If you have the opportunity to go on a fantastic trip, the first thing to cross you mind is probably not the logistics of traveling with your toddler. But once you’ve got your reservations made and have requested time off work, the reality sets in: You will be stuck in a closed space for hours with a ball of energy and must find a way to not only survive yourself, but keep a couple hundred other passengers from voting you off the island.
Don’t worry! There are some tried and true ways that you and your toddler can survive even a long international flight. While you can’t expect perfection from a little one, you can definitely make the trip easier on both of you if you use these tips:
Have a Plan
It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many parents just try to “wing it” (no pun intended) when traveling with their kids. Ideally you’ll know beforehand out how long your flight will be, when to expect layovers, and how likely your child is to take a nap during the flight. Write down a loose time line for yourself. Also, pack activities but don’t throw them all at your toddler at once. Administer each one and keep track of the time, rationing the activities so that there is something new and fun to do throughout the entire flight.
It might feel like a pain to do this before your flight, but once you’re in the air you’ll be glad you practiced sitting. Start out having your child sit for five minutes at home with a book or a quiet activity, and work them up to longer periods. This is particularly beneficial if your child has not been to preschool or has any other experience being still for extended periods of time.
Pack Comfort Items
Be sure to pack comfort items for your child, particularly if you’ll be flying internationally and they’ll need to sleep on the flight. Change them into their favorite pajamas, bring their special blanket or stuffy toy. You can also pack their favorite snacks, bedtime books or other items that will help them feel cozy in a strange environment.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
If you’re struggling with keeping your child calm or comfortable and you are at your wit’s end, it’s okay to ask the flight attendants or even other parents sitting close by for their help or advice. These individuals may have experience that you don’t have, and you don’t need to spend the entire flight in a panic because your child is stressed and acting out.
There’s no such thing as a perfect trip, and every child is different. Not only that, but there really is only so much you can expect from a very young child. Your best defense against any kind of meltdown is to be prepared, but remember, it may not be avoidable. You can just do your best, hope things go your way, and ignore the stares of non-parents who haven’t been in your shoes.