It’s pretty much everyone’s nightmare. You are on a plane with your baby or child that is screaming and kicking and simply won’t stop, no matter what you do. You and your little one are simply miserable. You keep thinking you have that one child that everyone wishes wasn’t sitting next to them, let alone on the airplane at all. What can you do?!
Let’s make some plans before you take off on the fun trip. These tips for traveling can help you enjoy the journey to the destination. There is no guarantee your little one won’t be that little one, even with some planning, but by using a few of my travel tips, you very well might be able to avoid the dreaded nightmare described above. To borrow an Ina Garten catchphrase, “what’s not to like about that?”
The Ideal: Sleeping Through the Flight
It can seem like a good idea to keep your little one up before a flight and then hope that they sleep while on the plane, but that isn’t always what happens. Overstimulation may lead to an overly tired baby or child. And an overly tired baby is harder to put down. Think about your little one. Can they sleep on your lap? Can they sleep in their car seat, if you buy an extra seat for them? If the answer is no, and if the flight is only a few hours, it is better if your little one is fresh and ready for some fun when you get on the plane. Plus, you never know, but once the novelty of the plan wears off, your little one still might gift you by sleeping on the plane. Plan your travel time according to your child’s temperament and habits.
If you are fortunate enough to have a little one that falls asleep easily in different places, then by all means aim for a nap on the plane. The airplane can act as a big white noise source but taking one (an app is fine as well) is also a good idea.
Make sure you go through a mini nap routine before the nap period. If it involves a snack, nursing or bottle, have one ready. If it involves a book, by all means, read a book. Essentially, recreate the best sleep routine possible while sitting in a seat on an airplane.
I always recommend taking hand wipes to wipe down the area you are sitting and playing in. Even if you have already wiped the space down when first getting settled, doing so pre-nap is a good time to re-wipe. Lavender-scented wipes by EO are nice to use right before a nap and they come in small packs so you can keep them fresh longer.
The Best Seats for Traveling
If you do have a little one that sleeps easily wherever you are (this is where some would say “lucky you!”), a seat away from the toilet area is best to limit distraction and noise. A window seat is an even better location.
If you have a little one that must walk and talk, an aisle seat near the bathroom might be a terrific spot. Plenty of people to watch and chat with and most people expect activity when they are located in that area of the airplane.
Bulkhead is another great spot to be seated with a little one. Most airlines will accommodate the request for bulkhead upon arrival at the airport, so get there early! A window seat in the bulkhead is even better. If traveling with another adult, you can and should plan to have a seat where the armrest goes up; that way you can lay baby across your lap to sleep.
How to Provide Distractions for Your Child While Flying
Take new toys or objects on the airplane to keep your little one entertained. Bring something they have never played with or seen before. Items that are quiet and that have some moveable parts, but that stay attached to the toy are great. To keep waste to a minimum (for the planet’s sake) and costs down, I am making suggestions that include ideas you can do without buying all new toys.
Depending on your little one’s age, you might consider the following ideas for tips for traveling.
Babies enjoy play that involves a cloth that can be swept across their face or cheek. Blankets or washcloths can fit the bill. They are also a big hit as a peek-a-boo prop. Cloth books that include activities such as zipping, buttoning, and tying can be great fun. Check out the offerings on Lakeshore Learning’s website.
At the time of this writing, their Count and Playbook was a terrific option. Even if your baby or older child can’t do all of the things in the book, you can engage your little one by making noise while showing each page of the book’s activities. If you are crafty, you can always make your fabric activity book or pages.
Other good options are plastic measuring spoons (not noisy metal ones) and stacking cups. Stacking cups are not just for stacking. For example, they make terrific hats that keep falling off of your head, or baby’s head. They can also hide items on the tray. They make great tea cups for pretend tea time.
For all travel time with a little one, the key is to be creative and think beyond what the toy you brought is intended to be used for.
Older little ones enjoy felt boards (see Lakeshore Learning for these as well), travel Etch A Sketch, triangle-shaped pencils and crayons, notepads, Wiki Stix (wax), Silly Putty, and music and stories on a device (bring good child-sized headphones). Cling on stickers are fun for the window as well. As for the younger baby, mystery boxes and books that have objects hidden in them, or activities attached to them are a great time as well. Just remember to aim for things they have never seen before.
You may find it useful to travel with a small metal cookie tray with a raised edge to use with magnetic letters and numbers. The tray can sit across your little one’s booster seat, or the airplane seat handles. It also keeps little items in place. Magnetic letters, magnetic toys, crayons, and other toy options work great on the tray.
By using these airplane tips, I hope you will exit the plane with not just a sense of relief that you made it, but with a sense of calm and gratitude that you and your little one had a fun flight together. Now, either put the airplane toys away to save them for the return trip or plan to reveal an all-new lineup for the return flight.
Tips for Sleeping While at Your Destination
A good sleeper will be a good sleeper when you travel — the sleep schedule just may be altered if there is a big time change.
Be realistic. If you have jet lag, it is likely your baby or child does as well. If it takes you 3 – 5 days to adjust to the new timezones, then it is fair to think the baby might need that amount of time as well.
If everything gets messy and you find you have to drop pretty much all of the sleep rules you follow at home, do not worry. You’ll get back on track by following the plan you followed initially. The good news is that getting back on track goes much faster each time you do it.
Dealing With Separation Anxiety While Traveling
This tip is a tip worth its weight in gold. Separation anxiety is a very real experience for many little ones. If your little one has a history of experiencing separation anxiety, it is best to avoid intense travel during the times when development is at its strongest.
Separation anxiety can start around 6 – 8 months and can show up again during the first couple of years. It usually will reoccur around 18 months to about 2 years of age. That is the time it typically peaks. Please note: Separation anxiety can happen at all different ages, and all children reach the peak at different times.
If you struggling with the little one’s experiences and the bumps along the way, I can help. I can also help if you already took a trip and find the return a struggle. The good news is that all sleep and behavior can be changed.
With that, I will end this post by saying happy traveling and have fun with your little one! Oh, and by all means, happy sleeping!