Flying with toddlers: your insanity-proof guide

Toddlers on a plane (800x618)

We’ve just got back from San Francisco, Oregon and Utah. It was magnificent. Do you know what these boys were most excited about? The flipping aeroplane.

Them, not us, because putting small children in a seat and telling them to stay there for ten hours is Asking For Trouble. Ted can’t stay still for the duration of a medium-sized fart. We’ve done a good few long flights with babies and toddlers now, and I know it’s incredibly intimidating (I nearly ate myself with stress the week before). So I thought I might just share what we’ve found helpful, in case it helps you too.

Toddlers-on-a-plane is a different disaster scenario to babies-on-a-plane (you can check this post for the latter, and send Samuel L. Jackson along to me once you’re done with him). For a long-haul flight with toddlers/preschoolers/H-sized children (what is he?!), here’s our best tips:

give each of them

a small backpack with their own snacks, crayons, and other exciting things. They get their own carry-on, even if they’re still on your lap. I got a small new toy for each of them, from the Pound Shop, and put it in their bags as a surprise. Also new sticker books. Something cheap and exciting that they’d never seen. Don’t forget that –

airports are big, and busy

(obvious, sorry) and toddlers like to run off.  We labelled each backpack with Tim’s name/address on one side, and ‘MY NAME IS ___’ on the other, just in case they got lost. Also, to see them easily at a distance, I dressed them the same, and in the brightest colours they had. Seems a bit silly (and your kids might not be fans of matching) but it did actually help when Heathrow was heaving on the first morning.

backpacks (640x800)

most airlines allow you

to check in a car seat and/or a pushchair. We were lucky: this time we flew with Virgin, and they allow both. We actually bought some new Travel pushchairs and I’m so glad we did, they were amazing! Label car seats and pushchair with your name and address too. If your kids are old enough for their own seat they get their own luggage allowance, which means an extra suitcase if you need one. Check the car seat in at the desk with your suitcases and take the pushchair all the way through security to the aeroplane door. Some security desks will ask you to collapse it and put it through the x-ray machine; others will just allow you to wheel it through the metal detector (without your kids in it). But do bring it. Unless you have an angel toddler, there’ll be at least one point where you need them to stay in place.

you will be in

a lot of queues.

I recommend a bag of tiny chocolate buttons for bribery purposes, to be dispensed one at a time.

queues (640x800)

but on the plus side

if you have a pushchair or an infant, you do get to board the plane first.

if possible, get

proper child-friendly headphones for each of them. There are tons on Amazon, and we picked up a couple of pairs very cheaply in TK Maxx. Not only does this make it more exciting, they’re likely to stay engaged for longer with the in-flight entertainment (the ones the airline give away are a bit flimsy for heavy-handed toddlers). Also bring a headphone splitter, because…

if you have a tablet

download a selection of programmes onto it and bring it with you. I know there are screens in the back of their seats, but they don’t switch on until you’re well into the air, and there’s SO MUCH hanging around before then. There are no points for screen-free time here. This ain’t a #childhoodunplugged scenario. Put Thomas on for as long as you need it.

tablet (640x800)

assemble a rough change of clothes

for everyone in separate ziplock bags, and bring them in your carry-on. Nappy/sick explosions in a confined space with only baby wipes to mop up are DEEPLY unfunny. We escaped this time, but last time H got us good.

there are changing tables in all the aeroplane toilets

(they fold down above the loo) but make sure both adults have a couple of nappies and a pack of wipes each, since you’ll be at different ends of the row and it’s easier if both of you are prepared. Also, as queues for aeroplane loos tend to build up after meals and last forever, if you have a nappy-free child with a small bladder (*cough* H *cough*), keep an eye on the time and take them just before the meal comes out.

changing (640x800)

if you’re on a night flight particularly,

it’s nice to bring familiar items to help them relax. T brought his cat (called Cat, obviously) and I stuffed blankets for each of them into the bottom of the pushchair (and grabbed them when we collapsed the pushchair just before we got on the plane).

finally, don’t panic if

one of your children tips an entire can of Coke into your shoes. The flight attendants have napkins. You have wipes for your shoes and grossly sticky feet. Told you that change of socks would come in handy.

I WONDER WHICH CHILD IT WAS.

I WONDER WHICH CHILD IT WAS.

One thought on “Flying with toddlers: your insanity-proof guide

  1. Some great tips, thanks 🙂 Will put them into practice when I fly for the first time with my two year old next month. Just to add regarding car seat – some airlines will let you bring it on board – might be handy for sleeps, and is actually the safest way for infants to be restrained during a flight as the adult seat belt isn’t that suitable if you did encounter severe turbulence.

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