Let’s face it. Traveling with a toddler whether by car, plane, boat or train is one of those parenthood rites of passage that you have to buckle down and muscle through, much like breastfeeding in public, the first up-the-back total diaper blowout and your first trip to the ER.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, we took a trip to southern Utah to see my husband’s family. It was our second plane trip with our two- year-old son and although it was much shorter than the cross country trek we took when he was 14 months old, it was our first trip with a talking, running, jumping, needs-to-be-constantly-entertained toddler.
If you haven’t been to the Reno-Tahoe International Airport in a while, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised with the improvements they’ve made. First, security is now all in one place, so it’s not based on what terminal you are going to.
And you guys?
It’s like big city security now. There are more lines, more TSA agents and our experience was very smooth. We arrived two hours early just in case and breezed through security. Check out this guide from TSA on traveling with children. It’s helpful to know that kids under 12 don’t have to take their shoes off!
In addition to the new security, the airport has added new dining and retail options. One thing that has stayed consistent is the Nevada theme. Everywhere you look there are little pieces of Nevada culture – and this couldn’t be truer than in the new children’s play area, The Mighty Miner’s play site.
Sponsored by the Nevada Mining Association, the play site is located next to McDonald’s and in very close proximity to the family bathroom. I would like to applaud the person who had the foresight to choose this location. They obviously have children and have been stuck in an airport trying to entertain them, feed them and find a bathroom.
The play site is not overly large, but it is more than enough room to keep your kiddo entertained. My son loved playing with the other kids, climbing, sliding and building with the foam blocks.
Here are my top tips for flying with a toddler:
• Start prepping them early by talking about the trip. We did this for months before our trip by telling our son that we would be going on a plane, then a bus and then a car. We also made a big deal out of the fact that our son would have his own seat and that he would get a special drink on the plane.
• Involve your toddler in the packing process. Toddlers love control, so we’ve found with our son that if we give him the illusion of control, things go a lot smoother. This time we had our son choose toys he wanted to bring on the plane and then had him pack them in his Buzz Lightyear backpack.
• Get to the airport early. Remember your childless days? Sweeping into the Reno airport, stopping by the bar for a cocktail and then gliding effortlessly onto your flight? Yeah, those are over. There is no effortless gliding while schlepping a car seat, a 30-pound toddler and all the gear required for traveling with said toddler. Plan on arriving at the Reno Airport 1 ½ – 2 hours early.
• Bring something that your kids can suck on during take off and landing. Lollipops, sippee cups or a bottle or a special piece of candy are perfect for helping the little one’s ears pop.
• Buy some new (or new to them) special toys or books for the trip and don’t let your child have them until you are in the airport/car/train station/boat launch (that actually made me giggle). These don’t have to be fancy or expensive toys. A great place to shop for these is the dollar store, and for great children’s book prices check out Grassroots Books in Reno.
• Our son was freaked out when he realized that the plane was off the ground, so we found that closing the window shade gave him some peace of mind. Remember that control thing I mentioned earlier? He opened the shade slightly throughout our flight to check on the status of the sky.
• When all else fails, improvise.