Flying with a toddler may seem easier than flying with a baby. Except babies will sleep during most of the flight… and toddlers won’t. Our family travels quite a bit between Spain and California, so our child didn’t have an option but to get used to long flights. Here’s a few things that have worked for us, I hope you find them useful!
1. Book a night flight
If possible, and specially if you’re going to be on a long flight, try to make it work so you can follow your child’s normal bed routine in the plane. For example, when we fly to Europe from California we try to leave in the afternoon, play for a bit when we get in the plane, have dinner, change into our pajamas, drink our bottle, and finally go to sleep. With this, we usually get her to sleep between 3 and 6 hours in a 10 hour flight. Not bad.
2. Bring your own car seat (and wheels!)
The first time I travelled from San Francisco to Barcelona with my child by myself, I not only took a car seat with us, but also these portable wheels which turned out to be pretty useful during the wait in the second airport: she was able to sleep in her car seat during the few hours that we had to wait, and I was able to easily transport her. The combination looks like this (the wheels and the car seat are two different pieces, and they’re very easy to put together / apart):
In addition to traveling lighter (no stroller, yay!) I was also able to rent a car at the airport and drive to my family’s. Renting the car seat is another possibility, but the price is normally not worth it plus car rental companies won’t guarantee availability till you actually pick up your car.
If you’re planning on taking your car seat in the plane though, bear in mind that it needs to be homologated. Most airlines are pretty strict about this, so it’s definitely something you may want to look into before buying a car seat.
3. Take off and landing
With the change of altitude, our ears react to the change of pressure. For a toddler, this can be not only uncomfortable but really painful. Here’s a few things you can do to avoid that to happen:
- Keep them awake (to avoid them waking up in pain for not swallowing often)
- Encourage them to drink water, milk, or juice
- Offer a (chewy) snack
- Yawn frequently
4. Entertainment: snacks, stickers, tablets and more
Snacks are a great source of entertainment. To avoid having to throw them away at the security check, avoid milkshakes, yogurts, or squeshes. Depending on the airport (not in any airport in London, for example) you can bring a bottle of water or a bottle of milk. If you do, make sure it’s not sealed or that it can be closed again, since they’ll ask you to open it to test it at the security check.
Other good sources of entertainment will depend on your child’s preferences. In our case, she loves coloring and stickers, so we never get in a plane without those.
We do let our child watch a bit of TV some times. When we’re on a plane is definitely one of those times. She’s not that much into games (at least yet!), but give her Peppa Pig and she’ll be quiet for the rest of the flight no matter how long the flight is.
5. Extra outfits
Like you always do, bring an extra outfit. Since you’re on a plane and may not get to a proper toilet or to your suitcase until a few hours later, make it two. And if you have extra space, grab a t-shirt for you too. Toddlers always find creative ways to getting dirty.