When traveling with a toddler you need to be prepared for anything and everything. This summer I have traveled by plane and car with my young toddler Bastian. Here are some tips that I have found in my experiences.
IN A CAR:
1. Bring new toys
Go to the dollar store or dollar aisle and pick up knick-knacks that will entertain your child. I bought small things like stickers, a slinky, light up balls and small books. Put the goodies in a small bag and make sure they are easily accessible. Don't give them to your child all at once, but instead space them out over the course of the trip.
2. Sit in back with them
I decided to sit in the back seat for the majority of the trip. The first leg of the trip, I sat up front because we left right around nap time. When you sit in the back seat, you can entertain your child and make them feel safe. I played sock puppet with Bastian for a good 45 mins. He loved it.
3. Bring snacks
I made sure I brought snacks that weren't messy but were somewhat healthy and not full of sugar. Snacks like freeze-dried strawberries, goldfish, crackers, squeeze pouches, peanut butter sandwich are all good options. I made sure I had his sippy cup filled with water to keep him hydrated.
4. The fewer the stops the better
Some people may not agree with this, but what I found was the more we stopped, the harder it became to put Bastian back into his car seat. It also adds time to your overall trip. For our 6 hour drive, we stopped once. If you are potty training, maybe just stick to the diaper for the drive.
5. Let them watch the boob tube
I always struggle with how much I should let Bastian watch TV or videos, but for a road trip, I could have cared less. If it entertained him for 20 mins… that's 20 minutes less of whining or crying right?! We brought our iPad, and it came in handy many times when I felt a melt down coming on. Load it with their favorite movies, games or interactive books.
ON A PLANE:
1. Check your bag
The less you have to lug around the better. With a wiggly toddler in tow, having extra bags and purses is not ideal. I brought Bastian's diaper bag, and my husband Brian had a small backpack.
2. Wear or push your child
Even if your child can walk, and you think there isn't far to walk… don't let them walk. I put Bastian in Ergo carrier the second we got out of the car and didn't let him out (besides through the metal detector) until we got to our gate. Then we let him run around until it was time to board the plane, and I put him back in the carrier. If I were just holding him or letting him walk on his own, he would have wanted down or wanted to walk around. If you bring a stroller, the airlines will allow you to gate check your stroller and then have it right there when you de-board the plane.
3. Protect those ears
I was worried about Bastian's ears popping and him becoming uncomfortable on the plane ride, so I made sure I was loaded with chewy snacks and lots of liquids. The airport won't let you bring liquids through gate check, but I was able to bring a smoothie I purchased after going through security and an empty sippy cup. On take off and during our descent, I offered him all of these. The best thing we brought that not only helped his ears from popping but also entertained him for a good 15 mins, was suckers. Seriously, they are sticky and kind of messy, but they were a big hit.
4. Bring entertainment
Again, load up your iPad or phone with games, movies or even home videos for your toddler to watch. I didn't bring any toys with us on the plane because I anticipated his throwing them at people sitting in front of us or dropping them and me having to contort my body to try to reach them. We were lucky to have a short flight (1.5 hours), so between snacks, videos and looking out the window, we were able to keep him entertained.
5. Don't panic
I will admit, I was so nervous about having that child who screamed the entire flight. I kept my cool though, which not only kept Bastian calm, but also my husband who was maybe even more nervous. Even if your child does decide to scream, cry or whine, it will end. Other parents on the flight have all been there, and if someone has an issue with it, just know you will never see them again. Your toddler will read your emotions, and the calmer you can be, the more comfortable they will be with the situation. I brought Bastian's blanket which helped him cozy up with his dad and me. Your child may surprise you with how well they can conduct themselves in public :).
Side Notes: Most airlines don't charge you to check a carseat or a stroller. If you do chose to check these items, you can get covers made especially for that model of stroller or carseat. The manufacturers will guarantee their safety while in these covers and repair or replace anything broken while in their correct covers.
You will need to have a copy of your child's birth certificate if that child is under 2 years old, so that they will be considered a lap child.