I’m known to my friends as last minute Lel. I do everything last minute (or at least I have up until now). I usually fly by the seat of my pants and just go where life takes me. This is not to be advised when travelling with a toddler. Although I’m sure it’s doable, it’s not going to make life easy for me and could make the journey an unpleasant experience for everyone involved. Including my fellow travellers.
So here are my top ten tips for organising yourself before you travel with a tot.
Tip 1. Plan Ahead.
Plan plan plan, then plan some more.
When I booked our flight I booked Leo as an infant on lap which means he doesn’t have a carry on baggage allowance. I have to be economical with our packing. Activities that don’t take up much room are a must. Sticker books are a big hit with Leo. I’ve also bought a colouring book and crayons, a story book targeted to his age, small tubs of play dough and some cars. I loaded his iPad with all of the Shrek movies (his favourite) and got him a set of wireless headphones. I’ve been making sure Leo plays with them and gets used to wearing them before we go.
I’ve ripped pages out of his colouring books and wrapped each page around 2 crayons then tied it off with a piece of string. These puzzles have been keeping him entertained for around half an hour at a time. They also have the added bonus of taking up less room in my bag than a full box of crayons and colouring books. Do what works for you. Leo loves to fiddle with things so the crayon wraps work for us.
TIP 2. Contact Your Airline and Airport.
Once I booked my flights I called my airline to find out if they had bassinet seats available on my flight. Not all flights have this (mine doesn’t) and those that do tend to book up quickly. Once I called my airline, I called the airport to find out their policy on baby milk. The government guidelines in the UK state that 200 ml portions of formula are allowed to travel with the baby. Some airports have their own policies so I called ahead to be safe. I am able to take his formula. Leo still has follow on milk for falling asleep. The ready made cartons tend to be around 180 mls and he doesn’t mind drinking these at room temperature if they can’t be warmed up.
TIP 3. Don’t Pay For In Flight Meals.
Firstly in flight meals are very rarely toddler friendly. Secondly they’re served on a schedule and it’s very difficult to explain to a hungry toddler that it’s not dinner time.
I’ve decided to forego the in flight meals for me, Leo and Emily and again this means I’m planning ahead.
I’m taking a few of these with me. I’ll just ask for a cup of boiling water from a flight attendant and we’ll have a quick and easy meal. These are always a hit with both Leo and Ems and porridge keeps them full for hours. Not as healthy as real porridge but on the whole quite nutritious.
We’re going to take some fresh fruit that we’ll freeze the night before so it’s thawed and fresh again by the time we come to eat it. I’m going to make up sub sandwiches, wrap them in cling film and freeze them the night before we leave. We’ll pack these just before we go so like the fruit they’ll be fresh and crisp by the time we are ready to eat them.
I’m also packing frozen tubes of yogurt (less than 100ml) for Leo. They will be fresh and thawed by the time he wants to eat them.
Juicy cups are a must. It’s a comfort to Leo and it’s important to keep him hydrated when travelling. I’m going to buy some cartons of juice once we’ve cleared security. I’m chalking juice up to airport expenses.
TIP 4. Layer Up!
With only two carry on bags for myself, Emily and Leo and with the food and toddler essentials to pack you have to wonder where I’m going to store everything else I need. Well my grand plan is to layer up. Living in Scotland this is something I do naturally anyway due to the weather. Mine and Emily’s airport outfit will consist of sports bra, cami vest top, long sleeved t shirt, hoodie, jacket, scarf, hat, comfy leggings, boots and socks. Each layer can be stripped off and stored if the cabin temperature rises and put back on as it falls.
TIP 5 Keep A Routine.
If you follow tip number 1 and plan ahead then keeping a routine should be easy enough. I booked our flights each way to leave at 4pm. This gives me time to do a last itinerary check and make sure I have everything. We also have time to have a big lunch and make sure Leo gets a good nap. An afternoon flight means I can get to the airport a few hours early and be relaxed about the whole experience. Being relaxed and enjoying the experience from the get go is important to me. I want our holiday to start from the minute we wake up on the 23rd. It’s our adventure and we are going to enjoy it.
We only have 3 hours in the air until Leo’s bedtime, I’m going to follow his usual bedtime routine in flight. I’ve packed his sleeping bag, pj’s a toothbrush, toothpaste, a bottle and formula. He might sleep/he might not, but at least he will be relaxed and comfortable and feeling a sense of familiarity.
TIP 6. Make Things Easy.
Make everything as easy as possible on yourself and the kids. Resign yourself to the fact that the first and last day of your holiday are for travel. Take your time, make it as fun as possible and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Let the kids help with the packing, they might not know they’re going on holiday but they will feel involved with you and the excitement and energy.
Speak to other parents and ask for tips. One of the coolest tips I got was to pack nappy kits. In a nappy bag, pack 1 nappy and a few wipes. So every time Leo needs changed I’m just grabbing 1 ready made nappy kit instead of a nappy, baby wipes and nappy sacks. These also pack up smaller for your bag.
TIP 7. Let Them Burn Off Energy.
You’re going to be in the airport a few hours, it’s busy and the temptation will be to keep the little ones in their pushchair. Some airports have soft plays. Some airports will have quieter spots. I’m going to let Leo run about as much as possible prior to boarding. Once we’re on the flight I’ll have to hold him in one place for a while. This is going to be much easier if he hasn’t been sat cooped up in a pushchair for hours.
I’m going to get to the airport early and have fun with the kids. Run about with them, play, laugh and burn off steam. We are going on holiday after all.
TIP 8. Bring Medicine.
You never know when sickness will strike and you don’t want to be caught unaware. Single sachets of Calpol are small and easy to pack. You don’t need a spoon to administer them and Calpol is always handy. These are already packed in the front pocket of my duffle bag.
TIP 9. Make The Flight As Comfortable As Possible.
This is something I’ve been panicking about. I booked a budget airline with budget seats and my 28 pound toddler is travelling on my lap.
I decided to buy this inflatable set from Amazon. It’s made by a company called James Bentley. The link is below. It has arrived and is small and compact in the original packaging so it fits in my bag fine. I’m not sure how small I’ll manage to make it pack on our return flight. I think it will be useful. I’ll have a place to put my feet up and the cushion on my lap will mean my arms aren’t taking all of Leo’s weight. I’ll do a review of this product when I get back from New York.
The flight I’ve booked does have WiFi but no power points. So to make sure our flight is comfortable and no one (the teenager) is sitting saying I’m bored. I’ve ordered portable chargers for the iPad, kindle and mine and Ems phones.
TIP 10. Utilise Every Space You Can.
When travelling with babies and toddlers all airlines (even budget ones) allow for one pushchair and one car seat per infant.
There is no weight restriction on this so if your pushchair is able to fold safely with stuff in the basket this is another great way to be able to pack more things.
I’m going to carry our neck cushions on to the flight already on our necks and use Leo’s blanket as a shawl to save space in my bags.
And finally the items I’m not risking travel without. Dummy’s and extra dummy’s. Dummy clips so they don’t get dropped on floor. Disposable place mats for trays and disposable bibs. These can all be thrown away so we don’t get cluttered and I’m packing a spare set of clothes each in case of any accidents .