I can think of few times in my life that I've felt such anxiety and a sense of dread as I have when boarding an airplane with a toddler. From the nightmares preceding the trip to the flashbacks of trips gone wrong to the searing heat from the glares of the planeful of people watching you walk down the aisle willing you to walk past the empty seat next to them, it's a lot of pressure.
There are some things you can do, however, to help cut the chances that any of those nightmares will come true, and make those crabby passengers wish that you'd sat next to them instead of the drunk guy they got stuck with. Here are 10 ways to make traveling with toddlers less terrifying and more enjoyable for everyone.
Rule number one is to have food on board -- and lots of it. Don't rely on picking something up in the airport or buying something from flight attendants. Delayed planes, turbulence, and other unexpected things happen, and no one wants to be stuck with a hungry toddler.
2. Plan trips around naps
The best toddler on an airplane is a sleeping one. If you can plan flights to coincide with naps, that may be your best strategy. Bring a blanket and small pillow or lovey if you can.
3. Lay out your expectations ahead of time
Talk about why it's not okay to kick the seat in front of you and how indoor voices are important on planes. Some of it may sink in.
4. Stock up on distractions
Hit a local dollar store for a host of distractions. Little toys, notepads, coloring pages, and stickers are all great. The more you have, the better.
5. Dress them for comfort, not a fashion show
I know it's fun to dress them up in their cutest gear, but itchy tights, too-snug waistbands, and frilly collars just make for fidgety kids. The more comfortable, the better.
6. Take up kind strangers' offers to help
If someone offers to help carry your gear or assist you in putting your bag overhead, let them. You don't have to be super mom.
7. One big Gun
Whether it's candy or a toy they really want, have one thing hidden away that you know will stop a tantrum dead in its tracks. Call it a bribe if you will, but if it works, everyone will be grateful.
8. Dangle a reward at the end
Start the trip by telling them if their behavior is good, they will get to do something special, or have ice cream, or whatever you can think of that you can remind them of throughout the trip.
9. Plan ahead for layovers
If you have a layover, check out what the airport may offer. Some have play areas and other kid-friendly attractions. Sometimes getting some energy out is exactly what they need to make the rest of the flight go more smoothly.
10. Relax and try to enjoy the ride
If your child screams, it won't be fun, but it's also not the end of the world. So do everything you can to try and make things go smoothly, but if they don't, know that you're not the first mom with a child who has misbehaved on a plane.
What tricks can you share for traveling with toddlers?
Image via Julie Ryan Evans