Let's face it: Toddlers can be challenging, and flying with toddlers is no different. Here are a few suggestions and tips for flying the friendly skies with your duo:
- Talk to your toddlers about what is happening. Communication with your kids should begin before your trip begins and then continue at the airport, during the flight, and after you land. For example, a few days in advance of your trip, start talking to your children about where you are going and how you will get there. Once seated on the plane, remind your kids not to kick the seat in front and to be gentle with the tray. (For more communication tips, check out Communicating with Toddlers When Flying.)
- Plan your flight to coincide with nap time or nighttime sleep. This is especially good advice if you will be traveling for a long period of time.
- Avoid traveling during "rush hour." In other words, skip the Thursday night flight where you might be the only family on a plane full of suits. Business travelers have zero tolerance for your "cute" toddlers.
- Use car seat bags. If you plan to bring car seats, check them in car seat bags like this one from Babies R Us. Airlines allow you to check car seats for free. Put each base and car seat into a bag, then fill the seat and remaining parts of the bag with extra diapers, wipes, bottles, and other necessities. These bags fit a ton of stuff, so take advantage. We all know how much "stuff" is needed for these little babies!
- Build excitement about the trip. Give each of your children a new toy—something small like a $1 matchbox car—and let them know this is their special toy for the flight. Or go to the gift shop at the airport and let each child pick out a snack. They will look forward to eating it later on the plane.
- Let your toddlers take in the experience. Allow them to walk around the airport. Take them to the window to see the airplanes. Walking from window to window can help keep them engaged (and help wear them out a bit!). During boarding, let your children stand and look out the window; this is very exciting for them.
- Plan ahead to cut down on stress. While you are waiting for boarding to begin, get a gate check tag for the stroller and change your toddlers' diapers.
- Minimize ear discomfort. Have your toddlers suck on a bottle, breast, or pacifier when ascending and descending on the plane. This will help alleviate the pressure they may feel in their ears.
- Prepare a few diaper packs for in-flight diapering. Simply take one diaper and a few wipes and place them in a sealable plastic baggie. Grab the baggie when you need to change one of the kids, then place dirty wipes and the dirty diaper in the baggie and throw it away. This way, you don't have to lug your diaper bag to the bathroom with you and you can easily deal with any stinky diapers by sealing the used baggie. Most bathrooms have a changing table and liners. Try to avoid changing diapers in the main cabin; that's gross.
- Have a resourceful diaper bag handy. The bag should include snacks, sippy cups, and in-flight toys and entertainment. (Try the suggestions in How to Keep Toddlers Entertained on a Plane.)
Finally, stay calm. It's inevitable that your toddlers will win at least one staring contest with the strangers seated behind you. Just remember that you will never see these people again!
Melanie is a Malibu mommy who has flown cross-country with her toddler several times.