Long haul air travel with toddlers
Going on a long haul trip (as in 6h+ flight time) with a child aged 18 months to 3 years is probably one of the most challenging travel experience you can have as a parent. Obviously many of us do this but the difference between wanting to fling yourself off the plane and getting a few hours of sleep is all in the preparation. Check out some essential travel secrets for long haul trips with a toddler.
Here’s our long-haul survival list (in order of keeping you sane)
#1 The most essential toy for air travel is a Doodle Pad. It’s the most versatile, unmessy, imaginative and inexpensive toy you’ll ever buy (you can get them for about $10). It’s a true life saver as you can draw stuff, erase it and draw some more for quite a while. Most importantly you can use during take off / landing and when passing through turbulent weather (unlike some electronic gadgets).
#2 Sticker booklets – almost as versatile as the Doodle Pad, slightly more messy but still pretty imaginative and cheap. You can get them with different themes (animals, cartoons, sports, etc).
#3 Model airplanes in all shapes and sizes – you can get some really simple “assemble in less than 1 minute” sets or cuddly toy planes for next to nothing. Toy planes are great fun when as you can re-enact take-offs and landings on your tray table (and your neighbor’s tables). It’s also great fun to watch your fellow passengers when you cover off some “unlikely” scenarios of mid-air crashes, landing on water, loss of cabin-pressure, fire on board, lightning strikes or snakes on a plane (especially if you do this during turbulence). For the latter scenario you can sing “the wheels on the bus” with more suitable lyrics like “the snakes on the plane go tsss tss tsss, zsss zszz zsss, tsss zss ttss …”
#4 Snacks and food – nothing like a few interesting snacks to keep a toddler entertained for a while. Avoid snacks with high sugar content as that will just keep them going for longer. Dried fruit, popcorn and salty sticks are ideal. Preparing zip lock bags of several different snack options before the flight can help. Make sure you’re well prepared for this one as you never know what the airline gives you (if anything). Have at least enough food for 5 light meals + drinks! Also make sure you’ve got lollies at hand for take off and landing (it’ll make your child swallow frequently which is exactly what they need to do to compensate for the change in air pressure – that way you won’t have a screaming child during take off and landing).
#5 An iPad / iPhone (or other tablet / smartphone) loaded with baby and toddler apps – yes I know … they’re expensive. But you probably had to fork out a lot of money to go on a long-haul trip with the family in the first place. So perhaps you can squeeze in a little extra for a device like that. In most cases having a smartphone or tablet is your ultimate tantrum stopper and the ultimate entertainment center which you can use when all else fails. It’s like a magic bullet that will solve your temporary parenting issues when on a plane.
Ideally you’ll have time to gift-wrap (in lots of layers of wrapping paper!) all of the above (except the smartphone/tablet) … that way you can burn some valuable minutes by getting your little one to unwrap the thing.