Planning a family trip with a toddler along for the ride? Here are a few tips to help.
Planning with your airline
While you’re booking your flight, check with your airline as to what hand luggage allowance they have for infants and children. It can be handy if you can take a separate bag for your little one.
If your flight includes meals, check what the options are for toddlers or small children. You’ll often need to order a special meal in advance.
Make sure you check in for your flight as soon as check-in opens. Sometimes this can be a week in advance, but with easyJet you can check in online 30 days before your flight. Checking in early gives the airline the best chance to seat you all together if you haven’t purchased specific seats.
Depending on your child’s exact age and the type of travelling you’re doing, there are plenty of options for how to best carry them, including a bassinet, CARES harness, pushchair, etc. Your airline can help advise you, and there’s a good article on flying with a toddler that shows you some of the options.
Choose your seats carefully
Be strategic when selecting your seats. Generally a window seat is the best for a toddler, as looking out the window will give them an extra form of entertainment and distraction. It will also leave you in between them and the aisle, making an impromptu adventure away from their seats less likely.
Most airlines will sit an infant under 2 years old on an adult’s lap. However, you can usually book them their own seat, if you’d prefer. You’ll probably need to phone the airline to arrange this.
If you’re using a CARES harness, phone your airline before you book your seats, since there are rules around which seats can accept them.
Keep them entertained
Make sure you have a variety of entertainment to keep your toddler occupied for the whole trip. It’s generally a good idea to limit toddler’s screen time at home; however, a long flight is not the time for this!
Take digital and non-digital options. Don’t forget to pack a spare battery and charger cable for your phone or tablet (Anker make reliable and cheap battery packs). You can pre-load your devices with games, television programmes, and films, because you won’t have wifi on the plane. You can buy children’s headphones to make sure they don’t disturb other passengers too much.
Non-electronic entertainment such as colouring books, picture books, cuddly toys, or stickers can be extra options if they get bored with their devices. The longer the fight, the more options you should have. The company Keep Em Quiet produces special entertainment packs for just this purpose, so have a look at what they offer.
You could even wrap up some of your activities or snacks as presents, and give your child a gift for good behaviour every half an hour.
If your child is a little older, don’t forget games like i-spy that don’t need any equipment, or pretend that they’re the pilot or a member of the cabin crew, and play through everything that usually happens on board.
At the airport, a Trunki ride-on suitcase will give a toddler something to play with.
Time your flight to fit the toddler’s sleep schedule
If possible, book your flights to suit your toddler’s sleep schedule. A late-night or early morning flight is generally not a good idea if it will cut into usual sleeping time. A mid-morning departure time often works well. You may even get an hour or so respite if you can make afternoon nap time happen while on the plane.
However, if you are flying long-haul, your best bet is probably going to be a night flight so they can spend a decent portion of the flight asleep.
Having a variety of snacks is an excellent way to keep occupied and happy. Non-messy snacks are the easiest to manage and can be brought out at strategic moments to help avert meltdowns. Don’t be above bribery in this situation! Bring wet wipes to clear up any mess.
Don’t forget to buy things like bottles of drinking water once you’ve gone through airport security; the liquid limit is still 100ml.
Go for walks on the plane
Get out into the aisle and go for a walk to give your toddler some space so they don’t feel so cooped up. Letting them blow off a little steam and use up some energy will make them more likely to stay settled when you return to your seats. Try to plan your walks between meal and drink services so you’re not getting in the cabin crew’s way.
Make sure they’re comfortable
Pack extra pillows and blankets to keep your toddler as warm and comfy as possible, and bring their favourite pyjamas or other clothes to change into on the flight. The more comfortable they are, the happier they will be, and the more chance they will get some sleep.
Feeling ill on board
You might take a small bottle of Calpol for the flight, in case your toddler starts feeling ill. Sore ears, as a result of the change in pressure, can be a problem too, so have some food or drink that your child can swallow during the climb and descent parts of the flight—swallowing equalises the air pressure in your ears, and makes things more comfortable.
Take some sick bags and spare nappies that are easily accessible. Keep some extra clothes handy as well, not packed in your suitcase, for an emergency change!
Try to relax and not stress too much!
If you’re stressed out, your toddler might pick up on your mood and become unhappy. At the end of the day, there’s not much you can do once you’re on the plane, so just relax and try not to worry. Remember you’ve got a wonderful family holiday to enjoy on the other end!