Travelling with toddlers is challenging, but a bit of forethought can help reduce parental stress. If your child is old enough, involve them in planning for the trip so they can get excited about it. Make sure to include enough family events and child-oriented activities to amuse them while on holidays.
In many cases, keeping your trip simple will reduce the number of problems. Remember that young children have short attention spans and get tired very quickly. Complicated trips requiring lots of travelling, jam-packed itineraries or too many visits to adult-oriented attractions, such as museums, can be difficult for children and aggravating parents. Not going to lie, flying with a toddler isn’t exactly a walk in the park, most of the time.
It can be downright traumatic at times, especially if you haven’t put any thought and preparation into your upcoming flight. Rest assured, sometimes you’ll get lucky and have an enjoyable, relaxed flight with your toddler.
In which case, you’ll feel like doing a happy dance right there in the aisle, all the way up to the cockpit and back. But if you’re a parent who doesn’t want to leave flying with a toddler to chance, then you must read on. Check out My Baby Nursery for all your baby product needs.
You’ll discover my very best tips for air travel with a little one in tow. Flight attendants are often really supportive and helpful, but it can still be stressful juggling your little one, plus any other kids on your own.
Suggestions for Travelling With Children
Thankfully, you can do lots of things to help make your flight more comfortable for both you and your toddler. General tips to make travel with children a little easier include:
Pack Drinks and Snacks
Recent changes to Australian aviation laws mean that you can bring a drink bottle through security if it’s for your child, and most customs will allow packaged, processed food in and out of the country. Pack lots of small snacks that you can whip out of your bag. These have valuable distraction power.
A hungry toddler is a cranky toddler. Parents of toddlers will know they tend to be fussy eaters too. Make sure you have plenty of snacks on board that your toddler will love. Try to opt for healthy snacks which won’t result in sugar highs and crashes, which means avoiding sugars and processed foods. Tubs of yoghurt (total fat is better than low fat, less sugar), banana, apple, a peeled, boiled egg and cheese squares are ideal, nutritious snacks that most toddlers don’t mind eating.
Almonds pack a nutritional punch if your toddler is old enough to eat them without choking. There are plenty of healthy snack ideas out there, so prepare some before you go. Plan to have more snacks than you think you need, else it’s expensive to buy snacks on the plane which aren’t that appetising. Of course, don’t forget to pack plenty of water for you all to drink and take sips regularly. Water will help prevent fogginess, fatigue and dehydration.
Pro tip: A lollipop can keep a toddler busy for a surprisingly long time (just don’t buy anything blue or red).
Pack New Toys and Books
Old toys are good, but new toys are better. Some companies make travel activity kits if you’re short on time (you can order them online before you go), but it’s simple enough to come up with a toy stash that would delight your kid. Include things like a new book, some new Matchbox cars, little plastic dinosaurs or farm animals, stickers and a puzzle.
Pro tip: Do not pack anything that can leak, get permanently stuck or make a noise. Avoid textas because kids are bound to draw on the tray table the second you’re not looking.
Get to the Airport Early
If you’re not organised and don’t have plenty of time up your sleeve, it’s a surefire way to get yourself concerned before the journey has even begun. When your journey starts out stressy, it tends to stay that way for the whole trip.
And as a parent of a toddler, you would know by now that a frazzled parent equals a toddler who knows they can circle for the kill. It’s stuff nightmares are made of. Don’t put any extra undue stress on yourself.
Make sure you have plenty of time to check-in, get something to eat, change a nappy and do all the other random and unplanned things that tend to occur with a toddler on your hip. Whatever time you think you need, add an hour. Or, plan so that you have a meal there before you leave. It works every time for me – it’s way less stressful worrying about making the flight.
Burn Energy Before the Flight
Especially after having to sit still during the ride to the airport, your toddler will need to burn pent up energy. Even if it means walking lengths of the airport — or doing 1,000 laps of the travelator in our case — it will pay off.
Toddlers need to get their wiggles out, and it’s much better for that to happen at the airport than on a plane. Once their action and adventure cup is complete, they’ll be ready for some quiet time.
This is especially important if you’re flying internationally, as you’ll have to get through extra lines of people at security checkpoints, customs and then boarding the plane.
Be the Last to Board
You’ll be a glutton for punishment if you hurry to board the plane with your toddler. Not only will they loathe waiting patiently impatiently in line, but you’ll have to wait for everyone else to board after you too.
There are the cabin checks by flight attendants and other processes on top of that — it’s too much to ask for a toddler who has an attention span the size of a small sardine. He can’t help it, and it’s how he’s wired right now.
Take a Pram or a Stroller
If your regular pram packs down to a reasonable size, take it with you. Failing that, take a travel stroller. Some airlines allow you to bring baby equipment (travel cots, strollers, etc.) with you to the gate, so check the rules on your carrier. The longer you can keep your toddler strapped into a stroller or pram, the less time you will spend chasing them around in crowded places like train stations and airports. Baby Prams are one of the most important baby products to get right. Check out our range here.
Pro tip: Prams with storage space underneath double as a luggage trolley for small items.
Have an Activity Bag Ready to Go
These are a godsend. Before you travel, pack a small backpack full of activities ready to go. Ideally, you’ll want new and exciting toys and games for your toddler, as undiscovered fun will hold their attention for much longer than the old toys they’re used to.
Sticker books (with loads of stickers) are fantastic, colouring books and other crafty things. Don’t go crazy spending lots of money and buying a swag of toys, because it’s the simple things that seem to work the best.
Playdough – Do Not Forget It
I love playdough. Because toddlers love playdough. We’re able to burn a few hours thanks to this genius invention. Squishing and squashing is not only great sensory fun but a parent’s best friend on a plane. Do not fly without playdough.
Pack Lots of Baby Wipes
If a toddler is about, you’re guaranteed to have messes and spills. It sucks having to deal with sticky lots or regurgitation of food with nothing on hand to clean up.
Make sure you have a good-sized pack of baby wipes in your inflight bag because when you pack one of those convenient 10 or 20 wipe packs in your bag, you’re tempting fate. There are never enough wipes for the messes your toddler will manage to make.
Here’s another benefit of extra wipes that you probably didn’t want to know: you can give the plane tray table a wipe because it’s recently been discovered to be one of the dirtiest items in a plane. Faecal matter – yuck.
Pack a few more nappies (and scented nappy sacks) than you’ll expect to use, too, in case of accidents or delays.
Breastfeed If You’re Still Feeding
I am changing air pressure when taking off, and landing can be harsh on little ears, causing tears and upsets. Breastfeeding can help.
In fact, if you’re on an overnight flight, breastfeeding can even help your toddler sleep better. It’s that little bit of comfort while somewhere unfamiliar. If you’re not breastfeeding, consider your toddler’s ears and find something healthy they can suck on for take-off and landing.
Get the Extra Seat for Your Toddler
As soon as a toddler is two years old, they must have their own seat. At first thought, you might think it sucks having to pay for an extra seat. But, at around two years of age, you really do need the space.
Either for your carry-on bags during the flight, for your toddler who decides she wants to sit on her own, or for when she wants to climb all over you and make you feel claustrophobic.
It’s worth the extra cost. Especially if it means you have the whole row to yourself, so you won’t have to worry about climbing over the person sitting next to you when your toddler wants to walk the aisle for the millionth time.
Share the Load
It really helps to employ teamwork when you have a toddler. If you’re flying with your partner or older children, they can help to shake boredom up a little.
They offer someone new to engage with and can give you a break from not having any personal space. Make sure you do tag team, so you don’t lose your mind. If it’s just you on the flight, don’t panic, you will manage. But use any help you can.
There are often a few people on your flight who will happily engage with your little ones, especially if they see you’re on your own. Another help is children are usually always seated up the back of the plane, so it offers an opportunity for little ones to interact.
Choose Seats Wisely
If you have a reasonably mobile toddler, you may want to choose an aisle seat, so you won’t disturb people getting in and out all the time.
In an ideal situation, hopefully, you have at least three seats (window, middle and aisle) so your toddler can get a mix of the scenery outside, isle time and one for jumping in between. However, aisle seats may be much easier for parents of toddlers.
Going for regular walks can help bored little ones, just try and time them after the flight attendants have finished their service.
Bonus tip: always be kind and considerate to flight attendants. Most of them do want to help and can make a big difference between a lousy flight and a good one to ensure an excellent start to your family holiday.
Pack a Change of Clothes for Your Toddler — and Yourself
In case you end up with spills and messes all over you (it happens), you’ll be far more comfortable if you have a change of clothes to get into.
An accidental foot to your cup of tea or elbow into your dinner (I’m writing purely from experience here) can happen if you have a toddler.
Pack light, comfortable and easy to change clothes. Forget looking your best; opt for comfy, and you’ll feel so much better.
Don’t Let Any Glares Get to You.
Air travel has become much more common amongst families with younger children.
This is because airlines have become much more cost-effective and competitive, so it’s easy to take off for a while with the kids. As a result, you may come across less than pleased fellow passengers from time to time.
Your toddler may have a hard time travelling, and others may make you aware of their displeasure. But, there is nothing you can do. You need to get from A to B in the best, quickest way that you can.
Toddlers are toddlers, no matter what country they come from. They all have the same behaviours and development.
Focus on your toddler, and don’t let your anxiety get the better of you if people around you are upset. It won’t change anything. Remember, your toddler isn’t trying to give everyone a hard time. She is having a hard time.
You’ll be off the plane before you know it. You won’t regret showing your toddler love and comfort, but you may regret being a frazzled, anxious mess, trying to silence your toddler for the sake of someone else. Your toddler will respond to one better than the other.
Ipads and Other Devices as Last Resort
While we try to minimise screen time, when all else fails, we do offer the iPad. Especially on long flights, when you need an assortment in your toolbox.
We have a range of puzzle, counting and alphabet apps, as well as a few of her favourite movies and games.
After all, as adults, we can’t expect to be entertained on a 10-hour flight, staring into the seat in front of us.
So it’s okay to use an iPad or other devices if you need to. Just don’t make screen time your everything solution, especially in the hour or two before you want them to go to sleep. Screen time keeps their brains active, and it disrupts sleep patterns.
Your toddler may have a more peaceful sleep if their mind is at rest, snuggled up to mama or dad. Pack a sleepy time book for when your toddler is showing tired signs.
Before you leave for your trip, see if you can find some new and exciting educational apps to introduce to your toddler on the flight, as well as your toddler’s favourite movies or shows.
Think seat-back entertainment on a plane is a given? Think again. Some aircraft do not have this sanity-saving invention, leaving you to crane your neck into the aisle to try and watch some glitchy film and your toddler to climb all over you with growing restlessness. I don’t care what your rules are around screen time. What happens in the air stays in the air.
Pro tip: Download as many episodes of Peppa Pig, PAW Patrol or In the Night Garden as you need to get you through the night
Things to Remember
- Check-in advance with travel agents, airlines and your accommodation for child-friendly suggestions.
- Children have short attention spans and get tired very quickly.
- Make sure there will be enough family events and child-oriented activities to keep them amused while away.
- Take a medical kit containing items such as baby paracetamol, thermometer, anti-itching lotion, oral rehydration preparation and bandaids.
- Pack plenty of toys and favourite snacks. Looking for baby nursery toys? Look no further. My Baby Nursery has you covered.
- When flying, encourage your child to eat or drink during take-off and landing to prevent earache.