Flying isn’t the most pleasant experience, what with tiny airplane seats and crowded waiting areas—and the irritation multiplies when you add a rambunctious toddler to the mix. Airport security is completely beyond the patience of small children. They detest sitting still for long periods of time and are terrified of sudden changes in air pressure.
Thankfully, with appropriate planning and preparation, you can have a worry-free travel day. Check out these stress-relieving tactics for flying with a toddler, whether you’re flying to a relative’s house or Disney World. Flight attendants provided some of the advice.
1. Make a reservation for an early morning flight.
A flight attendant named Patrick explains that it’s your greatest chance to avoid delays at takeoff and landing. He adds, “These flights are normally less busy, and everyone is basically exhausted and simply wants to nap—kids especially.” Avoid flights with extended layovers or late-night connections if at all possible.
2. Save your mileage upgrades for when you don’t have a child with you.
Traveling first class with children might be far more difficult than it is worthwhile. Joanna tells how she traveled with her boisterous kid and endured the wrath of her first-class seatmates for the whole of the flight. “It’s not fair,” a flight attendant explains, “but you’ll just get more empathy and support with kids in economy.”
3. Explain what to expect to your children.
“I’ve found that when kids know what to expect, they perform so much better,” says Shireen, a mother of three from Australia who has visited the United States multiple times with her children. She suggests watching this YouTube video from Let’s Go Play, which covers everything from luggage check-in and ticketing to onboard manners and safety.
4. Dress in layers and avoid lace-up shoes.
When flying with a child, be prepared for rapid temperature changes. Wendy, a flight attendant and mother, recommends dressing your children in layers that are easy to put on and take off, especially without buttons, zippers, or anything else that might prohibit them from going to the restroom on time. When it comes to shoes, the same rule applies: avoid laces and opt for slip-ons instead. “There’s also the extra benefit of getting through airport screening that much faster,” she explains.
5. Surprise your guests.
A wrapped new toy has two advantages while flying with a toddler: Unwrapping presents is a fun activity for kids, and a new toy has a stronger draw.
6. Use a smaller stroller if possible.
For some parents, getting through an airport without a stroller is unfathomable, so try replacing your conventional stroller with an umbrella stroller. Also, before boarding, check your stroller at the gate; the crew will have it waiting for you when you exit the plane.
Wendy recommends using a kid harness (leash) if you have more than one small traveler. “I was very opposed to them until I saw a mom with three little children using them at baggage claim. “With the evacuation doors to the outside right there,” she adds, “it made so much sense.” Flying is stressful enough as it is. Take whatever steps are necessary to protect your children and your sanity.”
7. Take only what you need.
Parents are advised to bring adequate essentials for the travel by flight attendants. “Unfortunately, there will be no food aboard an aircraft that will appeal to a child,” Lynn explains. “And we’re also constrained in terms of what we can provide in terms of comfort products.”
Parents, on the other hand, will struggle if they overpack enthusiastically. “When one parent is traveling with one or more children, they usually bring entirely too much stuff to keep their children happy,” Wendy adds. “They forget that they have to bring all of their belongings off the plane with them, as well as their children.”
8. Make a packing list.
Use this list as a help while packing for your flight.
- If you’re bringing a pacifier, carry a few extras in case one gets thrown down the aisle or onto the floor.
- Sanitizer, wipes, Pull-ups, and diapers are all essentials. It is suggested that one diaper be used every hour of travel.
- Smartphones and tablets with your children’s favorite films and shows. Allow them to use the same device by using a headphone splitter.
- Headphones for kids
- Art supplies include: Crayons (in a small box) and a piece of blank paper
- Trash bags made of plastic
- Cheerios, pretzels, crackers, nuts, string cheese, and granola bars are all low-sugar snacks.
9. Make security a priority.
When packing, make sure that goods that must be removed for security are easily accessible. Keep in mind that bringing snacks with you will subject you to further scrutiny during the screening process.
10. Get ready for the air pressure.
If your child has had an ear infection or a cold lately, consult your doctor before flying. Changes in cabin air pressure can cause discomfort. Also, after passing through security, load up on enough water for everyone to get through any potential delays and still have plenty for the descent, which is when ear pressure discomfort is most prevalent. Allow your children to drink some immediately after takeoff and for the final 30 to 45 minutes of the descent. The pressure is relieved by swallowing, which also has the added benefit of hydrating the body.
11. Use pull-ups if at all possible.
Pull-Ups are a terrific resource when flying with a toddler or small child, even if your child has outgrown them. “I use them on my 6-year-old,” Wendy explains, noting that it’s far less stressful than rushing to the restroom or dealing with an in-seat accident.
12. Express your gratitude.
For dealing with kids, flight attendants enjoy receiving a certain gratuity. “Any type of chocolate discovered in an airport and given out at boarding works wonders,” Patrick explains. Of course, the random bad-tempered, unprofessional cabin crew worker will be unaffected. However, it’s a thoughtful gesture, especially when flying over the holidays, when the majority of flight attendants will be working and away from their families. He expresses his gratitude by saying, “It will be greatly appreciated.” “We’ll remember you and keep an eye out for you. Not only that, but you’ll probably get a free drink as well.”
13. Ensure that children are seated away from the aisle.
Toddlers may be at risk in aisle seats. Little hands are in perilous reach of hot coffee or water as the food and beverage cart goes by.
14. Be cautious of pathogens.
Wipe down everything when flying with a toddler, and don’t send your kids to the bathroom without shoes. A flight attendant confides, “The floor is a Petri dish.” “Things jiggle while you’re in the air. That isn’t just water on the floor of the restroom.”
15. Maintain your cool.
You can’t do much to appease the passenger who moans every time your child sneezes or giggles. Remember this: As long as you’re trying (and what parent isn’t? ), you’ve got practically everyone on your side. “An adult who has a problem with a screaming child is acting like a child,” says Patience, a flight attendant and mother. “Don’t get involved. You should only be concerned about your own child.”
16. Look for an airline that offers kid-friendly features.
Nothing makes a family-friendly airline happier than happy, occupied children. As a result, several major airlines have a variety of kid-friendly advantages to give their youngest passengers, ranging from a large selection of their favorite TV shows and movies to kid-friendly headphones and snacks. United Airlines, a Parents editor’s favorite airline for flying with kids, debuted a new activity kit for kids (shown) in 2021, meant to keep youngsters happy and safe while flying. The kits, which are provided on all United mainline flights, include a child-sized mask, a travel diary activity book with crayons, an origami paper airline kit, and a sanitizing wipe, among other things.
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