When we decided to make the move to NYC, the main thing i would think (panic) about was that we would be flying with a toddler. He had only been on one short flight prior to this which was relatively painless, but this was a 7 hour flight with a big time difference so i knew i had to be more prepared. Here are my top tips on how to fly with a toddler.
1. Pick the right flight time
The main thing to avoid is picking a flight time that will fall right at the time of your child’s nap, or worse, after their nap is due. If your child is a good sleeper then the overnight flight may be the right choice for you. Personally we have always booked mid morning flights as this is just before Leo’s afternoon nap. We let him run around as much as he wants at the airport and then TRY and get him settled for his afternoon nap shortly after we board. Remember to pack a scarf or large muslin in case you want to create a little cover over the bassinet to keep the light out.
2. Pack some of their favourite toys as well as some new ones.
Our son is a muslin baby and carries one around everywhere so we made sure to pack a few of these as well as a couple of familiar toys. We also bought some new toys (see list below) but didn’t give them to Leo until we got on the plane. Hand out one toy every hour or so, or until they get bored with the last. This means they will have something new to play with for the full length of the flight which will hopefully keep them busy.
Crayons and colouring pad
Stickers / Sticker Book
Reading Books – lift the flap books are good so they can get involved
3. Pack your carry on with baby essentials
I cannot stress how important it is to make sure you have everything you need for your child in your carry on. You don’t want to be stuck mid air without access to your essentials. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.
Baby bottles – you are allowed to pre fill these with water / milk as these are necessary for your child
Small plastic bags
Favourite Snacks – and lots of them
A spare set of clothes – in case of any accidents
Calpol/Tylenol – in case of teething or in our case Leo caught a cold the day before so was congested
4. Pick the right seats for you
Leo was 15 months when we travelled and as you probably know any child under the age of 2 travels for free, but that also means they don’t get an allocated seat. You should definitely try and book the bulkhead seats situated at the front of each section of the plane. This gives you a little more leg room and the option of having a bassinet or recliner chair for your child to sleep in.
If bulkhead seats are unavailable and you can afford to pay for extra leg room instead then go for it. It will make carrying a lap baby that little bit more comfortable.
If you decide to book your chid their own seat then they will not allow you to book the bulkhead area as they will keep these for children that will need to use the bassinets. You will need to either bring a car seat to fix onto the plane seat or purchase a booster seat that can also be used. If you do bring your car seat, make sure you check the width of the base as there will be restrictions on how wide a car seat can be.
5. Arrive Early
Theres nothing worse then arriving at the airport and getting stuck in a huge queue right at the start of your trip. Remember you may be carrying a car seat, stroller, baby bag and your luggage as well as looking after your children, so you will need enough time to get yourselves checked in and through airport security.
Airport security will take longer than usual as you will no doubt be carrying bottles with water, milk and possibly pouches of food. They will scan and check EVERYTHING individually. Make sure you check all your items have been returned once they are scanned through, we lost a couple of things on our last trip and didn’t notice until we got on the plane. Luckily we had extra!
Once you are through let your children run around as much as they want, this will hopefully work in your favour later on when trying to get them to nap on the plane. I would also get to a baby changing facility and change their nappy before you board as the airplane changing facilities are a little snug. You will probably have to change them on the plane anyway, but it gives you some extra time to concentrate on other things when you board.
You will be allowed onto the plane earlier than the other passengers as you are travelling with a child. We decided to take advantage of this and get ourselves organised and seated before the flurry of people arrived. However, if your child is feeling particularly energetic, you may wish to board last so you don’t have to wait for everyone else to get to their seats, especially if there are any stragglers.
6. Feed on take off and Landing
This is a definite must do as children’s ears are not used to the plane pressure and this can be very painful for them. Breastfeed, give them a bottle, sippy cup, dummy or if they are old enough a sweet to suck on. As soon as i felt us take off or start to descend for landing, i would make sure Leo had something to suck on and so far he’s had zero issues with his ears.
7. Embrace Technology
If you don’t already have your airlines App on your phone, get it. This will make checking in and getting through security so much smoother and you don’t have to worry about carrying about bits of paper. Just remember to charge your phone before you leave, i always pack a charger in my carry on as well as there are lots of ports in the airport should you need them.
Get a tablet/Ipad, portable DVD player or even just use your phone and download some of your child’s favourite programmes. If you prefer, there are lots of educational games or books available too. This was our last resort but worked a treat and for the sake of avoiding a melt down, we were happy to go along with it for the flight.
8. Don’t stress the nap
Don’t panic if they don’t nap, all the excitement may be a lot for them to take in and get settled. Try to go with the flow and think about keeping them entertained whilst they are awake.
9. There is an end in sight
Remember, the flight won’t last forever and you will live to tell the tale! Try and make it as fun an experience as possible and know you will be getting to the other side very soon.
Have you flown with a toddler? What was your experience like and do you have any tips you can pass on?