With Dominic 18 flights in, I can comfortably say we’ve learned a thing or two about traveling with a kid under 2. It’s unlikely we’ll be flying again before his 2nd birthday, so our time of traveling with our little man for free has come to an end (lol)! I’m no expert, but with all that said, I’ve picked up a few tips on the flight, jet lag, food, accommodations, and necessities that may help our fellow travelers with tiny tots.
- If your flight isn’t full by the time you check-in, you can ask to see if a seat can be blocked off for your child. If they can, you can bring your car seat in to buckle your babe in safely.
- On the same thought of “blocking” off a seat, if you can select your seats while booking online, you can try to book an aisle seat and the window seat for you and your significant other. If the flight isn’t full, it’s unlikely a solo flyer will select an empty middle seat. If that’s the case, you’ll have an extra seat for your kid. If it doesn’t work out, you can always offer that neighbor the aisle or window seat so you and your significant other can be seated together (which I’m sure your fellow flyer will happily accept your offer).
- If your babe is still tiny, you can wear your baby in the plane using an Ergo (or similar) so that they’re securely buckled to you, and it’s likely they’ll snooze away being cozy on your chest.
- If you want to purchase a seat, make sure you call the airline instead of booking the seat online. Some airlines may offer you a discounted seat for a child under 2, but you’d never know it if you book online.
- On flights with different cabins, there is something called a bulkhead row which is the first row right after the divider between cabins (ie first class from economy class). Most people know this as the row with the most legroom aside from sitting in an exit row. Now, the perk of sitting in this row with kids..
- If you have a tiny babe, the extra space in this row allows you to request for a bassinet which attaches onto the divider wall. This can allow your baby to sleep comfortably during the flight (and to give you a little freedom).
- If your child is too big to use the bassinet, the extra leg room is great for your tot to get the wiggles out and play with their toys (like in the above photo :).
- Make sure to let your airline know that you’ll be traveling with a child under 2. They may provide you with extra amenities (or at least a baby-friendly meal). It’ll also help to ensure they carry milk on your flight if that’s necessary.
Tips we’ve learned about ENTERTAINMENT on a flight:
- When Dominic was small, I would bring him a toy or two and a familiar book. He was a lot easier to keep entertained before he turned one and preferred familiar things vs. new, so I wouldn’t think to stress too much about this. I remember him being amused with simply flipping through the safety pamphlet and magazines.
- Once I started noticing his desire to stretch his knowledge of everything around him, I would bring new toys/activities – one for each hour of the flight. I’d zip through the dollar section at Target and just get activity books and reading books. I didn’t offer one each hour, but I just gauged his need for new entertainment and took out something new as necessary. I wouldn’t let him see any of them before necessary though 🙂 Throw in a familiar item or two that you know they love too. Oh, and snacks are also a big deal!
- When we’d run out of activities and he’d start to get anxious, we would take out the handy dandy tablet (you can see which one we got in the “Necessities” portion below). I’d definitely let him explore and be curious and creative first! There were some flights where he’d spend 30 minutes saying “hi” to our neighbors and playing peek-a-boo, so I greatly encourage letting your child explore first to help with their mental growth. We always try to remind ourselves that the tablet is the last resort, but I will admit that it really is the easiest thing to offer for entertainment.
Keep in mind: Every airline is a little different and so is every airport. Some airlines are extremely accommodating to families, and some treat families just like everyone else. Don’t compare airports or you will drive yourself mad. Go with the flow and follow the regulations for each airport. That’s a big point of travel, right? To recognize differences. The above is a little playpen in Barcelona that allowed us to get our stuff together after the security checkpoint (you know, so they don’t run off when you stop looking for 2 seconds… which happens). It was a little funny when we saw it, but we realized how helpful it was after the fact. British Airways gave a drawstring pack of activities for Dominic so we got to draw, color, and read something new during the flight without me having to take anything out of my arsenal.
THE JET LAG
Children will feel the affects of jet lag just like you will, but they don’t understand the concept of time zones yet. Because of this, we just continue our bedtime routines as if we were at home but just base it on the new time zone, basically having him take in the new time change immediately. If he wakes up in the middle of the night thinking it’s morning, we just shush and cuddle him until he’s convinced it’s time to go back to sleep (don’t you wish someone would do that for you? haha).
During the day, if they get cranky because in their mind it’s bedtime or naptime at home, take a long walk at a park with your stroller so they can nap, but so that you can still do some exploring. If you wait for them to figure out that the sun and moon rise differently at your destination, you might not be able to do much and just have a jet lagged baby anyways when you get home.
Another big thing is that if you arrive at your destination early, go out and explore a lot to get your kid(s) tired out – it’s great stimulation for babes and opportunities to explore for tots. It’s not every day that they’ll have this much free time with their parents, so get out and make some memories. It’ll help them knock out when it’s time for bed – and I’m sure it’ll help you too.
Dominic seems to do really well with jet lag when we get to a new destination, but going home takes more time to adjust. For Europe, he took about 2 days to get adjusted when we got there and nearly a week to get adjusted once we were back at home. After meeting other traveling families, this seems to be the norm. No idea why! Just be prepared for this.
I actually like the idea of putting new food in front of Dominic in hopes that he learns to adapt better and be more curious about different foods. I think food is a such a beautiful and rich part of every culture, so I would love it if he one day realized that too.
However, the reality is that young kids will always have particular tastes (and tantrums), so it’s important to not only let them explore the new food, but also bring and purchase things they’re familiar with to appease them. Popular items for us were the baby food packs, fruit, and chips. At restaurants, we always made sure we ordered fruit because he loves all sorts of fruit, and it made the overall meals seem more appealing to him or least help entice him to start eating which would then make him more willing to try different items on his plate.
For little ones drinking cow’s milk, know that different countries have different regulations with dairy so it’s possible it will look and taste a little different from milk in America. Dominic took to all milks really well.
Key things that will help you be more comfortable being away from home:
- My favorite thing when looking for a hotel is looking for one with a kitchenette. Washing bottles in a bathroom sink has got to be one of the more awkward things to do when traveling, so having a separate sink makes everything a lot more comfortable and easier – it also allows for more space to let the bottles dry.
- Most hotels do offer baby items for you to borrow, particularly pack and plays. Make sure you ask what they can offer before your trip so you pack some sheets or whatever else that you’d like to use with what they offer.
I’ve mentioned it before, we absolutely love Airbnb for our family travels for many reasons. You can read them all in a previous post here!
For our favorite travel necessities (and basically what comes with us to nearly every trip), check out this previous post with our travel checklist and scroll down to the baby section!
As an alternative resource, I’ve learned that babysaway.com has some great items you can rent at the destinations they service in the U.S. so you don’t have to bring everything with you. I’ve heard great reviews, but we haven’t used their service personally.
Last but definitely not least…
Traveling is a joy! Remember that when you travel with your kid(s), don’t compare it to vacations you’ve had pre-children. I think parents drive themselves nuts because of this. Compare it to life at home. You’re leaving chores and other daily happenings that you’re tired of behind, and your main goal is just taking your kids on adventures with you. There will be hiccups, you’ll have to take things in more slowly, and you may face a few frustrations, but it’s the same when you’re home and these things won’t magically disappear. So far, we’ve felt like it has been an enriching experience for us as a growing family, and we truly hope that you will feel the same too!
Got some of your favorite tips or additional questions? Feel free to comment or contact me. I’d love to hear them/help out!