Specifics for traveling with a Toddler
Flying with a toddler can be challenging but with the right attitude and preparation, it can be a good experience . The most challenging age seems to be from when your baby is mobile until about 20 months old. As they get older, their attention span and range of activities they enjoy increases, making the task a little easier. This part of the website details specific aspects that require consideration when you fly with a toddler – 1 – 3 years old.
Attitude is the first key ingredient
As with many things we do, attitude determines our outcome, and this is critical when flying with a Toddler. Here are a few thoughts:
- Approach the flight as an opportunity of having uninterrupted, quality time with your child (children) in an environment of an adventure. This attitude turns the flights and travel into a positive experience to look forward to, not one to fear and dread.
- Focus on the fact that you are building amazing memories with your child.
- Realise that your time is not your own while you travel – as a parent you already know this – but pt aside any thoughts of reading your favourite book or watching your favourite movie. This time has to be about full engagement with your child.
- If you are travelling a long way, be prepared to be tired. However, if you know this before you start you can prepare mentally and emotionally.
- If you are positive, your child will find it easier to be positive.
Your Toddler in Action
All children are different and will respond to travel in different ways. Some are more quiet and chilled out, others much more active and noisy. Think through your child’s personality and endeavour to work out what they will require in airports, on buses, trains and planes. There are a couple of very important factors that need consideration with this age:
- They generally have short attention spans and therefore require a lot of variety.
- Many toddlers struggle to stay still for long periods of time and so will need to walk and ‘exercise’.
Providing action and exercise
There is no grass or jungle gyms for your toddler to expend energy, so what can you do during a flight or at an airport etc to provide some necessary physical activity for your child.
- Walk: In airport this can be as simple as walking to the toilets or to a plane viewing platform. On the aircraft this can include walking up and down the isle, visits to the cabin crew, walks to the toilet or to get food / drink.
- If your toddler in not quite walking, they will probably want to be crawling. The isles are fine for this but watch them closely to avoid any dangerous or dirty items on the floor or for other passengers walking on them!
Be aware of Food Trollies and Air Crew carrying items, particularly hot drinks.
- The bathrooms are a good place to let your child use a little energy. This is really the only place you have on the plane where they can express themselves a little without disturbing other passengers. They can climb a little, play with water in the basin, look in the mirror, explore the paper towels and cups etc. They can also talk or even cry if they need to.
- Visit the cabin crew area / kitchen frequently! here the child gets to walk and also to interact with others – enabling them to talk, laugh, get cuddled and just generally distracted. They can also get more food and drink.
Variety is the spice of life at this age. Some older ones may sit and watch a dvd or movie for 2 hours, but most will not at this age. Variety and frequent changes of activity will keep your toddler entertained and engaged. Some key ideas are:
- Drawing – bring plenty of paper and pens. We generally travelled with a range of felt tips that were packed in their carry-on luggage. We also travelled with a magnetic drawing board.
- Books – include a range of their favourite books
- Games – have one or two simple games for them to play
- Puzzles – we travelled with a couple age appropriate puzzles, contained within sealable plastic bags
- Cars – just 2-3 cars can be great for them to ‘zoom’ around their seat or on the floor
- Dolls – bring a doll or two and some clothes
- Sticker books – a must have when traveling. It is amazing how these can entertain when your child starts to get grizzly or bored of other things.
- Lego / Duplo – we would bring some lego / duplo they could build with and this was very successful. To ensure we did not lose pieces, we put it together on a base, added pieces 2-3 high and then placed another base on top. This way we knew we had collected all the pieces.
- Electronic games and educational toys are also excellent – but don’t expect this to soley entertain a young one for hour after hour!
- DVD Player / IPAD or Laptop for movies – we always travelled with a device on which to play their favourite dvd’s / movies. This was always reserved however as a special last resort item – available when other options were just not working.
- For the airport, we would often have a soft ball that we could throw or kick around. Also, a few hot-wheels car track pieces worked well – easy to carry but adds a lot of entertainment.
Meal times can be exciting on the plane but also difficult. The kids are usually eager to see what they have in their pack of food, particularly if they have a child’s meal. It can also be fraught with hassle also. Here are some hints:
- Be lenient on what your child wants to eat or not. This is not the time to enforce strict rules about what they should eat or in what order. You do not want an unnecessary confrontation as you have nowhere to go to bring this to an appropriate conclusion. Be prepared beforehand to relax and go with the flow – you can fix the damage tomorrow!
- Some meals can be very hot, so just make sure your child does not touch the hot meal and burn themselves.
- There is limited room and so often we have had drink spillages. Try to keep their cups only moderately full so that any spillages are minor.
- If your toddler in still an ‘infant’ (under 2 years old), they will probably not have their own seat or meal. This adds another challenge with space and feeding. If you are traveling with a partner, try to take turns with your eating while the other looks after the toddler. If you are alone, see if a fellow passenger can assist a little with your young one or having your tray, or ask the air crew for some assistance.
It can be a good option to consider your child’s / children sleep times when booking your flights to make it as easy and convenient as possible. Once on the plane however, have a plan in place to get the children to sleep if it is a long flight. Here some strategies and ideas we have implemented.
- Think about the appropriate time for sleep. Often it is best to let the meal finish first.
- Ensure your child has been to the bathroom or at least has a nappy / pull-up on for sleeping.
- Let your child know of your sleep expectations long before the time arrives. We often prepared our children’s thinking before we even got on the plane and then reinforced it during the flight.
- Try to make some sort of bed if possible by them using your seat and theirs or if more than one child, top-and-tailing. It can make it uncomfortable for you but the discomfort is worth the peace & quiet and your kids getting some rest. Of course, they can sleep in your arms which can be precious.
- Ensure they have a seat-belt on for their safety, fastened over the top of any blankets
- Once asleep – it becomes your time – perhaps you can read a little or watch a movie or sleep yourself but be aware that they can wake and interrupt you at any time.
Be alert that when they wake, they can sometimes be irritable as the sleep may not be long enough or they are disorientated. Think about how to handle this.
Also – if they are still asleep when it comes to leaving the plane on arrival, you have to decide whether to carry them with everything or wake them. If you are carrying them, the cabin crew shold be able to assist you and yor gear off the plane.