Traveling with a toddler on an airplane can, however, be a joy if you prepare well for it. Generally, the toddler stage (1.5 to 3) is the toughest one for airplane travel. Babies will usually nurse and sleep. Much older kids would usually sort themselves out, probably watch movies or play with an iPad until their eyes fall out.
Toddlers tend to become quite irritable when they feel neglected, uncomfortable or do not have their way. Therefore, it goes without saying that it takes a bit of planning with dedication and patience in order to keep a child calm and relaxed during a flight.
Here are 8 Tips for Airplane Travel with a Toddler
1. Park your kid’s favorite toys
Toys will always give you options when everything else fails. During the flight, take out the toys one at a time and wait until your child loses interest in one before you hand them the next. Hold back a few of the best ones for last. This way you will keep him or her interested and occupied for longer.
When picking the toys to bring along, choose ones that are fairly large and do not have any detachable parts. This is because your kid might drop them and it could be difficult for you to pick them up through the narrow spaces.
2. Carry a reliable tablet or portable DVD player to keep the child entertained
Either one of the two will help keep the toddler occupied for a good part of the journey. A tablet, however, would be better since it’s less bulky and does not require any DVDs to play.
Make sure that you download your kid’s favorite videos onto the tablet or pack his or her favorite DVDs beforehand. You could even try downloading cartoons and other videos your child has never watched before so they can have something new to watch. You will also need to buy a good strong pair of headphones to go with the device. Do not use ear buds though because they could be a bit more uncomfortable.
3. Stock up on water and candy
Once you pass through security, make sure you have enough water or sugar-free drinks and candy for your child (Sugar-free because sugar could make him/her hyperactive). Ensure he or she drinks some of that water right after takeoff and during the last 30 minutes to 1 hour of descent. This water will not only keep him or her hydrated, but swallowing it will help relieve some of the effects of the pressure that builds up from air plane’s compressed cabin.
Candy such as lollypop will also work in a similar way to help with the pressure. Some of the candy will also come in handy during the rest of the flight as a distraction for the little one. Just make sure that it’s sugar-free.
4. Wear your child out before and during the flight
Try as much as possible to use every opportunity you get to get your child to spend some energy. This will ensure that they are not left with enough energy to grow restless during the flight. Most airports have areas where kids can play as you wait for your flight. Encourage your toddler to play as much as he or she wants. During your flight, make a few trips with them up and down the aisle so they can be distracted and worn out to avoid a meltdown.
5. Bring along snacks that will take the child long to eat
Food is a good source of distraction for kids. When you choose the snacks, pick ones that will keep him or her occupied for as long as possible. Examples of such good snacks would be a box of raisins, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, grapes etc. All these are healthy options only contain natural sugars.
6. Find out some of the airline’s policies before hand
While your child may be able to sit on your lap for the entire flight, both you and your kid would be more comfortable if they had a seat of their own.
When you book the flight, look for the airlines that offer discounted seat rates for children. If your flight is not full, request the crew to move you around so you get a seat that’s next to an empty one. This way you will get a seat for your child at no added cost.
You can also check with your airline and see if they will allow you to bring your toddler’s car seat on the plane.
If meals are included in your flight, you may be able to call at least 24 hours before takeoff and arrange for a special meal for your toddler.
7. Divide the entire flight into slots of 10 to 20 minutes and plan each slot
To keep your kid entertained for, say, a 3-hour flight, you will need about 9-18 activities for the 10 slots that make up 180 minutes. Some of the best activities could be drawing, reading a storybook, snacking, watching cartoons, looking out the window during takeoff and landing, etc. Toddlers tend to fall asleep easily, so it is likely that you will not even need all ten activities. Despite this, however, prepare as many as you can just in case your child loses interest faster than you had thought.
8. Opt for layovers whenever you can
As mentioned earlier, toddlers tend to become restless during long flights. If you’re planning to make a long trip, schedule a layover. This will let your child stretch their legs and enjoy a brief and refreshing change of scenery. An hour or so should be enough for the stop.