Combine a short attention span with busy hands and you have yourself a very trying flying companion. Toddlers are hard work to entertain on a good day let alone locked in a small space, restrained on your lap.
We have been on many flights with our children, from short trips to marathon adventures, and one question I get asked all the time is what advice I have for parents who are scared to fly with their children.
My answer is always RELAX (easier said than done, I know!) but also to just give it a go. I promise it will not be nearly as bad as you imagine. I think the hardest age of children to travel with on flights are between 8 months and 2.5 years old, as they are on the move but have short attention spans and sometimes have trouble articulating what they want or need.
So here are some tips to survive your flight with hopefully a happy toddler and no complaints from fellow passengers.
Stickers are a great occupier for a toddler. Let them stick them all over the place, even on the tray table, and then they have to take take them off again. What a great game! Buy them in a pack or even a sticker book, as then you have some pages they can scribble on and even you can draw some pictures with them as well.
One thing you definitely don't want when flying is a 'hangry' toddler! It's always good to have snacks that your child likes, as even though the plane will have food it is not guaranteed your toddler will actually want to eat it.
Fruit and healthy snacks in snap lock bags are great, but also a few treats are nice as well as it is a special occasion. Just make sure you don't pump too much sugar into them as that will not help provide you with an agreeable toddler. Sultanas, blueberries and other small snacks are great as they take them time to eat and they have to concentrate picking them up, which keeps them busy for longer.
Little presents to unwrap
Buy a couple of small toys from the $2 shop and wrap them up and give them to your toddler along the way. They just need to be little things. Even wrap them in newspaper. It doesn't matter, it's more about the excitement of receiving a present. Spread them out during the flight so if you need a distraction you have one. This is also great for older children as well.
A new book is fabulous as its exciting to read a story they haven't heard before and they might be more interested in hearing a new book being read over and over again. It's also lovely to have that book to read during the trip as well. So choose carefully as you will know that story off by heart by the end of the flight!
Screen time is the best invention for travelling with children. While it helps so much to keep the older children entertained there are also lots of games that toddlers can play, so have a Google and see what you can find that might interest your child. If they like watching a particular show, download it. Another thing my son loves is looking at photos of people he knows or animals, so put some photos on there as well to show them and chat about. Limiting or abolishing screen time in the lead up to the trip is also a good idea, as it will be more of a treat come take off!
Request an extra seat at check in
If the flight is not full request to be seated next to a spare seat. Even if your toddler is sharing your seat it is handy to have the extra room and space for them to sit so you can have a few minutes without a toddler on your lap. It's also fantastic if they have a sleep. When is extra space with small children ever a bad idea?!
Don't be afraid to get up and walk around the aisles with them if they are getting restless, as just a small change in scenery and a stretch of their legs can refresh them so much. If the flight has numerous empty seats, even a play in an empty row of seats lets them burn a little bit of energy and won't disrupt fellow passengers.
Fly at night
For long-haul flights, try and book night-time flights as then hopefully you will then only have to deal with a sleeping toddler and a possible dead arm. Night flights are great as toddlers seem to sleep quite well on planes and products like the CoziGo (for young ones still fitting in the bassinet) and Plane Pal (for the older ones) make sleeping so much easier.
Happy travels, not tantrums.
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