1. Gadgets are your best friend
If you have strict rules about screen-time, I recommend tossing them aside on the plane. There’s nothing that keeps tantrums at bay quite like a good Disney movie. Toys, by contrast, usually get tossed around the plane and cause headache. Now that my daughter’s three, I found her toddler-approved headphones, which she’s getting great use out of. For the sake of your sanity—and the entire flight’s—let them watch!
2. Leave for the airport extra early
Between diaper-changes and last-minute meltdowns, you never know what’s going to delay your “perfect” schedule. Plus, you’re probably packing more luggage then you’d care to admit. After missing too many flights to name, my husband and I made a rule that we always leave three hours early to the airport. It gives us breathing room.
3. When possible, book flights around their sleep schedule
My worst experience traveling with the kids was a day-flight back from Italy. Eight hours of terror. When I tried to appease my daughter with snacks, they ended up smashed in my hair; my one-year-old son refused to stop kicking the seat in front of him. It was mortifying. But mainly, I kept thinking of how good they’d fared on our night flight over. So when I plan flights now, I’m always game for a red-eye or late trip. Even if it disrupts my sleep, at least it’s only me I have to worry about.
4. Don’t pack the entire nursery
This one’s the hardest for me. We travel frequently for parents of little ones, so perhaps guilt played a factor when I used to painstakingly pack their toys, accounting for every “category”–the blocks, art supplies, dress-up clothes, dolls—it was excessive. My husband would cringe every time we’d squeeze into an Uber XL on the way to the airport.
When I noticed they were far more enticed by the hotel telephone than anything I’d packed, I started to cut back. First it was a doll or a book, then working my way down to a small bag of 5 or 6 playthings. When you travel they’re going to get them new toys anyway, why not save yourself the hassle?