It’s almost the summer holidays and the world is starting to tentatively open up again with the speeding up of the vaccine programme … which is very exciting for those of us who haven’t seen family for months and months, but also comes with its own set of challenges if you have a child or children!
We managed to fly quite a few times with Charlie before the world locked down in March 2019, and the last time we managed a trip to the UK to visit his grandparents was in December 2020 and he was 15 months old. We’re gearing up to fly to The Canaries later this summer when he will be almost 2, and I’m feeling much more prepared although now he walks and talks and is much more interested in other people there will be plenty more challenges! Here I would love to share the things I have learnt and also the extra tips and tricks I have got from friends for the older toddlers:
Baby (0 - 9ish months): Possibly the easiest age to travel (let me know if you agree or disagree!).
Charlie was 2.5 months old the first time he went on a plane! We hadn’t planned on this trip, but my dad had to have an emergency life saving (and changing) operation and I wanted to be there. My husband wasn’t able to join us, so it was just Charlie and me … and I was dreading it. But it went amazingly smoothly! Admittedly it was before the times of Covid, so when I needed to use the bathroom, I felt comfortable asking one of the cabin crew to hold him for me (the cabin crew were fantastic throughout the trip, making sure I had enough water (I was breastfeeding at the time which I will come back to)) and if I had needed to, I would have been able to walk up and down the aisle bouncing/comforting him. As it was, I didn’t need too, because the combination of me feeding him during take-off, the motion of the aircraft and the constant hum of the engine creating lovely white noise for him, meant he slept pretty much the whole journey! I knew babies ears can suffer during take-off and landing due to the change in air-pressure, so I made sure Charlie had had lots of stimulation in the airport before we were on the plane and also that he would be hungry enough to feed. Sure enough, his eyes were closing before we had reached altitude and he stayed dozing like that for just over an hour. I even managed to (uncomfortably) read a few chapters of my book!
He woke up in time for me to use the bathroom (whilst he played with the crew), I did his first ever high-altitude nappy change (with our very handy waterproof travel mat), then it was time to take our seats for the landing. Although he wasn’t particularly hungry, I managed to persuade him to drink some milk for landing. He did have a little discomfort here but soon settled once we were landed.
We flew again a few times in February and early March 2019, this time as a family which always makes it easier. I would always feed him for take-off and he would happily snooze for the majority of the flight.
Infant (9-15 months): A slightly more tricky time! Due to the intensity of the pandemic, we didn’t really have the opportunity to fly much when he was this age. I took a solo trip with Charlie in August when the world thought things were improving. He was 10 months old and wasn’t breastfeeding in the day anymore, so I was anxious about take-off and landing. He does accept a dummy/pacifier, so that was my solution for his ears (I always used a clip to keep his dummy clean and safe). He also loves snacking, so I had plenty of different options for this. He was in a much more solid nap routine, and the flights we could get didn’t time well with this, so he didn’t fall asleep at all.
This would be my number one tip, if possible time your flights to fit in with nap time! But I was prepared with snacks as I mentioned and I had saved a few new board books with new textures (“That’s Not My Panda” for example) and a new fiddle toy which we decided to hide away at home and only bring out for long travel days. Luckily, all the excitement of the plane journey meant that he was ready to have a good long nap for the 2 hour drive to my parents’ house from the airport!
We flew again as a family in December when Charlie was 15 months old. We were quite lucky because he wasn’t walking at this age yet, and I had already learnt the tip about naps so on the way there we had about 30 mins of playing with the fiddle toy and new books and then he seemed to want to settle down to sleep which was very uncomfortable for me now he was so much bigger, but it gave my husband and I a peaceful and almost relaxing flight!
Toddler (15 months plus): We haven’t experienced a flight at this age yet, but I am
feeling quite relaxed about it when we do manage to. We have the toy that only comes out for travel, we’ll buy some more books and try and time the flight for his one lunchtime nap. We will pack plenty of interesting and healthy snacks and sticker books and I have been told that even simple post-it notes to stick to the back of chairs are a good time waster! Charlie has become absolutely obsessed with any method of transport (and especially trains and diggers) so I hope planes will just be an extension of this. I am unsure about the rules and regulations, but I assume he will not be allowed to walk up and down the aisle, but I imagine this is a great thing to help the time go by faster with walkers!
What tips and tricks do you have for traveling with little ones? Have you managed to make plans for this summer yet? We would love to hear your plans and how you intend to get through the travel process calmly and confidently with your baby or toddler?