Top Tips For Flying With Babies and Toddlers
Flying with tots in tow is a very different experience to flying alone. Small ones can be very hard to please and being asked to do lots of things out of the norm increases the chances of challenging behaviour. There’s very little chance of just kicking back, having a snooze on the flight and enjoying a good book or the inflight movie like there was in those childfree days.
Chances are any parents flying with children, especially for the first time, are just praying that they come out unscathed at the other end! Not only will they be worrying about how they will cope with keeping their little one entertained for such a long time, they will also be concerned about the reactions of others.
While air travel with babies or toddlers is never going to be an easy feat, it can be made less stressful with some good planning and organisation. Preparation really is key when it comes to travelling, and particularly so when you are taking little ones along.
So how do you make this flying with babies and/or toddler thing easier? Well, if they’re not able to talk yet, take comfort in the fact they can’t repeat ‘are we nearly there yet’ for the whole journey! Oh, and of course, take a look at our tips!
- Upgrade your seats if possible. If you can get it, extra space is invaluable for entertaining and all that rooting around for paraphernalia that you’ll need during your journey.
- Get an extra seat for your child. Most airlines will allow you to purchase a seat for a child over 6 months. That way you can then either put them in a car seat or raise the armrests and let them sleep on your knee while they stretch out. Also most toddlers can be pretty insistent, you don’t want to find yourself standing for the whole flight to avoid a strop if your toddler insists on having their own seat!
- Most airlines will let toddlers under 2 travel on your lap so you don’t have to purchase an extra seat. If you want them to travel without their own seat and have an older toddler then take their birth certificate with you to avoid delays at check in. It will also prevent you having to purchase a seat if the check in staff refuse to believe your toddler is under 2.
- Book your seats in advance. When considering your seats be aware that while bulkhead seats can be tempting for the extra space, not having a passenger in front means no under seat storage. All of your hand luggage will have to be stowed during the flight and won’t be accessible during take off and landing. Also, the armrests on bulkhead seats are fixed, which can make for a very uncomfortable flight when you have a baby or toddler on your lap.
- If you have a younger baby, you can request a bassinet for your baby to sleep in during the flight. These need to be requested well in advance, as they are only available with certain seats.
- Book direct flights and avoid connections if you can. Stopovers increase the chances of things not going to plan and it will be much more difficult to keep your little one entertained while they endure two flights and more airport time.
- Depending on how well your baby or toddler sleeps in strange places, consider booking night flights so they can sleep and you don’t need to worry about how to entertain them, especially if you’re facing a long-haul journey.
- However, on the other hand, you might feel your little one would cope better with a day flight, particularly if they are old enough to understand the concept of going on an airplane and are excited about it. If so, book flights early in the day as there will be less chance of being delayed and the airport should be quieter.
- If you have an older toddler then explain to them what will happen at the airport, this will go some way towards making the journey easier – Just telling your 3 year old that they’re going on a plane and not preparing them for anything else that will happen at the airport, will inevitably result in complete meltdown once you arrive at the airport and they have to stand in a number of queues and wait for 2 hours before even getting near the plane! Explaining things in a way, which will be exciting to them, may help your cause somewhat – such as the ‘magical’ door they’ll have to go through at security.
- Most airlines will let you keep your pushchair in the airport and hand it over just before you step on the plane. While it might not be a good idea to keep your toddler confined to a pushchair for the whole time in the airport as they will be expected to sit down for hours on the plane, it will be useful for carrying some hand luggage on and for putting your toddler in when moving from place to place if the airport is very busy.
- If you purchase a seat for your baby or toddler you may want to take their car sear for them to travel in. It will be familiar to them so they’ll be likely to be more comfortable and travel better. If you intend to do this check with the airline first that the seat you want to use is acceptable
- Check the airport security restrictions for liquids. You might find you have to taste any milk, drinks or purees you take through security. If your baby is breastfed then you don’t need to worry about liquids for them the same but if your baby is fed formula milk it can be much easier to take powered formula and purchase water after you’ve been through security. You can also purchase baby food there too. Some shops at the airport will let you order in advance and have all your supplies waiting to be collected just before your journey. Check the website of the airport you are travelling from to find out if this is possible.
- Dress everyone in layers. Planes are very rarely the perfect temperature and a too hot or too cold tot can be a very grumpy one.
- Make sure any older toddlers are dressed in bright clothes so you can keep an eye on them easily in the airport. Also make sure they have your mobile phone number and details of your flight on them just in case they get lost. You can either write these details on a wristband or make sure they have a little laminated card with them on in their pocket.
What should you pack for the journey?
- Milk, water or juice, plenty of snacks and even treats – the mealtimes on the plane probably won’t coincide with your child’s normal routine and most parents have to resort to bribery at some point!
- A change of clothes, for your baby or toddler and a change of clothes for you too. Your little one might suffer with travel sickness and spending the journey smelling of vomit will not make it a pleasant journey for you or the people sitting near!
- Plenty of nappies, wipes and nappy bags. A rough guide usually given is 1 nappy for every hour of your journey, don’t forget to include time in the airport and transfers.
- Small toys. Make sure any toys you take aren’t noisy – what sounds quite tolerable at home will probably be extremely irritating to other passengers and if so, you can be quite sure that that’s the one they’ll want to play with for the entire trip! Take plenty of new and interesting toys. Remove any new toys from the packaging beforehand. Finding that you can’t get in the packaging on the airplane will almost certainly result in frustration, stress, and a grumpy tot too!
- Books, comics, colouring books and crayons. Again, make sure these are new, interesting and not noisy. Save some of the things you’ve taken for later on in the journey when they’re starting to get bored and need some distraction. Don’t forget about the return journey either.
- A portable DVD player can be a helpful distraction too, although make sure you bring earphones – just because your toddler might want to watch 50 episodes of Peppa Pig doesn’t mean that all the other passengers will want to listen too.
- Ziploc bags are always a great addition to your hand luggage too. Keep your spare clothes in one to prevent them getting soiled by accident and put your tot’s sippy cups, bottles etc in another – the pressure on planes can make even non-spill cups leak.
- Consider purchasing lounge access, there are reasonably priced lounges available, which you can use no matter which airline you’re travelling with. Some have play areas for children, which will keep them easily entertained, and contained, for a couple of hours. They can also sit and watch the planes taking off and you might even get chance for a coffee and a tasty snack too.
- Always change your baby or take your child to the bathroom before boarding the flight. Plane facilities definitely aren’t designed for changing babies or helping toddlers toilet so the less you have to use them the better.
- During take off and landing the ear pressure can make your baby very uncomfortable. Getting your baby to feed or your toddler to drink can help them regulate the pressure in their ears. Earplugs can also help older children.
So you should now be all set to go and enjoy your holiday, splash in the pool, explore new places and have some good old quality family time. Just remember, don’t set your expectations of your little one too high. Babies and toddlers are unpredictable and when they’re out of routine the odd wobbly should be expected. If there are some tantrums during your journey, don’t worry. Most people will be very understanding about your little one’s behaviour, provided you don’t let your toddler kick the back of their seat repeatedly during your journey!
Kate is a proud mom of two wonderful (most of the time) children. She is a seasoned blogger who enjoys writing on behalf of brands like No.1 Traveller, a UK luxury airport lounge company, and Electric Dialogue.