Tips for Plane Travel and Beyond With Toddlers

We recently took the kids on their first airplane – only about 4 hours away, to Calgary, AB. We figured that was a good ‘starter’ trip for them, and still within Canada for y’know, health insurance purposes. I thought I’d share a few tips for how we managed their first flight and what we brought to make our trip go smoothly! I’ll also share anything we might do differently the next time we travel.

Travel Tips With Two Toddlers

Airport/Flight Tips

1. Pack light… or as light as you can.

We travelled with one suitcase for all 4 of us if you can believe it! That limited our checked luggage and therefore limited any waiting time at the luggage corral too. Our flight to Calgary got in really late at night (and it was about 40 minutes late leaving on top of that) so we wanted to avoid keeping the kids up any longer than we already had to and this really helped.

It also made travelling through the airport a lot easier.

Some hacks to make this part doable are to plan outfits for everyone. I planned outfits for the kids and then brought the “back-up” items too (socks, underwear, extra shirts/pants). I also brought layers because of the unpredictable weather in Alberta and we brought the kids two pairs of shoes (the ones they wore and an extra for colder weather). My husband and I both packed minimally.

2. Check your airlines policies for free carry on diaper bags, checked playpens and other equipment and use it to your advantage!

We flew with Flair Airlines and they allow a diaper bag as a carry-on per each child 2 and under, in addition to us each being able to bring a personal item if desired. We used our big diaper bag from Amazon (Miss Fong) and filled it with as much as we could, making sure to keep diapers/wipes and spare clothing accessible (and it was needed).

They also allow 2 checked items like a play pen and a stroller for example (it could be other equipment in place of either of these). So we brought our travel cot and our double stroller – we took the stroller to gate check-in so we didn’t have to carry anyone around the airport.

3. Bring snacks – extra snacks in case you have to wait.

We went and stocked up on snacks before our trip at Costco and the Dollar Store. We wanted to make sure the kids had enough to make it through the flight and we brought extra thankfully since we had that delay.

I don’t recommend popcorn (if you’ve seen the recent headline LOL – jokes!) but we brought just some of the kids favourite dry snacks with us. We then went to the grocery store in Calgary and got some for the duration of the trip to keep in the rental car and/or the diaper bag so we always had food available to beat the hangry episodes.

Snack cups are always a good idea to keep things organized, as well as good water bottles for the flight (and the trip!). We have kids yetis that both the kids use and can drink out of independently.

4. Bring entertainment – whatever you are comfortable with.

Full disclosure: we are screen friendly, with limits of course. On the flight, we did not set limits because you’re in a small space and to be frank, I didn’t want to deal with a melting down 3 year old. Maggie happily watched her Amazon fire tablet the whole way there and most of the way home too.

If your kids are older and have other activities they like – bring those! At the age my kids are at they like running around and causing havoc, which of course wasn’t really an option on the plane.

With a small baby you could bring baby toys, teethers, etc. James is just out of that phase now so we got a tiny Amazon fire as a birthday gift and we used that only on the ride home on and off (he got bored). In between, my husband and I just entertained him between the two of us and gave him snacks. Snacks are entertainment.

If you are bringing portable screen devices, make sure to bring your chargers so you have them both ways.

We personally didn’t bring toys with us on the trip, but I did bring a stuffed animal for each kid and a few bedtime books. We were busy out all day so they didn’t need to entertain themselves at the hotel – but if you were staying with family or staying put more, it might be a good idea to bring a few small things.

5. Have low expectations and maybe be pleasantly surprised.

Seriously!! I thought both my kids were going to freak out at take off and neither of them made a peep about their ears (there are things you can do to minimize discomfort for air travel, like bringing a drink or something to chew on since kids this age of course can’t rely on gum).

James fell asleep before we left the tarmac on the way there, and slept 1/2 the flight on the way home. In my arms though – we did baby in arms for him and it worked well but it was not comfortable to hold a sleeping baby for 4 hours. Those airplane pillows? Highly recommend for under the arm if you don’t want to disturb your babe. Or, opt to pay for the seat and do carseat travel. Up to you.

Maggie was content with snacks and her tablet. We got very lucky! The kids both LAUGHED when we landed, both times.

Hotel/Car/Travelling Tips

1. If you’re travelling and want to go multiple places, rent a car. With car seats or boosters if you’re not bringing yours.

With kids, I highly recommend this. If your kids aren’t using car seats in the plane, rent them with your car rental. This is what we did, and it worked well. We rented our car through Alamo (same as National, etc) and we had a very good experience with them.

We did the airport rental, called them in advance to let them know our flight was delayed to make sure there was no issue with a very late pick up (just before midnight). We asked for two carseats in our rental and specified the type of seats (we received the ones we wanted; I have heard with some companies this can be an issue, so make sure to read reviews or call to inquire!).

A car is just so much easier, even if you’re travelling around (most) cities – with little kids, I couldn’t imagine not having a vehicle personally and if it’s within your means, I recommend it. I used my CAA card to get a small discount too!

2. Kid friendly hotels are nice.

Meaning – rooms that can accommodate your family and any other perks if you’re going to be spending time around your hotel. We personally spent a lot of time outside the hotel so location was important (close to things we wanted to do) and the room layout/size was important, since we had to set up James’ cot.

The best room we stayed in was actually a Hilton near the airport – I got the king bed room with a pull out couch double and it was both beautiful and spacious. What I loved was that there was a TON of room in the king room for the cot (it wasn’t crowded at all) and there was a recliner chair for me that was perfect for breastfeeding.

It also allowed us to be separated from Maggie so we didn’t disturb her if we were on our phones, but could leave the door open.

Sandman Hotel was a gifted experience for me- the hotel was nice, we didn’t use the pool but it looked nice too (we just weren’t around enough). Pools are a nice perk for kids and definitely something I looked forward to as a kid staying at hotels, which I did a lot of growing up. The room we got was a bit tight for the cot though. Otherwise, it was nice. Having two restaurants attached was a perk with kids too because we didn’t have to travel far for dinner which is appreciated.

3. Travelling with family doesn’t mean you can’t do/see things you want, but you need to balance them with “energy burners”.

I’ll give you an example – we wanted to go to the RAM (museum) in Edmonton to see my husbands work he had done on the displays. Some parts of the museum are geared mostly at adults or older kids, but they also had a children’s space that was great. We did one exhibit, then the children’s place, then the last 2 exhibits. We also had lunch at the cafe when we arrived to make sure the kids were not hangry.

In Calgary, we did the Telus Spark science center-y type place, and the kids really liked that too. We also did Banff – which was definitely more for us; we got to go to the brewery and have beers and lunch, then we took the kids to an outdoor natural playground. It worked well.

It’s all about balance- I don’t think kids means you can’t do or see what you want at all. It just means you have to balance it – one for you, one for me, kind of thing.

Equipment We Used/Brought:

A. Valco Baby Double Stroller (but a wagon would work too!)

We almost bought a wagon before this trip (we had been planning to for summer anyways) but decided to just bring the stroller and it worked fine since our stroller is quite big and has a fair amount of storage space. As I mentioned, we gate checked it so it was great for the airport.

It also worked well for all the places we went and we had no challenges because it moves very smoothly and we rented a van to drive in Alberta which had lots of space (either way, it folds up surprisingly small).

B. Aeromoov Travel Cot

I got this through a collaboration on Instagram awhile back and we’ve used it a ton. Like, it was James bed for awhile before he moved into his crib in his shared bedroom, we use it travelling locally and at the cottage, and now we used it while travelling out of the province. It folds flat and thin, into a carrying bag with a strap so it’s great for taking places. We checked it for free and had no issues.

C. Amazon Kids Fire Tablets

We have one with a very small screen for James (gifted to him) and a regular size one for Maggie, that we all use at some point. These were great for: 1) waiting in the airport for Maggie (James just ran around); 2) on the plane (both kids used theirs at some point either way); 3) if the weather is poor and you have to stay in the hotel and didn’t bring much else to do – we didn’t have this issue, as the bad weather cleared up when we arrive but this is what we use them for when travelling locally. Netflix does offer a lock screen option so they can’t turn it off!

As always, thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next part of the daycare outbreaks and bug bites series, and more!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: