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Flying with Babies and Toddlers: Some Things to Consider

things to consider when flying with babies and toddlers.

Time to get planning for your summer holidays!

Now that the summer holiday season is creeping up on us, not only do we have to think about where to go for a break, but also the 101 things we have to take into account. These include things such as when to go, how many suitcases to take, what should we pack, can we rent baby equipment at our destination? But perhaps most importantly for our own sanity, we also have to think about kid’s entertainment/distractions whilst driving or flying with babies and toddlers.

If you are travelling around Europe you can usually get away with flights between 2 and 4 hours long which for the most part is comfortable for little ones. However, if you’re seeking some sunny weather further afield, you might find yourself looking at flight times starting from 6 hours! Add your drive to the airport, time checking in, and your transfer at the other end, you are looking at a long day for adults, let alone children. Perhaps instead of a flight overseas, you are planning a road trip, in which case you may still be looking at long travel times.

This year we are planning a trip to the south of France which equates to 14 hours driving, not including time on the ferry or Eurostar. That’s a very long drive, and in our case, we will be spreading it over the course of 2 days as it’s just too much to put on 2 little ones!

Flying with babies and toddlers and older children.

Let’s look at ideas and travel hacks for flying with babies and toddlers, and most importantly how to keep a baby or toddler occupied during those long journeys. 

Things to expect and to be prepared for when flying with babies and toddlers

I have to say, thus far I’ve been lucky when travelling by air with my 2 girls. Both of them have nearly always fallen asleep in my arms as babies and would wake up around 30 minutes before landing which is every parent’s dream. My eldest is now 4, and doesn’t tend to sleep on the plane anymore unless we are taking a very long flight. Our usual holiday destination is Italy which is just a short 2-hour flight, and with not enough time to sleep, it’s down to us to find ways to keep her busy.

Most babies will fall asleep during flight, however this varies, and you also have to take into account an individual’s body’s reaction to flying, such as their ears popping. This is most likely to occur during take off and landing, and there’s not a great deal you can do about it unfortunately. If you are breastfeeding, now is the perfect time to feed and the distraction and security if gives your baby may be enough to get through the moment without too much drama.

What if my baby constantly cries on the plane

If you are a regular flier then it’s highly likely you will have at least one nightmare flight at some point. This is probably every parents nightmare, but it happens, and sometimes there’s just nothing you can do about it. One one of our recent flights we were stuck on the runway upon landing for half an hour. It had already been a pretty bad flight for the little one, but at this point she decided she was going to cry constantly for the duration!

Yes it’s embarrassing, and you do feel like all eyes are on you, and you literally can’t wait to jump off the plane! There’s not much you can do at this point though other than laugh it off, and satisfy yourself with the knowledge that you will probably never see anyone from the flight again! Sure, you will have tried everything in your power by this point, but now is the time to accept what is and just keep smiling! No one said that flying with babies and toddlers would be easy after all!

Distractions for restless kids when travelling

Tablets & Phones
I’m going to start with the option I dislike most, but when it comes to long journeys I give in. Travelling with babies and toddlers is already hard enough and this is one of those times I put mum guilt aside and break my own rules. Phones or tablets are a must when driving or flying for many hours, not only does it give your kids a distraction but also gives parents time to recoup some energy. Let’s face it, by the time you’re on the plane you have probably already had several hours of work to get you to this point and want to relax yourself.

Little girl on plane with a tablet for entertainment.

When it comes to our 15-month-old, she has little interest in watching things on tv, so keeping her busy with a cartoon is not going to happen. However, in the case of my eldest, I’m sure our long drive across France will be occupied watching Netflix or princesses on YouTube. Remember, when driving you will have access to your data on your phone but not all flights will have wifi, so if you have Netflix or even Disney+ be sure to download shows or movies on your phone prior to travelling.

You may even want to download a few educational games on your tablet to keep them entertained for a little while. Don’t feel guilty giving them hours of tablet use while travelling, because once you reach your destination they will hopefully be far too busy having fun to worry about TV!

Another must is to pack loads of snacks! Eating is certainly something that keeps my little one very busy! We generally pack a selection of crackers, fruit, oat bars and cheese sticks which will keep them distracted and busy for a while. I would recommend sitting in the back with them if they are eating as if there was a choking episode you will immediately see them, especially if they are rear-facing. If you can’t sit in the back make sure you always look at them while eating in case of emergency, using additional mirrors if necessary. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily apply in the same way if you are flying.

Every flight I’ve taken with my girls beforehand I have bought new toys and books, some for the flight going and some for the return. Why new ones? Because new keeps them more entertained as it’s all fresh things to discover and learn. They don’t have to be expensive ones either, sticker books, colouring books, little gadgets, small puzzles, small Lego sets, fidget spinners, or Barbies all help relieve boredom. Sticker books are usually what keeps my eldest daughter busier than anything else. 

Toddler girl sitting on airplane watching picture book.

For young babies there are fidget spinners you can stick to windows and spin. Stickers can also be good providing your little one doesn’t have a tendency to put things in their mouths. They could have great fun sticking them around your sitting area, just check they can be the ones peel off easily without breaking, as you dont want to spend the last 30 minutes of your flight removing stubborn stickers!

Stretching your legs
Little ones will love to walk up and down the aisle, although on planes it’s not really convenient, and certainly from a safety perspective it’s probably better to dissuade this. However, if your child is getting frustrated then take them for a little walk, it will allow them to stretch their legs and give them a brief change of scenery.

Brain games
For older children, Busy Brains offers two types of activity cards with games to do on long journeys. They can be used while flying or driving and include 80 games to do on long journeys.

Busy brains travel games help when flying with babies and toddlers.

Keeping everything within reach and well-organised
Consider buying a car tray for your road trip if you don’t already have one. There are many options available that can be had quite cheap. These typically come in the guise of storage that attaches to the rear of the front seats where you can mount your tablet, organise crayons, paper and colouring books. You can even add their water bottle and snacks so they can reach them themselves without having to ask mummy a million times for a snack. I bought one for my daughter and it’s very useful for long journeys!

Play their favourite music
Sometimes my girls relax in the car simply with some music. They love Disney songs so when I see they are starting to get a bit fussy it’s the first thing I do. Another amazing way to listen to music which my 15 month old loves is a Toniebox. Even though she is small she loves changing the characters and has a good understanding of how it works. She is quite happy singing in her own way and just listening, it kept her busy for a whole hour once on a recent drive to Birmingham, so definitely a must-have travel item. If you are on the plane and don’t want to annoy everyone they also sell matching headphones which are suitable for older children over 3 years old.

Tonies headphones for travel

Remember, we don’t always have to entertain children for the entire journey. Even just being quiet, enjoying music and looking out the window will keep them busy and also encourage them to use their imagination.

Do you have an interesting travel hack and want to share? Or perhaps you have a funny story about flying with babies and toddlers? Why not get in touch with us below!


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