When Booking Your Flight
Always fly non-stop if possible. I know it can be a bit more costly but not having to board and de-board multiple times or dealing with a layover is usually worth the cost. Click here for tips on surviving connection flight.
Try to book your flight with a departing time about 30mins before nap or bedtime. If your child is used to a routine and generally tired around this time, it should be easy for you to get them to sleep. If you have a shorter flight they might sleep the entire time but even if you're on a longer one they will still be knocked out for a good majority of it.
Aisle or window seat? If you know you will have the entire row to yourself this doesn't matter much as your child can sit on whoever's lap, but if you don't there's a lot to consider. On one hand the window seat seems like a great idea, your child can look out the window and get lost in the clouds. They can rest their head against the window and they won't be able to kick people as they walk by. On the flip side, what about when they want to use the bathroom 15 times or you have to change their diaper more than once? What if they have a lot of energy and you want to take them for a walk down the aisle. This one is all about preference, but these are important things to consider, you know your child better than anyone.
Before Your Flight
If you allow your child screen time download all there favorite movies, TV shows, and apps. Make sure whatever you download doesn't require WiFi to watch or play as not all airlines have this service available and even if they do you don't have access to it while you are waiting to take off and during the final decent. The last thing you want is to have all these things to entertain your child and find out midair you can't access them.
Let them roam around while you are waiting to board. They are about to be cramped up for the next few hours so use this time to have them tire themselves naturally. Check to see if your terminal has a playground, many do. Here's a video of my girls playing at the airport in Frankfurt before our flight.
On the flip side let them sleep if they are tired. I know you want to have them sleep on the plane as long as possible and forcing them to stay up when you see them falling asleep just 30mins before boarding seems like a good idea but let me tell you it isn't. Toddlers act crazy when they are over exhausted and getting them to sleep at that point usually involves extreme crankiness, tantrums, and a lot of effort. That is not what you want to deal with while you are on the plane in a tight space so if they doze off before the flight boards let them, a well rested toddler on the plane is a much better experience than an over tired one.
One of the "perks" of flying with children is that you can board early, but should you? With a non-active baby, hands down yes but with a toddler, I say no. Why? Toddlers are super active and the last thing I want is an extra 30mins on the plane with them in a cramped space. I actually usually aim to be the last one on the plane so I have as little time on it as possible. The potential downfall to this is a lack of overhead bin space and having to wait to pick up your luggage at baggage claim (airlines don't charge for your luggage if you have to check it due to there not being enough space on the plane). However, if you checked another bag, stroller or car seat at the ticket counter and have to go there anyway I just see it as one less thing to carry. This makes my life easier when navigating through the airport after I have landed and especially if I have a layover and need to rush to another gate.
Take Off and Landing
Toddlers can still be affected by the changing pressures during landing and take off. Have them chew ice, drink water, or eat something during this time to prevent their ears from popping.
During the Flight
Distractions are the name of the game at this age! I recommend a different toy/activity for every 30mins to 1hr. Bring a few of there favorite toys, coloring book, reading books, and flash cards. You know their attention spans are very short and I have found that buying some cheap new toys (hello $1 store) holds their attention a little longer since they have to figure it out. To make the excitement of these last even longer, wrap them if you have time, toddlers get so excited by unwrapping things! Dont't have time to figure out what to pack? Let Penguino Travel curate a special box of activities and snacks for you. Use promo code: thetravelingchild for 10% off.
Get up and walk around! Toddlers love waving and saying hi to everyone they see so if you see them begin to get antsy take a few laps up and down the aisle.
Be prepared with food including many snacks for the ride. Have the snacks separated into single serving size snack bags and keep them easily accessible. One time I made the mistake of having my daughters snacks in the overhead bin and while we were taking off she had a melt down because she really wanted a snack but I couldn't stand up to get them. If your child is under 2 and you did not pay for a seat for them they will not receive a meal on an international flight. For a complete toddler carry-on bag packing list click here.
If you allow your child screen time, this is the time to whip out the tablet of your choice. I highly recommend the Kindle Fire Kids Edition Tablet that comes with a protective case. It ranges from $99.99-$119.99 depending on the memory size. One year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited is included.
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