What’s more difficult than travelling with babies? That’s right, travelling with toddlers. Check out our top tips for making long flights with toddlers as smooth as possible.
It’s a fear that all parents of toddlers experience when contemplating air travel: Their precious little one will scream, kick and cry from the moment they are in the air to the moment they land, all the while attempting to deflect the chagrin of disgruntled passengers.
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Thankfully, there are steps you can take to give your toddler the best chance of settling into the flight ahead.
Here is your comprehensive “Flying with Toddlers” checklist:
1. Choose the right time
Where possible, choose the best time to suit your children’s sleeping and waking habits. Do they usually stay up late or wake up early? The ultimate goal is for them to sleep on the plane, so choose a flight time accordingly.
If you are taking a long-haul flight, try to book a flight for around an hour before their bedtime so your child has time to settle down and, hopefully, will nod off soon after take-off.
2. Check in ahead of time
As parents of toddlers well know, things don’t always go to plan. So, it is best to be prepared and give yourself extra time to check-in with your luggage and get through security. Have all your liquids in clear ziplock bags before you get to the airport. Milk is usually exempt from the 100ml rule, but you should check the security rules of the airport before you get there so you are fully prepared and know what to expect. Checking in early also means you will have the greatest chance for your whole family to be seated together.
3. Know the airline regulations
While many airlines allow children up to two years of age to travel for free in your lap, this is not always the case. You may have to pay a reduced fair for a seat for your child. Check different airline policies before you book your tickets.
4. Seat over lap
While cost is usually the deciding factor here, both you and your child will be much more comfortable if they have some space and a seat of their own. Some airlines offer reduced seat fares of up to 75% for toddlers so, if it is not too expensive, you should opt for getting your child their own seat on the plane.
5. Tire them out before the flight
Many airports have play areas for children so it is a good idea to let your toddler run wild there before the flight. Ideally, they will burn up any excess energy on the ground and quickly fall into a peaceful slumber once you are on board.
Unfortunately, no matter how much you try, there is just no guarantee that your little one will conk out once they are on the plane. This is why you need some great entertainment options. If you have strict screen time, this is one instance where it might be better to relax the rules. If there are no in-flight entertainment options on the plane, come equipped with iPads, phones, tablets or any movie watching device.
As the excitement of their new surroundings may quicken the decline of their attention span, you should also bring toys such as blocks, colouring books, sticker books or whatever other toys your child likes to play with. Does your toddler have a favourite cuddly toy? It is a good idea to keep this as a secret weapon that you can produce if they are having a tantrum and nothing else will work.
Food also works as a great distraction for kids on planes. As with screen time, it is best to let rules go out the window and give them whatever snacks will keep them occupied. Of course, watch out for sugary treats as you don’t want to accidentally give them even more energy.
8. Clothes and wipes
Dress your child in their comfiest clothes, specifically clothes that are easy to layer as you never know what level the air conditioning will be at on the plane. You should also bring plenty of spare clothes in case there are any accidents. The same goes for wet wipes. A good rule of thumb is to prepare the amount you think you will need and then double it. With air travel, there are a hundred unforeseen circumstances that can cause your flight to be delayed so it is best to prepare for any eventuality.
9. Ear popping
The pressure changes that cause ear pain during take-off and landing can be incredibly uncomfortable for small children and is most often the cause of their crying and screaming on planes. You can help alleviate their discomfort by giving them sucking or chewy sweets, a bottle or general snacks to chew on. You can also talk to your doctor before the flight and ask them to prescribe age-appropriate ear drops or invest in kid-friendly ear plugs.
10. Don’t forget the magic
As a stressed-out parent, it is understandable if all you see when travelling are long queues and various obstacles that look like tantrum catalysts. However, don’t forget that flying can be a wondrous experience for children. If you can nab a window seat, looking out at the tiny cars and houses below and flying through the clouds may be all the distraction that your child will need.
11. Don’t stress
All you can do is your best. If your toddler is exhausted and has sore ears, there is little you can do but try and soothe them. Don’t stress about angry or staring passengers. If they see you are doing all you can to calm your child, there is nothing more they can expect from you. After all, your little one’s well-being is the most important thing.
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