Many people are afraid of flying with small children, there are even some doctors advising against it. That is understandable as traveling with a baby or toddler is definitely not easier than without, but it has its charm.
We hopped on our first airplane journey when our daughter was 9 months old and our first long-haul flight was when she was 1 year old. Since then we’ve had quite a number of flights, as short as one hour, where as soon as the takeoff is finished the plane starts going down, and as long as 12 hours with its challenges, we’ve had smooth journeys, as well as delayed flights with consecutive missing of the connecting flight and looking for an alternative.
Having read quite a number of articles, tested a few tips and invented some of our own, we came up with this short guide of simple and helpful things which can make a journey with a baby or toddler as enjoyable as possible.
In our experience, it’s best to plan the flight during the kids’ sleep time. Then you can also relax and the little one won’t be bored with the limited range of entertainment that you can offer on board. With a long-haul flight it also helps to better adjust to the new time and reduce the jet lag – after a terrible night on a plane you all will be happy to hit the pillow as soon as it’s offered.
However obvious it may seem, but better take more than less. Your airline may have some or not. And planes do get delayed. You don’t want to start potty training on a plane.
Something to suck
Babies often cry during take-off and landing because of the ear pain or discomfort. Give your little one their favorite thing to suck. Breastfeeding always helps.
Baby pouches is a great invention (if your little one agrees to take them). Crackers, rice cookies, raisins, dried mango have been a hit here so far.
Toys. Our choice.
The best toys for us have been: (finger) puppets, including old socks with cats’ faces on them (one of the favorite toys), an old phone case with old cards, suction
toys to stick to windows. Many children like playing with stickers but not ours. Maybe too early or just not her thing. Paper/ plastic cups and other seemingly useless things are so interesting to explore by the little one.
Take a sling on board
You’ll have your hands free for the luggage before the plane and then, especially on a long-haul flight, when your baby falls asleep in a sling, you may be able to snooze without fear of dropping your precious one on the floor. It might work with a toddler too if they are calm enough. Ours is very active even in sleep, so, unfortunately, this technique doesn’t work for us after she turned, 1,5.
Bulk seats and bassinets
On a long-haul flight, you can book seats in the front row where a baby bassinet can be installed after the takeoff is finished. How excited we were to see those seats available for our 12-hour flight to Singapore! We bought them right away and were looking forward to trying that option. Alas, our little one had different plans and sabotaged ours completely, so after a few minutes, we asked to remove it. Some airlines allow to sleep on the floor, most don’t, but you can always ask.
Have realistic expectations and be prepared for unexpected
Don’t even consider to come right before the gate closure and quickly get on the plane. You never know what may pop up right in the middle of your perfect plan of getting to the plane on time: a need for a diaper change, transport delay, queues or a tantrum. Even if you are lucky enough to have no delays on the road and security and passport controls, an airport can be a fun playground in itself where your active kid can get tired enough, vent and rid of the excess energy and have a peaceful nap on the plane.
What if you have a very early/ late flight?
We always try to book a flight matching with the kid’s sleep time but sometimes flights get delayed, and then you need to think and act quickly. Let us share our story on how we survived such a situation with our daughter who was 20 months old then.
When we found out that our flight from Singapore to Melbourne was delayed from 8pm to 5am, we panicked at first, then hesitated what to do – stay awake and go straight to the airport hoping that the kid would fall asleep in her pram or allow a few hours of sleep in a bed for all of us. In the end, we did it right.
Having a 5am flight meant we needed to leave home at 2:30 at the latest. So, having only slept for 2 hours, we had to get up again. That little nap though gave us some needed rest, refreshment and energy to go through all the airport hustle.
Ok, we adults can handle that, but how about a toddler who needs to wake up in the middle of the night after half of their usual night amount of sleep? Actually, she doesn’t. We woke up, brought all our ready-to-go backpacks to the taxi first and then took the still sleeping kid.
She woke up in my arms when we arrived at the airport and were already out of the car. There were all those numerous lights, people and cars going back and forth and of course mommy – our daughter was happy even though she had slept 6 hours only. Then she could run around in the airport, explore it and after the boarding finished, she was tired enough to fall asleep again.
Those tips have worked for us so far and we hope they’ll work for you too. Happy travels! Check our other post with more tips on travelling with kids.