During this last journey to Orlando, I discovered that my flight was filled with many young families traveling to Walt Disney World for the first time. There were about seven strollers parked on the jetway, and I overheard many conversations of parents attempting to reason with their young children about why they had to be patient.
So, how do you best travel on a plane with a child under 5?
When my children were under 5-years-old, I had the challenge of living in the UK and having to make the 8-hour plane journey back to the United States to visit family several times. It was not for the faint of heart, and I picked up a few (survival) tricks along the way. While a Disney trip may only have you flying for 2 or 3 hours, these tips are helpful no matter how far the distance.
These are essential! Bring treats that they don’t normally get to eat, but also bring some healthy items they will need along the journey. Don’t forget an empty water bottle to fill once you are past security as well. (Don’t forget a little snack for yourself as well!)
#2 Set Expectations With Kiddos
“In 30 minutes we will stand in a patient line to wait for our turn to sit in our seat.”
“When we get there, you can sit right in your seat and read a book/watch your iPad/color until it is time to take off.”
“The pilot needs time to get everyone on safely.”
Etc. etc. etc. Have these one-liners ready. They might only understand a little of what you’re saying, but they love the engagement with you.
#3 An Umbrella Stroller
Bring a sturdy umbrella stroller with you to the gate. This keeps your child corralled and might come in handy if you have a short connection. I kept my little ones safely strapped in and then give them a snack or activity while I navigated check-in, gate issues, etc. You can gate check your stroller as you enter the plane.
#4 Bribe Your Neighbors
Bring a stash of small packaged chocolates for those sitting around you. I used this trick when we had an 8-hour flight with a 1-year-old. I also apologized ahead of time. Luckily, she was pretty good, but I feel like my bribe made the passengers around me a little more patient and it let them know that I was going to do my best to make the trip enjoyable for my child and pleasant for them.
#5 Dollar Store Goodies
There are so many great toys at the dollar store or the dollar section of target that are small and can grab a little one’s attention for a moment or two. I used to buy eight gifts, wrap them in one piece of tissue, and give them to my child each hour of flight. He would look forward to the little gift and loved the surprise element. I had them packed in a backpack, ready to go for the trip. Once the toys are opened, a great way to store them is to use sturdy zippered pencil cases or toiletry/makeup bags.
Below is a sampling of toddler toys that worked well on the plane.
Gel clings (for a window seat)
Small Containers of Play-Doh
Whiteboard Mazes or Activity Card
A bag with different colored piper cleaners to create things (like Forky!)
Crayons and a Small Coloring Book
Water Wow books
Crayola Wonder Books
Melissa and Doug sticker books
Stickers and small notebook
Small Characters (bring a Ziplock bag for storage)
Small Magnet Kits
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