Flying with a toddler
Discovering new places together with your child is one of the joys of parenthood, but not everyone relishes the thought of flying with a toddler. From choosing the right flight to entertainment on the plane, here are our tips to help make travel with a toddler easier.
If you’re planning a trip with a younger baby, read our guide to flying with a baby.
8 tips for flying with a toddler
1) Think about flight times
The time of day that you fly can make all the difference to how you will feel when you arrive.
If you’re planning on travelling when your toddler normally sleeps, you could enjoy some quiet time on the flight. This can backfire though if they become too excited to sleep and get over-tired.
Choosing flights at less popular times can maximise your chance of getting a spare seat next to you. That means more room to stretch out and play.
2) Explain what is going to happen
Many younger children thrive on routine and don't like it when something different happens. Taking a flight is the exact opposite of their usual routine. Reassure your child before you fly and during the flight by explaining what is happening and what to expect from the minute you leave home. This includes talking to them about checking-in (they will need to queue), going through security and the different ways you might get on the plane.
3) Look for play area facilities
When energetic toddlers are excited they want to run and play, but you may not want them to do that in the departure lounge. Many airports, including Dubai, Amsterdam and Geneva, have family-friendly areas. Check the airport website before you arrive, or ask visitor services, to see if there is a play area in the terminal where they can let off some steam.
4) Head to the viewing area
Another great spot to head to in the airport is the viewing area. Here you can watch the planes taking off and landing, giving you another chance to explain to your toddler what is going to happen when you fly.
5) Pack snacks for success
Careful planning will make your time at the airport and on the plane easier. Many toddlers won’t like the food available at the airport or on the plane, so pack plenty of their favourite snacks. Fresh fruit and rice cakes are always popular, lightweight choices. Small food pouches are also allowed in most airports but always check on any food restrictions at your destination.
6) Get them comfy
If you have a longer flight, you might want your toddler to relax and sleep. Bringing along your child’s favourite cuddly toy will help to comfort them so they nod off. Travel pillows can also help them to relax.
7) Things to do
Keeping your child occupied can help the journey fly by. The best travel toys for toddlers on aeroplanes are small and light, with no fiddly little bits that can get lost under the seat. Pack paper, pens and pencils in your hand luggage so you can draw and play games together. Tablets or phones with a game or their favourite show downloaded onto it can also be a valuable distraction. Just remember to set it to flight-safe mode.
8) Preventing pain
The change in air pressure as you take off and land can sometimes cause ear pain. Encourage your child to swallow to help to reduce the pressure building up in the ears by offering snacks or drinks. A soother can also work with smaller children.