Monday, December 21, 2015

Best Items for Flying with Toddlers

We have been traveling a lot (by some standards) with Forest. I would say lately every 2 months we are on a plane.  Here is just a list of the items we’ve found to be most helpful when flying with a toddler. (Most of the entertainment things are also great tools for waiting rooms, restaurants, church, or anywhere a toddler is expected to be still and quiet for a big chunk of time.)    
Snacks:  For special snacks, I recommend salty vs sweet just because it’s already against a toddler’s natural skill set to stay still for 4+ hours, you definitely want to avoid a sugar rush if at all possible. That being said the best snacks I find for traveling are:
1) Pouches. We try to opt for ones with as many food groups as possible (dairy, grain, veggie, fruit)  to cover our nutritional bases while we are on the go. Happy Tot is our favorite brand. Also sucking on a pouch can help clear their ears during take off/landing.  
2) Goldfish crackers, cheerios or similar. We bring a snack cup to keep things neat and to keep Forest from inhaling them. Slow and steady is the trick with snacks on the plane!
3)Apple slices and bananas. To me these are the best fruits to travel with because they don’t need to be refrigerated and stay fresh longer. We slice the apples beforehand and keep them in a ziplock. (FYI: you can’t leave Hawaii with any fruits so my fool proof snack plan got us held up at security…Oops!).    
4) String cheese. These need to be refrigerated so it’s usually the first snack we give while it’s still fresh.  
5) Fig Bars. 
 Nature's Bakery Stone Ground Whole Wheat Fig Bar-36, 2 OZ Twin Packs, variety pack
We get these Nature's Bakery stone ground whole wheat Fig Bars that Forest loves and they can cheer him up instantly when he’s on the brink of a meltdown.     

1) Melissa and Doug Water Wow coloring books.  
Melissa & Doug On The Go Water Wow Bundle Animals, Alphabet and Numbers Paint
3 pack, $15

2) Melissa and Doug On the Farm Sticker pad.  
Melissa & Doug Puffy Sticker Playset - On the Farm
Obviously Melissa and Doug have got your back when it comes to traveling with littles. Their 'On the Go' line alone includes various activities appropriate for ages 1.5-8. 

Melissa & Doug On the Go Scratch Art: Animal Families Hidden-Picture PadMelissa & Doug On-the-Go Craft Set - Felt Friends StickersMelissa & Doug On The Go Water Wow! Connect the DotsMelissa & Doug Color and Carry Coloring Book - Animals
3) A small notebook with pencils and stickers. So simple but (hopefully) hours of fun.  We try to buy fun stickers like Sesame Street or Thomas stickers that get Forest really excited! 
 Sesame Street Reward Stickers - 295 Stickers!
And when the stickers lose their charm we hand him a pencil and he’ll doodle for a while. Forest loves that he gets to use a pencil like mommy.   

4) Crayola Color Wonder markers and coloring books. These are just ingenious and a must have when traveling. 
 Crayola Color Wonder Refill Set
5) Magnetic story books.   
On the Farm $7
This line of story books are lightweight and have magnets that correspond with the story line so the kids can have fun searching for the right magnet to place on the pages and you read it to them.  

6) Treasure Hunt seek and find books by Priddy. 
Their are several different varieties of this book. Forest got Treasure Hunt for Boys for his birthday and he was so enamored by it that we’ve hidden it away to bring our on our next flight. 
It’s a great interactive book that we can read with him and it reinforces colors and counting which are two things he’s working on.    
7) Highlights Hello Magazines and similarly 'Step into Reading' books because they are thin and lightweight (and fairly cheap). We have the Happy Birthday Thomas and The Good Dinosaur which Forest loves to read over and over (and over...). 
Several of these books also come with cards or stickers in the back too. And Bonus, these are great books to have once kiddos start reading on their own since the text is simple and repetitive (hence the 'Step Into Reading' logo).  
8) Window Gel Clings. 

You can find these in the Dollar Spot at Target and Amazon has tons of options as well. If you have a window seat (we always put F by the window if we have it available just to avoid him hanging out in the aisle), this is an inexpensive and a fun way to distract toddlers
9)iPad. Of course. Most people swear this is all you need to get through a flight with a toddler. We’ve been really diligent about limiting Forest’s iPad time at home so it’s a super big treat on the plane. We have our iPad loaded with his favorite apps and a few episodes of Super Why, Daniel Tiger, and Sesame Street. We usually try to wait til after he naps to bring out the iPad otherwise I’m certain he would never sleep. The other entertainment items do fairly well with keeping him occupied and on short flights we usually don’t even bring out the iPad. It is our ace in the hole in case we get desperate so we try to save it for the right time. 

1) CARES plane harness. 
$70 on Amazon

To keep Forest confined in his plane seat we use this CARES plan harness. It isn’t perfect but works well enough and at least psychologically makes him feel like he’s strapped into a car seat so he stays put.   
And it beats lugging a gigantic car seat through the airport! It folds up compactly and has a carry pouch which is great for organizational purposes. 

2) Kid headphones. 
Kidz Gear Wired Headphones For Kids - Blue
Kidz Gear headphones $20 on Amazon

In case not everyone on the plane wants to listen to Raffi or an episode of Super Why.   
3) Camelbak Toddler Cup.
 CamelBak eddy Kids Back to School Water Bottle, Cute Monsters, 0.4-Liter
This is a great cup that won't leak in your bag. We ask the flight attendants to fill it up with water when they do their beverage rounds and it's much less messy than giving him that wide mouthed plastic cup to drink out of.   

General tips: 
1) Keep the entertainment you plan to use on the plane away from your kiddos for at least a week beforehand.  Novelty is key for keeping them occupied and still for long periods of time. 
2) Dole out snacks slowly. Usually we only feed Forest at mealtimes but travel days are an exception. We’d rather him never get too full so that we can use snacks as something to keep him occupied while on the plane. 
3) Don’t let them nap on layovers if you can help it. Use your layovers/pre-boarding time for letting them run their crazies out. 
Fun times at the Kids Spot in SFO

Lots of airports have designated play areas so look for one near your departure gate!

Hopefully this, in addition to all the stimulation from the airport, will buy you a solid nap on the plane. 
4) Speaking of naps, bring any sleep association items on board. Forest will always get his fussiest right before naptime on a plane.  We hand him a paci and a snuggy and these seem to send him the message that it's time to sleep. He's never been they type of baby/toddler to easily drift off to dreamland whenever he's tired/wherever he is, so it helps to have some sort of small symbol/routine on the plane to get him to sleep. 

5) Change their diaper or take a potty break right before boarding. It may not excuse you from any trip to the tiny airport bathroom but hopefully it will at least cut out one trip. And definitely pack an extra set of clothes for the munchkin and at least an extra top for yourself because accidents happen! I know some parents who put a pull up on their potty trained kiddos just in case, but I also understand if philosophically you are against that. Just know that sometimes you won't be able to get up to get to the bathroom right away if there is turbulence or you are taking off/landing

6) Don’t expect to catch up on your reading on the plane. We’ve noticed that F does great on flights but it is EXHAUSTING work because we are trying to keep him entertained the whole time. 
It is tough for them (or at least my very active boy!) to stay settled and seated for so long and we definitely have our work cut out for us to make it go smoothly. Just be prepared to do that and then when they watch a 30 minute show or take a nap it will feel like heaven!
Ok, well that is my 2 cents. Anyone else have any great tips to share????