Gearing up for a family vacation can be a daunting task. Add a toddler to the mix, and you’ve got quite the double whammy, but - it can be done.
My family and I just successfully flew our first long-haul flight with our not-quite-two-year-old in tow, and we made it there and back just fine. If we can do it, so can you! Leading up to the trip, I spent an embarrassing amount of time scouring the depths of the internet for any and all tips. However, when it really came down to it, I'd say the real key was keeping things simple.
With that in mind, here are the three main things that I would say made the difference for us. (Cue that cliché parental disclaimer - “every kid is different”.)
Get to the airport early I know this one’s obvious, but it bears repeating. There is truly nothing worse than scrambling with luggage, strollers, and cranky family members, so set yourself up for a calmer airport experience by arriving a few hours ahead of departure. Many airports, including our very own MSP Terminal 2 , have a play area for children allowing them to burn some energy ahead of your flight. As a bonus, use the rest of the airport to your advantage too. We kept our son entertained for a surprisingly long amount of time by wandering around, looking at planes, and explaining the different elements of the airport. In fact, he still runs around yelling “I see a super tug!” at home.
Bring. All. The. Snacks.
Not only do snacks ward off a bad case of the hangries, they fill time, too. (For us, that was in the form of 15-minute rounds of “is this M&M green or blue?”). Prepack some TSA-approved foods in small bags or containers to save money and have a variety of things on-hand in your personal item or carry-on. We found dried cereal, fruit, snack cheese, Goldfish, and, of course, M&Ms to be our keys to success. No need to reinvent the wheel when you pack what you know your kids will like.
To stay hydrated, kids’ water bottles or cups are also a must. Fill up at one of the airport water fountains before you board or take advantage of Sun Country's complimentary in-flight beverage service that includes some kid-friendly juice options. The plastic cups they come in aren’t always the best option for toddlers, though, so that's another instance where those cups will come in handy.
Keep your entertainment options varied
One of the most common tips I found during my pre-trip research frenzy was to bring a few small new toys or activities. I can now say I’ve tested that theory and agree. You don’t have to go crazy here, either – your local dollar store is a great place to go. We grabbed a few new small trucks, some dinosaur stickers, and those oh-so-brilliant coloring books at a local dollar store for less than $10. They successfully kept our son busy for a couple of hours on the flight. I’d also suggest avoiding things that are small and can be easily dropped or lost since it can be hard to dig around for things that may have fallen into cracks or under seats.
Lastly, yes – digital entertainment is great, too. We're one of those families that does try to limit screen time at home, but truthfully, our tablet came in clutch. Repeating episodes of the Americana adventures of a certain red lightning-bolted car truly saved the day towards the end of the flight when he started to go stir-crazy. Sun Country flights also feature AirFi – a captive inflight WiFi entertainment system that gives you and your family access to movies, TV shows, and games right from your own devices. And that’s it. Truly. My best advice is to not overthink it and put some trust in your parental abilities, and your kids. You’ve got this!
Oh, and PS: If you’re wondering more tactically what you can and cannot bring while traveling with children, check out the FAQs on suncountry.com for more information.