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Air travel can be stressful. Throw a toddler with a mind of their own into the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster. But, it doesn’t have to be difficult to fly with little ones. I see many parents in airports who make it harder than it has to be. With some advance planning and a well-stocked bag, you and your munchkin can soar with confidence. Here are some common mistakes people make when flying with toddlers that you will want to avoid.
Mistake #1: Not Burning Off Energy
Toddlers have a seemingly endless amount of energy. Traveling doesn’t change this. And no one wants to be stuck on a plane for three hours with a 4-year-old who’s bouncing off the walls. To avoid this, use the time waiting in the airport to burn off some of that excess energy. Take your child for a walk. Or, find an out-of-the-way corner and let your little energizer bunny dance, jump, and spin around. This is what I call “getting the wiggles out.” The more wiggles your child gets out before boarding, the smoother your flight will be. Burning off energy beforehand will not only allow your toddler to be able to sit still longer, but it will help them feel less confined once on the plane.
Mistake #2: Messing With Nap Time
There is nothing more miserable than dealing with a tired, cranky toddler. So, don’t fight nap time. Instead, work with it. When planning your trip, realistically think about how strict your child is about their sleep schedule. If they must have their nap by 2:00 each day, then plan your flight so they can finish their nap before heading to the airport or so they can sleep on the plane. On the other hand, if your little one is more flexible with sleep, try to keep them awake until you board. If your child sleeps during most of the flight, you will be much more relaxed as well.
Mistake #3: Not Having Enough Snacks
Any parent who’s been through the toddler stage knows that snacks can be a lifesaver. They usually work when nothing else will. Yet, many people make the mistake of not bringing enough snacks to last the entire flight. This, unfortunately, can result in a meltdown before the wheels touch down. Packing more snacks than you think you will need can help you avoid this situation. You never know when you will be unexpectedly delayed. Also, pack a variety of snacks. This will prevent your toddler from throwing a fit if they suddenly decide they hate their old favorite snack. For ideas on what snacks to pack, read my list of the best and worst airplane snacks for kids.
Mistake #4: Not Packing Extra Clothes in the Carryon
Toddlers are experts at making messes. Additionally, even kids who have been potty trained for years can have an unexpected accident. Being midflight without a change of clothes is a horrible time for that accident to happen. Even worse is not having an extra shirt when your munchkin throws up all over you right after takeoff. Be prepared for anything by packing at least one extra set of clothes for your child and yourself in your carryon. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Mistake #5: Losing the Lovey
Whether it is a blanket, stuffed animal, pacifier, or something else, most young children have a favorite lovey they can’t live without. The biggest mistake anyone can make when flying with toddlers is to lose the treasured lovey. This is sure to cause an epic meltdown that can last hours. And to make matters worse, loveys aren’t easily replaced. To avoid this, make sure you guard your child’s lovey as if it’s the queen’s jewels. Try to convince your child to let you hold the lovey or pack it in their suitcase until you arrive at your final destination. If that doesn’t work, then at least keep your eyes on it anytime you move from place to place.
Mistake #6: Bringing the Wrong Toys
Many parents will pack toys for their toddler to play with during the flight. The problem is that some parents bring toys that are loud or not appropriate for playing with in a confined space. A few months ago, on a flight from Honolulu to LA, we sat in front of a family with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. The mom gave them wands with a spinning character on top to play with during the flight. The problem was that they spent 30 minutes using them as drumsticks on the tray tables and then began hitting each other with them. Not fun for any of us!
Stay away from balls, large toys, anything that makes noise, or anything that can be used to whack someone. While your child may have fun with these things, you and your fellow passengers will not be so happy with them. Instead, pack books, stuffed animals, little cars, or other toys your toddler can play with quietly in their seat. If your child prefers to watch videos or play games with sound, invest in a good quality pair of child headphones for them. You can find some good headphones at Amazon or Target.
Mistake #7: Not Asking for Help
Sometimes as parents, we make things harder than they have to be simply because we don’t ask for help. Flying with a little one is one of those times when you may need an extra hand. Remember that flight attendants are always willing to help you if you need it. They can rinse out sippy cups, get you some napkins or water, or even help you get your bag down from the overhead compartment. And, there will be other parents around you on the plane that have been in your shoes and will be understanding of your situation. A friend of mine was once flying alone with her young son when she needed to use the bathroom. A grandmother sitting behind her offered to hold her son while she went to the restroom. Taking advantage of this simple act made her flight much more enjoyable. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from those around you who are willing to help if you need it.
Mistake #8: Stressing Out
Babies and toddler feed off of their parents’ emotions. When they are unsure how to react, they mirror what they see in their caregivers. So, the more you stress about the flight, the more stressed out you will make your toddler. There will be bumps along the road. Not everything will go according to plan. Relax! Take a deep breath. If you are calm and take it all in stride, so will your child. Be confident in your preparations and you will be fine. Before you know it, your toddler will be a pro at flying.
Toddlers can be a handful in the best of circumstances. Throw in the stress of traveling and traveling with a little one can be a nightmare if you let it. But, with some advance planning and packing the right things, you can avoid these common mistakes people make when flying with toddlers. Do you have any suggestions on how to smoothly travel with toddlers? Share your tips in the comments. For more tips on flying with kids, click here and here. Happy travels!