Air Travel with Toddlers and Young Children – A Survival Guide

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Going on a family vacation with your young children/toddlers can be one of the best things you’ll ever do, as you’ll create great memories that will last a lifetime.

Traveling with toddlers (and in particular air travel with toddlers) can be a bit of a nightmare at times. We’ve all had experiences of screaming children on planes, but what if that child was yours?

I have compiled a list of for making the whole experience a little bit more enjoyable for the whole family, based on advice from various parents and friends who have done the impossible and had successful experiences travelling with toddlers on planes:

Air travel with toddlers

Before You Leave

Create Anticipation & Excitement
Once you’ve booked your family vacation, start creating anticipation by showing your children pictures of where you’ll be going (pictures of the swimming pool/play area are good) and get them to count down the days on the calendar with you.

Describe to them what the plane ride will be like, as if it’s a big magical adventure.

Packing Their Bags
Letting your kids pack their own bags (particularly their hand luggage) under your supervision is a good idea as it helps them to feel more involved. In their hand luggage make sure to pack some sweets they can suck on (more on this later), tissues, a coloring book, pencils and a toy they can play with.

TrunkiWhy is it important to take sucking sweets? The altitude changes can cause young children’s ear to ‘pop’ which can be rather painful.

Strangely enough, having something to suck on during take-off and landing seems to minimize this ‘popping’, which is why hard candies work so well.

Last but not least, if you really want to keep your kids entertained at the airport, why not invest in a Trunki?

As you can see in the picture, these are fun looking suitcases on wheels that your kids can sit down on and rest (while you’re waiting in long lines at the check-in desk) and make for the perfect hand luggage.

At the Airport

Give Yourself Plenty of Time
Traveling with a toddler is rarely a straightforward experience, as you never know when they might need to use the toilet or decide to throw a tantrum. Because of this, be sure to allow yourself plenty of time for check-in and between connecting flights so that you’re not rushing anywhere.

Getting Through Airport Security
Going through the security checkpoint at an airport can be a strange and scary experience for the unsuspecting child.

Because of this, it’s important to review the screening procedure beforehand, so they know what to expect.

It’s important that your children understand how important and serious this procedure is, so that they are well behaved and don’t make jokes or do anything that can get you in trouble.

To get through airport security as quickly as possible, remove your children from their strollers/carriers beforehand and fold them up (as they will need to go through the X-ray machine).

On the Flight

The real difficulties of traveling with toddlers begin when you board the plane (especially if you’ve got a long flight ahead).

Using a Child Seat
If you’re traveling with a small child you may decide to bring a child/baby seat with you for them to sit in. Remember that this seat must be a maximum of 16” wide to be able to fit properly into an economy class seat, and it must weigh less than 40 pounds (to comply with FAA regulations).

Break the Flight Up into 15 Minute Segments
Before you leave it’s a good idea to plan your plane ride as a series of 15 minute segments. For example, for a four hour plane journey you will need to plan 16 separate segments/activities for them to do (although the first and last 15 minutes can be reserved for looking out the window at take off/landing).

These ‘activities’ could be reading a story book, coloring in, playing card games, playing with toys, etc. You’ll probably find that you’re kids will want to rest at some point during the flight (which is good) so you might not do everything you’d planned. Even so, it’s best to plan for the entire flight just in case.

Drinking Plenty of Water
It’s important to make sure that your kids stay hydrated throughout the flight, so bring bottles of water along with you if necessary.

As you can see here, air travel with toddlers can be an enjoyable experience (for everyone) if properly planned for.


Related posts:

  1. Air Travel for Unaccompanied Minors
  2. Common Air Travel Myths Debunked (Part 2)
  3. A Quick Guide to Travel Visas
  4. Do Kids Need ID to Fly?
  5. Booking a Family Cruise – The Beginner’s Guide




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