If there is a feat more daunting than taking a toddler or two on a plane ride, I don’t wish to attempt it. However, there is hope if you are about attempt plane travel with toddlers. After making several trips via air travel with my little ones, one of whom is autistic, I have developed a fool proof (notice I didn’t say ‘toddler proof’) list of rules for families traveling with their tiny tornadoes:
Never Surprise Them With a Vacation: We’ve all seen the adorable videos of children waking up on Christmas morning only to find they are flying out to Disney by mid afternoon. As sweet as their shocked little faces are we must always prepare our children for travel. Anxiety and excitement in a toddler can be magnified once on the plane. It is even a good idea to practice and watch videos about plane travel before you go. Children are best behaved when they can predict their day.
Always Have a Bag of Goodies Ready: Hit your local dollar store and stock up and small but entertaining items for your little ones. My rule of thumb is to have one item for every thirty minutes of travel time, including the long waits in the airport. Yes, you are bribing them to be good but at twenty-six thousand feet and no escape you can do this without judgment.
Embrace Technology: Download a new movie or a new game on the family tablet. Put your reservations about ‘screen time’ to bed and let your children indulge. Don’t forget the headphones.
Make Friends With Your Seatmates: A sheepish grin. A quick hello. A little joke about the party that may erupt in your row, and your travel friends will soften a little. They may even reach out to help if things get a little out of hand between bathroom visits and spilled sippy cups.
Relax and Enjoy: This might be the hardest bit of advice to take but our children do feed off of our emotions. If we can remain calm they will have a better chance at a successful flight. You are making memories each time you travel and it is important to start off on the right foot.
So, good luck if you are about to embark on plane travel with toddlers and remember they won’t always be small. Pat yourself on the back for introducing your children to travel early and hopefully instilling, in them, a life long love of exploring.