When travelling with a baby or toddler it can feel very far from hygge and calm. Since having Oliver we’ve done quite a few trips from taking a one hour flight to Denmark to a crazy 11 hour flight to Vancouver. These flights have mostly ran smoothly for us and we've avoided any screen time too. After each journey we've taken the time to reflect after each one to think about what we've learnt from each one when it comes to travelling with a little one. So after lots of requests I want to share with you how you can not just survive a flight with a baby or toddler but actually enjoy it and find some calmness too.
Preparation before the holiday for toddlers
Try and book a flight time where possible that is around nap time. If you can choose your seat before the flight we like to go near the front if its a shorter budget flight. This is so we're first of the plane and onto the airport bus to the terminal (helping to get a seat on the bus otherwise it can be tricky juggling a baby/toddler and your bags while holding on!)
If going on a longer flight we find going near the middle of the plane with the wings makes it a smoother journey and less affected by any bumps!
At the airport
We like to arrive at the airport in good time, giving ourselves time to get checked in and then find a quiet gate to wait in (hopefully with a runway view). Where possible we take a baby through the airport security in a baby wearing sling which allows you to have your hands free too. We also ask if we can gate check the travel pram too so we've also got this to hand incase we need it.
During this time at the airport we do lots of movement play to hopefully tire out the little one! We take little cars or a small ball that we can roll to each other. We also make a little picture shopping list that we take with us to an airport shop to look for things like fresh fruit and water which we can take onto the flight to add to our little picnic. I also find that toddlers in particular just love to toddle around with so much to see and spot.
Then a toilet stop as late as you can before you board. Often airport toilets can be quite busy and noisy so where possible look for a separate baby change room. I always pop a new fiddle toy into my pocket that I can bring out to distract a baby/toddler in a noisy toilet. For older toddlers who may not like the sound of the hand dryers or toilets flushing it can be useful to prepare them for these sounds before you go in so the sounds don't alarm them too much.
On the plane
We have found that when travelling short haul on a budget airline there may not be too much space for toys or room to move. You might even have someone else sharing your row!
Pack a bag thats easy to open and get into with your essentials for the flight in it and have this under your seat. I find one of the best things to take on a flight is books! A collection of their favourite and familiar ones as well as a few new ones thrown in. We like the Julia Donaldson Acorn Wood Books, Gruffalo and We're Going on a Bear Hunt. I also pack little feely bags with a story prop in them like a bear or the Gruffalo.
For take off and landing it helps with your baby or toddler can be sucking or chewing something to help with the pressure in their ears. So think about feeding them, offering a bottle or a snack during this time. When travelling with Oliver as a baby I found sitting with him by the window was less distracting for him to breast feed with me.
I have been on quite a few plane journeys now that have been incredibly hot while waiting on the runway for the plane to take off and the air con to kick in. Dressing the baby and toddler in layers is good so they can be stripped off to their vets if required and also having a hand held fan, face towel (can be put under cold water and applied to forehead to cool down) or water in a misting spray bottle (filled up once through security).
I also carry a baby thermometer, infant calpol (in sachets), teething granules and baby Priton just in case we need these.
When it comes to travelling with younger babies i find taking some toy attachers helpful. These allow you to attach a toy like a teether onto one end and attach the other to your seat belt. It stops you having to constantly pick things up off the floor and wipe them!
When flying during nap time I also bring their sleeping bag, comforter and blanket too.
Have an exciting airplane picnic and most importantly think about the exciting ways you can present this to your little one. We like to have some snacks that we already enjoy but then a couple of new things to try too. We invested in a bentobox/ snack spinner too which made it more exciting to choose what was going to be eaten. I also think having a re-usable and re-sealable bag is helping too for your airplane food.
When it comes to snacks I've made a few mistakes here...water melon...far too messy and dribbly! I had a cream jumper on too and had quite a few sticky finger marks on me! Apples are great as they take a little while to eat and crackers with cheese, dried fruit, rice cakes, home made blueberry and oat muffins.
Also don't forget looking after yourself. Pack yourself a delicious picnic of things you'll look forward to having on the flight. Olives, italian snacking bread, cheeses, grapes and don't forget a special treat of some chocolate truffles.
I try to pack where possible open ended toys that can be used in a variety of different ways both on the flight and once we get to our destination.
Space to move on a plane is limited so a wallet is a great thing to bring with you that can easily be explored without needing much room. I filled an old wallet with photo cards of familiar people for Oliver to pull out. I also put in some wooden coins which were used later in our holiday to 'buy' ice cream with.
We used ours on the plane tray table to stack and hide things underneath and guess where they had gone/ which they were hiding under. You could ask for some ice on the plane and explore transfering this between the cups. How does it feel?
These were then used at the lake and in the sea for pouring, transferring water and collecting rocks up in.
This can be used with younger babies for sound tracking or older ones can explore the sound they make with it and sing and shake.
Younger babies in particular will be fascinated in watching these window spinners go round and making them move themselves.
Great for toddlers as they can practice their fine motor skills.
Great for hiding behind your back for babies and asking where they've gone or for creating stories, singing rhymes with older ones.
Can be used as a prop for singing the wheels on the bus, can be rolled across the tray table and played with in the airport 'Can you find something your car can roll down?'.
Perfect for peekaboo, hiding objects underneath, using as cover or even to sing with. We liked to roll ours into a sausage and sing row row row your boat and wind the bobbin up.
Real set of keys
We also enjoyed playing with a set of interlocking trains that could be unlocked and then joined back together. These were open ended and allowed for imaginative play too.
Add some beads in a feely bag and you can count with these, make necklaces and braclets.
We took a long a little Melissa and Doug water painting book about the farm that was a big hit. It was also handy for taking out to restaurants as well.
With an interest in the farm we went for a re-usable farm sticker book by Mellisa and Doug which was a great hit. The stickers can be used to create a story for older ones and also stick onto the tray table and window.
Orchard Toys Matching Games
For an older toddler a matching game like Farmyard Heads and Tails or Red Dog Blue Dog are great for classification and matching.
In particular the ice cream truck with its open and closing doors that could be filled and emptied. Our duplo pieces were also played with in the apartment, in the water and on the beach and easily wash!
My husband thought it was a funny idea but I took some masking tape with me. I used it to tape an empty drinks bottle onto the back of seat and we dropped pom poms into it then counted them back out. I also made tunnels from the cardboard our food had come in and made little tunnels for the car to go under on our tray table.
Great to get out and keep little hands busy! You could also add in some small world characters, pipe cleaners, lolly pop sticks, ribbon, googly eyes.
When it all gets to much...
This might be for the little one or you, i generally find most other passengers so helpful and kind hen flying with a little one.
Take a little walk down the aisle and visit the toilet. Even if no one needs it. Sometimes you just need a few moments of you time with your little one where you don't feel like everyone is watching you! On your way you might find a friendly passenger pulling funny faces helps as a distraction.
I also find going to the back of the plane and holding a smaller baby upright but close your chest and gently soothing them with 'shhh' and a rocking motion helps them drift off. The sound of the engine is louder at the back of the plane too which can act as white noise.
For older toddlers see if you can find a piece of rubbish for them to take to the air steward which will act as a good distraction.
We also try a bit of reflexology by taking off the little ones socks and making movements on their feet while singing a nursery rhyme or song. We sang Incy Wincey Spider and did little actions on their feet as we sang.
Board books are also a good distraction...especially one they know well. Ask them to look through the book and find the 'cow' for example.
Give them some baby wipes and ask for their help with cleaning their space.
Lastly, consider how you will get from the airport to your final destination. We recently had a package holiday that ended with a 2 hour coach transfer (for a 40 minute drive) as we were the last of 8 to be dropped off at our hotel. If possible can you take control of this by either; finding a short transfer location, organising your own private transfer or hiring a car.
Helpful hints and tips
I'm not sure why but babies will need their nappy changing more when they're in the air than on a normal day. Pack more nappies than you think you might need.
Toddlers will also eat more than you think they will so pack a variety of snacks and food to keep them going if you have a long transfer or the flight is delayed.
If your bottle feeding a baby then they will have more milk than you expect them to have too. This is mainly as they feed for comfort too.
You will find with a toddler in particular that they will love watching everyone on the plane and this in itself is exciting for them. Be there for them and talk about what they can see and what they're experiencing. Help to prepare them for what will happen next "Next the plane is going to go really fast as it sets off down the runway."
Don't forget to bring something for yourself too. If your lucky enough for your baby and toddler to fall asleep (most likely on you!) you'll need something to read or do. I like to take my kindle as it makes reading easy with only one hand. We also take a pack of playing cards, the Hygge Games and a treat that can be eaten one handed for once their asleep!
Wear layers yourself when travelling as you soon get hot with a little one on you.