe it’s a case of fake it till you make it?! I’m good at that one! Below are my tried and tested tips for plane travel.

TALK IT UP: Talk to your child about the upcoming trip. Don’t be afraid to oversell it a little. Teach them about the wonder of flying. “Wow. We get to go on a really cool plane ride!” This also gives you an opportunity to lay a few ground rules.  Such as: As the plane is going up in the air we have to stay in our seats with the seat belts on. Let them help pack their carry-on and engage them in the process.

THUMBS UP TO SCREEN TIME: This is when I’m all about screen time. Load those mini DVD players with new movies. Get your IPad or tablet loaded full of new games. Don’t forget a sturdy case ! A broken iPad or tablet mid-flight would be a disaster. I prefer full headphones  over earbuds. Much easier for little ones to maneuver and adjust.

CHARGE IT UP: Triple check that you have charged all of your electronics. For longer flights I even recommend a  backup battery charger .

WRAP IT UP: My friend and SuperMomma, Molly Sims  gave me this tip. Take a bunch of little toys and gift wrap them. Hand them out every 20-30 minutes. Travel sized toys and games are ideal. Play-Doh , coloring books and  markers , games, interactive books  and  activities .

Don’t be afraid to oversell it a little...

FEAR AND STRESS FREE ZONE: The Parental units must remain calm and cool at all times. They will smell it on you. Pack an extra copy of your itinerary and any hotel confirmations or phone numbers. What if your phone dies because your kids browsed your iPhoto library for too long on the flight!

WEAR THEM: Having both hands free is truly handy. So don’t forget your baby carrier !

POTTY BREAK: Immediately before you board. As you are speeding down the runway this isn’t the moment to have the little ones begging to use the bathroom. Don’t forget to bring your disposable seat covers , moist wipes and hand sanitizer !

LAYERS ARE A MUST:  As you know plane climate varies wildly. Keep outfits cozy comfy and in layers. Don’t forget a backup outfit, socks, and extra diapers in your carry-on. If you are in diaperland, then I suggest bringing nighttime diapers for the extra absorbency.

SNACK TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME: Bring snacks and pre-order your child’s meal (you will get served first). I’m a little more lax during plane travel and will allow a little junk food if need be, but I stay away from sugary snacks to avoid sugar highs and lows. Not a good look when confined to a small space!

BREAST & BOTTLES ARE FOR BABIES: If your child is breastfed or takes a bottle, make sure to give them a bit during takeoff and landing. Great for soothing or as a distraction as well as helping ears equalize with the change of air pressure. I still make sure my three-year-old is either eating or drinking on the way up or down to help with her ears. But if they are sleeping don’t wake them. Also to you breastfeeding moms, put a few drops of breast milk in the baby’s nose repeatedly throughout the trip. This may help reduce the risk of the baby getting sick. It works like an antibiotic/antiviral.

SLEEPY TIME IS A GOOD TIME: If your child is a good sleeper and can sleep anywhere? (I envy you)… take advantage of it. Book your flight accordingly.

GATE CHECK YOUR STROLLER: Take your wheels all the way to the plane’s door.  No reason to check-in your stroller earlier than necessary. This is especially appreciated when you get off the plane with zonked out kids, carry-on luggage and a weary spouse.

CLEAN ZONE: Wipes to disinfect the area and little hands.

What are some of your plane travel tips? Please share in the comments.  I’ve even heard stories of parents who hand out earplugs and snacks to those seated around them as a pre-apology if things go south. Happy, safe and sane holiday travel wishes to ALL!!

Emma xx

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Gail says:

Hi Emma! Your timing is perfect on this blog…we are headed out tomorrow morning on a plane with our four girls, 11, 8, 5, and 19 months! I have a dental seminar in Orlando so we have decided to have a little family time in Disney. Love the suggestions as I implement all of those when we travel with our girls and they really work! So helpful having even the littlest ones pack their own carry-on with their favorite stuff. I always buy a new coloring book (or book for the older ones) that they don’t see until they get to the airport or on the plane. My husband and I pull out every electronic device to keep our girls entertained and quiet and have gotten complements on how well they behave as a result. Hooray for iPads! We also bring some gum (sugarless, of course!) for our older daughters to help their ears with air pressure changes.

Another suggestion that works great and that we will be using tomorrow is to book seats in the very back of the airplane. If we are in the last row we are close to the bathroom and can even get up to stretch our legs without disturbing anyone. Also, the flight attendants are stationed right behind us in case we need anything. On one particular flight my now eight year old was 2 1/2 and threw a temper tantrum as we were boarding. She screamed as I boarded the plane and walked all the way to the back of the plane. I was surprised to see looks of support versus upset passengers and the flight attendants were awesome. They let me stand in the back of the plane where they sit rocking her until the doors were closed. Needless to say she fell asleep as soon as the wheels left the ground!

Good luck with your travels and have wonderful holidays!

Emma Heming Willis says:

First off, good luck tomorrow on your flight with your 4 girls! But it sounds like you are a serious pro at this point so I’m taking your notes!
A 2.5 year old throwing a tantrum at boarding? Sounds right. I’ve been there and it’s not fun. And thank goodness for those supportive looks as opposed to the TOTAL opposite. I’ve seen those before!
Happy travels xxxx

Kelly says:

Hey Emma,
Great suggestions for traveling with little ones! I’ve gone solo twice with my daughter (6 mo and again at 13 mo) across the country and implemented a lot of the ideas you mentioned. My life savers were the baby carrier and mom/baby snacks (and the boob). I also never board early when they offer it for families with small children… just more time to be cooped up on the tiny plane! I packed my giant purse with a lot of small (quiet) entertainment items (Pipe cleaners, Post-it notes, teethers, scotch tape, etc.) with the snacks and a few toiletries; I left the carry-on for not-as-urgent things like extra diapers and spare clothes for both of us. I also realized that most strangers are wonderful and will help you whenever they can! I’ve always had great compliments on how well behaved my girl, which was a pleasant surprise as she has not been the easiest child! HOWEVER, now that she’s a little over 2… it would be a completely different experience! The best advice I received for traveling with kids is, “for every jerk that gives you a glare, there are 50 moms that have your back!” That got me through a lot! ;o)

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