Travel with a toddler. I lived to tell the tale.


Sunway Shopping Centre KL with my little toddler

An Instagram friend has asked for some tips of how to entertain her 18 month old on an upcoming flight. I remember all too well the joys of flying with a toddler and one particular trip stands out.

We were travelling from Brisbane to Kuala Lumpur.  I remember having to be overly organised not just for the flight but also because my husband was going to be working all week.

The scars are real and I’m not going to say that it was easy.
At 18 months children are overly curious about everything. Sitting still in a confined space is almost impossible and bribery only buys you 5 minutes. Add to that trying to explain what’s going on to your child and why they need to sit still and talk quietly. All the while you’re doing this under the watchful eye of your fellow passengers. I’m exhausted just remembering it all.

I think for me worrying about what the other passengers thought was the worst… I would constantly apologise for the boys behaviour. But one day I stopped. It could have been someone’s comments “Why can’t you just medicate that kid”…and anothers…”Can’t you put your hand over its mouth”…. this was a turning point. I realised that you can’t please everyone. Let alone pleasing everyone on a plane. #hatsofftothehosties!  And for this reason – you won’t see me recommending ‘care packages’ filled with lollies, ear plugs and a big ‘sorry I had kids’ note to hand out to fellow passengers.

Once I stopped worrying about everyone else, I just got on with making sure our boys where comfortable and entertained. This is when things really turned around. I was much calmer and had more energy for the kids.  At the back of my mind I was constantly reminding myself that ‘it is what it is’ and that the flight is just a means to an end.

I have made heaps of mistakes along the way (some of which I’m too embarrassed to even write about!) but I hope that our families experiences can help yours.

Our strategies for surviving the flight:

1. Where possible book a night flight or one around naptime:
Keeping your little one in the same nighttime routine makes for a much easier flight. It’s not always easy on a longer haul flight but where you can give it a go.   If your child usually sleeps well in a carseat…take it. Check that your carseat is compatible with your airline first.  Another idea is to check the kilogram limit on your aircraft bulkhead bassinet. Do this at the time that you’re booking the flight.  If you can still fit (squeeze) your child in here… do it!

2. Pack all the comforts of home:
– If they have a favourite cuddly soft toy or comforter – include it.
– Pack lots of books and activities.  At this age, our boys liked flashcards, finger puppets and stickers.  Another idea is to make a little family and friends photobook for your child to flick through.   I always pack separate activities for the flight home.  It’s worth noting also that some parents wrap-up each individual activity like a gift. I just bring out one activity at a time (I can barely have time to pack the suitcase let alone wrap pressies)…. and I never hand over the activity bag.  If you can try and space out each activity by 30 minutes before introducing another one.  It might sound a bit clinical; but this is serious business.  Mum’s…Dad’s…we’re talking about saving our sanity here!
– If your child has shown interest in television programs like ‘In The Night Garden’ or ‘Banana’s in Pajamas’ as examples, download episodes of these and their Apps onto an iPad.  Please don’t forget to pack child size headphones.
– Keep little one warm. Planes are notoriously cold. Layer up and make sure you have a change of clothes.
– Food. Pack their favourite snacks and something to chew or suck on as the plane is ascending and descending. I swear by EarPlane plugs for my children who are 6 & 4 now but they could be tricky to apply to a toddler so I’d recommend the alternative.
– Hydration. I can’t go on about this enough. This is critical to a happy child on the plane and for fighting jetlag.  Remember your own sippy cup to avoid spills.  Keep it empty going through airport security and fill up on the other side before you board the plane.
– Medical. Be prepared with appropriate pain medication and anything else your little one needs to be comfortable.

3. Take routine explorations of the plane and if you’re with a partner take turns:
Your toddler is going to to want to explore! Take control and go on frequent trips walking up and down the plane. It’s probably the last thing that you’ll feel like doing but it’s better than having a battle to keep them in the one spot.

With the above tips, I can’t promise that your child won’t have an inflight meltdown; but hopefully as parents you’ll feel much better prepared to handle what may come your way.