Flying with a Toddler

By the time a child reaches approximately 18 months of age they have grown to appreciate the idea of visiting new places or seeing new things. But even adventurous children may be anxious when they actually arrive someplace new.

There are a variety of challenges ahead for parents that plan to fly with toddlers, particularly those associated with the safety of the child. Parents may also fear that their child will be an inconvenience to other passengers which results in many parents opting to defer family travel until the child is older. The truth is many of these concerns can be overcome with careful planning. The travel tips listed below will help parents prepare for any type of crisis that may arise while flying with toddlers.

Flying with a Toddler

1. Pack the Important Items

Be sure to pack enough supplies for at least 24 hours with more in your luggage. In your diaper bag or carry on include:

  • At least two extra outfits, a small portable container of wipes, at least two bibs, two or more spill-proof sippy cups, at least three pacifiers if your child still uses one
  • Any medications such as a thermometer, ear drops, gas drips, fever reducer or pain relievers and hand sanitizer.
  • Gallon size storage bags to store any wet or dirty items you cannot dispose of.
  • Also bring along plenty of familiar and new toys, a surprise to keep your toddler entertained and a portable DVD player with your child’s favorite movies.

2. Pack Enough Snacks and Drinks

Meal service may not be adequate or well timed to suit a toddler. Bring foods such as Gerber puffs, raisins, cookies, fruit, cereal bars or dry cereal you know your child will eat. Many airlines provide a children’s meal if you ask ahead of time. Ask what they plan to serve to ensure this option is something your child will eat. Make sure your child gets plenty of fluids as airplanes tend to be very dry. Keeping your child hydrated is also essential to help them prevent catching a cold. Bottled water and juice boxes can often be purchased at the airport before takeoff. There are chemicals in the water on airlines which could impact your child’s digestive system, so do not rely on this source.

3. Charge up Your Gadgets

Be sure to check that any electronics you bring are fully charged. You will be able to read or partake in other activities if your phone runs out of battery, but a toddler may quickly become bored and fidgety. Make sure that any electronic devices such as a DVD player, computer, cell phone or other devices are fully charged and have enough power to last through the flight.

4. Arrive Early

It always takes longer when you are trying to travel with a child, so give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. If you are driving, remember that you will likely be making many stops for snacks, bathroom breaks or time for your child to run around. Over-pack snacks and toys in anticipation of a delay.

5. Don’t Board too Early

Those travelling with children are allowed to board first which helps you get extra room in the carry-on storage area. However, this also adds on extra time that you must convince your toddler to sit still. If possible, send your spouse ahead to stow your gear and board as late as possible with your child.

6. Choose an Aisle Seat

Your child may like the idea of a window seat, but your child will also need to get up and walk around or go for several bathroom breaks. You may also need to regularly reach into the overhead bin for more supplies. To accommodate these needs, opt for an aisle seat whenever possible.

7. Entertain Your Toddler

Bring a goodie bag with a few of your child’s favorite toys and a few new playthings. Sing along tapes, story books, hand puppets, musical toys, stuffed animals or other objects that might captivate them are good choices. Wrap up a few books or toys that can be a fun surprise along the journey to help prevent your child from getting bored. Sing your child to sleep by purchasing child-friendly headphones and uploading a variety of stories or lullabies to your mp3 player. Headphones can also help to filter out annoying noises that could keep your child awake.

8. Play the “Airplane Police” Game

One clever trick that can help keep your child behaving is warning them about the “airplane police” who do not allow badly behaved children to fly. Do not scare them out of their wits, but simply provide a clear warning when your child is performing naughty activities such as playing with the fold down table, climbing over seats, kicking the seat in front of them or doing other things that are bothersome to other passengers.

9. Try Potty Breaks

Toddlers enjoy going to the bathroom on airplanes because this area has several interesting items within reach. Not all airplanes provide a changing table, so if your child is large enough to stand change them as they stand on the toilet seat. If your child is too young for this method, sit on the toilet seat and change the child in your lap.

10. How to Relieve Ear Pain

Bring a sippy cup with a straw, lollipops or other items your child can suck on to relieve the air pressure that can cause pain in their ears. Crunchy snacks or items that require a great deal of chewing can also help to calm ear pain. Encourage your child to yawn or stretch, perhaps by doing so yourself, to get their ears to “pop” if they become clogged.

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