Flying with a toddler

So last week I headed up north for a week at Bamburgh seeing friends and family. By myself. With a toddler. On a plane. Now last time I went on a plane with C she was about 10 months old, in nappies, and I could breastfeed her to sleep. Now she is two and a half, in pants and long past breastfeeding. The plus side is that she gets her own seat this time and her own handbaggage. The flight from Bristol to Newcastle takes just less than an hour, providing everything goes fine. Now I had tried to plan the day well; our flight was just after 1pm so time to have lunch at the airport and no major disruption to day to day routine. We had a bag in the hold and a cabin bag each so with that and a toddler to keep track of I was always going to have my hands full. J’s dad was supposed to come over at 10am with an aim to have a cup of tea and leave by 10:30. I’d had a busy week but had C’s trunki already packed and all the washing was done and ready to put in my case. But still it was going to be a fair rush in the morning to finish packing and get C ready, breakfasted and all tidied up ready to leave by then. 

Of course you can guess what happened, J’s dad showed up at 9:15. Not only that but he was quite keen to rush us out early as he was heading off to holiday after he dropped us off and so C and I ended up rather more stressed than I’d hoped. However, we got to the airport and I loaded myself up to go and drop the bag off; wheeling our case behind us, my backpack on my back, C’s trunki slung over my shoulder with C holding onto my other hand. C of course was holding her Cath Kidston handbag and her naked Cinderella doll. First stop was the bag drop which went well, we had checked in online and although the airport was quite busy being the first day of the holidays it went remarkably quickly. After that we had to make our way through security. Again I was impressed by how quickly the line moved. Typically I was randomly selected for a whole body scan. Not something I’ve experienced before but the staff were amazing given I had a clingy toddler. The security lady was wonderful – she got C to walk through the scanner first and then picked her and held her whilst I was standing having my scan (which took less than 10 seconds) and then gave her a sticker. Such a small thing but it really helped to prevent a toddler meltdown and the sticker was a point of great pride for C. 

We then headed to WHSmith to buy a new book. I had already packed a couple of books for our holiday but wanted C to have the excitement of picking a new book out as it gave us something to occupy our time and a new book would occupy her on the flight. In the end they had books on 3 for 2 so I ended up getting three; Sharing a Shell by Julia Donaldson, The Slightly Annoying Elephant by David Walliams and Jack and the Flumflum Tree also by Julia Donaldson. We then went for lunch which ended up being a bit more rushed at the end than I would have liked as we had to get to our gate. We did manage to fit in a quick toilet stop before going to the gate though (I had visions of C wanting to go when the seat belt sign was on and having a disaster). Typical of Bristol airport we had to get a bus from our gate to the plane, just another obstacle to overcome but C again behaved impeccably. There was another mum there flying solo but she had a toddler and a baby and seemed quite stressed, so I felt for her a bit. 

As soon as we started climbing up the stairs to board C started to get very excited. We got to our seats easily enough and as soon as we got sat down (thankfully there was plenty of space for our handbaggage above and below the seats) C started to say blast off. We had great fun reading the safety card and practiced the brace position and talked about the plane landing on water and going down the slide (I don’t think a safety card is ever normally so well digested by passengers). We finally set off slightly late (there were a couple of large stag parties on board and they had taken a while to get settled into their seats) and C did her count down from ten and a blast off. I had a snack to hand in case she had a problem with her ears but she didn’t seem bothered at all. As it is such a short flight, we just about had time to read one of her new books (twice through back to back) and do some colouring (Crayola colour wonder for mess free colouring) before it was time to descend. After having read the safety leaflet extensively it took a while to convince C that we were going to landing on land and not on the sea, I think she was quite disappointed not to get a chance to go down the inflatable slide. 

After landing, disembarking was relatively easy and although the bag took a while to come out the whole process was relatively stress-free. So my top tips for successful travelling with a toddler are:

  • Get to the airport early, very early. This gives you plenty of time so that if there is a delay you still have plenty of time and don’t need to get stressed. You can also take things slow as you go through the processes leading up to departure so your little one can take everything in.
  • Give your little one a chance to pick out a treat at the airport shop. Most airports have a bookshop so a new book or colouring book to occupy you on the flight will be a great treat. It makes the trip extra special and you can also use it as a reward for good behaviour up until that point. 
  • Where possible choose a flight which will enable your little one to stick their routine as much as possible, be it nap time, wake up time or bedtime children love routine and a disruption to this in addition to the disruption of a flight is likely to equal a meltdown.
  • Factor in times for food and toilet in your timings and bring snacks with you for distractions when needed. Remember you can’t bring water through security so you may have to buy water when you get through this.
  • Don’t stress out. As hard as it may sound, especially if things go wrong, if you stress out then your toddler will pick up on this and is more likely to stress out and act out as a result. A calm mummy equals a calm toddler. 

Above all remember that even if your toddler is acting like a terror, most people will know what you’re going through so don’t worry what others think, just focus on you and your family. And before you ask, yes the stag parties were greatly amused by Cinderella riding bareback on C’s trunki! 


4 thoughts on “Flying with a toddler

  1. I’ve always wondered how people with young children manage to handle everything so calm and efficient. Great tips! I have two young nephews that have never flown so I’ll be passing this information on to their mom.


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