We recently returned from a blissful week away in beautiful Sardinia and although I’d been looking forward to it for ages, I have to admit to a certain sense of dread at the thought of a flight with a now fully mobile 17 month old toddler. We had taken full advantage of not having to pay for a seat for Max (under two’s can just sit on your lap and you just pay a bit of tax), but I was very nervous about the chaos that could potentially ensue and nervous about how Max would handle his first trip on an aeroplane.
In a mad panic I did lots of research into people’s tips for flying with a toddler and got lots of useful tips which I thought it would be useful to share here.
Wear them out
Firstly, but most importantly – when in the airport, do your utmost to exhaust your little angel. Let them run around and burn off all of that excess energy in preparation for a few hours stuck on a plane. I recall the looks we got in the check-in queue on the return flight (which took an hour to get through!) as people looked at us with a mixture of ‘Oh, isn’t he sweet’ but a distinct undertone of ‘God, I hope I’m not sat next to them’ as Max toddled round the departure lounge squealing at the top of his (surprisingly powerful) lungs . But the slightly judgey looks were worth it when on both ways Max fell sound asleep as soon as the engines fired up and we both breathed a sigh of relief.
Use your luggage allowance
If you’re flying with British Airways, they will allow you to take both a pushchair and a car seat as part of your luggage allowance when travelling with a child. I wanted to take our own car seat as I wasn’t convinced of the history or safety of the ones provided by the hire company, or our ability to operate an unfamiliar car seat (we have enough trouble with our own!). We purchased the iSafe Universal Car Seat Travel Bag which fits all car seats and protects it from getting bumped around in transit. The added bonus is that you can stuff it full of all kinds of baby related things (nappies, wipes, clothes, wine) and it won’t count towards your luggage weight! The pushchair you’ll be able to take right up to the gate which makes for a much easier time of things post-security (although following point 1, we made sure Max did lots of walking). You may (depending on the airport) need to check in the car seat in the Oversized Baggage Area, but you may get away with it in your normal check-in if they can fit it on the check-in conveyor belt (at Heathrow T5 we were fine, at the much smaller Sardinian Olbia airport we had to visit the Oversized Baggage area).
Lots of recommendations for activities to occupy kids on a plane seemed more appropriate for slightly older children, but we found a book of stickers to be a massive hit with Max. At this age you can get away without buying an expensive sticker book – we just bought a huge book of smiley face reward stickers for £1.50 which Max was happy just to stick on a piece of paper. I think this kept him amused for at least 30 minutes, which is something of a record!
Be a feeder
Take a bottle for take-off and landing if possible. Babies don’t know to pop their ears, but the suckling will do the same job. In the end, both Max’s bottles went untouched as he fell asleep just before both take-off’s but it was reassuring to know that I had them there.
And not just milk – snacks can provide a huge amount of entertainment. We brought with us lots of small snacks that would take a long time to eat – a small tuppaware container of Cheerios was a great idea as Max was intent on picking each one up individually which took a long time to get them finished! Ditto small fruits like blueberries or raisins (and not too unhealthy either!)
Chat with other passengers
One of the things that entertained Max most on the outbound flight was the 2 year old sat behind us – for a long time he was fascinated just by playing peekaboo through the gap, then he wanted to pass his stickers to the little boy through the gap. British Airways seemed to try to sit the young children in the same area on the wing, possibly as the ride is a bit smoother than at the front or the back, possibly just to reduce the impact of young children on the rest of the plane, who knows? Either way, it worked well for us as Max happily made friends and it amused the little boy behind as well. Obviously pick and choose carefully – the man in a suit relaxing back with his headphones on may not be the best choice here!
I hope these are useful tips for you! I don’t know if it’s just my anxious mind overthinking things beforehand, but I’ve found that travelling with a baby has been far less stressful than I imagined and that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well Max has behaved.
Do you have any tips for airplane travel that have worked for you?