Whenever I fly I am always in awe of parents getting on a long haul plane with toddlers. I know they must be dreading it and hoping for the best. It got me thinking about ideas and strategies for flying with toddlers and I thought with the help of our wonderful Brolly Sheets Community, I would create 6 Tips to Flying with Toddlers.
1. Dress for comfort
Dress both of you in comfy clothes, separates that are easy to change out of when wet or mucky. Pack spare clothes for you and your toddler and place them in a zip lock bag to make it easier to grab a change. If your toddler is in nappies take “pull-up” style nappies instead of the regular ones as its much easier to change while standing up. Or pack some of our Woxers or Undie liners.
2. Pack for convenience
Forget the handbag and go straight for a carry on size backpack so your arms are free.
One of the most frequent tips we got was to buy kid safe sized headphones before you leave as the airline issued ones are too big for toddlers and cause much frustration when they fall off dozens of times.
Something that is new to me is the number of families taking the car seat on-board. You would need to check with your airline to make sure they allow it (it is common in the US). It might be a hassle to carry around in the airport but it makes sense to be able to strap your toddler into something they are comfortable in and fits them. I think it would also make it easier for them to sleep as they can sleep against the sides, plus you have it with you at your destination.
Have everything packed in different zip lock bags so it’s easy to grab things without having to go through all your hand luggage. If you use panadol carry it with you as you often can’t buy it at the airport (remember to get a small bottle under 100 mls). Wet wipes are a must to make a quick clean up with minimum fuss in a confined space and a sippy cup also make it so much easier than having spills.
If your toddler is still in nappies, pull-ups are easy to change in and out of. Plus make up a “mini change bag”. A zip lock bag with wipes, disposable change mat, bottom cream and hand sanitizer so you don’t have to take your 'whole' supply back and forth to the toilet- just grab that with a nappy and go. Take more nappies than you think you will need in case of delays.
In stowed luggage get individual packing cells and fill each with a sensible amount of clothing required ... At your destination, these can be hauled out and used as organised 'drawers'. Pack each cargo bag so it has a purpose ... One for clothing (packed cells, jackets etc), another for sleeping (Brolly Sheets, sleeping bags, blankies, toiletries). Another say for swim gear (include pool toys) or shopping etc. With designated bags, it is easy to find what you need when you get to your destination and also helps to decide what to stow at the airport if flights delayed and an unscheduled overnighter is required.
Make sure you have a dummy (if you use them) or lollypops for them to suck whilst taking off and landing so it stops the pressure in their ears. Plus, if you are packing pamol or other liquids, they need to be under 100mls and you will have to produce them at security. So pack them in a clear zip-lock bag that’s easy to find in your bag.
3. Pack for fun
This is where our Brolly Sheets customers had hundreds of fabulous ideas.
- I pack my 2 year old a backpack with toys and books he has never seen before and let him take one out at a time.
- Green painters tape! You can stick it to everything and it won't make a mark, and it doesn't take up much space in a carry-on. Make designs on the tray, window, your clothes...your child will spend lots of time trying to peel it off.
- Sticker books
- A wallet/purse with things they can explore and take out and play with (old gift cards, pictures of family members, play money, tokens).
- Snacks that are treats, they don't normally get.
- Movies/videos on phone/table/DVD player/computer.
- Toy catalogues are great.
- Cheap sticky gooey window wall decals!!! They're always *in season* and stick to the back of seats, armrests, windows, etc! I try to find the cheapest ones because I just toss them afterwards. And buy 2 for a round trip.
- Just don't pull out all the tricks on the way there, because the flight home will get boring if you do!!
- I put beads in a jar and brought strings, that was a big hit. If you also take a throwaway pie plate or plastic container for them to use as a tray- it will save a lot of escaping beads.
- Make a chart & mark off each hour or so, so she knows how long it will be. Make travel exciting.
- Keep her entertained by talking to her, regular trips to the bathroom to allow her to get out of the seat for a short time.
- Get a box of band-aids or 5. Let her open then & stick on everything
- I did a pass the parcel type present with layers of surprises.
- I took a small cookie sheets and magnetic games like matching and letters that I made and bought.
- I printed out a few blank faces and put them in clear plastic sleeves and brought playdough for her to make faces on it.
- We also had a surprise grab bag of tiny dollar store gifts and snacks that were wrapped. She could open one every hour after her sticker to play with something new or have a snack.
- Make up some busy bags or fabric marble mazes ( look on Pinterest)
- Give them beef jerky to chew on. Lasts ages!!!
Pack some of the above in a smaller bag you can keep out at take-off. (Especially the things to suck on for take-off) Sometimes it can be quite a long time before the “fasten seat belt” sign goes off and you can access your bags.
4. Book your seats
Book your toddler his own seat and try and use night flights when your child would normally be sleeping. Pyjamas on and make sure you have walked up and down the terminal so many times that she is really tired. When you check and see if there are any empty seats in your row for more space.
5. Before you board
In the airport let them play, run, skip...etc because when they are on the plane – they are restricted to how much they can move. You can make up games so they can do jumping jacks, skip, and more. Even take some bubbles (to blow – not to drink!!) and while waiting let the kids chase them down so they are using up some energy.
I never thought of this – but it makes so much sense. Instead of boarding first when they call for families just wait. It’s an additional 30min that you have to entertain your toddler in a confined space.
If your toddler is out of nappies, make sure they go for a wee before they board. It can be quite a long time from when you board to when the seat belt sign goes off and you can use the toilet on board. Trying to make a toddler understand they have to “hold on” until they can move can be tricky. If you are unsure, pack a Brolly Sheet car seat protector or chair pad for them to sit on.
6. Ask for help
Ask for anything you need – you’d be amazed what stashes of treats and conveniences the aircrew have access to if you ask. From a banana or sandwich to an extra blanket and pillow. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help from any passengers around you. The grandmotherly looking passenger behind you might be a godsend J
A few mums have even put together small zip lock bags for fellow travellers. They popped in a note saying “this is my son's first flight I hope he will behave but if he doesn't here's a little treat bag for you with some chocolate kisses and some earplugs. Please have patience as this is his first flight”. Or along the lines of “I am sorry my daughter can’t sit still, and that we will do our best”.
Every child is different and you may just have the child where nothing works. The flight is only a small piece of time taking you to a much more memorable part of your lives. Whether you are holidaying or visiting friends and family, it’s all about the destination. Your fellow passengers will get over it and you and your child will get over it. Remember - its just one day in the midst of a lifetime.