When Jack randomly mentioned one day as we were walking to the shops that he’d been on a plane before, it got Chris and I thinking just how many times we have dared to fly with him in tow. It turns out he has racked up a few air miles and no doubt that is going to continue well into the future, particularly if he has inherited the travel bug. You could say we’re very experienced in dealing with a child on lengthy flights, so we thought we should share a few tips for flying with an infant or toddler to your destination.
Book an evening flight
If you are travelling a long distance, consider booking an evening flight so that the child can sleep the majority of the trip and you get a chance to get some shut eye too. Try to time it so that you are boarding a little before their usual dinner time, that way they can settle in before they start to wind down for the day.
Choose an aisle and window seat
There is nothing worse than being sandwiched in between two unsuspecting travellers on either side of you. Choosing an aisle and a window will ensure your little person can be amused by the outside world or get up when they are feeling restless.
Don’t board early
While it might seem like a good idea to take up the offer to board early, for the toddler it means being couped up on a plane for an extra 30 minutes. If you have a lot of stuff to organise, have your partner go on ahead before you and your child board with the last of the passengers.
Purchase a special ‘flying bag’
Flying for a toddler is a pretty exciting experience regardless of how many flights they have been on. Purchasing a special flying bag can help them take ownership of their stuff. It also means you have all their distractions in the one place. Consider ride-on luggage which will save you carrying them while walking to the departure gate.
Break your flight into 15-minute timeslots
When planning your child’s entertainment for the flight, break the flight up into 15-minute timeslots. Most toddlers won’t last on an activity for much longer than that unless of course it is the iPad! This means you will have enough games, activities, stories to keep them occupied from take-off to landing.
Pack a tablet
I’m all for restricting my child’s iPad and TV use, but on a flight, train or bus that rule goes out the window! A tablet is one of the best tools when travelling and can really save you during those meltdown moments. I download new cartoons, movies or games beforehand so they are extra excited and not going to get bored.
Invest in some child friendly headphones
Proper headphones are a must for kids as not only do they protect their ears from the sound, they also fit properly.
When packing your toddler’s activities or toys wrap them up in some wrapping paper. Small toys like squishy animals, match box cars and Duplo are perfect for wrapping up. This is not only exciting, it stretches play time for each activity a little longer!
Stickers, stickers and more stickers
I don’t know what it is about stickers, but toddlers love them! Look out for sticker books where you can reuse the stickers to make pictures, or ones that double up as story books.
Don’t try new foods
This is not the time to experiment in the kitchen and bring healthy options like kale chips or veggie balls if your child hasn’t already tried them. You don’t want to be in a situation on the flight where you child is starving and being fussy with food. Pack foods that you know they love.
Don’t necessarily order a child’s meal
On our first long haul flight I forgot to request a child’s meal. I thought that spelt disaster, but it turned out to be a blessing for us. Jack has always eaten what we eat, so he was quite happy to eat the adult meal provided and while plane food is not typically healthy, the main meals were actually a healthier option. The added bonus was the serving size was bigger, meaning Chris got to eat the leftovers!
Get them up and about
Kids get restless, so if you break up the flight with a couple of walks down the aisles it stops them from going crazy. We find going and having a look at the kitchen and where the flight attendants hang out is always entertaining.
Make allies with the flight attendants!
Speaking of flight attendants, it is always worth making them your allies. Word your child up to say hi and introduce themselves before you get on board. A smiling, polite child always wins their hearts and often they help you out in return by taking them for a stroll or giving them a treat.
Flying with an infant or toddler doesn’t have to be a nightmare if you are prepared, but all kids have the ability to throw you a curve ball from time to time. The key is not to fret, most people are pretty sympathetic and changing up the activity, giving food or taking them for a walk will generally calm them down.