How to Survive a Flight with a Toddler

I’ve flown more with my child in the first two years of her life than most people do in the entire time their kids live under their roof. I know this sounds like bragging, and, well, it kind of is. In my own way, I feel like a champion. A victorious gladiator. I’ve survived the savagery that is the mid-flight scream-fest. I’ve stared down the old man two seats away who wants to throw his decaf in my child’s face during said scream-fest. I’ve fought the urge to ask him to please throw his decaf in my child’s face. I’ve endured the triathlon of diaper change, feeding, run up one aisle and down the other only to do it all over again after a 2-minute breather.

I am the Spartacus of the friendly skies.

But still I worry about managing my toddler on flights – particularly the long international flights, which is mostly how we travel – and have discovered a few things that I will happily share with you.

1 – Pack light.

I lay everything out on my bed prior to packing – and I mean everything – clothes, medicine, toiletries, shoes, books, iPhones. Everything. You have to survey the full scale of everything you’re taking with you in order to make decisions about what you do and don’t need. It’s so easy to keep adding things if you’re not aware of the bulk you’ve already got. Be realistic about that lime green jump suit – are you really going to wear it? In the end, the less you have, the saner you’ll feel as you’re dragging your children and luggage through airports and hotels and rearranging them in the backs of taxis and rental cars. You will not miss the jumpsuit. Trust me.

2 – Forget the toys.

I still struggle with this one, but minimize the toys (including electronics) that you bring for your child. This post is specific to toddlers and, ladies and gentlemen, the sad truth is that nothing will sustain a toddler’s attention for very long and sitting still on a plane just isn’t going to happen. I’ve brought bags of animals and books and things that buzz and light up and vibrate. All of it was dead weight.  Most airlines have toys to entertain children – make sure you ask as soon as you board for whatever goodies they have – and you can leave them behind after the flight.

3 – Bring a sense of humor.

Sounds trite, I know. But it is the most important thing I’ve learned on these long flights and it serves as a template for the overall marathon of parenthood.  There is no amount of embarrassment or hassle your child will provide that you won’t survive.  Most people who you share the sardine can space with on the airplane are actually really nice and sympathetic.  The benefits of sharing the world with your child far outweigh the moments of frustration in getting from Point A to Point B. (Even if there are 14,000 miles between these two points.)

Don't be afraid of flying with little people.  You are a warrior.  You will survive.  And you just might have some fun.



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