Flying with baby or a toddler can sometimes be a very stressful experience for parents. We’ve flown quite a bit with both our kids when they were infants and toddlers. In general, we’ve been extremely lucky that they were really great flyers. Other passengers would come up to us after a flight, telling us that they were expecting the worst when they saw us boarding, but were pleasantly surprised that they were so well behaved and that they barely heard anything from them for the whole flight. It mostly came down to preparation. Here are a few tips from things that we’ve learnt along the way;
Load The Smartphone
If you have a smartphone, load it with a bunch of their favourite videos or TV Shows. If you have an iPhone, you can buy many episodes for as little as $0.99 each from the iTunes store. Although we’re not “TV babysitter” parents, when our kids would start getting fussy on a flight and nothing else worked, the videos would help provide a distraction as well as give mom and dad a bit of a break. You can also buy some great kid-friendly apps where your toddler can draw and play around with the screen. There are a ton of great paid and free apps out there, but make sure to download everything before you travel so that you’re not scrambling in the airport and that you’re using your home wifi instead of wireless data.
Bring headphones that fit your baby’s head comfortably, so that you can use it with your smartphone and/or the in flight TV or entertainment system. Many airlines provide headphones that are great for adults, but are too big kids, so it’s really best to bring your own. Practice with your child before you leave so that they are used to wearing headphones, otherwise you’ll spend the entire flight trying to show them how it works and trying to keep the headphones on their head.
Bring Brand New Books & Small Toys
You don’t have to spend a lot of money on new books or toys, but the idea is to give them a little surprise with something new that they haven’t seen before. Bring those little mini board books, or other brand new toys that they might like, but don’t break them out until they start to fuss, and only bring one out at a time. Something new becomes a surprise and a distraction, buying you some precious time.
What If Nothing Works?
If they keep crying with the new books, toys, videos, and apps, then something is likely bugging them… ears, stomach, poo… Try going for a quick walk to change a diaper. It’s always a good idea to pay attention to figure out why your baby or toddler is fussy. Apparently infants don’t get motion sickness, but their ears can hurt. (At least that’s what we’ve been told) During takeoff / landing, my wife breastfed and that seemed to help. Otherwise, try giving a bottle, soother, or snacks during those times.
Change Of Scenery
On long flights we’ve let our son play on the floor in between our legs, just for a different position and change of scenery rather than sitting in the seat for so long. I’m not sure if all airlines would allow this, but Westjet has always been awesome with us!
Pack Easy-Access Essentials
Pack wet-wipes, diapers, a changing mat, extra clothes, snacks, toys, and anything else that you might need in a hurry, in a small bag or backpack that you can stow under the seat in front of you or even in the pockets. Make sure that it’s easily available so that you’re not scrambling trying to look for something during the flight, or having to stand up to get things from the overhead bins. Definitely have some tasty snacks available appropriate for your child’s age. There are some really good chip-like snacks that kids seem to love. Also, don’t forget one of those airline pillows in case baby falls asleep. Nothing will kill your arm more than not having something soft to rest it on. Bring a baby blanket too, some flights are really cold.
Picking A Flight
Based on our own experience, we wouldn’t recommend flying during their regular bedtimes, and especially red-eyes. Some kids might sleep through, but ours didn’t… and it was AWEFUL! No sleep for us in almost 34 hours on our trip to DisneyWorld!! We got there and had to sleep most of the day. Nap times are ok, but red eyes really suck.
Gate Check Your Stroller
Almost every airline lets you take your stroller all the way to the door of the plane. They’ll give you a tag that you strap to it, and you leave it at the gate right before you board the plane. When you get off the plane, it should be right there waiting for you, or very shortly after you exit. As you go through the airport, a regular full sized stroller is great for carrying your carry on bags and if baby falls asleep, you can lay them down rather than having to struggle with a sleeping child and your luggage. It’s also handy because you can navigate through the airport faster when not carrying your child. Some airports even have a line for parents with strollers which lets you go trough security faster. So make sure to always ask if that’s an option.
Pre-Board If You Can
Always take advantage of pre-boarding if it’s available with your airline. It takes time to settle with kids and put all of the things you need during the flight in the seat-back pockets. This way you can take some important things that you might need out of bags, and put all your carry-on luggage up top, leaving you with lots of leg room. Trust me, you need to stretch your legs out if baby is on your lap the whole time or sleeping. Yes, I’m one of those people that tries to be first in line!
Have A Plan
Talk to your spouse or partner ahead of time and have a mini plan in place. Dad can take the carry-on bags and handle the stroller while mom watches baby. Or vice versa.
Check Under The Seats!
Don’t forget to check under all the seats and in the seat-back pockets for lost toys, your smartphones and your passports! As parents, we have so much on our minds and so many things with us when we travel, it’s easy to leave things behind.
That’s all I can think of for now. Every child travels differently, so the best advice is to do what works best for you and your family. Always follow the airline’s instructions, and remember to be nice. People are much more willing to help you out and be understanding if you’re courteous and not confrontational. If your child throws a toy to the people behind you, or kicks the seat in front, don’t be embarrassed, just apologize. If you’re nice about it, than it’s more likely that the people around you will be sympathetic and understanding. I hope these few tips are useful! Safe travels! It’s your turn! Share your flight tips in the comments below. We’d love to hear some other ideas on making the flight experience better.