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Have you been putting off a trip simply because you’re dreading a long flight with your toddler? We have some tried-and-tested tips that might get you through the day. Happy journey!
Let’s be honest. No one wants to fly with young children. Not even their parents. The prospect of keeping a child calm and/or entertained through airport transit and over a long flight is a daunting one. BUT it’s not impossible! There are ways to make the ordeal bearable (perhaps, even enjoyable) for all concerned: child, parents, and fellow passengers.
Toddlers, in particular, present specific challenges – they are excitable creatures who are mobile, unlike babies, and yet still susceptible to infant-like crying spells. So we thought best to tackle this challenging age group, though you are likely to find useful tips for children aged 0-12 here as well.
As much as your toddler may want to wear that crinkly My Little Pony dress, transit is definitely not the time for it! Go for comfortable clothes with two-three layers. Should it get too hot or cold, it will just be a matter of removing or adding a layer.
Layers are also practical if ever something spills or your child feels nauseous. It may not be a bad idea for the accompanying parent to also carry an extra t-shirt and jacket, just in case you happen to come in the line of fire, so to speak!
Keep the footwear simple too. An easy slip-on is better than something with laces, seeing as toddlers love to run but are also prone to falls.
Toddlers are always bursting with energy, so naturally it’s not easy when that energy has to be contained in space and volume over the course of a flight. But with some carefully selected items and activities, you can keep their mind engaged for that duration.
Kids also love playing with stickers. There’s a colourful, interactive element involved, and it allows them to be playful and make a “mess” without really doing any damage. Our picks are Head to Head: Toddler Stickers for Little Fingers and the Sparkly Unicorns Sticker Book.
Perhaps flight time can be the one exception to your screen-time rules. Carry a tablet with their favourite cartoons but do spare a thought for other passengers by carrying a pair of comfortable toddler-friendly headphones.
You can also pack one small surprise for them to open on the flight. It could be anything you think they might enjoy, or something related to the place you’re headed to, which would make it a great opportunity for storytime!
Keep it for when they seem to be getting particularly restless. The process of unwrapping and exploring the gift is sure to give you a good 10-minutes of respite.
And if after all of the above, they still have more expendable energy, just take them on a stroll up and down the aisle.
It’s always best to carry a few essential medicines, especially for fever and nausea. Perhaps even carry an anti-allergy medicine. If it’s your child’s first time flying you never know how it may go. We would advise you to have a quick chat with your paediatrician for a list of essentials.
Many children face acute discomfort, even pain, due to the change in air pressure during take-off and landing. Carry something like these vegan candies or lollipops, a pair of earplugs, or a pacifier to ease the symptoms and soothe your child.
A hungry child is an angry child. So let’s not keep them hungry! Flights don’t normally bar food and liquids for babies and young children, but it is always good to check if any items may be restricted.
Keep a small tiffin box – ones with small compartments are the best. You can pack in an assortment of items. Fruits cut into small bites are always a great snack. Cookies or organic lollipops are also easy to carry and always a hit with the kids. Don’t forget to carry a mini water bottle!
You can pack the snacks and the water bottle in a backpack that your toddler can carry. Having something of their own to carry is a great way to make them feel more involved in the whole experience.
Budget permitting, try to book a direct flight instead of a connecting one. If you can spare some more money, consider buying a seat for your child even if the airline allows you to travel with your child on your lap. Especially if you’re on a long flight! The entire journey becomes immensely easier and more manageable with your child and you seated comfortably.
Window seats are always great for children as they are better contained and more entertained, with the window beside them. Better yet, if you can book early enough to get the bassinet seat in the first row, then nothing like it!
This one has pros and cons. Selecting a flight time that coincides with your child’s naptime could help ensure a peaceful flight without much activity. Perhaps a nighttime flight could work so that by the time you’re on the flight your child settles into a nap. (Pack in a pillow and blanket to keep them warm and cosy.)
The only caveat is if the flight gets delayed for whatever reason, you may have a tired and cranky child on your hands.
If your toddler has not completely outgrown it, consider carrying a stroller. Airports mean a lot of walking and waiting, and a tired child is a cranky child. (Do check if porter assistance is available at that particular airport.)
You can check in your stroller at the gate before you board the flight, but make sure it’s a foldable stroller.
It is always a good idea to reach the airport early so you can check in early too. On the other hand, it’s better to board last and make time for a final restroom stop. If you’re travelling with your partner, they can board ahead of you to make sure you have enough stowaway space for your child’s bag, stroller and any other odds and ends.
Too much to keep track of? Here’s a handy checklist for your sanity.
Flight time that coincides with their sleep time
Seat for your child, preferably a window seat
Comfortable cotton material
Extra clothes for yourself and your child
Snack box (Fruits, cookies, lollipops etc.)
Medicine for fever, nausea, allergy
Candies, earbuds or pacifier for ear-pressure pain
Activities (Books, toys, tablet with headphones)
Restroom stop before boarding
And when you’re on the flight and nothing works, just tell yourself: This too shall pass! (Both the journey and the Terrible Twos.)