This is my basic, how-to-get-through-the-flight/road trip-in-one-sane-piece list of advice. Once you land I have different advice which I will post on Thursday.
Take advantage of having those small kids to get yourself to the front of a line up. Our kids have been to over 20 countries and we have yet to meet a place that didn’t prioritize children. Airports often have family line ups for security, many grocery stores will push you to the front of the line if they see you have a baby etc.… milk it. It is everyone’s benefit to keep that baby happy!
That said, even though you get first priority boarding on a plane, wait until the last minute to board if possible. Flights are tough on little kids. Don’t make them sit there longer than necessary if there’s an option to do one last run on the moving sidewalk before strapping them in!
Have options! I have a toddler so the attention span isn’t long yet. I plan for a new thing to come out every 15 minutes. Melissa and Doug make “painting” books that are just water in a little pen, story books with flaps or pop ups are great, a little car (if the doors open all the better to keep his hands busy), play dough etc. As soon as things get antsy, I’m bustin’ out the next item.
Snacks. I failed majorly and brought enough snacks from home for the flight thinking we’d just buy some when we landed and didn’t anticipate the reaction of not having the comforts of home for the first few days. It’s a lot for a kid to be in a new country with different smells, tastes, languages, faces and then to be tired with jet lag on top. Next time: bring more Goldfish crackers! (Or whatever your little one likes best.)
- Side note. I always order the fruit platter on the plane for my little guy — it’s fresh fruit and a yogurt. Often times the “under two” meal is baby food which he’s too big for, and then the children’s meal is meat oriented and we’re vegetarian. Since I’m bringing tons of snacks (nuts, melba toast with cream cheese, fruit and veg puree pouches etc.) it’s nice to have some fresh fruit mid flight. (Snack cupboard below!)
Screen time. We don’t do screen time at home. In fact, our toddler didn’t know we had a television for over two years of his life. That said, on a flight I want to zone out and watch something to pass the time, so I understand if he wants that too — just something to chill out to.
If they’re good sleepers, plan travel during their nap or bed time if possible. If like my son, it’s hard for them to sleep in new settings, travelling during his best hours is a better alternative so that he can enjoy the activities and snacks on the plane, and then get a good night’s rest or nap when we land. For road trips, we wake up, and one of us plays with him outside (always outside when possible for fresh air), and the other packs up the house and car, so that we can get him into the car for his snack time, about 10 am. By that point he has some energy out, and he’s ready to chill for a bit.
On a road trip, we find it best to stay three nights or more where possible with long driving days. It’s a lot of work to unpack into a new setting with kids so to pack right back up the next day isn’t worth it to me. Plus, the travel day doesn’t feel as bad if you know you can relax and explore for two full days before setting off again. If you have more time that’s all the better!
I’m annoyingly frugal but when it comes to travelling with kids, I am happy to spend a bit more to make things easier on us. Examples are buying an extra phone/iPad charger to keep in the car (and one to take in to the room), renting a car at the terminal instead of off grounds, and always paying the extra $100 per person to be in the front row of economy where there is guaranteed more leg room. Henry often sits on the ground in front of our seats on a blanket playing with toys, and it’s the spot that gets you a bassinet which we’ve taken advantage of with both boys, so that as infants they can stretch out and kick their legs.
Books on tape are like magic for our son. We downloaded a bunch of books he knows by heart from home (Dr. Seuss, Robert Munsch, Fancy Nancy etc.) read by famous actors or animated story tellers and he gets totally sucked in to hearing a story that he knows, enhanced with music and sound effects.
If you are a screen time kinda person, download stuff onto your computer or iPad prior to leaving. Is it just me or do the airplane apps NEVER WORK, and you don’t want to be somewhere with dodgy wifi and not have an option for them.
These work well for for us, and I hope it helps you out too.