toddler on a plane

Our toddler on one of the internal flights in Europe

We did it! We survived an epic 5 week trip to Europe with our toddler. It wasn’t as carefree as travelling as a couple (well duh) but it helped us see the world from a completely different, childish perspective.

Easily, the thing I was most scared about was flying with a toddler. Our daughter is very active, strong willed and before we left she didn’t sleep anywhere but her cot. 24 hours in a small, metal box with her on our lap and limited toys and distractions? How would we do it?

Well we survived it. Twice (we had to get back, didn’t we?). It wasn’t actually as bad as I imagined it to be. This is what helped:

Books

This was our saviour. Every time we were taxiing for what seemed hours on the runway (I swear, the runway at Abu Dhabi airport must in Dubai….), every time the seatbelt sign went on for no discernible reason and every time we just didn’t know what to do next, we took out a book. It immediately distracted her from wanting to run around, throw a tantrum or whatever it was that was annoying us at the time.

Screentime

You’ve just got to break the screentime rules on a flight. The Wiggles, I love you. Our toddler was mesmerised by Emma, Lachy, Simon and Anthony dancing around on the iPad for what seemed like hours (in reality it was probably 45 minutes). We didn’t even have to put the sound on. I know, they’re that good.

Food

We were lucky that even though our daughter was under 2, we were still able to order the kids meal for her. However I’ve heard on some flights, if you don’t pay for the seat, you can’t get a meal so make sure you bring enough food to last the journey. Regardless, you can take as much food as you think you’ll need so load up a freezer bag with sandwiches, fruit, veggies, biscuits, cheese, yoghurt, anything you think your child might eat.

Clothes

Take many spare changes of clothes for all of you. Eating on a plane with a toddler can be messy…

Seating

If you’re travelling with a toddler under 2, try to get the bulkhead. Even if your child doesn’t fit in the bassinet (which ours didn’t), it’s so much easier to organise the mountains of toys, books, snacks, 3 food trays and a toddler with that tiny piece of extra real estate at your feet.

Toys

On the flight over, I had this great idea that I’d buy all these new, small toys and wrap them up individually so the toddler could unwrap one every hour or so. The toy idea was great. The wrapping paper not so much. She had very little interest in paper and I ended up with mountains of the stuff after I unwrapped it all. It was worse than Christmas morning. But the new toys and crayons were great and occupied her for hours.

Their ears

As adults, we’re all used to popping our ears when the plane takes off to reduce the pressure on our ear drums. It’s pretty hard to explain this concept to a baby or toddler so it’s a good idea to have something for them to suck on or chew during take off and landing. For small babies, a dummy, breast or bottle works but for a toddler, it’s not that simple. We found corn puffs worked, but the easiest solution was sultanas. Nice and chewy, you can buy them everywhere and they last for ages.

Take advantage of other passengers

Our little one is very curious so loved walking up and down the aisles meeting new people. Fortunately, many of the passengers were happy to engage her with smiles, high fives and even play some hide and seek games. We totally took advantage of this, anything to distract her from the monotony of the flight was welcomed!

Presume the worst

We went on board thinking it was going to be the worst 24 hours of our lives and although none of us slept very well and we barely got to watch any of the inflight entertainment, it wasn’t as bad as we expected. If you presume the worst, it can only be as bad or better than you expected!

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