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Flying can be a very stressful time for some but even more so when you are traveling with a little one. You may have the perfect trip planned but there are always things that are out of your control and this usually has something to do with children. Planning ahead a little can help to keep your trip on track. These are things that we have found that has worked for us with our travel experiences. Flying with a toddler is difficult but it doesn’t need to be. These are the best tips that I can give to any parent flying with a toddler. You can’t account for everything, but a little preplanning can make a world of difference to your entire trip.
1. Finding the right flight, balance layovers
Picking out your flight can significantly change the way that a toddler travels and should be based on your toddler’s behavior. This can be a hit or miss tip but if you time it just right, it can be smooth sailing. In a recent trip, we had planned on an early flight which worked out well heading to Orlando. Our little one was able to take a shorter nap on the plane but was overall content during the travel overall.
Depending on how you plan for layovers, I would recommend having a longer layover than you may typically. If this is the first time traveling with little ones, they will slow you down. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it is inevitable. Taking the extra time and not having to rush to your connecting flight is an easy way to try to prevent meltdowns. They may want to walk part of the way as they are starting to figure out their own individuality, which will drastically slow you down. If you normally try to have a 25-30 minute layover, it may be worth trying to get 60-75 minute layover instead.
2. Board early – if unassigned seats
Depending on the which airlines you go with, may make a difference in seating. I typically try to fly with companies where I can pick my seats ahead of time to reduce the headache later on. By doing this, I am able to ensure that its what works for my family. If you are unable to do this or only fly with one company due to reward programs, then boarding early is the next best. You can get an aisle seat if your little one likes to move and will be walking a little more. Or you can get a window seat if you are nursing the toddler for a little more privacy and back support. All have their pros and cons but it will vary based on the family on which seats to pick.
This is definitely important if your child is not lap sitting. If they will have their own seats, then you will need to account for the seats being together. Moreso if you are unable to have pre-assigned seats. Lap sitting vs their own seat is controversial in its own way but should be left up to the parents. Each child will be different and a unique circumstance. We opted for lap sitting but the flight attendant had us move to a 3 seat row because the flight wasn’t at capacity. Even with the extra seat, our daughter didn’t want to sit on her own. You will be able to make the call on what works best as long as they are under the age of 2 for most airlines.
3. Bring electronics
This one is probably the only controversial one based on parenting style. No judgment either way here. Flying with a toddler is and sometimes, you do what you have to to keep them content. A kindle loaded up with shows or connecting to the plane’s wifi are great options for this. They don’t need to be glued to the device the whole time, and in all actuality, are very unlikely to be. And they may not sit and watch it. Our little one doesn’t necessarily watch the shows but enjoys the background noise while she is doing something else. On our last trip, this helped to minimize the risk of any meltdowns and made for easy flights overall. Some airlines will also have TVs in the back of the seats which is also helpful as well. However, this is not on every flight.
4. Make sure to have other activities to do
Let’s be honest, electronics only work so long. So with this being the case, make sure to bring other toys or activities. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy but just something to do. Our go-to is crayons and coloring book. But we also have other things such as an actual activity book which provides fine motor tasks. Another one that our daughter loved was a small figurine set of her favorite characters. It won’t take much to distract your little one. I have found that even a small pack of stickers is enough to give you 15 minutes of peace. This can be great for even when you have already landed.
5. Protect their ears – nursing, pacifier, snacks
Now that you have gotten your flight and brought your entertainment, now comes to take off. This can be one of the biggest challenges due to the risk of discomfort. The change in pressure within the cabin can cause the ears to pop but this is worse with children. This may be the most challenging parts of flying with a toddler. The smaller ear canals increase the pressure but this can be minimized. If the toddler is nursing, this can be an even better way to prevent the discomfort. This is definitely a great way of reducing discomfort and preventing a meltdown.
There are a few options such as pacifier or snacks which is due to sucking and chewing helps to relieve the pressure. Anything that will reduce pressure will relieve discomfort and chance of a meltdown. When the plane is taxiing around the airport, get a snack ready. Which leads into our next tips
6. Snacks, so many snacks
Make sure to bring snacks, the other snacks and maybe more snacks. If you have spent any time with a toddler, you will have likely realized that they want the other snacks and not the snacks that you have. I recommend bringing a few different types of snacks that way they can choose what they want in that moment. One minute they want crackers, another minute dried fruit. During our last trip, we brought a variety pack we use and threw some in our carry on bag and the rest in the checked bag. It is better to bring more when flying with a toddler than not enough. A lot of flights will provide snacks but the options are usually limited. Dried strawberries worked the best as they take a little longer to chew.
7. Naps can be a hit or miss
My child always takes great naps at such and such a time! This pretty much goes out the window. Again flying is stressful, especially for little ones and this creates a break in the routine. In my experience, the likelihood that they will nap at their typical time is very low. There are many reasons that come into play with this. Sleeping schedule may be thrown off or there is a lot of stimuli going on around them, more so if this is there first trip.
They may take a couple of power naps rather than a long restful nap. Trying to balance this as much as possible is key. During our last trip, through the entire morning, our daughter only took a 25-minute nap on the plane after getting up at 3 am. We had tried several times to get her to sleep but there was too much going on. Be prepared for drastic changes to this schedule and embrace the unknown. There is a high chance that if you try to force a nap that it could lead to a bigger tantrum.
8. Hit the restroom before the flight – to change diapers
This is not a major piece of advice but can save a bit of hassle. The reason behind this is that the bathrooms are very small and cramped. It can be difficult to change a diaper on the changing tables that they have in each of the rooms. In our experience, some are worse than others. Our daughter is on the tall side for her age and even at 20 months at the time, she was unable to lay on the changing table without bumping her head. In some cases, it easier just to attempt to change the toddler while they are standing. Changing your little before your flight will minimize the need to use the changing tables on the plane
9. Walk around if need be
Spending more than an hour in one place can get old quick, more so for a toddler. People tend to try to keep them stationary then the entire trip. Sometimes it is better to take a few minutes and take a few steps down the aisle. This helps burn extra energy and is good to get the blood pumping. It doesn’t need to be a long stroll but sometimes taking a quick stroll to the bathroom and back. Depending on the length of the plane ride, the best bet is to take time to stretch the legs about halfway through. If you are going to do this, plan on after the flight attendants have already come by with drinks and snacks.
10. Bring sanitary wipes
The last thing you want to do when starting a vacation is to get sick. The easiest way to prevent this is washing your hands. However, this can be difficult when first getting on a plane. We recommend bringing a small pack of sanitary wipes to wipe down anything that your little one could touch. Biggest areas we hit are the arms, tray tables and the vents/buttons above the seats. If there are TVs on the back of the seats, then I would recommend wiping down the touch screen or buttons. It is also a good idea to bring hand sanitizer. You don’t want to add getting sick to the challenges of flying with a toddler. It’s not a great way to start the vacation.
11. Deep breath
This is the most important of all the tips listed above. Plans change and things happen but the biggest thing when flying with a toddler is to deep breath. Outbursts or tantrums will happen but it is not the end of the world. Giving them a safe space is the most important thing you can do. All tantrums come to an end, being able to move forward is what will make a great vacation. It is difficult in that moment to remember to deep breath but mastering this will make every event that comes up as a parent easier.
Hopefully, you found these tips to be beneficial. You can’t plan for every event or issues that could arise but these tips will help to ensure that you have a positive experience when flying with a toddler. This can be a great experience for all if you plan ahead for the trip. As parents, I think we all assume the worse but I can honestly say that the last trip was an incredible adventure. Do you have any tips I missed? Let us know in the comments below