My tips for flying with a Toddler
One of the first posts I ever wrote for this blog was was my Tips for flying with a baby , two years on it still gets several hundred hits a month which for this little blog of mine is quite the achievement. With this in mind I thought it was high time I wrote an updated version for toddlers. I have flown on about 14 flights with Bella since she turned one and it’s safe to say we have learnt some lessons along the way. So if you would like to know what I advise for flying with a toddler please keep reading, and bear in mind this is just my humble opinion, everyone does things their way!
1) Time of day
This is probably the most important thing we consider when booking a flight. Probably more so when booking long haul but we do also have a think about it for short haul too.
So firstly long haul: when we flew to Mauritius we deliberately picked two night flights. Bella does not nap anymore and quite frankly the thought of taking off in the morning and having to entertain her awake on a plane for 12 hours sounded like hell. Even if we had of taken off in the middle of the day we would have still had to entertain her for upwards or 8 hours. I mentioned in my Mauritius post that last summer I did 6 flights with her an the best flight was the one that took off at midnight because she slept the entire 4 hours. Equally the two Mauritius flights surprised us even more. I thought we would get on, she would maybe watch a film, have some food and after a few hours hopefully sleep for a good stint. Well both times she told us she was tired about an hour into the flight and slept the remainder. We were gobsmacked.
On the way back she even slept through landing (and us having to move her to put the armrests down), the lights had come on and everyone had got off the plane and she was still asleep, the crew found this very amusing.
And before you say ‘that’s because she’s a good sleeper’ this is true, but Phil and I both commented that actually, particularly on the flight home there were kids all around us and they all pretty much slept the entire flight. We didn’t get much sleep and it was quite broken but I’d take that over a day flight with her awake for 12 hours.
For shorter haul we all know those 12am easyjet flights are pretty hellish so if you can’t face them go with one around their nap. Or bring plenty of entertainment. To be honest I dont think time of day is as important for short haul as long haul.
2) Get them to sleep with their seatbelt on
Just a quick note relating to the above, I would recommend if you are going to get your toddler to sleep try and do so with their seatbelt done up and visible. On long haul flights the chances are the seat belt sign will ping on and off several times mid flight and the crew will want to see they have their seat belt on. We learnt this on the way out and nearly woke her up faffing about trying to get it done up. On the way back I did it up over the blanket she was wearing, loose enough for her to be able to roll about but obviously tight enough that it would do what it needed to.
3) Do you really need to get on first?
I will never understand why people scramble to get on the plane first? Now that we have Bella I am even less keen to get on first, when we flew to Mauritius we were pretty much the last people to get on. Bigger planes can sometimes take upwards of an hour to board…why on earth would I want to get on and sit on the plane for an extra hour with a toddler when I have 12 hours ahead of me? We are the same with short haul to be honest, as little time on the plane as possible please! Just make sure you are organised and can get what you need out of your hand luggage quickly and easily or just pop it straight in the locker and get what you need once in the sky. You’ll annoy everyone if you’re the last to get on and are then faffing with your bags for ages getting what you need.
If you are travelling as a couple / group you could always get someone else to get on before and secure luggage space if you are that worried about it.
4) Newness is a novelty
When it comes to entertainment for your little one make sure you pack something that is new and exciting for them. Be it a new sticker book, story book or even a magnetic writing board. Or even just a new game on your ipad / phone the Cbeebies ones are free and also pretty educational too. I would avoid fiddly small figures etc or you will end up awkwardly trying to pick things up from the floor.
We got Bella some new sticker books for Crete which passed a good amount of time.
5) Take a mini medical kit
If flying long haul or even short haul (when considering any delay you might face) I always take a thermometer and Calpol in my hand luggage. It would be pretty stressful if a few hours into a flight your little on felt really hot and seemed unwell and you couldn’t do anything about it. We all know how quickly then can come down with something!
6) Plan a meal / food for on the plane
I don’t know about your kids but with Bella a meal time means she will sit still, so if you are travelling short haul and no meal is provided I would recommend bringing a little pack lunch / dinner to take up some time onboard. Or even just lots of snacks. Just like a baby I would recommend getting them to drink during take off and landing to help with their ears.
7) Which seats?
Obviously you want to try and sit together where possible, in the scenario where they are under two my understanding is that you are not allowed to sit in an aisle seat if you have a baby / toddler on you lap. I would recommend trying to ensure that you have the aisle and middle seat, rather than being pinned in against the window with the middle seat. At least you can get out and walk up and down the aisle if needed. Or on bigger planes they sometimes have two seats on their own at the back where the plane narrows. This would have been ideal for Phil and I when we were still travelling with Bella on our lap.
Once your little one has their own seat then most planes have a set up with three seats together so you will hopefully have a row to your self. If you are on a plane that has a row of four in the middle then someone told me a tip. If you can reserve seats D, E, and G (below).
If someone is on their own they will pick seat F as a last resort so you may be more likely to end up with a row of four between the three of you. In the worst case scenario you will end up with someone in seat F, but they will be very likely to swap and be on an aisle rather than stuck in the middle of a row next to a toddler.
8) Own seat?
This might seem extremely frivolous and I am only suggesting this if you have managed to pick up a real bargain of a flight. But if I was flying with and 18month - 2 year old (basically before they have their own seat) and the flight wasn’t expensive I would seriously consider buying them their own seat. Let me tell you flying 4 hours with a 23 month old ‘on our laps’ was no easy feat. You can take your chances and hope there are free seats on the flight but it’s a bit of a gamble. Last year when we flew to Crete we travelled a month before Bella turned two and thought ‘yay check us out making the most of not having to pay full fare’ for her. We soon regretted our smugness when we were pinned in against a window with her on our laps for 4hours and no nap. It’s also worth noting once you pay for a seat they will get their own hold luggage allowance too where applicable.
9) Change of clothes
Take at least one change of clothes for your toddler to account for food spillages and toilet accidents. Also take an outfit suitable for where you are going. I packed a lightweight romper and sandals for Bella for when we landed in Mauritius given we left Heathrow at 9 degrees and it was 30+ when we landed.
10) Account for delays
I think this point is definitely more applicable to babies but I would still pack a few extra snacks, nappies etc for a toddler incase you are delayed, especially late night flights where in some airports pretty much everything closes as you get late into the night.
11) Don’t overpack hand luggage
I know I have listed quite a few items above to take onboard but really think about what you need, there is no need to pack five hardback books (learnt that the hard way). Get a mini pack of crayons rather than the whole set you have at home. You never need as much as you think! Carrying your hand luggage, plus theirs and then keeping check on them running about is full on.
12) Buggy or no buggy?
When Bella was a baby we always put our buggy in a travel bag and checked it in. We used to put Bella in the carrier which meant we both had two hands and also thought our buggy was safer packed with nappies around it for protection than leaving it at the gate when we got on the plane. Now we tend to take your buggy up to the gate with us, it’s useful to put Bella in although she mostly wants to walk about. If she’s out of the buggy we can put a hand luggage bag in the buggy and push it along.
12) damage control
Lastly not a nice thought but make sure your insurance covers you for you not being able to fly. ie incase your child has chicken pox or something else contagious that prevents you from flying. Bella is yet to have chicken pox and it’s a major worry for me every time we have a holiday approaching. Although I did a deal with the chicken pox gods last year when my sister got married saying of all the flights we have to take please can she not get the pox for this one.
Lastly I thought I would share what I pack in Bella’s hand luggage (find the baby one here in my original post). (Some of the links below are affiliate)
I hope you have found this helpful? let me know your tips for flying with a toddler.