Wow it has been a long time!
For those who may not know, I started working full time, found out I was pregnant during the summer, and then we decided to move next month so I have been quite the busy bee and kinda let this fall off the rails. If your new to my page, my name is Sharon and I’m a kids and family photographer in Hawaii but about to relocate to Pensacola, Florida! We have a small but growing little family and on this blog you will get to see not only my photography but also a lot about my kiddo (soon to be kiddos!) and all the adventures we go on.
I just got back from a trip to NYC with my daughter so she could be a flower girl in my friends wedding and I had a few messages come my way asking me for my tips on flying with kiddos. So I quickly wanted to hammer this out. I’ll admit, we didn’t start flying with Riley until she was almost two so some of this might not work for those tiny littles, BUT some of it still can!
PREPARE THEM FOR TRAVEL
I usually start bringing up travel plans 1-2 weeks before it happens. I will engage them at home with making a countdown so they can make an X on the calendar or even take off a ring an art activity every day we get closer to the day.
I start talking about that it does take a long time to fly and that we must sit and stay buckled. That listening ears need to be on during certain times. That I will have some surprise activities for them to get excited for on the plane. I let her know where we are going, what is the plan for every day, and what to expect. I set expectations in place for certain things so that she can be on the same page as us even if it is in toddler form. Such as, we first need to check in to get our tickets, then we will give them our bags, then listening ears need to be on while we go through security. Once all that is done we will get something to eat and play a game at our gate while we wait for the plane. She found it hilarious that the plane has a belly and eats our bags and even us and spits us out at our destination haha.
The goal is to start preparing them for what is to come. When I figured out that helping kids be prepared for what is in their future really helped cut down on the tantrums, it seriously changed my life. We use a lot of timers in our style of parenting, there are still some tears, but it is a lot less than we used to now that she can know that things are changing and what they are changing to when the timer goes off.
BRING ALL THE SNACKS!!
Pack those favorite snacks and those snacks that are for desperation when the kids just don’t want to do sitting anymore. I usually bring a few kinds of cereals, yogurt melts, rice krispie bars, granola bars, gummies, you know what your kids like.
Then for when things get hard, I whip out the cookies and lollipops. Lollipops are especially my favorite because it takes them a good 15-20 mines to lick (we have a rule that she cannot bite the lollipop until its small just to make them last longer haha).
Stolen from LadBaby, and then modified when I saw a friend do something similar, I recently invested in a small container that can be used for tools or crafting materials and I have seriously fallen in love. LadBaby had bought a large container from the hardware store and used it to pack all the snacks instead of a fancy lunch box. My friend had bought something similar for her flights when she moved and said while she loved the idea, it was a bit bulky to carry around, especially with the more kids you have. So I found a smaller gently used container at a Goodwill and cleaned it up. It was just the perfect size to hold what we needed as well as fit in her toddler backpack.
**Check with your airport though on policies for food. In Hawaii, you need to take out all your food for checking during TSA. So extra food I usually leave in my check in baggage and I only bring that I need for the flight in a bag. Having this container made it so nice to put on the TSA line and slip it right back into my bag after. Most other airports don’t really care, but it is worth checking so you can save a few minutes during stressful TSA checks.
GET THE WIGGLES OUT!
I cannot express how much this is needed. It is so hard for kids to stay seated and quiet on a plane. So before the flight while we wait at the gate, it is getting out the wiggles time. We find space where she does have space to run around but not really in the way of people. We play head, shoulders, knees and toes. Simon says. I tell her things she needs to find for me and run around to point at them. Such as find me a chair, where is a suitcase, can you find a bathroom sign. Jump up and down as many times as you can. Reach up to the sky! Now can you touch your toes? Spin in a circle. Skip, Do a dance. All the things to just get them up and moving. Put your kiddo on your legs and bounce them and tell them to pretend they’re riding a horse.
I allow her to be a little more loud during this time too. While it may not make people super pleased, I know it helps for the flight. Most people find it super cute though and I continue to voice she needs to get all the wiggles out before she has to sit and be quiet on the plane so hopefully other passengers can hear, this is just for now and not be the behavior I allow on the plane.
This can be pretty exhausting but so far it has really paid off once we’re in the plane. Bonus points if you can find another kid that they can play with at the gate. I’m sure the other parent will be thankful for getting the energy out as well.
PREPARE ENTERTAINMENT: IPADS AND BUSY BOXES
Any flight with a kiddo is long and stressful, but I must say, I have learned to become extra prepared cause flights from Hawaii are so long. Knowing I have a minimum of at least 5-6 hours at least to California, then even longer if we are flying somewhere else. So entertainment is a MUST.
I always make my husband prepare her iPad with some of her current favorite shows or movies that will not require WiFi since flights over oceans usually don’t get that luxury. I also will download a few new games that she can be surprised with and figure out. I cannot stress enough how much NEW things will save your butt on flights or even car rides. Riley loves Toca Boca games and I like them cause there are soooo many different ones as well as things to do in every game. I also prefer games that help them learn something as it works their brains and that can help to get them tired. Don’t forget to get some headphones for them. For littles they have these cute headband type of headphones that were real useful when she was younger. This time we got her some big kid noise canceling ones that she really enjoyed.
Next is the busy box. I have this metal box (I also sell them on Etsy), that I have personalized for Riley. She has her name on it and inside has tons of fun and even space to add new things. I know some people make them out of just file organizers or even pencil boxes but I love this metal lunch box I invested in. It can be a little bulky to travel with but for all the things it holds and provides, it is well worth it.
Look up plane activities before you leave to get a few ideas of things to put inside for your age of kiddo. For me, I made a lot of felt games. I made a game where she can make a pizza out of felt, make a sandwich, decorate a cupcake, and mix and match popsicles. Riley loves making food so I knew these would be things she would like and keep busy with. Felt is nice cause they tend to stick together and if I lose something on the plane, it is super cheap to remake to replace for next time. I also made a fishing game out of felt, magnets, and popsicle sticks. This is an absolute favorite and I highly recommend this one for your box.
I also included a sketch book, some crayons and color pencils, stamps, stickers and post it notes. When she was younger she would just peel the post it notes and stick them on us or on the tray table. Stickers usually ended up all over us and then I’d make her put them into her note book. I see some people bring stuff like window clings. Just be a little ready that they will make a mess and there will be some clean up. A small bag for trash is recommended. I also have brought a container of playdoh as well.
This time around I also brought a few cars, even some card games to teach her. As your kids get older you can add different things that are more age appropriate. Just try to find things that are new and use the brain a bit. Riley also loves stringing shapes and beads together so we have a couple of those type of things as well. I also bought a set of Tangrams that she adored this trip.
Use every activity til it’s exhausted. Just cause they say I’m done, always try see if you can get just a few more minutes out of. Have them make a pattern, name the color, try to get something in a different order. Be ready for seeing how you can make the games work slightly differently to keep them engaged longer before moving on to another activity. Have a one thing at a time rule so they really need to focus on it rather then destroy everything you put together in 10 minutes. I also bought a couple new toys that she didn’t know were in the bag until we got on the plane. Riley is really into pokemon right now so we got her this pokeball that has 6 pokemon inside and she spent a good hour just playing with that.
And those are my tips for traveling with toddlers!
Just know traveling is stressful no matter what, so be prepared and ready for the bad but sometimes they can surprise you. I was really nervous about traveling pregnant with a toddler by myself, but I couldn’t have asked for a better flight. Many people did compliment her on being so good and even I couldn’t believe how good she did. Take a deep breath. If you have a partner with you make sure you take turns on the engaging, but if your by yourself I’d rest during ipad interactions as well as in between the games even if its only for 5 mins. I hope these help you out as you prepare for your trip!
As you look for age appropriate activities, just look for engagement and focus games. Younger kids will like things they can munch and play with. A little bit older, and you can start getting things that deal with coordination and organization skills. Older they get the more into pretend play they can get so you can get stuff like legos and such too. Goal is busy busy! 🙂
If you want to see in more detail of what was in Riley’s travel bag, check out my new Vlog!
Also buy my busy box or even see what’s inside on my etsy page.