Combine a short attention span, busy hands and no reasoning ability and you have yourself a very trying flying companion. Toddlers are hard work to entertain on a good day let alone locked in a small space, restrained on your lap. We have been on many flights with our children, from short trips to long 24+ hour marathon adventures, and one question I get asked all the time is “What advice do you have for parents who are scared to fly with their children?”. My answer is always RELAX (easier said than done I know!) but also to just give it a go and see what you think, I promise it will not be nearly as bad as you imagine! The hardest age I think to travel with on flights are between 8 months and 2.5 years old as they are on the move but have short attention spans and sometimes have trouble articulating what they want or need. Here are some tips to survive your flight with hopefully a happy toddler and no complaints from fellow passengers!
- Stickers Stickers are a great occupier for a toddler. Let them stick them all over the place, even on the tray table and then they have to take take them off again, what a great game! Buy them in a pack or even a sticker book as then you have some pages they can scribble on and even you can draw some pictures with them as well.
- Snacks One thing you definitely do not want when flying is a ‘hangry’ toddler! Its always good to have snacks that your child likes as even though the plane will have food it is not guaranteed they will actually want to eat it. Fruit and healthy snacks in snap lock bags are great but also a few treats are nice as well as it is a special occasion. Just make sure you don’t pump too much sugar into them as that will not help provide you with an agreeable toddler! Sultanas, blueberries and other small snacks are great as they take them time to eat and they have to concentrate picking them up which keeps them busy for longer.
- Little presents to unwrap Buy a couple of small toys from the $2 shop and wrap them up and give them to your toddler along the way which they find so fun. They just need to be little things and even wrap them in newspaper it doesn’t matter its more about the excitement of receiving a present. Spread them out during the flight so if you need a distraction you have one. This is also great for older children as well. A new board book is fabulous as its exciting to read a new story they haven’t heard before and they might be more interested in hearing a new book being read over and over again. Its also lovely to have that book to read during the trip as well. So choose carefully as you will know that story off by heart by the end of the flight! A board book is also handy as you can squash it into your bag and the toddler can read it to themselves and they can’t ruin it.
- iPad Screen time is the best invention for travelling with children. While it helps so much to keep the older children entertained there are also lots of games that toddlers can play, so have a google and see what you can find that might interest your child. If they like watching a particular show download it. Another thing my son loves is looking at photos of people he knows or animals, so put some photos on there as well to show them and chat about. Limiting or abolishing screen time in the lead up to the trip is also a good idea, as it will be more of a treat come take off!
- Request an extra seat at check in If the flight is not full request to be seated next to a spare seat. Even if your toddler is sharing your seat it is handy to have the extra room and space for them to sit so you can have a few minutes without a toddler on your lap. Also fantastic if they have a sleep! Whenever is extra space with small children a bad idea?!
- Walk around Don’t be afraid to get up and walk around the aisles with them if they are getting restless, as just a small change in scenery and a stretch of their legs can refresh them so much. If the flight has numerous empty seats, even a play in an empty row of seats lets them burn a little bit of energy and won’t disrupt fellow passengers.
- Fly at night For long haul flights try and book night time flights as then hopefully you will then only have to deal with a sleeping toddler and a possible dead arm! Night flights are great as toddlers seem to sleep quite well on planes and products like the CoziGo ( for young ones still fitting in the bassinet) and Plane Pal (for the older ones) make sleeping so much easier.