How to survive flights with kids and toddlers
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to travel but you’re not sure how your kids will handle it? I’m here to tell you that traveling is so good for your kids! My oldest son went on 22 different flights before he was nine months old. Several of those flights were 10 hours long. I would not say I’m an expert, but I do have extensive experience in flying with children, interrupted only by COVID restrictions.
For small children under six months the biggest difficulty is their ears during take off and landing. This is one of the easiest ages to fly with. If they will take a pacifier, give this to them for as much of the flight as possible but especially during take off and landing. If they only sort of like it, try dipping it in something sweet like gripe water – just remember you can only bring 3 oz. containers of liquids on board. Breast feeding or bottle feeding work as well.
If they are over three months they are so easily occupied by a small selection of toys. Toys with liquid in aren’t a problem but it will cause you less trouble in security if you don’t. Another note on liquids is you can bring milk or formula for young children in whatever quantity you want, but plan on extra time through security because they will have to test every bottle before you are allowed through. It’s generally a good idea to allow extra time in security with children anyway as you have so much extra stuff, and your stroller is unlikely to fit through the scanner and has to be swabbed separately.
A note on strollers in the airport. I see some parents only taking their car seat, which is possible on a dolly to roll it along, but I don’t advise this. Children just sleep better when they can lie down, and you want them to be able to sleep in the airport if there are any delays or lay-overs.
Aged six months to one year my number one tip is snacks! Different kinds of snacks, healthy snacks, favorite snacks, snacks they’ve never seen, brightly colored snacks, naughty snacks full of sugar that they aren’t normally allowed. Whatever the problem a snack will get you through!
A small bag of toys as well including some they haven’t seen before. Amazon actually has several ideas for ‘quiet toys on the airplane’. If they will still take a pacifier have them suck that on take-off and landing, or give a bottle/breastfeed.
One year to three years is the most difficult age, but don’t give up! Lots of snacks and lots of toys is still the answer, especially toys they haven’t seen before and snacks they’re not normally allowed.
A tip for sleeping; take a blanket (you’re given one if you’re on an international flight) and tuck it into the person in front’s headrest and the headrest of the chair the baby is on. This makes a little tent and makes it darker as well as blocking some of the noise and distractions. Under two years old you can have your baby on your lap and only pay the taxes, but if you can afford it I highly, highly recommend booking them their own seat for international flights. It is a long time to have a child on your lap, and it’s really hard to keep the child within the area of your lap while they’re sleeping, especially if you would like any sleep yourself.
Above three years I maintain my ‘snacks’ advice, but I also add ‘child headphones’ to the list. Movies on the plane are a lifesaver, and if that fails, a movie on your phone, or even videos of themselves! These are a life saver. Mine don’t watch movies very often and the novelty of the ones on the airplane could get me through the whole flight, but make sure you have a time that they close their eyes and have a good try at sleeping.
I once heard a mother on the plane saying “oh well he can sleep in the hotel when we get there”. While that is true, it definitely doesn’t help with getting into the time zone.
Ah, that should be my last piece of advice – getting into the time zone. The first day is a bit of a disaster. Don’t plan anything important. Put them to bed early, and keep putting them back down until the morning of the time zone where you are now. At nap time they may think its night time and want to sleep extra-long, this is the one and only time I will advise you to wake your children after an average nap time. They won’t be happy about it and neither will you, but it helps you get through the transition so much faster. The first three nights might be a bit rough, but after that it’ll be normal.
It’s so worth traveling with your children. Showing them things in different countries, or even just different states, makes lasting memories for them. An understanding of different cultures, or even a knowledge they exist is an essential part of raising a well-rounded individual. If we want to strive towards world peace, keeping our children in a cultural bubble is not the way to do it.
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