Holidays with our families should be joyous occasions. But nothing is worse than the trepidation of a long-haul flight with toddlers. You just know at some point in the journey they will take advantage of the captive audience and showcase their well-perfected tantrum skills.
What’s worse is, when the time comes and you board the plane, there are other toddlers; an army of mini Machiavellians, all in on it together. Half an hour after take-off, when the novelty of the window blind has worn off, Billy on the back row kick-starts the kick-offs.
By the time it’s your child’s turn, Doris and Ethel in the row next to you have well and truly had it up to their bouffant buns. Ethel slams her Mills & Boon shut and whispers something to Doris with a sideways glance at your little one, who you now feel an overwhelming desire to protect. The others started it. I’ve been there, unprepared, stressed to the hilt, frantically waving inanimate objects in front of Darcy’s face to distract her.
Here are some nifty travel hacks I’ve picked up along the way:
1. Pre-book seats on the flight
I was shocked to hear that airlines do not have to allocate young children and infants a seat next to an accompanying adult. The airline will endeavour to seat you together as a priority, but if not possible, your toddler could end up one row away from you sitting with strangers.
2. Optimise space on the plane when pre-booking your seats
If travelling as a family of four and the plane seating plan is 3 / 3, book two seats each on each side of the aisle. This way you have more chance of having the entire six seats to yourself – a bonus when the little ones get tired as you can lift a seat arm and cobble a makeshift bed.
3. Check your suitcases in later
Waiting around a dilapidated carousel for your suitcases with ratty toddlers is no fun. Checking in later for your flight, means your suitcases will be more likely taken off the plane earlier at the other end. This seems to work most of the time for us, but it depends on the airline.
4. Arm yourself with activities to keep your little one busy
Before the flight, have a mental itinerary ready to keep your little one occupied. Colouring, travel puzzles, non-messy craft, reading a story book are all good ways to keep them entertained.
5. Don’t peak too soon. Keep an activity back for the last hour of the journey
Save their favourite activity till last. That way, when they’ve really had enough, it’s got the added umph to hold their interest.
6. Load the iPad up with their favourite films, games and TV programmes before you go
There are plenty of really fun activities for toddlers on the iPad. Our girls love CBeebies and Puzzingo.
7. Take a lightweight blanket and a travel pillow just in case they do fall asleep
This is where the extra seat comes in handy.
8. Make sure you have a euro handy (or equivalent) on your outbound flight
The last thing you want to be doing when you reach your destination is scrabbling around for a coin for a luggage trolley. Or, worse still, not getting one and trying to juggle toddlers, hand-luggage and suitcases through arrivals and into your coach or taxi.
9. Pack a travel fan in your hand luggage
Bus and taxi journeys with no air conditioning are no fun with tired toddlers.
10. Most importantly – don’t stress about Doris and Ethel
Make sure you stock up on things that you enjoy for the quiet moments, whether that be items from the mini bar or a good book.