As appealing as a holiday always sounds, sometimes simply the thought of flying with an energetic toddler and keeping them entertained in a confined space for hours is enough to put you off going anywhere! But a flight with a small human doesn’t have to be a disaster, if you plan ahead.
-Time your journey, depending on your child
You know your child the best, and how they are likely to cope depending on the time of day that you travel. If you think your toddler is likely to zonk out on the plane, try to fly in the evening and hope that they (and you!) get a few hours of sleep. If you don’t think they will sleep easily with all the distractions a plane can bring, a morning flight will be the best option while they’re still fresh and not overtired or irritable.
If you are travelling on a long haul flight, you may want to consider a night or two stopover on the way. Yes, it will cost extra for accommodation but weigh it up against the overall cost of your holiday and there’s every chance it will be worth it to save your sanity, as your child has time to adjust to a different time zone.
When we are at home I try to limit my daughter’s screen time. She watches some TV but so far has never been given a phone or ipad to look at when we go out to a café or shopping. But these rules go out the window on a flight! On a plane, my motto is “whatever works!” And for her, watching TV on a phone with headphones is such a novelty, she stays engaged for a long time. If you have Netflix, you can download their programs to your phone for free. So load up your phone or ipad with (legal!) downloads of all your child’s favourite TV programs or movies, bring some child-friendly headphones, and this could even allow YOU some time to watch something on the in-flight program!
You can never bring too many healthy snacks on a flight. These especially come in super handy if you end up delayed on the tarmac with no option to buy food.
It’s important to avoid anything too sweet that will cause your toddler to have a sugar crash, and inevitable meltdown.
Tip: I always let my daughter have a sugar-free lollipop to suck upon descent to ease ear pressure.
-Favourite toys and blankets
If your child has a favourite toy or blanket that they always sleep with, it’s a must to have it within easy reach, not stowed away in luggage that could end up in the overhead compartment.
Some parents like to bring a small, inexpensive wrapped toy for their child to open on the plane. If you do this, try to make it something that will keep them entertained for some time, and won’t be annoying or distracting for other passengers.
Tip: Don’t bring toys on the plane that involve tiny bits and pieces (eg Lego, Shopkins) that will end up under other’s people’s seats.
Up until the age of about 4, stickers are a cheap and effective option for keeping little ones entertained on a flight. Go to a $2 shop and load up on sticker activity books that will appeal to your child’s interests.
If your child is at an age where they enjoy colouring or scribbling, this is a great option to keep them entertained. Rather than bringing a whole pack of crayons or textas, which can end up rolling away, a good option is the “Magic Ink” colouring books which come with one “magic” texta and all the colours “magically” appear.
Tip: Buy these at a newsagent or Kmart/Targe/Big W before you leave, for half the price you would pay at the airport.
-Ask for help
Never be afraid to ask the flight attendants for help if you need a spare pair of hands, that’s what they are there for.
Happy travels, and remember the flight is just a small part of your holiday, making special family memories.