It’s already a week since we arrived home, and I think I’m only just getting over the jet-lag – it really struck me hard this time! I think because this was our first trip overseas with a baby, we just didn’t have the time to properly catch up on sleep or truly relax and get over the massive days and nights we had while in Hawaii. Although we’ve only flown twice with Hannah, the flight home from Hawaii was markedly different and more enjoyable than the flight over there, so I think I’ve learnt pretty quick what does and doesn’t work for our little one!
At the time of flying, Hannah was 15 months old and is a bit of a non-sleeper – she has only just started sleeping through the night, and it’s 6.30 til 4.30am if we are lucky – so I didn’t expect her to sleep much mid-flight. We didn’t book her own seat, as she was still in the ‘free’ bracket, so she was sitting in our lap. That was a mission in itself! So, with now 19 hours of flight (with a toddler) under our belt, here’s what I learnt, and hopefully these tips for flying with a toddler will help you.
- Fly during the day. If you can, and your flight is less than 12 hours, book your flights for during the day. That way, if they don’t get much sleep on the flight, you’ll have much more of a chance of them getting a proper sleep the night before and when you arrive at your destination.
- Ask for a third seat. If your toddler is not getting their own seat, ask at check in if the flight is full, and if not, ask if there is three seats available and if it would be possible to block the third seat. There is no guarantee they will give you this, however it’s worth asking. We had this on the way home and it was REAMARKABLY more comfortable – we had three seats right in the back which meant Hannah had her own seat to sit in and she could sleep in between us. Of course, unless you actually pay for the third seat there is no guarantee and they don’t have to give you this.
- Bring plenty of food and snacks. With all the new airport security, and liquids over 100ml not allowed on board, I was at first concerned about how we were going to bring enough food and drink to keep Hannah occupied during the flight. Once checking with our airline (Jetstar) however, I was happy to find out that baby food and drink was exempt from the rule – and I noticed you can also bring breastmilk if needed. We took about 5 or 6 of those squeezy food pouches, muesli bars, bananas and plenty of water. I’m still breastfeeding so we didn’t need to worry about milk or formula, however when I asked for a bottle of water the staff on board were only too happy to fill it up and I assume they’d be the same with water for formula. Hannah’s water bottle was exempt from the usual regulations – the security staff just scanned her bag separately.
- Bring something for them to drink and/or chew on while the flight is taking off and landing. As I’m still breastfeeding I fed Hannah while taking off and landing, and that seemed to work very well in averting any ear pain. I think a bottle/drink bottle or something quite chewy to eat would work just as well.
- Activities, plenty of them. We loaded the iPad up with her favourite ABC shows, and I found some great sticker books from K Mart for $2 each which worked an absolute treat. She stuck the stickers everywhere (of course I peeled them off afterwards!) and it kept her occupied for quite a few hours. The iPad was a great last resort – when she was very restless she would happily sit and watch a show (we don’t normally let her use the iPad so it was partly a novelty as well).
- Bring their favourite toys. Bring their fave teddy or blanky or whatever keeps them comforted. A plane is a strange environment so they’ll want something familiar.
- Pack a small pillow and a familiar blanket. If the travel gods are smiling upon you and you can get them to sleep, you’ll want to make them as comfortable as possible – we were so happy we had a pillow for Hannah on the way back, and she slept well for a couple of hours.
- Bring medication, if you use it. I have given Hannah baby Nurofen when she has had bad teething pain and colds in the past, so I brought that on board in case she did get some bad ear pain.
- Stress less. This one is difficult for me as I’m a bit anxious normally, however I do believe that children pick up on your vibe so if you’re relaxed, they’ll have a better chance of being relaxed too.
- Enjoy! The first day when you arrive may be a bit of a blur as you get used to a new time zone and location, however just go with the flow. After not sleeping on the flight to Hawaii, Hannah slept pretty much the entire first day in the Ergo carrier, the stroller and the car. Instead of worrying that she would not sleep that night, I just went with it, and turns out everything was ok – she didn’t sleep that well that night however it was much more enjoyable to go with the flow than try and make her do something she didn’t want to do. After all, it is a holiday.
Do you have any tips for flying with a toddler under two? Please share them below!