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Kacela’s first trans-Pacific flight was Toronto to Paris at 18 months old. This was definitely the most difficult trip we have done to date. She wanted to be in her own seat just like her big sister, and she was too over-stimulated to sleep. The one saving grace was that she was old enough to pay attention to the tv for short bursts at a time. When she started to get restless, we just found a cartoon and bought ourselves a few minutes of sanity. The good news, it’s been getting easier ever since. Here is my tips for flying with toddlers, my tricks to make your flight a little less stressful.
1. Bring LOTS of distractions
This is by far the most difficult age to travel with. Distractions, in whatever form, will allow you to keep your sanity on the flight. Mary Poppins bottomless bag would come in handy at this time! Check out my post on “What to Pack for Flying with Toddlers“ for an idea of what to bring on the plane.
2. Don’t overpack
Toddlers are mobile, and surprisingly fast! You will likely end up chasing your toddler through the airport at least once. It is far easier to do this if you aren’t lugging around 3 large bags filled with stuff!! Although I did say to bring lots of distractions, there needs to be a balance between having enough stuff for entertainment on the plane, and not unnecessarily weighing yourself down. Ideally a small backpack for your toddler and a diaper bag or large purse should be sufficient.
3. Board the plane LAST
Your little one will have a lot of energy, and being cooped up on the plane, on your lap, while everyone boards is just prolonging the suffering. Park yourself at the gate and let your toddler run around until final boarding call. If you’re bringing too much stuff and need overhead bin space this may not work. However, if you followed point number 2 you will easily be able to board the plane at the end and save yourself 10 min or so of time spent entertaining your toddler on the plane. This is especially important if you’re on a long-haul flight, as you’ll be on the plane for long enough already!
(you may have noticed that Points 2 & 3 are similar for most young kids. It’s because these are the most important things to make your flight more enjoyable! Not overpacking, and boarding the plane last are the best ways to decrease your trip related stress.)
4. Carrier vs. Stroller
For toddlers I prefer a carrier for the plane and a small umbrella stroller for the airport. Your little one still has to be on your lap so the carrier is still a must. I like the lillebaby everywhere carrier for toddlers because they have the option to face forward. I will often gate check a small umbrella stroller, especially with a long layover or if we have to go through customs at the airport. When I’m not using it I just hang the baby carrier on the back of the stroller.
5. Bring Electronics & Head Phones
If I had to pick one age to use electronics, this would be it. My favourites are the Toca Boca apps. There are a lot to choose from, and most of them have at least a small learning component. I usually download a few games on an old iPhone, add some kid songs, and bring a good pair of kid’s headphones. This can provide a significant amount of entertainment in a small space!
6. Feed during take-off and landing.
This might be a boob, bottle, sippy cup or snack. Take your pick!! As long as it keeps the jaw moving to help the ears equalize it saves some pain and tears. It also is a great distraction for a large part of the seat-belt sign portion of the flight.
7. Bring Snacks
The best way to quiet down a noisy toddler is to feed her! Snacks that take longer to eat, like cheerios in a snack trap, double as entertainment and food. My girls turn into Mr. Hyde when they are hungry so I always make sure to have snacks in my bag wherever I go. For the plane I just have more!
And, make sure you check out more great tips for flying with a toddler, especially you’re going on a long-haul flight. Long-haul flights are a different beat than domestic flights, and really do deserve their own separate recommendations! (Although many of the tips above still apply too!)
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Check out my post on What to Pack when Flying with Toddlers for an idea of what you’ll need on the plane.
Do you have any tricks that work to keep your toddler entertained while flying? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.