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How to survive flying with a toddler

Toddler aeroplane

Flying with a toddler this summer? Mumsnetters have clocked up plenty of air miles with toddlers in tow. Here's what they've learned.

1. It all begins with the bag of surprises

Baby bag

“Buy several small items, wrap them individually and produce one when you need a new distraction. Bear in mind that security can be strict about stuff that's wrapped, so play it safe and 'wrap' them in party bags – you don't want to be that person unwrapping 25 pound-shop items at security.”

2. To Trunki or not to Trunki? That is the question. Choose wisely


Mumsnetters are divided on whether or not taking a Trunki is the way forward. If all goes to plan, your child will happily pull their own hand luggage along. If it doesn't, you'll be carrying them, a Trunki and your own hand luggage. A backpack for your child is an alternative option.

“We had one and it was a pain. It was heavy to pull with him sitting on it, it kept banging into people when he pulled it, and you can't open it easily in a confined space (ie a plane). I'd leave it at home.”

“Absolutely love my son's Trunki – he rode on it the whole way, in the airport, shops, the walkway to the plane and down the aisle as well.”

3. Bring a buggy

Pushchair airport

Even the most confident walker can get irritable traipsing around airports, and walking at toddler pace can be somewhat taxing after a while, especially if you need to run to the gate. Consider taking a collapsible buggy, which you should be able to bring right up to the aeroplane door with you.

4. Preparation, preparation, preparation

Child toy aeroplane

Talk to your toddler about the trip in advance; you can even play 'aeroplane'. Encourage them to line up all their soft toys as if they are sitting on the plane – this is a prime opportunity to 'teach' them that you sit and stay in one place for a very long time on a plane, that they should not kick the seat in front (although they're probably too little to reach) and that people around you might enjoy some quiet. (Good luck with that.)

“We used to practise doing our 'aeroplane voices' and everything.”

5. Be ready for take-off

Child sippy cup

“Remember to take a sippy cup so they can drink water or juice on take-off and landing. The sucking will stop their ears hurting.”

6. Once on board, try to wring maximum mileage out of EVERYTHING

Woman baby plane

“We spend a long time looking at the plane safety card and talking about every bit of it. Also the in-flight magazine – look at ALL the pictures.”

“Make a big deal out of the take-off, drinks service, food service, going to the bathroom. It's all so exciting for children that this can easily amuse them for a while.”

7. Know that a DVD player/tablet is a great idea

Toddler tablet aeroplane

“We found a personal DVD player to be worth its weight in gold. They could watch all their favourite cartoons.”

“My husband and I have no qualms about using TV, iPads, phones etc to entertain for the whole flight if necessary. If it keeps them quiet and happy, it is absolutely fine.”

Top tip: Take your child's own headphones – more often than not, those provided by the airline will be too big/uncomfortable. And you'll need to invest in one of these too.

8. …as are any of these flight-friendly toys

Doodle board
  • “Favourite books or comics that can be read and then left behind to lighten the load.”
  • Mini Aquadraw – you can fill up the pen a hundred times in the bathroom.”
  • “Little cars, a few bits of Duplo and some mini dinosaurs or animals.”
  • “A notebook and pen. My son loves 'writing' at the moment.”
  • Horrid Henry joke book – read loudly to terrified four-year-old as a distraction during take-off and landing.”
  • “A favourite teddy or blanket.”

9. Fill 'em up

Toddler plane food

“It's fine thanks, I don't want a snack” – said no toddler ever. Frequent snacks during a flight are a good distraction and time-killer. Fiddly ones (eg raisins in little boxes) will take longer to consume. Remember that chocolate, while welcome, will be messy.

10. Bring spare clothes – think of it as an insurance policy

Toddler clothes packing

“Carry spare clothes for yourself as well as for them in case they vomit all over you on the flight. Ziplock bags will be useful for any dirty items.”

11. Ditto spare nappies

Baby bag nappies

“Two or three more nappies than you think you will go through. I swear the pressure changes made both of mine poo more than normal!”

12. Do all you can to guarantee sleep

Sleeping baby plane

“Bring their pyjamas, toothbrush and usual bedtime story/blanket/cuddly toy so you can do as much of the usual bedtime routine as possible to signal it's time to sleep.”