We fly with our three-year-old on an almost monthly basis, so at this point we have travel down to a science. While his frequent flier status means he generally knows the drill, there are a few items I absolutely won’t leave home without. Here are my five travel must-haves for preschooler travel.
Lugging the car seat onto the plane is tough no matter what kind of gear you’ve got. But while the FAA doesn’t require it, there’s a reason why they “strongly recommend” strapping your child into a car seat as opposed to holding him on your lap, or even using a lap belt once you’re required buy them a seat. I strongly recommend bringing the car seat for a second reason: it’s the only way to guarantee that a toddler will stay in his seat for hours at a time. This cart solves the problem of how you’re going to lug the seat around the airport by converting your car seat into a stroller, making it exponentially easier to use the car seat on the airplane. It folds up small enough to be stowed in the overhead compartment, or you can opt to gate check it.
Hearing the sound on the iPad or in-flight movie makes programming even more engrossing for toddlers. Which means you might even be able to read that book you brought. The volume limiter is a must, as curious kiddos tend to play with the volume on both, and you want to protect those precious little eardrums.
3. Cheerio Treasure Hunt
This is the dumbest thing, but it will occupy him for hours. Just fill a large bag with Cheerios and bring some gummies, M&M’s, or other small treat. Fill your child’s snack cup with Cheerios, mix in a few treats and tell your child he’s on a treasure hunt. If he’s anything like mine, he will pick through the snacks one by one, looking for his “treasure” and entertaining himself for hours on end.
Yes, there is an app built around what may be the most annoying song ever invented. Fortunately, your child is now using headphones so you don’t have to hear it repeating endlessly as he plays driving games, watches a sing-along, or learns numbers with the big yellow school bus. The games change with every update, too, so my son still isn’t bored of this one after almost a year.
These UK-published lift-the-flap books can be tough to track down, but once you find them you’ll want to get extra copies of your child’s favorites. Each intricately illustrated page contains a multitude of flaps – and even flaps within flaps – to keep kids fully engaged. Our copy of “Things That Go” has been a particular favorite since my son was 15 months old, and probably contains a full roll of tape from all the repairs over the past year and a half.