Up and Away, Air travel with your Toddler
Traveling with toddlers is an event. Families have reasons to be on the go every week. Sometimes those travel plans will take us to a destination that is far away and requires air travel with your toddler. Air travel for many people is an exciting part of any trip or vacation. Air travel with your toddler can also be very easy and enjoyable. Be sure that you have realistic expectations when you are planning and traveling. Early departures, long flights, possible delays are all part of traveling and we nee to remember that these travel routines can take its toll on all of us. It is certainly not exclusively to when we travel with our toddlers.
There are things that you can do as you plan and during your travel that can make things go more smoothly. Planning is the key to most of them. Spend time thinking about where you are going, what are the needs of your toddler, what works best for your toddler, what is their normal routine and then make decisions that you feel will be the best for your toddler and your family.
Here are 12 hints to make your air travel as easy with your toddler as possible.
Booking your Flight
Early flights are usually the most on-time flights. You will avoid most delays if you leave early in the day. Book non-stop flights whenever possible. The additional cost that you might have to pay is worth the hassle you avoid in changing planes and possible delays. An aisle seat for one person in your party, when you use air travel with your toddler, is a good idea. You toddlers may want to move around during the flight and having access to an aisle seat allows for that space.
Double check that all your documentation is with you
Check in and print boarding passes before you leave home. Have all identification with you for your child and yourself. All confirmation numbers and contact information for rental cars, hotels and any other reservations for your trip should be with you and easily accessible. Having all your information with you and easily accessible will make all of your transitions go more smoothly.
Plan for Security
Prepare your child for security by letting them know what to expect, being ready and staying calm through the process. Know what you can bring and have a plan for securing all your toddler’s travel items for the security process. Use the family line if your airline or airport provide that option. Be comfortable with the fact that it will take you a little longer, plan additional time needed and be sure that you have all of your items before moving on. Slip on shoes and limiting layers during this process will be very helpful.
If you are traveling with your toddler you may not have a seat for your child. When you arrive at the gate you can ask if they have any empty seats. If they do you will keep your car seat for the plane and if not you can check it for free at the gate. A stroller/car seat combination makes navigating these options very easy. You have the flexibility with the two-in-one to easily make the transition if an empty seat is available. If you want only a stroller to navigate the airport it also can be checked for free at the gate. If you are checking a car seat, for sanitation reasons consider a large garbage bag to cover it before checking it. Baggage handlers do not use a great deal of care.
Let your Toddler Run when they Can
Toddlers are very active. So let them be active when there are time and space available for them to move safely. Some airports have play areas for children. Seek those out if you have extra time in the airport. Empty gate areas are also a safe area for toddlers to move around and climb. Be very cautious in the main airport walkways. Travelers are in a hurry and motorized vehicles are frequently transporting passengers to gates. They will not be looking for your toddler to dart into their path.
Many airlines still give families the option to board early. You need to weigh this decision for your family. An advantage of air travel with your toddler is early boarding. It provides a guarantee that there is room for your carry-on’s and more time to get settled before take off. The disadvantage is that it adds an additional 30 – 45 minutes to your flight. Perhaps the best option is to have one person is your family board with your items and the others board toward the end of the boarding time.
What to use for your things is also a consideration. A backpack is a great choice for parents because it leaves your hands free to handle your toddler, yet still provide easy access to any items you might need. Using a small child’s suitcase is also a good idea. There are several styles that are easy for children to pull. Many children will like the idea of their own suitcase and will be excited to pull it with them. The other advantage of a suitcase is that they can use it to sit on while waiting for check-in or security lines.
Plan for 15 Minute Slots
A toddler’s attention span is about 15 minutes. Be prepared with a different activity for every 15 minutes of your flight. See the post Travel Activities for Toddlers that Work Every Time for ideas. Perhaps your toddler will be exhausted and sleep the majority of the flight and you will have time to relax! If that is not the case you will be at ease knowing that you have things for your toddler to do.
Take off and Landing
Our ears suffer from the pressure changes in taking off and landings. Toddlers ears are just as sensitive to those pressure changes. Be prepared for your air travel with your toddler with something safe for them to suck on during this time. A pacifier or bottle of juice is a good choice for them to suck on if that is something they are still using. A sucker or gum if your toddler can handle those are also a good choice. Playing a game of making faces is a non-food activity that distracts them and gets them moving their face to relieve the pressure.
Come prepared with sanitation wipes. Be pro-active to keep your toddler from coming in contact with germs that will make them sick during our trip or after. Wipe down the surfaces around you when you sit down before your toddler starts touching those surfaces. Keep those wipes handy during your flight for after they have eaten and are sticky. Use them at the end of your flight to be kind to your fellow passengers that will arrive after you for the next flight.
Be sure you have that special toy, blanket, pacifier, etc. that comforts your toddler. Something that your child is familiar with will be calming and soothing for them in an unfamiliar surrounding. It will also help to quiet them when needed during your travels.
Appreciation for the crew and those around. Thank yous go a long way when you travel. People generally understand the challenges parents face when they use air travel with your toddler and are willing to help. Be kind to those around you and “make friends” as you settle in. A small candy treat can’t hurt to show good will toward your fellow passengers. Pack extra treats for those around you. You have a right to travel by your children like everyone else on the plane so don’t go overboard in apologizing for the noise your child might make. Do understand that rest of the plane will not like your fussy toddler any more than you will.
Travel is something all families will do at all stages of their lives. Make those travel times as smooth as possible whenever you can with some planning ahead of time.
- Know your child
- Know your options
- Plan ahead
- Stay calm
- Enjoy yourself