In 2009, 618 million people spent time in the air. Many of those fliers were children, as anyone who has ever sat in front of one kicking the seat from east to west coast can tell you. Occupying toddlers can be a daunting experience, but airlines help as much as they can. Airlines will listen to special requests and allow families with small children to board the plane early to get the kids settled in. There are simple things you can do, too, to help make the flight go smoothly for your toddler and your family.
Travel With Your Car Seat
Your toddler will feel more secure in his own car seat, plus you won’t have to rent one once you get to your destination. Check with the airline, though, as some will have equipment they will prefer you use for restraining your child. You may have to ask the flight attendant for help in securing the car seat and you will probably have to give up the window seat, since that is typically where car seats are installed. As a bonus, you can purchase a strap that allows you to strap your child’s car seat–with your child in it–onto your wheeled luggage for easy travel through the airport.
Talk up the trip and what’s going to happen on the airplane as much as possible. Find books about airplanes, such as Richard Scarry’s “A Day at the Airport,” or Steve Augarde’s “We’re Going on an Airplane” and read them together. Rent a video about airplane flight so that your child will be prepared for the noise and crowds. Talk about what will happen once the airplane lands, too, and get your child excited about the entire trip. The website goodlittletraveler.com suggests taking your child to the airport on a day when you’re not flying to get him acclimated to the experience.
Bring your child’s favorite snacks to eat during the flight. Even an adventurous eater may turn her nose up at airplane food, so it’s important to have backup. Allow her to choose her own snack pack, suggest the experts at goodlittletraveler.com. Things like grapes and cucumber slices have the added benefit of quenching some thirst but are better for short trips where keeping them fresh won’t be a problem. Other snacks might include breakfast bars, crackers and dehydrated fruit. Those snacks are easy to carry and prepare for your toddler on an airplane.
Flight-only Travel Toys
Make sure to bring any especially favored security toys, such as a blanket or lovey, on the trip, but also pack a bag of fun “flight-only” travel toys. These are special items that will keep your child occupied during the flight and any layovers you may have. The website flyingwithkids.com suggests wrapping the toys to add to the entertainment value of each item. Coloring books with a new pack of crayons, open-the-flap books and finger puppets are good choices. You may also give your toddler a one-use camera and see the types of pictures he gets. Avoid toys with many pieces as they will likely get lost or dropped on the floor during the trip.
Walk Around Whenever You Can
Get to the airport early so that your child can walk to the gate with you and burn off some energy. Some airports have play areas for children, so call in advance to see if one is available. You don’t want your child in a stroller if he’s going to be sitting on the airplane for several hours.