Flying with a toddler can evoke fear in even the calmest parent. Will my active toddler be able to sit still for hours in a cramped airplane seat or on my lap? Will his/her ears be okay? How will we keep him/her entertained? What if he/she decides to throw a massive fit?
My two year old son J has been to eight countries and on over twenty flights. Here are some of my tips on how to enjoy flying with a toddler:
1. When booking your flights take naps and bedtime into account. It works best when your child will be sleepy, but not overtired for when you board. The last thing you want is for a child who should be sleeping being kept awake to board an airplane.
2. Preparing to fly with a toddler begins before you even get onto the airplane. A week or so before you fly talk about flying with your toddler, read books about flying, and watch videos about flying. (It goes without saying that you’d check these beforehand to make sure that they are age appropriate, aren’t scary, and make airplanes sound like a fun adventure).
3. Pack a special bag full of fun activities for your child to enjoy while flying. Here is a list of what I packed on our most recent flight:
- J’s favourite board book
- a new book
- 5 Little People animal figurines
- a few small new toys
- a lacing board. A Melissa and Doug dog that you lace around the edges with a shoelace
- a tablet loaded with children’s shows. Judge all you like. J isn’t allowed to watch much tv at home so allowing him to watch shows on the airplane is a lifesaver.
- J’s water bottle. Refilled after security.
- snacks. We packed an apple, goldfish crackers, raisins, and a cookie.
- painter’s tape and Post-its. J loved sticking them all over his tray and armrests. They are easy to remove unlike stickers.
- colouring book and crayons
- finger puppets
- small magnetic sketcher
- baby blanket
- extra outfit
- diapers and wipes
Here is a list of what I would NOT pack for a flight:
- any toys with wheels; you don’t want to have to pick it up once it rolls off the tray table for the hundredth time
- playdough; my police officer friend said that sometimes playdough is flagged in security because it looks like the putty in home made explosives and an ingredient in it sets off an alarm in the bomb ingredient detector machine.
- stickers. I didn’t want to have to be peeling off stickers from everywhere within J’s arm reach.
4. When you check-in at the airport ask if there are any empty seats. If you aren’t taking up the entire row with your family, politely request that you are beside an empty seat.
5. At the airport tire your toddler out. Do laps up and down the airport. Walk, walk, walk. He/she will be sitting for quite a while so it’s best if you’ve burned some of that toddler energy before the flight. If you are really lucky he/she might even be sleepy enough to have an extra long sleep while on the airplane.
6. If your little one is still in diapers, change him or her right before boarding the flight. The changing areas in the airplane bathrooms are teeny tiny.
7. When it comes time to board don’t board early with those who need extra time to board. You will be stuck in your seat(s) long enough; there is no need adding another 30+ minutes by boarding early.
8. During take off and landing there’s a change in the air pressure which can cause discomfort to your little one. To relieve or prevent this then either breastfeed, give a bottle, give a drink or give a snack.
9. Once in the air don’t give all of the toys at once. Bring them out one at a time. Don’t give them a choice of all of the toys right off the bat; you want to surprise and excite him or her with new toys and activities frequently.
10. If your toddler starts crying or acting up stay calm. The more stressed you are about flying and the situation, the more stressed your toddler will be.
Enjoy your holiday! Flying with a little one will be worth it once you are having fun away from home. 🙂