Flying with a Toddler: 10 Rules for Success
I officially earned my Traveling with Toddler degree after having completed two transatlantic and two transnational flights with my adorable but spirited daughter when she was 2 years-old. Here are my 10 tips for successful flying with a toddler in tow.
10 Tips for Air Travel with a Toddler
1. Reserve a bulkhead seat
Let your airline know that you are traveling with a small toddler and that you need some extra space. A bulkhead seat (just behind the bulkhead that separates coach from first class) will give you a bit more room than a standard economy seat.
2. Assemble a bag of tricks
Carry on one bag and have it brimming with small toys and gadgets that you can take out, one at a time, at intervals during the flight. Among other things, I carried coloring books and crayons, puzzles, a deck of matching cards, and a mini plastic doll house and dolls in my bag of tricks for a 10-hour flight to Europe with my daughter.
3. Pack your own protein rich snacks
Bag them in small Ziploc bags that you can dole out at intervals. Avoid sugary snacks that can lead to sugar highs, which are not fun to deal with when you’re trapped in an airplane. Some snacks that work well for long flights include: unsalted pretzel sticks dipped in a single-serving of peanut butter, cheese sticks, and trail mix made up of a few raisins and a sugarless cereal.
4. Prepare for cooler plane temperatures
Pack two changes of clothes for your toddler, a change of clothes for yourself and a blanket. In-flight air temperatures tend to be cooler, so wear layers.
5. Bring a sippy cup to avoid spills
Avoid sugary drinks, but make sure your child stays hydrated by offering water throughout the flight.
6. Prepare several distractions
Don’t count on video devices to keep your toddler distracted. I’ve found that traveling toddlers can manage 15 minutes of cartoon watching at most. Bring your tablet and have a few children’s programs ready to go, but books are better. Bring along a selection of children’s books, some favorites and some new titles.
7. Bring a pillow or two
I brought two standard sized pillows on a long flight to Europe with my toddler daughter. When she became sleepy, I made a pillow bed for her on my lap.
8. Pack some ibuprofen, just in case
Some children complain of earaches or headaches from changes in cabin pressure.
9. Give them a pacifier
The sucking action reduces ear pain caused by cabin pressure and is especially helpful during takeoff. If you are thinking of weaning your child off a pacifier, do so after your big trip.
10. Use up some of that pent up energy
During layovers, take a walk through the airport if you can. Many airports now have play areas for children.
Enjoy your flight! Finally, remember that someday soon, though it might not seem like it in the heat of the moment, your toddler will be an independent young adult, taking flight on her own adventures. You are playing a key role in setting the stage for a wonderful lifetime of travel! Have a wonderful trip together and keep the big picture in mind.
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