Flying with a toddler is a phrase that causes instant fear in me and many other parents out there. We have all been there, a long flight with a crying toddler and an ashamed parent apologizing to the entire plane. But if you have kids, you know how difficult it can be to keep a squirmy toddler seated and quiet for a couple of hours. And if you are preparing for your first flight with your little one, the following tips can calm you and help you get through it without losing your patience.
1. Choose your flight wisely.
It all starts with your flight time; when you choose one, try to skip the afternoon hours when toddlers tend to be tired and grumpy. It would be best to find an early morning one, so your little one has enough energy but in a good way. The best time of the day depends on your toddler's routine, but if you book a flight thinking your little one will sleep its nap while flying, think again because toddlers get excited with new places and most likely skip the nap, so they don't miss a thing.
2. Arrive early
From getting off the car to security and finding the right gate for departure, the entire journey might take longer than you expect when you have a toddler by your side. If you feel like your little one could get too distracted or tired walking, pack a lightweight toddler stroller. But even with a stroller, you need to have some extra time to hit the bathroom before boarding and exploring the airport.
3. Board when it's convenient
This is hard because some parents will hear that boarding first is better than last. This depends on how your toddler handles waiting and how long it takes for you to buckle up. So here are my thoughts on both.
- Boarding first
You will have more time to set up without the entire plane staring at you. And you can place all your carry-on luggage without limitation and enough space in the upper compartments. The downside might be waiting until the last passenger boards, so this is up to how patient your little one is.
- Boarding last
Keeping your little one busy in the airport running from one place to the next, and watching the planes outside might be more entertaining for your kid than being buckled to the seat for at least 30 minutes until the plane takes off. But if your toddler takes its time to find the seat, buckle up, and you have plenty of bags with you, this could be stressful for you because you'll be delaying the flight.
4. Pack snacks and cleaning supplies
You know snacks are your best friends during long activities or waiting times when you have a toddler. And a flight is no different, so make sure you have plenty of them handy, so your toddler can snack when boredom comes. Cleaning supplies are part of the deal, some baby wipes, hand sanitizer, and surface cleaning wipes. Don't forget some water if your little one experiences ear pain due to the pressure change while flying. A sip of water will ease the uncomfortable feeling.
5. Bring small toys wrapped like gifts
Snacks might not do the trick for a two-hour or longer flight, so you must get creative. Wrapping toys, activity sets, or books could be extra special since toddlers love to unwrap gifts. A magnetic game, erasable coloring books, and a sticker book could be airplane-friendly and entertaining. Avoid bringing permanent coloring markers or anything that could damage the seats and surroundings or that might be too small.
6. Pack extra clothing for everyone
Many things might happen while on a plane sitting next to a toddler. One of them is an accident with the training diaper, the bathroom run, food, water, and even a fussy stomach. And when that happens, you should have a change of clothing, at least for the little one and for you and any sibling flying along. Try to keep the extra clothes next to you in a handy backpack and choose an easy outfit to put on. Bring a plastic bag, if possible, to seal the dirty clothes there in case there is a bad smell.
7. Download some cartoons
Perhaps you are not a fan of screen time for your toddler but keeping a little one busy in an airplane cabin for a couple of hours is quite a task. So, download many apps, games, movies, and cartoons. Pick their favorites and some new ones if they get tired of watching the same. Don't forget the charger, and make sure it is fully charged when you board the plane.
8. Fill yourself with confidence.
If all the above is not enough and your toddler gives you a hard time during the flight, there is nothing else to do but keep it together and have confidence that this situation will soon be over. While it is a hard moment for any parent, don't feel like you need to apologize to the entire plane, most adults understand that your little one is experiencing a bad moment, and you are doing all you can to handle it. So, breathe in deeply and work through the moment.
We hope you have found a couple of useful tools for your upcoming flight; our advice is that you prepare with all of them. If one doesn't work, try the next one, and so on. Keep in mind that a toddler's attention span rarely lasts more than 15 minutes, which means the longer the flight, the more activities you should have in handy. I hope some of these tips will help you on your journey. Safe travels!
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