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13 Hacks Parents Flying With Toddlers Should Know

May 23, 2018
Travel, Vacations & Trip Planning
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Earlier this year, my wife and I took our nearly 2-year-old twin boys on their first plane trip.

We were nervous going in, but thanks to a combination of good luck, careful planning and gracious seatmates, the flights went well.

The prep work

Making the packing list can be overwhelming. Toddlers need so much stuff, and suitcases are only so big. Here are some tips to make it easier.

1. Remember that car-seat bags are your friends

If you’re bringing car seats with you on the plane, put them in special car-seat bags. First off, the bags are easier to carry, especially if they come with backpack-style straps. Secondly, after you put the seat in the bag, there will be plenty of room for other things! Car-seat bags are perfect for light, bulky items like jackets, diapers, beach towels, hats, shoes, you name it.

2. Consider shipping items or using curbside check-in at the airport

Many hotels will hold shipments addressed to you until you arrive, but check with your hotel before shipping anything. If they do hold packages, ship ahead anything you don’t need to have on hand while you travel. If shipping isn’t an option for you, consider curbside check-in once you arrive at the airport, or at least a rented luggage cart.

3. Investigate your laundry options

Does your destination have laundry facilities or services? If not, then bring a lot of outfits for your kids (depending on the duration of your trip). Accidents can happen, as we all know!

4. Change their time zone

If your flight is crossing a time zone, then gradually shift your child’s bedtimes and nap times for the week leading up to the trip. This way jet lag will be a lot easier on them.

On the flight

Airplane trips can be scary for kids. They can be scary for parents of twins as well! Here’s what you should have on board the plane in your carry-ons.
flying hacks

5. Pack soothing toys/items

When your kids are melting down, what makes them feel better? For ours, it’s pacifiers; for other tots it may be a favorite toy, blanket or stuffed animal.

6. Have a plan for popping ears

Pressure changes can be hard for kids. The best way to help them is to give them something to drink and/or suck. Water, lollipops and pacifiers are great. If they have stuffy noses, give them a few squirts of nasal saline drops before takeoff and landing.

7. Indulge them

What do your kids get to do only on special occasions? Is it watching videos on an iPad or phone? Is it a special treat? Whatever it is, throw the rules out the cabin door and let them do what they want! If that’s 10 straight episodes of “Daniel Tiger,” so be it.

8. Offer lots of water

Airplane cabins have low humidity, and your toddlers (and you) can easily get dehydrated. Bring along sippy cups, and either buy water after you go through security, or ask the flight attendant to fill them up. Expect to change diapers often.

9. Bring new, lightweight toys

Just like grownups, toddlers adore new toys. Consider wrapping up cheap toys and giving them to your kids on the flight. If money is an issue, then hide some of their toys a few weeks before the trip and give them a great surprise. Good toys for airplanes can include stickers, electrical/masking/painter’s tape, lightweight books, windup toys and small puzzles.

10. Don’t forget the basics

Other things you’ll need mid-flight include plenty of diapers if they’re not toilet-trained, wipes, and a change of clothes for you and them. If they are toilet-trained, then perhaps bring additional clothes just in case.

The after-party

Once the plane lands, your little ones will probably be tired and cranky. Even if they were quiet the whole flight, be prepared for a post-flight meltdown.

11. Plan a food strategy

A little food can go a long way. Either bring extra food from the airplane meals, grab food near the gate you exit from, or hit a restaurant after you get in your car. Familiarize yourself with the area ahead of time so you know where you’re going.

12. Break out the emergency toys

If possible, save a few toys for the very end. Waiting for luggage at the baggage claim can be particularly difficult.

13. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Loading up all your bags plus two kids on a rental-car bus may be too crazy. Call ahead to your rental-car agency and ask if they can send a special van for you.

Have fun! Traveling with twin toddlers can be exhausting. But the happy memories and cute photos are more than worth it.


Photos by Eric Brown.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of NerdWallet or its partners.

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