Once you arrive at your final designation and get settled in whatever happened that day on the plane is quickly forgotten. This is the first thing you should know when planning on flying with a toddler. It is momentary. Say it with me… this will be momentary! You will all survive and you might even make a few fun memories along the way.
As I promised in my post on Traveling Abroad with a Toddler, I’m now going to also share with the tips and tricks I picked up for flying with a toddler. And my goal is to help you to not just survive but to find ways to enjoy your traveling together.
choosing your flight and seats
As I read within other helpful blog posts, choosing your flight times and seats are very important as you plan your itinerary. Bulk head seats are best (the ones with no one in front of you and more leg room)… if you can get one, and over-night flights are ideal. We had neither and we still made it. So, you will too.
Let your little one run wild during layovers. Take turns with your spouse to walk around with your toddler, letting them blow off steam until the next flight. We usually never eat during a layover (because eating is good entertainment for the plane), but we might pick up a bite to bring on with us. Also, this is probably obvious, but this is the time for a potty break or diaper change. It’s always better to use a restroom in an airport than on the plane.
keeping your cool
If possible, stay calm, even when your kid is making a big scene. Kids can sense when we are not calm which in turn makes them more upset. Staying calm in a tense situation, when you’re tired, hungry, etc etc can seem impossible. (I hear you!) But if you plan ahead a little you might prevent a big ordeal. Try and find some things that calm you down and bring those with you (snacks, coffee, music etc). Or think of a situation that might get you upset and solve for it ahead of time. My husband gets worked up when our little guy is fussy in a crowd, so I bring him special snacks in addition to ones for Everett and I plan on being the one to calm Everett down if a storm arises.
packing for the plane
This is the biggest tip I have for you…pack strategically. If you have room for a small extra backpack, that would be ideal. We packed a little bag for Everett with all kinds of new games and activities. He called it his pack-pack and loved every time we got to dig inside for something new.
You’ll want a grand assortment of games and snacks for the plane (think Mary Poppins Style bag with an endless supply of fun things). I hit up the dollar store and bought $7-10 worth of small things that I didn’t care if they were lost or left behind. Same goes for snacks, variety from healthy to emergency-pleasing (jelly beans, suckers, and yogurt covered raisins work great for the latter while fruit, nuts, energy bites are good when they are actually hungry). Also, the little fruit/veggie pouches are great for take-off and landing as their ears are adjusting.
Dollar store toys to seek out: magnidoodle, stickers (lots and lots of stickers), magnetic board, plastic animals, growing capsules (pictured above – you can make animals grow in your airplane water cup!)
Books. Pack a few new books and maybe one familiar. These are also ones you can find at the dollar store and leave behind if you need more space in your bag.
Pill containers for one-bite snacks. This is fun for a toddler to get each snack himself. I filled them with raisins, natural gummy bears, freeze dried fruit or dried fruit, and nuts.
IPhone apps. While our little guy doesn’t get much phone or tv time at home, while we were on the plane we let him enjoy a few games and shows. We borrowed adjustable ear phones from a friend and downloaded 4-5 new apps and shows. We let this be our last resort activity when we were both out of energy or when he was really tired or fussy. (some apps to try- bubbles, animal flash cards, any of the peek a boo apps, the bible for kids interactive app)
Sorting objects. You can buy colorful little balls, erasers of find things around the house that your toddler can sort either by color or just from one container to another.
Clothes pins. We used stickers and clothes pins as a matching game, putting 3 sets of matching stickers on 6 clothes pins. Then we would attach three clothes pins to the seat in front of him and he would have to match the stickers to each other. OR he would just play with the clothes pins which is also great.
String and Beads. Putting beads on a string can be fun for little hands.
Here are some ‘games’ we played:
I had Josh draw a few animals on contract paper (the paper you line drawers with that has a sticky side). We would tape the paper to the seat back in front of us and then peel it so that the sticky part is facing us. Everett could then stick pompoms or cotton balls to the drawings. We made a peacock with feathers, a multicolored pic with pom pons and a sheep with cotton balls. It was all easy to discard once the fun was had. (the picture above is of a drawing before and below is of one as we were playing on the plane)
We also had a tiny bag filled with tiny owl erasers ($1 find) that he could sort into a cup one by one. If you can get a lid to one of the airplane cups then little erasers can slide through the slit in the lid, making it more interesting
Clothes pins are more fun than you would think. I brought them to do a matching game (as mentioned above), putting a few matching stickers on them so Everett would have to pin one to the coinciding matching one but we really just ended up pinning each others ears and noses for a good bit.
And as I mentioned before, string and beads, along with magnets and apps are all good entertainment.
Plan to not get any time to yourself. I planned to be ‘on’ for the 20 hours it took us to get to Spain. Then, it was pure joy when I had some quiet time as he slept and I even got to watch a movie! I feel it’s best to go in with no expectations for yourself then if you get a few moments to read a magazine or whatever, it will feel even better. I packed a book (not a small one either) and never even pried open a page but we had fun and Everett was happy for most of the time so I think that’s a win for all of us!
Here is my full post on Traveling abroad with a toddler.