What to Pack When Flying with Toddlers
Preparation is key, and a big part of preparation is packing to make your flight comfortable and smooth, for everyone involved.
We all know that children, especially toddlers, are messy and any time (often the least convenient time) can be toilet time. So even if you’re just on a short haul flight, bring a spare set of clothes and if your toddler is using nappies, bring more than you think you’ll need! You can use zip lock bags to help keep dirty clothes separate from clean ones. And don’t forget your wipes!
If you’ll be flying overnight, you’ll also need to bring pyjamas. You could bring a special pair of ‘flying pyjamas’ as a little gift or benefit from the familiarity of the ones from home. Familiar things from bedtime routines can help children to sleep better, so if your little one has a blanket or bedtime book they like, bring that too.
All clothes should be comfortable and loose, but don’t be tempted to bring too many. It’s good to layer, but aeroplanes are more often too hot than too cold so don’t forget the short sleeves!
Good Toys for Flying with Toddlers
Toys are a great distraction, but don’t feel you need to pack the whole toy box. Instead, bring a few favourites (nothing noisy), wrap them up and hand them out at regular intervals, starting at the airport. It will feel exciting and you’ll have plenty in reserve. Also, bring some string or ribbon so that you can tie the toy of the moment to your chair. This way, when it gets dropped, you’re not scrabbling about for hours on end in cramped foot wells.
A top tip for those with a window seat is to bring some jelly window stickers for children to play with. They’re reusable, leave no mess and who doesn’t love stickers? (The flight crew will also thank you for not sticking actual stickers all over the furniture).
Colouring and activity books are a great way to keep children focussed, quiet and in their seats. Consider buying a couple at the airport as a treat. If your child is prone to motion sickness, don’t forget that audio books can be a fantastic alternative. Headphones and a tablet with games and favourite shows can provide a wonderful 30 minutes of tranquillity, but if you’re not keen on screens, don’t forget there are lots of games you can play that require no equipment at all. I-spy, anyone?
Food for Flying with Toddlers It’s a common misconception that you can’t take food through security. You can, as long as it’s not liquid (or banned by the country you’re trying to enter). And when you’re traveling with toddlers, bring lots of it!
Focus on healthy food (we don’t need any sugar crashes) and snacks that involve a bit of concentration. Raisons, grapes and peas are a good example as they’re fiddly, and for a bit of fun why not bring a variety of favourite cereals in a compartmentalised Tupperware box? If you’re travelling long haul, you’ll need to think about meal times. You might be able to pre-order meals that your little one likes, but be prepared to supplement with known favourites you can pull out of your bag when required.
Whether long or short-haul, bring a sippy cup for your toddler. It will be familiar and will help to avoid spillages. Don’t forget to buy your water once you’re through security!
A Small First Aid Kit
There’s no need to go overboard but do bring a handy first aid kit with essentials like a thermometer, Calpol, tweezers (for removing splinters), a couple of plasters and some sick bags. You could also consider some eardrops for coping with the altitude change, and you’ll need make sure you bring any medications normally required by your toddler, such as asthma medication, in your carry on luggage too.
Top Survival Tips for Flying with a Toddler
- Make it fun! Flying is an adventure and you can start preparing your toddler a few weeks before leaving. Talk about the airport, the aeroplane and the clouds they will see so they know what to expect.
- Even if your toddler is potty trained, consider putting them in nappies while travelling to avoid dealing with extra accidents.
- Have something to suck on for take-off and landing. As well as helping to equalise ear pressure, it will make these noisier and bumpier moments more fun and encourage fidgets to stay in their seats.
- Get your toddler a ‘traveling companion’ at the beginning of the trip. This could be a bear or a doll, and something they can seek comfort from and ‘look after’ while you’re busy.
- Bring a snuggly blanket and a pillow to help them settle for sleep.
- Finally, don’t panic! Sometimes children cry, people understand this. But children also pick up on our moods so the more relaxed and happy you can be, the better. It is an adventure after all!
Top Packing Tips for Parents
The first rule here is don’t over pack your hand luggage. It can be very tempting to do so, but a lighter load will be welcome when navigating the airport and clambering onto and off the aeroplane. Focus on the essentials and use zip-lock bags to compartmentalise items so they can be found and grabbed in a hurry. If you are able to bring a cheap fold up stroller, this can make things much easier when running for gates, or simply for carrying bags (although most airports will provide complimentary strollers for children 6 months and over).
Use a Backpack
Using a backpack for your hand luggage rather than a suitcase will keep your hands free for scooping up little ones when they try to make a dash for it. You could also give a little backpack to your toddler in which they can carry some of their favourite things. It’s good learning and can help to lighten your load too. It also gives them a little responsibility to focus on while you’re focussing on other things. Just don’t put anything in it that you can’t afford to use. Like passports.
Pick Your Seats in Advance
While a window seat is great for jelly stickers, nothing beats the convenience of an aisle seat for being able to walk around or go to the toilet without clambering over the sleeping gentleman next to you. Booking these seats in advance is well worth it! When it comes to flying with toddlers, look after the preparation and you’ll be fine. Just don’t forget to look after yourself as well; if you’re relaxed, happy and having fun, it’s much more likely your children will be too. The rest will take care of itself.