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Tips for Traveling With Toddlers

Tips for Traveling With Toddlers
Written By
Lo Martin
Photographs By
Laure Joliet for Parachute
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Traveling with kids is no simple feat, but with a few tips and key pieces, your airplane experience can be considerably less stressful – maybe even enjoyable! We turned to our friend Lo Martin, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Kid & Coe, a vacation rental website featuring unique family friendly properties, for her recommendations. She’s logged three continents and over a hundred thousand miles of air travel with her son, Henri, taking notes along the way. In her words, some parental must-haves…because no one wants to be those people on the plane. Not without an audible whimper did I recently come to accept that my pint-sized sidekick was no longer a baby – not even a baby-fat toddler – but very much a little guy with his own tastes, moods and requirements for well-being. He is also my seasoned travel companion, jetting around the globe with me a good half dozen times a year. The strategy I had when traveling with baby Henri has morphed over these four years, but the basics remain: Your comfort is as important as your little one’s. If you don’t have what you need to travel happily, your child will likely feel the stress and suffer alongside you. This is what works for us:

Midday Travel and Airplanes with 2-Seat Rows

Your kid isn’t going to sleep through the red-eye. He’ll be hyped up on adrenaline combined with fatigue, and you will be bleary eyed beside him. Spare yourself the life lesson and opt for midday travel times. Bonus: Less traffic to and from the airports. If you’re traveling as a duo, look for flights that have rows with two seats – window/aisle, offering you and your little a nook to yourselves.

The Perfect Carry On

About a year ago I was introduced to Leader Bag Co., a Maine-based company making the handiest diaper bag travel backpack I’ve come across. There’s a padded pocket for Henri’s iPad, a back sleeve for activity books, ample interior pockets and roomy exterior pockets for travel papers and a water bottle. It also comes with a thick leather changing pouch, which, since we’re post-diaper era, we use for Henri’s on-flight dopp bag, and I use upon arrival as an evening clutch.

Comfy Classy Clothes

We dress sharp when traveling, and it has paid off. I’ve made lasting work connections on flights, we’ve gotten bumped to business and we arrive at our destination feeling relatively uncrumpled. Henri usually wears head-to-toe Kira Kids, a San Francisco children’s clothing company that makes the softest gear. I wear my go-to jeans, a fluffy Nili Lotan sweater, and unbelievably comfortable Eileen Fisher heels.

Compact, Super-snuggly Blanket

It’s always colder than you expect up in the atmosphere, and most continental flights don’t offer blankets anymore. So, we’ve taken to bringing our own, which is so much more luxurious, too! My favorite travel blanket is definitely Parachute’s cashmere throw, which doubles as a scarf for mama if we’re traveling in winter.

Healthy, Low-sugar Snacks

I was recently introduced to Weelicious, a great cooking site with an archive full of perfect-for-travel recipes. I keep Henri’s in-transit eating as low-sugar as possible to avoid his epic sugar highs: There’s just not enough room in those seats for that.

No-spill Water Bottle

Open and flimsy plastic cups of ice water alongside a spazzing 4-year old is a recipe for disaster. Or a fried iPad. We opt for this easy-to-use water bottle instead. As soon as we’re on board, we have it filled with ice water, and Henri can easily hydrate without a spill.

New Activities

Another recent discovery – Seedling – makes dozens of arty kits that are perfect to keep a 4-year-old occupied for a good 30 minutes. We’ll be working on this one and this one on our way back to NYC next week. For those hours in the airport terminal, there’s nothing simpler than kicking a ball around. We opt for a stuffed version to minimize bounce and broken snow globes.

The iPad

There are so many great apps out there for the younger generation. My approach to the iPad is curating Henri’s options and being clear about how much screen time is allowed. Start with these winning app-builders: Toca BocaSago MiniOriginator and Tinybop.