Travelling with a toddler does not have to be a hideous nightmare for anyone on board an aeroplane, including yourself! In my previous post, I talked about preparing a survival kit for the flight, but there are a couple of other things you can do which will make flying with a toddler much more tolerable.
Before you fly
1. Planning your flight
As far as you can, book a nonstop flight or time the longest leg of the flight around your child’s sleep time. Your toddler may not sleep for the entirety of the trip, but even a short nap would be a wonderful break for you. Night flights are great because your tot is more likely to settle down for a long sleep, which is the most ideal scenario. If you do have a layover, this the best time for toddlers to burn off some of their latent energy so try not to waste it on a nap!
2. Bring an umbrella stroller
A light, foldable stroller really helps to save time when you need to move quickly through a crowded airport, especially if you are rushing to catch a connecting flight. Most airlines will allow you to bring the stroller all the way down to the gate, where you leave it with the airline staff before boarding. It will be waiting for you at the door when you land. If you are travelling alone, make sure you are able to fold the stroller up with one hand – you will be required to plonk it on the conveyor belt for the X-ray machine and you may not have both hands free.
3. Request an aisle seat for yourself
Toddlers may clamour to sit near the window, but this can prove to be problematic when they start playing with the shades during take off/landing/when everyone is trying to get some shuteye. In any case, you’ll be thankful for your aisle seat when you don’t have to climb unceremoniously over a sleeping passenger, just to bring your restless little one to the bathroom for the billionth time.
4. Divide and conquer
Some families like to travel together and take up a whole row, but I personally prefer to divide and conquer. One parent sits with the toddler(s) at the front of the cabin, while the other parent sits alone at the back. This ensures that at least one parent gets a quiet break and some sleep, and can relieve the other parent midway through the flight if necessary. It also means that you can watch all the inflight movies you want without worrying that your toddler will be scarred for life.
5.Boarding the flight
Although it is helpful to board the flight early to slowly get settled in and nab the coveted space in the overhead compartments, it often means extra time in a confined area. I prefer to board at last minute with my toddler, and let them run around the gate for a longer time, getting all the wiggles out. Flight attendants are notoriously good at finding space for carry-on luggage, so don’t worry!
Travel Tip: Stow your carry-on luggage under the seat in front of your toddler’s chair – it’s not like they need that extra leg room.
Equipping yourself on-board the flight
1. Amass magazines and newspapers
On the way to finding your seat, you might pass a magazine rack. This is your chance to nab a few magazines to entertain your kids before the flight takes off. Travel magazines in particular will have beautiful pictures and will keep most toddlers quietly amused so that you don’t have to delve into your bag of tricks. This way, you can save the toys in the carry-on for much later on in the flight! Newspapers are also very good – in a pinch, you can fold giant origami hats to amuse your toddler or use it as a doodle pad. Toddlers often prefer to watch cartoons on the inflight entertainment system from the safety of your lap, and this can become tedious, especially after the opening sequence of ‘Lilo and Stitch’ has been replayed nearly 30 times – so it’s good to have some reading material at hand as well!
2. Create a clean-up stash
Head to the airline bathroom and collect a bunch of soft tissues (for messy faces) and paper towels (for spills and other thrills) from the airline toilet, as well as a couple of extra sick bags (for soiled tissues and towels or dirty disposable nappies).
3. Fill your children’s water bags
Keep yourself and your kids well hydrated. I like to bring an empty thermos flask (for hot water) as well as empty bottles for each of my tots. I usually just pass these to the flight stewardess at the start of the flight and ask her to fill them up. Most stewardesses are kind enough to dilute fruit juices with water as well (or you can try to scare them into compliance with horror stories of kids getting all hyped up on sugar).
4. Ask for extra blankets and pillows
Those airline seats can be pretty big for a toddler so it is useful to have extra pillows and blankets on hand to pad the seat out and make it more comfortable. A comfortable toddler is more likely to drift off to sleep! An extra blanket is also useful if your tot wants to play on the floor for a while. If you are fortunate enough to bag a seat by the door or at the front of the cabin (which is usually where the child bassinets are), there is enough room on the floor for your toddler to sit on a blanket with a few quiet toys. If you aren’t so fortunate, there may be a little bit of space near the emergency exits at the back of the aeroplane, if you don’t mind sitting on the floor near the toilets.
5. Ask for spare nappies and wipes
You’ve probably brought your own nappies, but it’s always good to have a few spare. I tend to use the airline-provided nappies first because I don’t want to have to open up my carryon until absolutely necessary.
Are you ready yet?
If you have any more tips for a smooth journey with a toddler, please share it with me in the comments!
Oh, and don’t forget the first rule of flying which is:
Have a safe and stress-free flight!