Air Travel Tips for Parents with Infants and Toddlers

I recently read about a comment that was made by a journalist traveling by flight that sparked a huge debate on the subject of child-free flights. It comes as no big surprise that children and babies can make a long flight seem even longer and unfavorable for the other passengers. In fact, in recent years there have been several movements to try and push for child-free flights. In light of this I thought I would share some air travel tips for parents that may just help make your flight a little less stressful.

child looking out plane window

Flying is not a very practical mode of travel for babies and children, it’s true. There is little room to move around for children who become restless after hours on a plane and take off can be very uncomfortable for infants. Nevertheless, there are times when it’s simply unavoidable to bring children along on board. As a mother of three, I can sympathize with parents who must travel with their children in-tow and honestly, I can’t say how I would react if confronted by a disgruntled passenger. Here are some tips that can help save your sanity and hopefully avoid negative encounters with fellow seat mates.

Tips for Take-Off

Chewing gum is often advised during take off and landing as it helps alleviate the pressure that causes ear popping. This isn’t an option for babies and young toddlers, however. To avoid this discomfort opt to nurse or give your baby a bottle. For toddlers you can provide them with age-appropriate chewy snacks. Just try to avoid sugary snacks as this could pose a problem with your child later when you need them to be quiet and still.

Time Flights Accordingly
12725447025LwMpGA great way to handle flights with children is to encourage napping or sleeping. This is usually not a problem for babies as the motion can be soothing, similar to a car ride, in addition to their feeding at take-off which can serve as a comforting sedative. If you know you will be booking a flight in advance, try booking a night flight. If your child is already in hyper drive from the excitement of checking in and boarding, here are some tips that may encourage them to calm down and prepare for a long (and hopefully sleep-filled) flight.

Dress Comfortably
If your child is uncomfortable they will become irritable, so remove jackets or itchy sweaters they may have worn to board the flight in cooler months. Make sure to dress them appropriately and in comfortable clothing that will make settling down easier. Also have a blanket and pillow on board to make them feel more comfortable.

A hungry child is not good for anyone so be sure to pack along plenty of good snacks for in between in-flight meals or if you won’t be receiving a meal during the flight. Again, avoid sugar-filled snacks, candy or juice. Opt for proteins and whole grains that are filling and more likely to help them feel satisfied and possibly even drowsy.

Music can be a very soothing factor, but it can also have the adverse effect if it doesn’t set the right mood. Taylor Swift may not be the best choice when the goal is to keep them happy and quiet. Bring an iPod or MP3 player with an appropriate playlist of quiet, relaxing tunes they’ll like such as nursery rhymes. And don’t forget the headphones so you won’t have to be subjected to listening to it as well.

Flight-Friendly Activities

You may not be able to book a flight at the right time when your child is more likely to sleep so have some activities ahead of time that will keep them occupied. An iPad or tablet is a simple solution, but if you’re taking a long flight you may wish to limit their screen time. In my experience, a dead-battery can also spell disaster for a 2 ½ year old. Be sure devices are fully charged and I recommend offering it as a last-resort to other activities because your child may not take kindly to having it taken away later. Try these activities instead and if all else fails, break out the gadgets (after all, it’s just for the flight so exceptions can be made if you limit time at home)

Games and Puzzles
If your child is old enough, you can bring along puzzles or activity books that will keep them distracted and occupied. For younger children, make up games you can play together such as iSpy or counting the seats on the plane. Let them make up their own silly game that won’t require getting up from their seat and is appropriate for a flight (making loud animal sounds or running up and down the aisles would NOT be ideal).

Bring New Toys
Kids often get bored with the same old toys despite my best efforts to rotate the ones we have at home. Plan ahead by purchasing a few new (and inexpensive) toys for their bag just for the occasion. This will also save the heart-break of losing their beloved favorite toy should you happen to misplace it at some point during your trip. Below I’ve listed some popular travel-friendly products that can make for an easier flight.

Bring books along for the ride that you can read to your child or they can look at during the flight. Take along some favorites and a couple of new ones they haven’t heard before. If your flight is at night or close to their bedtime/naptime follow their normal routine with their usual bedtime story.

Additional Tips
Some additional air travel tips for parents is to prepare for the inevitable. Be prepared for set-backs with medications on hand (within the airline’s guidelines on liquid allowance and medications, of course) and sick bags in the event your child gets air-sick! Have colic and gas drops if your baby is prone to fussiness.

Travel-Friendly Products for Parents and Kids

Little Activity BooksActivity books
You can find several different varieties of these little activity books for as little as $1.50! They’re filled with activities to keep children entertained from preschoolers on up. Even adults can find these fun to do. Little Hidden Treasures is similar to your classic Where’s Waldo where you seek out hidden objects throughout the pages. And when your child has found all of the objects they can color in the pages!

First 100 Words First words book
Entertaining a baby on board can be a little more challenging, but reading is a very beneficial activity you can do. While most baby books are very short, First 100 words is filled with pages of colorful pictures and first words that you can read aloud to your baby as they bat at and look at the pages in delight.

Tiny Animal Farm Finger Puppetsfinger puppets
Finger puppets are a popular hit with babies and toddlers alike. You can make up stories to entertain your baby or you and your toddler can come up with your own story using these fun farm friends. You could even pair the finger puppets with a favorite story for even more engaging entertainment.

This is a wonderful travel companion. Kids can doodle and draw without making a mess and there are no colors to worry about losing on the plane. The Aquadoodle comes with a pen you fill with water and when kids mark with it on the pad their pictures show up in red or blue. The water dries and they can doodle all over again so they never run out.

Innobaby Five Tier Storage Systeminnobaby tier storage
Ideal for babies and toddlers on the go, this storage system is ideal to pack along for flights. It contains 5 cups that can each hold powdered baby formula or dry snacks for them to munch on like cereal. They take up minimal space in a diaper bag or carry-on so you can have snacks on hand with separate compartments to keep them separate.

Skip Hop Zoo Neck Restskip hop neck pillow
You can help your little ones get comfortable with their own neck rest. Skip Hop has an adorable selection of neck rest pillows that are fitted perfect for little tots. The neck pillow is made with soft velour to provide ultimate comfort and can be coordinated with a matching blanket.

If your child is calm and quiet upon boarding the plane, you may want to hold off on the entertainment and toys until your child asks for it or you see that they are getting bored. If you’re going to be on a long flight you don’t want to exhaust all of your resources before reaching your destination. A flight can be a fun and exciting experience for a child so allow them to experience it before jumping right in and offering them some form of entertainment. You may not even need it!

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