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The Ultimate List For Traveling Almost Entirely Screen Free With A Toddler

Our family recently flew from Oregon all the way to Florida for a wedding, then to Virginia to see family and finally back home. Being the annoying penny pinchers that we are we opted not to pay crazy extra costs for non-stop flights and just go with one connecting flight per trip. This meant that in 7 days we’d be on 6 different airplanes. All of which we had to wake up before 6am for. Two of which were over 5.5 hours long. I forgot to mention we were doing this with our 2.5 year old toddler? Oh and since we don’t have TV at home and limit the amount of screen time, I was determined to do it almost entirely screen free. This would be the point that most people burst out laughing at me…then slowly realized I was totally serious. Shortly after that they’d quietly mentioned they’d pray for our sanity.

When I started researching as much as I could I realized there really was NOT a lot of ideas out there other than the typical handful like crayons and books. Being the over the top planner, obsessive organizer and compulsive researcher that I was I spent hours compiling a huge list of stuff to get us through each flight. The night before I laid it all out, organized it into separate bags, packed the first in the diaper bag & the other two in a suitcase for later use. The whole trip was a HUGE success! Way more than I could have ever imagined. Our son was so distracted by all of the activities, snacks and goodies he never had one meltdown or episode on the plane. We did allow him to watch The Jungle Book on the last flight because honestly he had done such a rockstar job on all other 5 flights and was exhausted from getting up at 3am to begin the trek home. All in all my magical Mary Poppins bag of goodies made the trip a total breeze.

So. How did we make it through 6 flights in 7 days with a happy toddler and only one movie? What exactly was in that magical bag? I’ll apologize in advance for the lack of photos, during the chaos of traveling I completely forgot to take photos to explain how we made it through.

First off we DID bring his carseat. I was super nervous to because it’s a Chicco NextFit Convertible Carseat which is sort of enormous. Plus I was worried if the airlines wouldn’t let us take it, but this blog post by The Carseat Lady helped me know my rights as a mom with a carseat. All of the airlines were super helpful and kind. Aside from the fact that while running to our connecting flights it felt like it weighed a million pounds and gave my husband a workout it did really well. I’m actually so glad we took it because it helped the entire atmosphere of the plane ride. The carseat doesn’t connect by the latches on either side. Instead it connects by taking the airplane seatbelt and pulling it through the openings on each side and under the middle cushon. The night before we flew I found this video from The Carseat Lady which saved me because when we boarded I knew exactly how to install the carseat quickly. Since our son was strapped in he basically acted the same as if he was in a car. He wasn’t worried about jumping up and down, running all over the plane or anything because he simply thought he wasn’t allowed to get out of his carseat. They put carseats by the window which is amazing too because it gives them something to look at. Bonus, he’s a great car napper (usually doesn’t work in my favor), but since we were traveling early in the morning he was able to doze off on almost every flight comfortable for a nap. Thank you Jesus! Oh and the BIGGEST thing that helped with the carseat is that we asked to pre-board. So before anyone else was asked to walk onto the plane we went first. This gave us time without stressing to get our carseat snapped in and our son situated. This was a huge help to us and relieved a lot of pressure about installing his carseat in front of others.

Rear Facing Carseat on Airplane

 

Ok now back to that magical bag I keep mentioning. My ridiculously amazing friend let me borrow her ginormous carryon approved Skip Hop Duo Double Diaper Bag. I am 5 feet tall so this thing is huge on me but it’s literally all I needed to carry everything for our whole family. This is the bag of all Mary Poppins bags. There are three magnetic pockets on the outside, three mesh pockets on the inside, two huge pockets on the inside also, plus two tiny pockets on the ends on the inside. The entire back is two large pockets as well. Plus theres a zipper pocket on the top on one side and two mesh cup holder pockets with draw strings on the outside on each end. Dang. So. Many. Pockets. All the organizers rejoice with a happy dance.

Skip hop Duo Double Diaper Bag

So what exactly was IN that amazing bag of mine? Brace yourselves.

Activities for flying with a toddler

Mary Poppins eat your heart out. So ALL of this was carried in that bag. It actually wasn’t as heavy as you’d expect. For each flight. I wanted to plan in case my kid had a catastrophic meltdown and ended up hating flying. Hope for the best, plan for the worst. Before we left I had gotten three sets of almost everything. So three different types of sticker pads, three sets of new flat paper books, three sets of each of those snacks you see, three sets of cars, ect ect. This way for EVERY day we flew he had a new set of books, a new sticker pad, new toys & all of the snacks had been restocked. I laid everything out in sets of three and then bagged them. Labeling them day one, day two and day three. The other good thing about this is that the day before we flew for the second or third time I didn’t have to question what to do, I simply pulled out the bag for the day and restock the diaper bag. I do want to clarify that you are allowed ONE quart sized bag of liquids so in this photo you see three bags. Everything within that bag has to be labeled and 3oz or less. So one was carried by me, one was carried by my husband and one was carried by my son in his little backpack. I mean let’s be real, if I’m having to pay for his flight the kid might as well help me out a bit. Can I get an amen? The BIGGEST TIP is to take things out ONE at a time. Take something out, play with it, exhaust that toy/book/whatever. Then go back and get a new one. Try to spend as much time playing with one thing at a time before showing them the next. This will buy you more time. EVERYTHING is about buying time.

Ok let’s go through what I brought one by one. We’ll go from top left down each column. You can take what ideas you like and customize them.

  1. Rolling a few of these together (pacifier, diapers, wipes, powder)…because duh.
  2. EarPlanes. BUY THESE!!! My child has had over 15 ear infections and his ear tubes fell out before we left so secretly when my ears started popping I was sitting there holding my breath. He never flinched, never cried and never winced. They are super easy to put in too. We got the three pack because in all of our traveling I just assumed I’d lose one along the way.
  3. Listerine Breath Strips…because I didn’t want gum & couldn’t remember to brush my teeth at 3am after sleeping for 4 hours. I mean lets be honest here.
  4. Three little cars I got from the dollar store. Not pictures is some black masking tape I brought to make roads out of on the tray table!
  5. Window Clings! Ahhh this was such a brilliant idea. I wish I could claim it as mine, but I found it on one of the 700 pintrest pins I looked at but can’t remember. Elijah thought this was the funnest thing in the world. They don’t damage the windows, they stick easily and you can reuse them if you want.
  6. The Reusable Melissa & Doug Sticker Pad. These were a little tall in the diaper bag but they were amazing! There are tons of different kinds and since they are only $5 each I got animals, vehicles & towns. We have reused the heck out of these things and they still stick! It helped because we made stories about each thing we were doing. These will be amazing to have on all of our upcoming vacations too.
  7. Paper books. Every kiddo is different so I’d say get 3 to 5 new paperback books for them per trip. He thought it was the greatest thing that he got new books for each flight. The ISpy books were especially helpful because I’d ask him to find things which mean he’d spend a long period of time finding things. Plus these are easy to travel so they have become really good books to keep in the car as well.
  8. Headphones for mommy to listen to music on while the kiddo napped
  9. Finger Crayons. We snap almost any and all thin crayon we use, or pull the paper off of it creating a huge mess. So this go around I wanted durable crayons that were fun to use and could withstand my child’s intense scribbling. I divided the package up so he got a few new colors each trip. However they stack and snap together really easily if you bring them all.
  10. Plastic Eggs filled with surprises. While grocery shopping I saw some leftover plastic easter eggs that looked like cupcakes and ice cream. After eating…I mean emptying the candy inside I filled them with paperclips because we could string them together to make necklaces, bracelets or whatever. You could also fill them with goldfish, stickers or anything that’ll be fun to open.
  11. Fisher Price Little People Wheelies Air Toys. He got a new little plane for the first and last trip we went on which was fun. I gave it to him explaining that it looked just like the plane we were going to ride. When we were flying he would hold it up to the window so it could fly in the clouds just like us.
  12. Kind Bars. My son and I are gluten free, dairy free so eating on the go can be a huge pain. I didn’t want to hassle with fruit or anything that couldn’t easily be stored for hours. Theres tons of different kinds too.
  13. Country Archer Beef Jerky. I knew that we’d need protein while traveling and since mommy refused to pay $9 for airplane deli sandwiches I preplanned. We got the original kind which my son loved and wasn’t spicy at all. Plus I found that at WINCO so they were way less expensive than some others. The bonus is we found some that were gluten free which is a big deal since it’s in most jerky (soy sauce). For my son I tore it into little bits so he didn’t get too big of a bite an choke on it.
  14. Random snacks. Because when it’s all you get to eat you need variety. Whatever you bring will be great, just make it some of your kids favorite foods so they know it’s a special treat. We opted for dried fruit, crackers, nuts for more protein, ect.
  15. Tissues. Again…duh. However, I was shopping and found fun ones with little animals on them.
  16. Pop Up Post-its. At first I thought this was kind of a waste but on flight 6 at the end I looked over and he was happily pulling each one off individually and putting it in a disposable cup. This lasted a solid 15 minutes. Of total silence. Then we’d transfer them, draw on them, make airplanes out of them, stick them on the window. It was a really simple thing but bought us a ton of time.
  17. Husbands Liquid Carry On: hand sanitizer, artificial tears, Justin’s Almond Butter packets, Young Living Essential Oils Ningxia Red Singles, various Young Living Essential Oils, 3oz Play Dough (it counts as a liquid!!).
  18. My Liquid Carry On: All of my Young Living Essential Oil rollers & various oils. I was SUPER worried about taking essential oils as a carry on. Especially this many. I thought they’d confiscate them, make me throw them away (literally my nightmare) or that we’d have problems. Everything was clearly labeled and we had no problems what so ever. We even flew out of Washington DC and heard the airport was a huge TSA stickler but not once did we have any problems. WHOOT!
  19. My Sons’ Liquid Carry On: All of his Young Living Essential Oil rollers & various oils. I made separate ones for him that were all pre-diluted so I didn’t have to deal with it while traveling. They were super helpful & allowed me to put stuff on him on the airplane that I normally would diffuse like his sleep blend.
  20. Mercy Grey Design Co Essential Oil Case. You guys…they are SO BEAUTIFUL! These were a gift to myself before we traveled. I use them constantly. I ordered one for me and a smaller one for my son. Usually when we’re out and about we use my sons bag because it’s smaller. If you want another visual on how they look full you can check out my friend Kindred Essential’s post who first got one and made me fall in love.
  21. Emergency Kit. I always have this with me even when Im at home. It’s a little snack back that has ear plugs, bandaids, hair ties, alcohol wipes, Qtips and usually superglue but that was an unnecessary liquid for this trip.
  22. Extra outfit because kids can’t keep their clothes clean for more than 30 minutes at a time.
  23. Extra baggies because I’ve never actually seen barf bags on a plane…just in case.
  24. EMPTY water bottle. We filled it up after we got through security.
  25. My camera gear…no way was I checking that baby. Heck to the no.
  26. Inhalers & medication. I’m not sure if you need to carry an RX with you so make sure to ask your doctor. Ours said we didn’t and we never had any issues at all.
  27. Carabiner. These instantly give you extra hands. I usually have two or three on the diaper bag to just hold anything that I can’t.
  28. Skip Hop Reversible Plush Blanket. This is deemed my sons favorite blanket. It’s fleece on one side which keeps him super warm and has fun animals on the other side. Make sure to bring a blanket because some of the plane rides were cold. Plus it helped him snuggle in to get a good nap.
  29. Not Pictured: Children’s Headphones and a Kindle loaded with The Jungle Book and Daniel The Tiger. As hell bent as I was on flying screen free I prepped for reality. If for some reason it was a total chaotic nightmare I’d let him watch movies the whole trip. Our main goal is to get to and from where we’re going. Happily. If that meant my kiddo watch TV for the entire flight every time then so be it. There’s our family as well as many others on the airplane so we wanted to make sure we had a fail proof backup plan in case of emergencies. We decided in advance if he had an epic amount of screen time we wouldn’t feel even an ounce of guilt and we’d check our ego about that at the door. In the end we allowed him to watch one movie as a reward for being such an incredible traveler. We took naps and he felt like a special boy who got the coolest reward for just being an amazing kid. Win win.

If you have any questions about any of the stuff I used please message me! We are a bunch of parents all in this together. Happy traveling!

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