Tips for Stress-Free Air Travel with Your Active Toddler

This post is a part of our new Grow with Gugu series by Monica Banks, founder of Gugu Guru – the ultimate baby product discovery site for style-savvy moms.

Recently Whitney got in touch with me for advice on something that so often parents are fretting about and that is travel – specifically airplane travel – with a highly active and mobile toddler. As much as it seems the world seems to be taking a more kind and patient attitude toward traveling children, nobody wants to be “that” parent, with “that” kid on a long flight.  

The good news is that with a little…err…a lot of preparation, namely a well-stocked carry-on bag, you can drastically improve your chances of a tantrum-free flight with your tot.

Here’s the round-up of recommendations that I made for Whitney based on my own frequent flying experience traveling with my two kiddos, as well as some of the other mom experts on Gugu Guru’s team:

  • First and foremost, I strongly believe in having a back-up bribe. I typically use lollipops (or m&m’s) for bribery / rewards. Also if your child is sensitive to air pressure changes (which can often be the root of a tantrum), sucking lollipops might help to relieve discomfort.
  • Lots and lots of healthy snacks. Seriously – all the snack.  The moms at Gugu Guru like Happy Baby Puffs because they have no added sugar. 
  • A sippie cup with a straw. You can pour in the water or juice that you get from the flight attendant into something that is spill-proof and manageable for your little one (since they only offer those short plastic cups, which are clearly not baby friendly.)
  • For babies 18M+, an iPad with lots of games and movies loaded & toddler headphones.
  • Sanitizing wipes for the armrest, trays, windows… everything!
  • Age-appropriate activity books are always a must. Gugu Guru LOVES the Melissa & Doug brand, like the Dress Up Bear Book and Mix and Match Activity Book.

We also wanted to include a couple out-of the box but GENIUS ideas from Gugu Guru registry expert Abby, who is a frequent traveling mom of very active twin toddler boys and also a former Kindergarten teacher: 

  • Take a stack of post-it notes to let your child play with. Post-it notes take a while to undo and it’s also a bonus fine motor skills development activity. 
  • Buy new toys at the dollar store and wrap them (like presents) so your child can unwrap and have something new to play with on the plane.  It should not be a problem with TSA since the x-ray will be able to see that it’s a toy but if you’re still concerned about hold ups during security, use simple tissue paper and/or a gift bag.

Lastly, you’ll want to include some essential items no matter what, including:

  • A change of clothes (depending on the length of the flight, you may want to include a change of shirt for yourself.)
  • Diapers & wipes (typically we use the rule of thumb of bringing one diaper per hour of travel time.)
  • Some children’s Tylenol just in case.

We hope this information helps you have a happier, stress-free travel experience with your family. Bon voyage!

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