Top Ten Tips for Flying with a Toddler

Hi Emma, I am worried about taking my toddler of 21 months away on a long haul flight as he still won’t have his own seat and doesn’t sit still! Have you got any tips on anything I can do to keep him entertained on a 10 hour flight? Thanks.

For many of us, the very thought of taking a little one on a long flight is completely overwhelming. However, before you give up on the dream of a lovely, exotic, family holiday, you should know that flying with a little one is absolutely do-able, if you plan ahead, and manage well. Here are my top ten tips for flying with a toddler, and making it to paradise! Though the prospect of flying with a tiny tot is daunting, it is 100% worth the benefits when the plane doors open, the gorgeous warmth envelopes you, and you can proudly say to yourself “I did it!”

Flying with a Toddler

Put their favourite shows onto an Ipad

1.Try to book your flight at regular bed-time, or at nap-time, so that you know it’s likely that at least some of the flight will be taken up with sleep. I would recommend getting your little ones into their PJs at the airport. If you’ve recently potty trained, for the sake of ease, I’d really recommend a nappy, just this once. Once you’re on the plane you can have a story, a protein snack (no sugar) perhaps a milk during take-off, and all being well you might all be able to bank on some shut-eye.

2. Try to book your seats ahead, and think about where you might want them. I have two suggestions here. Firstly, the bulk heads. These are the seats right at the front of the plane, on which the travel cots attach. They have more leg room, so there is some space for your toddler to play some little games on the floor, and at least move around a little bit. Secondly, you might want to think about a window seat. Spotting clouds is a little activity all of itself, but also, your toddler can rest his/her head against the window, and go to sleep easily, undisturbed my other passengers.

3. Fly off-peak. If you are able to fly off-season, I would really recommend this. Often off-peak planes are only half full, which means that you might get a seat for your little one, even if you haven’t bought one. This happened for us when we flew long haul with our toddler. It was nice to have a little extra room, but we did find that he wanted to spend most of his time cuddled up to Mummy or Daddy anyway, so if you don’t get one, don’t despair!

4. Exercise pre-take off. Once you’ve made it through security, the aim of the game is to wear your little tiger out. Go on a scavenger hunt in the airport, or book into a lounge with a soft play area. Once they’re tired and it’s nearing departure time, make sure they have a banana, oat cake, and some protein before they board, all of these are calm and sleep inducing foods…think zen. It’s essential to steer away from the sugar.

5. Make fun out of all the things you find on board the plane. Though this is a stressful moment for you, it is exciting for your child, and you can kill a huge amount of time simply going through the in flight magazine, and tasking them with finding you a picture of something on each page. Every time the Air Hostess brings the drinks trolley, ask for a cup and some ice…if there’s one thing I’ve noticed, kids love ice, and they love straws, you can pass half an hour on ice alone! You will also be able to discuss looking at clouds close up at length…what do they look like, what stories can you tell about them? Once the seat belt sign is switched off, and before the trolleys start their rounds, you can do laps of the plane and see what you can spot…for you it might be a little dull, but for them it’s an adventure…and a chance to move those little legs around, just for a little while!

6. Make good use of In-flight entertainment. Most airlines now supply cartoons non-stop during the flight, and you can upload favourites to your IPAD too. Most carriers will also offer a whole goody bag filled with fun activities to keep you going. Unfortunately, in my experience, there is going to be very limited opportunity to watch the films you’ve been longing to see: LOL!

6. Take a Trunki. Toddlers love Trunkies. In case you’ve not seen one, they are suitcases on wheels, and they come in the form of animals, and various vehicles. Your toddler can ride around the airport on one, and pack their special toys inside for the flight. Try not to start getting these toys out until little one asks for them, and then only one at a time (it’ll be another activity you can busy yourselves with when the time comes!)

7. In-flight presents. We all know how much small children love presents. I recommend packing up at least ten small things you know your little one will love. You know they will have a short window for maximum fun, so when one is exhausted, bring out another. Think Christmas stocking…crayons and colouring books, trains, cars, a new dolly…whatever the favourite of the moment is.

8. Read my post “Great Games for Cars and Planes” for more ideas for games to help you pass your time on-board.

9. Stay fed and watered. I have already mentioned food a few times, but do make sure that you take lots and lots of healthy snacks with you: these are always a great calmer! Also, planes can be very dehydrating, which doesn’t make for happy campers, so make sure your child takes on lots of fluids.

10. Keep Calm and Carry On Flying. If you’re flying with a partner, or a friend, take it in shifts, so that you each get a break, and time to recharge. If your child picks up on any stress, this is likely to make them more anxious. As a Mummy of little ones, one of my main worries when flying is upsetting other passengers. However, every time I seem to end up near another lovely Mum or Grandma, who is happy to play the odd game of Peekabo, if you meet anybody willing to help, let them. They wouldn’t offer if they didn’t want to.

I hope this helps. Remember, if you have any other questions or queries, don’t forget to “Ask Emma” 🙂

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