When taking a plane trip with a toddler a lot of your success comes down to mental prep, yours and theirs. Depending on how sensitive your child is, a plane ride might be stressful or induce anxiety, for others it might be exhilarating and fun. Talking to your child about the trip ahead of time can help alleviate their fears by giving them a chance to ask questions. Let them know where they’re going, who they will see, what they will be doing. You can even watch online videos of real planes. It may seem silly, but for many kids it helps.
Before Benny’s first plane trip to Jamaica at 15 months old we pointed out airplanes in the sky and talked about where the people inside might be going. We taught him the ASL sign for airplane & got a hand-me-down toy plane from my sister in law. It was perfect. By the time we left for our trip Benny was stoked for our plane trip and signed airplane the whole way to the airport. What a success!
For this trip with Benny almost 3 years old, he can be more involved. He’s allowed to pack his own carry on (within reason, I don’t want to get caught for having my kid smuggle something illegal like liquids or battery operated toys). Ben has his Mountain Equipment Co-op napsac out and ready (my mini one from the late 90’s when mini napsacs were all the rage) and has already been talking about what he wants to bring. When I spoke to him last week his ideas included pizza & dip, almond milk, and a large rock. We had to have a little chat about appropriate things to bring on an airplane ;)
Here are my 8 Essential Items to Pack in your Carry On When Travelling with a Toddler
1. Food & Drinks When packing snacks for your toddler it might seem tempting to go with a bunch of sweet treats to keep your little one happy. However I suggest focusing on snacks that are low in refined sugar & high in protein. No one wants to watch or listen to your child have a sugar-induced tantrum on the plane.
For our upcoming trip we’re packing Ben fruit, a whole grain bagel with cream cheese & cucumber, & some homemade hummus with cut veggies (Ben’s fav!). I also always bring some emergency snacks like Annie’s White Cheddar Bunnies as well as a Klean Kanteen with water.
2. Toys & books Plane rides with little ones can be tough, especially busy toddlers who are not used to sitting still for more than 3 minutes. Plan ahead and make sure you pack some entertaining options. Buy a new toy, or take an existing toy out of rotation a few weeks before the trip so your little one will be excited to play it.
In Ben’s bag we’ve packed some of his favourite books, animal finger puppets (DIY from years ago that I promise to post on the blog one day), animal figurines & his car caddy & cars (another sewing DIY I promise to post).
We also have 3 special new items: A viewfinder from Aunt Allison that we kept for a special day, a new sticker book from Nana, and a new Crayola Mess Free Colouring Kit that Mommy & Daddy bought.
Although we don’t allow much screen time at home, we will be bringing our Ipad with some new fun Aps, just in case.
*Warning: do not pack any battery operated toys in your carry on.
3. Gum (or something to chew during takeoff & landing) Flying can be tough on little ones ears so it’s important that we help them. With a baby it’s relatively easy to nurse or give them a bottle, but Benny weaned over a year ago and my boobs are reserved for Baby Lucy, so gum it is!
We don’t usually allow gum, but we’ll be buying some fruity stuff for Ben to try on the plane. Wish us luck! There’s nothing more fun than a hysterical kid on a plane. Except maybe a hysterical kid on a plane with gum stuck in his hair ;)
4. Documentation Don’t forget your toddler’s ID! Make sure that you check which form of documentation is necessary (Birth certificate versus Passport) for your destination.
In addition if you’re travelling abroad with your child alone (without their other parent, in a 2 parent household), the Canadian Government recommends travelling with a consent letter signed by the other parent. Although it is not a requirement it will save you some hassles when passing through checkpoints. See here for full details
5. Comfy Change of Clothes Even a potty-trained toddler can make a mess of themselves or have an accident mid trip, so having a change of clothes is essential. If your flight ever got held up or your luggage was lost you would be very grateful. Think comfy breathable fabrics that aren’t restrictive to your little one’s movements.
6. Diapers & Wipes If your little one isn’t potty trained yet you’ll want to pack lots of diapers and wipes. Even for Ben, who was potty trained almost a year ago wipes are great to have on hand. Sticky fingers, spills, runny noses…you name it a wipe will fix it. Also consider bringing a potty seat if your child is used to having one at home.
7. Lightweight Muslin Blankets Although this item might seem a bit babyish it comes in very handy with a toddler who wants to cuddle up on the plane or make an impromptu fort. I’m packing 1 lightweight blanket for Ben to have for himself, to do as he pleases.
8. Something Comforting Many children have a special comfort item like a blankie, lovie or stuffed animal. I suggest bringing this item on the plane so that your child has some consistency throughout your travel. Ben loves to cuddle with my old childhood teddy bear, but it’s a bit big, so we compromised and brought his monkey George for the trip.
I hope that these tips and tricks for travelling with tots help you and your family as you plan your next vacation.