February was unusually cold and snowy in North Carolina this year, and my little Tommy was starting to go stir crazy from being cooped up indoors… so, we decided to take a little trip to sunny Florida to visit our cousins! We knew that sunshine, beautiful beaches, and great company would await us when we arrived, but you know that saying that “getting there is half the fun?”… well, I can guarantee that whoever came up with that definitely had never traveled alone on an airplane with a one-and-a-half-year-old!
Living across the country from all of our family, our little guy has taken quite a few airplane trips. It takes a bit of planning to get the right mix of items to entertain a squirmy toddler who will be stuck on your lap for hours, and I know that mine refuses to sleep on the plane. So, (besides the obvious diapers, wipes, medicine, ID, and change of clothes), here I have my list of 10 must-haves for flying with a one-year-old:
1. Baby Carrier: I can’t get through the airport without my Ergobaby Original Carrier. It allows me to have my hands free to deal with checking bags and baggage claim, it keeps Tommy strapped to my chest and not running off to another terminal or eating food off the ground, and TSA lets you keep the baby carrier on (with the kid still in it!) when you go through security, which saves the hassle of folding up a stroller while simultaneously trying to hold on to a runaway toddler. It’s ergonomic design is easy on my body and Tommy’s, it has a convenient front zippered pocket to hold my driver’s license and boarding pass, and it’s the only way that I can get down the aisle on the plane walking to my seat without the little guy trying to make a break for it.
2. Backpack: I would be a total mess without my Petunia Pickle Bottom Boxy Backpack. It has a zillion pockets inside to keep things organized, and the sturdy shape doesn’t tip over or cave in on itself, allowing me to see everything inside without having to hold it open. It has a zipper closure to keep the contents from falling out, a clip for my keys so I don’t have to dig around for them, and two exterior side pockets- perfect for a sippy cup for T and water bottle for me. I love the fold-out changing station in front with a detachable changing pad and easily accessible pockets for diapers, the included wipes case (that never lets the wipes dry out), and a tiny pocket perfect for storing hand sanitizer or diaper cream. The glazed canvas material is so great because it’s waterproof and can easily be wiped clean and looking new. And what makes it most essential for me at the airport is that it can be worn not only over the shoulder, but also as a backpack, which allows me to rush through the airport with Tommy on my front in the Ergobaby and the diaper bag on my back. Amazing!
3. Hand Sanitizer: If I don’t have hand sanitizer close by while traveling, I get a little paranoid. Airports and airplanes are so full of germs, and nobody wants to get sick at the start of a vacation. I love my Bath & Body Works Pocketbac Sanitizing Hand Gel that my cute husband put in my Christmas stocking this year. The 1 oz size is perfect for travel, the Pink Chiffon scent smells incredible, and there’s even a little glitter in it. I use it on both Tommy and me to clean hands after touching tray tables and window shades and before eating snacks.
4. Individually Wrapped Snacks: It always takes a while for the flight attendants to come around with the little packs of peanuts and pretzels, and, when Tommy is hungry, it’s like a scene from those Snickers commercials with Roseanne Barr if he doesn’t get something to eat right away. To avoid the screaming and kicking, I like to have a variety of individually wrapped snacks on hand, like Motts Fruit Snacks, Honey Maid Graham Crackers (he loves the cute minion shaped ones), and Clif Kid Z Bars. I stopped bringing plastic snack containers on the plane because they are too easy for him to knock off the tray table and we kept losing the lids. Instead, I put a few different individually wrapped snacks inside of a Ziploc bag. Then I can just throw the snack wrapper away when he’s finished, and if he doesn’t eat all of it, I can keep the leftover bits in the Ziploc bag so they don’t get crumbs all over.
5. Sippy Cup: My little guy is constantly asking for “wawa” (water), so I have to have a sippy cup close by at all times. I like the Munchkin Click Lock Insulated Straw Cup and he loves that this one has Elmo and his Sesame Street buddies on it. This is the one sippy cup that I have found that doesn’t leak, holds enough water that I don’t have to refill it constantly, and really keeps the water cold. I bring it empty and then fill it up after we get through security. If we have time to stop and grab a bite to eat, I ask someone to fill it with ice water for me from the soda fountain machine. If not, I fill it at a water fountain and add ice on the plane.
6. Sticker Book: Stickers are a great way to keep my little guy busy while keeping the mess to a minimum. I’m a big fan of sticker books because they have all of the stickers together in one place with cute scenes to stick them to so there aren’t a bunch of loose sheets getting crumpled up in my bag.
7. Touch and Feel Books: I like to pick books for the airplane that keep my busy boy’s hands occupied. Books with flaps to lift and different textures to feel are great because they keep his hands on the book and off of the tray table, window, arm rests, and other germ-infested spaces. Playtime Peekaboo is one that we love. For ideas of other books to pack, check out our 20 Favorite Board Books.
8. Tablet with Kids Apps & Videos: I have a screen on my iPad full of apps and videos just for Tommy. With just the iPad, he can pass hours playing games, doing puzzles, coloring, watching movies, and reading books. (Check out our Favorite Art, Shapes, and Colors Apps for Toddlers, our Favorite ABCs & 123s Apps for Toddlers, our Favorite Puzzle and Sorting Apps for Toddlers, and our Favorite Games & Video Apps for Toddlers.)
9. Pacifier Clip: Dropping pacifiers on the floor is so gross, especially in high-traffic places like airports and airplanes. With a paci clip, I can clip it right onto Tommy’s shirt when we are on the plane so that we have it close by to soothe him if he starts to whine. I love Ulubulu Pacifier Clips– they are durable and the clip stays put, the patterns are adorable, and there is even a place to write your little one’s name in case it accidentally gets left behind (great for playdates and daycare!)
10. Pacifier: During take-off and landing, since T is still too young to chew gum, sucking on a pacifier is key to helping with the change of air pressure so it doesn’t mess with his ears. It’s also a quick way to quiet him if he starts to scream. I love these cute Ulubulu Orthodontic Pacifiers with funny sayings on them. He always gets a lot of compliments on them, and since he was about 4 months old this has been the only brand of pacifier that he likes.
Even with the most careful preparation, flying with a toddler can be rough. We had a full flight coming home, and the little monkey did NOT want to stay on my lap. The best advice that I can give you if there is open seating on the plane is to sit in a window seat (so there is one side with no people to bug and a view to look at), and to try to sit near other kids. People with kids won’t mind if yours is fussing because they will understand. And, if you totally luck out like I did, you might have an angel grandma take pity on you and actually switch seats to sit next to you and offer a helping hand and an extra lap to climb on.
What are your must-haves and tips for flying with your little one? Share in the comments!
And if you have any long drives coming up, check out our 10 Must-Haves for a Road Trip with a Toddler!