Hey Mommies! We just took our first plane ride with our 2 year old. I was very worried about how he was going to do because he doesn’t do well for long car rides, and he isn’t the type of kid to fall asleep in random places.
Knowing these things about my son and using my knowledge as an OT on how to prep toddlers for changes, I prepared for flying with a toddler using the strategies listed below. He ended up doing great so I wanted to share them with you!
1. My husband and I talked to our son about our trip and flying on the plane for weeks before the trip– Talking to your child about what’s coming in advance really helps them prepare for the change. It keeps them from being overwhelmed when it actually happens.
2. We showed him pictures and videos of airplanes and people flying on planes– This helps create a picture in your child’s mind of what’s coming. They can know what it will look like and was to expect. So again, it’s not overwhelming.
3. We talked about things he can and cannot do on the airplane– We told him that he will be able to play with some toys and watch some videos. We told him that he can sleep if he gets tired, that he can use the potty if he needs to, and that he can move around some in his seat if he needs to. We also told him that there will be other people on the plane so he has to use a nice inside voice and be calm so he doesn’t bother other people on the plane.
All of these set guidelines and boundaries for appropriate and inappropriate behavior on the plane. He even repeated some of these back to us when he was on the plane. Setting rules and discussing them before can help your toddler know what’s expected before getting on the plane.
4. We reassured him about the process and made it sound fun and exciting- We told him that mommy and daddy will be with him the whole time and that it will be really cool and fun to fly on and plane way up in the air!
Doing something new can be scary but also exciting. Reassuring your child that you will be there for them will help them relax. Making it sound fun and exciting will get them excited about the new experience.
5. We put some of his favorite movies and TV shows on a tablet- We don’t let our son spend a ton of time in front of the TV or computer but we do allow some time. For traveling, we just wanted a variety of options to keep him quiet and entertained.
If you’re against tablet use, check out #6.
6. I prepared a special box of activities for him- I bought a few new small toys and packed some of his favorite toys. I also included some stickers, a notebook, and crayons. I put all this in a new box that he hasn’t seen.
Putting together a special box of toys and activities that your child hasn’t seen before, can create a sense of novelty. Novelty is a great way to entertain toddlers. Also having a variety of toys and activities will give you and your toddler options for play.
I want to give you one last tip and warn you about flying Frontier airlines. It was our first time flying them, and although our son did great, our flying experience was terrible. We ended up having to pay an additional $240 in fees to sit together and to be able to carry on our luggage. They also charged for drinks or snacks on the flight. They did provide water for free, but that was all. They got us sucked in with a really low fare but after it was all said and done, we would have been better off flying a different airline.
If you will be flying with a toddler, I hope these tips help, and you have a great flying experience! If you have already flown with a toddler, let me know if you have any other tips!
By: Emily Bettis, MOT/L
Emily Bettis, MOT/L is a pediatric occupational therapist and mother. She has been working with children birth-5 since 2008 and has been a mother since 2013. Emily is the founder and author HeyMommies.com