Fuss-free flights with toddlers

  • Family
  • Thursday, 23 Jan 2014

Useful tips for those travelling with toddlers this Lunar New Year.

AS A seasoned traveller, I know how stressful it can be to fly with toddlers. Don’t get caught up in the stress this year, follow these tried-and-true tips for ensuring easy travel with your toddlers.

Plan ahead

> Buy some books about flying in a plane, or a toy plane to talk to your child about flying. Discuss the people who work on the plane, where you enter the plane, where you sit on a plane, etc. The goal here is to get children used to the idea of flying.

> Get a backpack or special travel bag that is just for the toddler. A few weeks before the trip, discuss how the child can help pack their own bag, and talk about what items they’d like to bring with them to play with on the plane.

> Discuss with your child all the steps that come with flying on an airplane, such as: the ride to the airport, checking-in bags, going through immigration, waiting to board, getting on the plane, looking out the window, etc., so they’ll know what to expect when you arrive at the airport on travel day.

Fifteen-minute blocks

Estimate the time and length of the trip from beginning to end and make plans in 15-minute increments. For instance, if you’re planning for a five-hour flight you’ll know:

> Your toddlers will be excited in the first 30 minutes as they will have just boarded the plane. They’ll be looking out the window, watching the activity, seeing other planes and watching luggage being loaded into the plane. Then you have the exciting take off to look forward to, too.

> Once the plane passes through the clouds, the show is over for the child and it’ll be time to start to calculate how to entertain your toddler for the remaining four and a half hours of the flight.

> You’ll want about 16 different 15-minute activities with some backups in mind, too, that will keep your toddler entertained throughout a long flight. My suggestions include the following:

> Start with a book – while they are still excited to fly.

> Bring a favourite toy – a doll or an action figure.

> Playdough is always a good item to have on-hand.

> Bring a good assortment of snacks.

> You can add 15 minutes for a trip to the bathroom or a diaper change.

> Get out of your seats (if the seatbelt sign is off) and walk around the plane.

> Colouring book and crayons are definite staples.

> Change seats with each other to get fresh views. Talk to the seat neighbours if they’re friendly.

> Bring some toy-cars, or play items that allow for imaginary play.

> Bring some magnetic blocks, or other creative building toys.

What to expect

> You might want your child to nap on the plane, but you need to be prepared because that won’t always happen.

> Parents should remain calm, and listen to the child’s joys and fears.

> Make each activity last as long as possible. Take a diaper change, for example, walk slowly and explore on the way there and on the way back.

> Don’t rely on the airplane for a meal. Pack plenty of food for your child.

> Do not even think about yourself; consider yourself lucky if you get to glance at a magazine or close your eyes for a few seconds.

> Try to avoid taking out your computer, unless your child is napping.

> Always have a toy you can pull out when your child is reaching meltdown mode, and you still have 30 minutes trapped inside a plane.

I try to keep our iPad hidden as a last resort, and not as a first-choice item so it can be used as a reward or something to look forward to.

Your toddler’s health

> Upon take-off and landing, children under three have trouble clearing their ear pressure. You can help by ensuring they over-exaggerate yawning, drink lots of water or chew on some sweets.

> If you’re able to, wipe down the trays, arm rests, front and back of seats, window shades to protect your child from harmful germs.

> Have your toddler wash his or her hands after going through the checkpoints.

> If you are going to bring an iPad, make sure you also pack a pair of headphones that are comfortable and easy for the child to use.

The bottom line is: the more relaxed and prepared you are, the easier it is for the child to learn to fly. – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

> Robert Nickell, a father of seven, is the founder of Daddyscrubs.com, where he writes about parenting and the latest babies’ and kids’ gear from a dad’s perspective.

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