7 tips to survive flying with a toddler

It’s taken until now to be able to talk about our flight to Egypt – 5 hours there, 6 hours back – and what it was like flying with a toddler.

In a word? hell. We had an amazing holiday but flying with a toddler home was always looming in the back of my mind. Rather than focus on the negative, I’m going to focus on what I’ve learnt and what I would do differently next time…

Flying with a toddler

1. If at all possible, get him his own seat.

Yes, this is expensive, but I consider 6 hours to be verging on long-haul. 4 of us squashed onto 3 seats was not a lot of fun. It took a while after we set off for Reuben to calm down and he was definitely happiest when he had his own space to sit and read his books or watch Baby Einstein (which lasts for 30 heavenly minutes).

flying with a toddler

A moment of calm (after screaming for the best part of 2 hours)

2. Don’t worry about other people

Every time I stood up I felt the eyes of the plane on me. I worried about the noise Reuben was making, I worried about him grabbing people’s legs as he walked past, I worried that they thought I was a bad mother for bringing him on the plane in the first place. But forget all that. 5 hours isn’t a long time in the grand scheme of things and we have wonderful memories that are more important. And, those people are now all but faceless! Plus planes are noisy things so your kid isn’t as loud as if you were on a bus, say.

3. Sit separately

We have 2 kids so one would sit with mum, the other with dad. Then every hour swap the kids. They get a fresh perspective and each hour the parent who’s just had the toddler, gets a break to read/sleep/unwind!

4. Split the time into half hour chunks

It’s amost like giving birth! You’re ticking off chunks of time, like contractions. Plan what you can do for that half an hour, say walking down the isle and back (very difficult on most commercial airlines as they have so many targets to meet, they’re never not in the blinking isles trying to sell you stuff!). Then have something different in your mind to do for the next half an hour, say sitting with a snack whilst reading your books and singing some songs!

5. Bring their favourite food

Rice cakes, raisins, fruit, little sandwiches – if it’s finger food and they like it, pack it! In the same vane as point 4, it will encourage them to sit and relax for 10 minutes, then maybe you can read some stories.

I saved the trump card for the descent as Reuben HATED being restrained on one of our laps – he only had to see his orange seatbelt and would start screaming…I had bought some chocolate buttons, mainly for Gabby, and forgotten about them. Reuben doesn’t get chocolate much but my goodness does he like it! This was enough to stop him screaming as the plane went down. He ate a few buttons, forgot about the seatbelt restraining him to my lap and we calmly read some stories.

6. Activities

This was difficult, at 16 months his attention span isn’t what it will be in even 2 months time. So, I guess only you know what will entertain your child, but this is what we took:

Books – The books were worth their weight in gold. He enjoys reading, we can read one story after another, and then after that, he’ll also go through them all again looking at the pictures on his own.

Cars –  These were great on holiday as he would push them around for ages but they weren’t much use on the plane. Not enough room for the way he plays with them and I spent the whole time picking them up off the floor by my feet.

Animals – as above, except he didn’t really like playing with them on holiday either!

Films and programmes – I already had Baby Einsteins on my ipad, it’s been a life saver for a long time. Half an hour long and he’s transfixed. We also downloaded some programmes from Sky Go: Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Doc McStuffins…he doesn’t really know these programs so he didn’t entertain them for very long. And, they expired by the time we flew back. So, next time I will get DVDs of his favourites – Thomas and Peppa Pig – and move them over to the iPad!

Apps – I had a few games on my iPad. He’s not that into ‘playing’ with them yet but it did use up a little chunck of time, particularly the fisher price counting one with the animals…LINK.

7. Get back on the horse

The last time we flew, Reuben was 8 months and it was pretty much a dream – he slept for 2 of the 4 hours and because there was an army of us, we were able to pass him around the rest of the time. 8 months later, this felt to Reuben like it was the first time he had ever been in an aeroplane and he freaked out. I don’t want to leave it as long until we next fly, a trip to Paris in the spring maybe?! Ooh la la! And it sure ain’t as far.

If this is your first flight, don’t worry, it’s probably a good thing – I expected Reuben would sit on his dad’s lap, have some milk and drop off to sleep. He did not! So, expect the worst and it is bound be better.

Have you done any flying with a toddler? What have I missed?!