How to Survive Air Travel with a Lap Toddler

Before your child turns 2 most airlines will allow them to travel in your lap which can mean big savings, particularly when flying long haul. This is fine when travelling with infants and babies who are not yet walking but once your child becomes a toddler, extra preparation is needed to keep them happy (and quiet) while flying.

Toddlers tend to want space to run around and play and being cooped up in a small airplane seat is not much fun for them. Toddlers are much larger than babies, particularly when they are close to the age of 2 and so they can become uncomfortable when stuck in one position on your lap. They can throw tantrums, kick seats and throw things when things don’t go their way.  Here are our top tips for surviving a flight with a lap toddler.

  1. Pick the Right Flight at the Right Time – If you can fly during nap time or by night and your toddler will actually sleep on the plane then that is the ideal time to fly. Each child is different however and if you have a toddler who becomes very cranky before their nap then this may not be the right time to fly for you. If your child is used to falling asleep in a baby carrier, you might consider bringing one of these also to help your little one take a nap. You are the best judge of this so make your decision regarding the time of the flight based on your own child’s personality.
  2. Ask to be Seated by an Empty Seat – If there are empty seats on the flight the airline may accommodate you and seat you alongside it. Make sure you arrive early for check in if you think this might be an option for you.
  3. Bring loads of Distractions – It is essential if your toddler will be awake to bring loads of distractions to keep them entertained. A tablet is ideal for this and there are now a lot of apps which can be used offline on flights to keep toddlers entertained. Disney’s Brave E-Book is especially good and has a feature for colouring, stories and interactive pictures. If you don’t have a tablet or if you don’t want your child looking at a screen try a mini etch a sketch and some books. A new toy can also be a great distraction.  Other great distractions include stickers and colouring books with crayons (See ‘Air Travel with Babies and Toddlers’ for more suggestions).
  4. Snacks – Snacking can be a great way to pass the time and can keep toddlers from flying into tantrums at inappropriate times. You will be able to buy snacks on the plane however, it is better to have some in your bag in case they are not available.
  5. Walk up and Down the Aisle – On smaller planes this is more difficult as you may be confronted by trollies, newspapers and the feet of other passengers. If possible try to let your toddler stretch their legs a few times during the flight. On larger planes you should have no problem walking around and there will be more space near the toilets to stand around.
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