So this past Friday, I decided to jet over to California to see the family and visit Le Top’s headquarters. My flight was due to depart at 7:30am (a very early wake up of 4:15am…), and as the plane took off, I thought, “Now to get some Zzzz’s and then do a bit of work for our website.” Only to realize there were 2 toddlers and a baby DIRECTLY behind me on the plane – GREAT. The kids bumped my seat the entire flight and it didn’t help it was a touch screen on the back of the seat either….as their baby decided to test her Christina Aguilera skills and wail the entire flight at shrilling tones. Oh joy. Hence…what are the tricks of the trade of flying with toddlers and how can I avoid being “THAT Mom” on the plane…
The main difference between traveling with toddlers and babies is that toddlers are much more mobile. More precisely, toddlers are more “squirmy” than babies. Toddlers are also much less likely to sleep the whole flight or at unusual times just because there is the steady hum of an airplane engine.
Situation — Arriving at the Airport
By the time you get through airport security and board the plane, you’ve already done a ton of waiting. Add in strangers and loud noises and you’re practically begging for a tantrum. Younger toddlers can be overwhelmed by all the sensory stimulation.
What to Do:
Leading up to the day of departure, build positive anticipation for the journey by pointing out planes flying by in the sky or giving your child a toy airplane to play with. When you pack for the flight, be sure to include both old and new toys for the trip. Go to the airport prepared with plenty of toys and activities that you know your kid likes — but also save something special to engage him on the plane, like a new set of crayons or a book that he’s never seen before, which will be extra cool. At the airport, let your kid burn energy before you board. Have him help push a small suitcase around the waiting area and ride the escalators. Once you’re up in the air, narrate everything.
My 2-Cents: The most important tip for flying with a toddler is to get more than one seat. Even though a child under 2-years old can fly free on the lap of a parent, it is virtually impossible to keep a toddler in a single seat for all but the shortest of flights. This is not to say that you should pay for your toddler to have its own seat. If you are traveling with another, older child, or with another parent or adult, then that extra seat of roaming room may be enough. However, if it is just you and your toddler flying on the airplane, you should give consideration to buying the toddler an extra seat.
Regardless of what kind of airline you are flying on, don’t depend on the flight attendants for your baby supplies. So what should you pack?
What to Bring
Rule #1: Pack all your child’s essentials — diapers, food, toys, any medication — in your carry-on. Pack enough to account for flight delays and misplaced luggage.
Pacifier: Rapid changes in cabin pressure can make little ears “pop,” so keep drinks or pacifiers available for takeoffs and landings (sucking helps reduce ear sensitivity).
Food: Most children enjoy eating, or at least eating snacks and treats. So, even if your child is a picky eater, it is smart to bring along some of their favorite foods in case they get hungry. This not only saves you money, but it saves the rest of the passengers from listening to your child cry and complain about hunger or not liking what is offered as a snack.
Drink: Planes do offer a wide variety of beverages, but they also have a lot of passengers to serve. So, in case their drinks do not get to them fast enough, or they do not have the special flavor of orange-colored drink your child likes, bring some along.
Toys: Your child will want to be entertained. After all, it is difficult for most adults to sit still doing nothing in a plane seat all day, that is why most adults bring magazines, books, or sleep while flying. So, bring some quiet, and portable toys for your child to enjoy while flying. Also, to capture their attention longer, consider buying a new toy, one that they have not played with before. Not only will they be more excited, but they will likely enjoy it longer, which means more quiet time.
iPad: Toys only last so long, so be sure to bring and iPad and download great books or movies so your child can stay entertained.
Clothes: A change of clothes may seem unnecessary, but small children have accidents, throw up when stressed or nervous, and sometimes spill. You will not want your child sopping wet and frustrated, so just in case, at least bring a clean t-shirt to change them into if needed – jammies are a great option too for late night flights!
Diapers: Even if you change their diaper one minute before boarding, and the flight is only an hour, you will want to have diapers with you. After all, do you really want to smell a stinky diaper for 2000 or more miles? So stick in a few more than you think you will need; you won’t be sorry.
Wipes: Wipes are extremely useful, not just for changing diapers, but also for making sticky hands and faces clean, removing stains from clothes, etc. Bring along a fairly decent amount of wipes.
Other Notes: The Federal Aviation Administration recommends that small children be seated in a Child Restraint System, or CRS — i.e., a car seat. According to FAA guidelines:
For babies less than 20 lbs., use a rear-facing car seat
For children 20 – 40 lbs., use a forward-facing car seat
For kids weighing more than 40 lbs., use the airplane seat belt
Every restraint must bear a label indicating that it’s FAA approved, something to check in advance of your flight.