Earlier this week, a friend reached out and asked for some tips for traveling with little kids (shout out to Laura and baby Piper!). So today, we are sharing some of our tried and true travel tips. While we are by no means experts on this topic, we have flown with our kiddos quite a bit in their short lives.
By the time they were each two, they had all been to West Africa (Ruth was just over 2, Clara was 5 months, and Hudson was less than 4 months). And in addition to those flights, they have each flown several other times: to Hawaii, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. When you live in Alaska, it’s usually fly somewhere… or don’t go.
So here we go!
1. STAY CALM! This is really critical. Babies will cry and poop everywhere, but if you are calm, they will stay calm (or at least calm down easier). Feel like screaming and throwing a fit? Don’t. It doesn’t look good on adults. Get a snack instead and take some deep breaths.
2. Bring a diaper for every hour you are traveling (including time at the airport and layovers), plus a couple extra. Running out of diapers ranks in my top 5 traveling fears, along with missing our flight and Starbucks being closed.
3. That being said, we like to buy diapers at our destination, if possible, unless we know we’ll be bringing a lot of souvenirs home. Then we pack our diapers and swap out the space for souvenirs. (Our bags for the trip below included diapers; I knew we’d pick up some stuff in Oregon and I wanted to make sure we had the space. It was also the girls first time carrying their own backpacks, and we had Velcro straps with us so we could strap them to the stroller when they were riding or tired of carrying them.)
4. About diaper changes on the airplane: have a little clutch or pouch or something with the changing pad, one or two diapers, and wipes. And take just that back to the bathroom with you. It is a TINY space to change a diaper and the less you have to take, the better. We just replenish the diapers in the clutch from our carry-on as needed.
5. We always bring at least one change of clothes for each kid (usually 2), plus an extra shirt for us. You never know when a kid will explode out of a diaper, spit up, etc… and you may get caught in the cross-fire.
6. Planes can be cold, so make sure you have a blanket or fleece sleeper or something cozy for the baby. No matter where we are going, we pack sweatshirts for the plane. They get used as pillows, blankets, forts, back rests, anything!
7. We also bring lots of snacks. Things like puffs, cherrios, and dehydrated fruit are best… bring things you can hand your kiddo one at a time because they take longer to eat, occupy more of their time, and don’t get spilled all over. We also do lots of apple sauce pouches and fruit snacks. And don’t forget a sippy cup or water bottle that won’t spill. We also bring water flavoring. Sometimes airport water tastes gross, but a little squirt of orange flavoring makes it taste like juice and our girls are all over that. Bring snacks for adults, too – ones that can be eaten with one hand but have lots of good protein and carbs in them. We like to travel with Clif Bars, trail mix, or jerky because they’re so easy.
8. Everyone says this, but make sure babies have a pacifier or a bottle to drink (if they aren’t nursing) during take off and landing to help their ears. And if you have terrible ear pain like I do, I HIGHLY recommend buying these. Total game changer. I will never fly without them again. They have a kids size, too, if your kiddos always struggle with ear pain and pressure.
9. A week or so before we travel, we go to the dollar section in Target and buy random little toys for our kids. Seriously, it could be anything they have there: we’ve had success with socks (look! it’s a puppet! you can put things in it! what?! you have two socks on now?! how silly!), those coloring/sticker/marker packs, sunglasses, window clings (which are great for putting on the window, on the tray table, etc.), a small stuffed animal… basically, anything cheap and new that the kids haven’t seen before will do the trick. Cheap is key – if you lose it under the seat, you don’t have to worry about finding it right away. Then, when a distraction is needed, pull out a toy!
10. Use a pacifier clip to attach teethers or toys to your baby’s clothes so that when they (inevitably) throw them, you don’t have to dig around under the seat for them.
11. Before taking Ruth to Hawaii one time, we bought this book and it kept her entertained on the plane. It was also really helpful for preparing her for what we would experience in our travels: Ruth likes to know what is coming up and what to expect.
12. But don’t bother packing stuff for yourself to do on the plane. If you have an e-book on your phone or a podcast to listen to or something small and portable, that’s great, but chances are you will not be able to read a magazine, do a crossword puzzle, etc. Sorry.
13. Carry a backpack (or cross-body purse) so that you can be more hands-free when boarding and getting off the plane.
14. We never fly with a car seat on the plane (we check them with our luggage), but we do like to take a little umbrella stroller (well, now we take a three-seater stroller) through the airport with us. It’s easier to navigate and the less stuff we have to carry, the better. We gate check it and pick it up at our next destination. I like to “baby wear” too, and usually use my ring sling. It’s the easiest to nurse in on the go and is easy to put on and take off. I made my ring sling and love it so so much, but I know there are awesome ones for sale, too.
15. We try to travel as lightly as possible. We have had great success in renting car seats with our rental car or borrowing them from friends or family. We take one big suitcase instead of several small ones. And Allen has these stretchy straps that let us hook everything together for ease of transport. We always try to think through this question: “How will we get all of our stuff and people from the gate to baggage claim to the rental car facility to our hotel and to our room?” We very much believe that if we don’t bring something and really need it, we can buy it. Walmart and Target are everywhere (well, except West Africa).
16. Our kids NEVER EVER EVER sleep on the first flight of the day (even if its the middle of the night). But they always sleep on the second flight (even if its only 45 minutes long). We just try to keep them comfortable. Our girls have laid down on the floor of the plane (ew, I know), on the seats, on our laps, etc.
17. This probably goes without saying, but be outrageously kind to the flight attendants. Make eye contact with the while they do their safety briefing. Say hi and smile excitedly when you board the plane. Say please and thank you. Flight attendants are much more willing to hold a baby while you use the restroom if you’re kind ahead of time. I’ve never had one turn down the chance to hold a baby, actually, when I’ve asked them to.
18. Make it a fun experience. This may be something totally new for your kiddo so remember it. Let them pick a new toy, book, or special snack at the airport. Point out the airplanes you see from the window. Make comments about whatever is new around you. Engage your kids in the process and it’ll go much more smoothly.
19. Remember: the flight will end. Even if it goes disastrously, it will end. Take whatever happens in stride and just go with the flow.
What are your best kid travel tips? We’d love to add to our list!