After eighteen flights to four continents with our toddler, we have put together our top tips for smooth travels!
1. Prepare them
Toddlers are adaptable but cope much better with change if they are prepared for it. In the weeks before flying, start talking to them about the trip and the different things you plan to do / see. Get them a toy airplane, or build one out of Duplo and explain where passengers sit and how it flies through the clouds to exciting places. You can even take them to a runway to watch the planes take off. In the days before you go, get a suitcase out and ask them to start choosing toys / clothes to take with them so they feel a part of the adventure.
2. Get to the airport early
This may seem obvious but with toddlers (and all the luggage that comes with them) getting through an airport takes much longer. Being flustered and running through an airport is not a great way to start a trip and will probably unsettle the little one. Get there early, spend time having some food, pick up some bottles of water for the journey and watch the planes from the window. There’s a lot to do if you get through to departures a bit early.
Trust me… we arrived at Luton airport 2 hours before our flight to France and a series of long queues, slow security checks on milk bottles and long corridors to the gate meant we actually missed our flight. With no other flights available, we lugged the little one and our luggage across London to Gatwick to catch the next flight. Get there early! Even earlier than you think you need to.
3. Wear them out
Airports are full of big open spaces, long corridors and some even have soft play areas. These are all perfect for wearing out little legs! Let them run around and burn off some energy because once they get on the plane they will be quite restricted. Leaving time for 20 minutes of running round can make a huge difference to the plane journey! Check with your airport before you fly to find out if there is a play area you can use.
4. Check seat allocations
Depending on the airline, you might be able to book a bulkhead seat which means extra legroom for you and space for the little one to play at your feet. Sometimes, this can be requested when you check in at the airport. If your little one is sitting on your lap for the flight, ask the air hostess when you board if there are any spare seats as you can often swap with other passengers after take-off so your little one gets a seat for themselves anyway.
5. Bring hand luggage entertainment
Bring an assortment of toys, books and activities to occupy your little one in a small space. Try to avoid toys with lots of little pieces that can get lost. We take a pad of paper and a crayon, a few plastic animals, a cuddly toy and a few books. Oh and stickers. So many stickers! Alternating between these and snacks can pass the time nicely. We try to avoid screen time but having a loaded ipad or an airline with great in-flight entertainment (e.g. Emirates) can also help.