Air Travel with toddlers doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Here are some exclusive tips that will help you make it through your flight.
Schedule your flights to coincide with nap/bedtimes.
Whenever possible, try to book direct flights during the time of day or night your child would normally be sleeping. In all likelihood, they will keep up the pattern and fall asleep despite being 25,000 feet in the air. Any sleep they get on the plane will serve to cut down the time they must be entertained while awake!
Car seat on the plane?
When our daughter was an infant we choose to save the money and only purchase seats for ourselves which meant she spent the duration of the flight(s) on our laps. More recently, we have taken to carrying-on the car seat which accomplishes two very important things: freeing up our laps, arms, and such, and keeping her in the seat. It also adds some familiarity to a new vehicle/mode of transportation – a little piece of home(life) in a new place. Yes, it is frustrating having to carry the seat around the airport, but the in-flight payoff is worth it. One Step Ahead sells an adapter to turn a car seat into a backpack which may help you manage your carry-ons.
Managing the Flight
An easy and effective way to manage your in-flight, family-with-toddler(s) experience is to break the trip down, mentally, into 20 minute segments (to borrow an airline term). So, if you have a 2 1/2 hour flight, you really have only 7 twenty minute segments to schedule and occupy your child’s (or children’s) time. When you think of your flight in this manner it becomes a relatively manageable event. Here are some parent and flight tested tips on segment ideas that will occupy and entertain your kids, providing you with some down time to peruse the SkyMall catalog, and not have you lugging a suitcase full of toys around the terminal.
(remember: each idea has to occupy a mere 20 minutes, anything more than that is a bonus!):
* A new toy or book (nothing fancy, just something brand new to him or her)
* Crayola Color Wonder Markers (an inventive product that will only write on the special Crayola paper) – This is a favorite of ours. No messes at all and no toxic marker smell. The marker caps make for great, silly kid fingernail extensions. In fact, if your child is anything like ours, the caps alone could be their own segment.
* Tape and/or Stickers – Plain old Scotch tape can be a load of fun for a little one. Roll it up inside itself to make a sticky circle and let them stick it to their nose, your nose, between their fingers…just good old fashioned fun with a 2 inch piece of tape.
* Magna Doodle (Travel Edition) – A classic toy that our modern kids still enjoy. (Note: really young ones may get frustrated at their inability to, independently, erase their work as the tab to clear the screen can be rather difficult to slide)
* A Discman/Portable CD player – If you do not have an old one collecting dust somewhere, they can be had relatively cheap in the iPod age. This is perfect if your child has a particular CD they are diggin’ at the moment (or if you have made a Mix CD of their favorite songs). If they have never used a portable cd player before, the novelty of this device combined with the music they already love should carry you for two segments. Be sure to keep the volume at a low level and use only the classic earphones with the large, round and padded ear pieces that sit on the outside of their ears. kid size earphones?
* Their favorite book(s) – (often a bedtime book, which is essential if your flight will involve a nap or take place during bedtime).
* For older toddlers/young kids: some brochures/city-location guide books. Allow and encourage your kids to plan a day trip, museum visit, etc. Give the reigns over to them for a period of time (whatever you are comfortable with/have the time for) providing they devise a plan using the material you bring on board. Not only will this occupy a good amount of time, but they will love the chance to be the boss and decision maker. By engaging them in the trip planning you will also increase the chances of them enjoying themselves and going along with something you want to do (reciprocating the favor). For the younger members of your family, use the brochures as a conversation piece to get them excited and interested in what they will be seeing during the vacation.
Snap-Crackle-Pop (Dealing with the altitude and popping ears)
Be sure to pack their favorite beverage and snack on board. Not only will the eating and drinking occupy a segment but it is also an method of reducing the impact of air pressure on their ears. By drinking or chewing they will hopefully not feel an uncomfortable amount of pressure while taking off and landing.
Enjoy your flight!