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Flying with a toddler

hacks, games and your survival kit

Taking your first flight with a toddler? With a few tricks up your sleeve, you can make it a great start to the holiday

You might be taking a short trip from Bangkok to a dreamy Phuket island, or heading further afield for a family holiday. No doubt you’re wondering how your little bundle of energy is going to handle the flight — or, more importantly, how you’ll handle it. Whether it’s a quick escape or you’re bracing yourself for your first long flight with a toddler, there are plenty of ways to make that plane journey a little easier. And dare we say, fun. 

3 things to know before you fly

Once you’ve done this a few times you’ll know that helping your little one burn off energy before the flight can work wonders. Find the airport playground where they can let off steam and you may be rewarded with a priceless nap during the flight. 
Can you book a night flight, so your little one sleeps through the flight, or most of it? This is perhaps the best toddler travel hack of all time. 
Window seat vs aisle? Toddlers generally love the window seat — don’t we all? But toddlers also love opening and closing those window shades on repeat. And if there’s a possibility of having to climb over someone you don’t know every time your little one needs the restroom, you’ll need to assess your priorities.

Your bag of tricks

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Every parent travelling with a toddler is terrified of a mid-flight tantrum. Have a range of books, activities you can switch up and, yes, bribes, to keep them occupied. It’s okay to let rules go out the window on a flight.
A little variety is good, but don’t weigh yourself down. Bring their favourites for guaranteed repeat reads; lift-the-flap books are a good way to keep little ones engaged; and a good ‘busy book’ or ‘quiet book’ that helps them practise new skills will have them mesmerised.
Toddler plane activities and airplane games for kids:
Lacing cards and colourful pipe cleaners they can twist into shapes are great for keeping them busy, while developing their fine motor skills. Finger puppets for wild storytelling are a fun and lightweight addition to your kit. But don’t forget classic games that don’t require anything but your imagination, such as Simon Says and I Eye Spy. 
If your little one likes drawing, a small whiteboard and markers will allow for endless scribbling. Don’t forget a packet of wipes to clean it between artworks on the flight! 
Entertainment and apps:
If you use a tablet, load it with favourite shows or movies to buy yourself some time to have a meal, or to watch a movie yourself. Don’t bring this out first thing though — this is your silver bullet!
Likewise, if you let your toddler use apps, add a new one for this trip. The Sago Mini Road Trip, which features a cat that goes on adventures in fun cars, is a winner. Parents like it too as it’s safe for young kids thanks to no third-party ads or purchases. Bloom, which wasn’t designed for kids but is surprisingly perfect for toddlers, is a music composition app created by Brian Eno, which generates soft tones and beautiful colours that appear as your child touches the screen.   
Treat your kid to their first pair of fun headphones for the flight. They can enjoy the soundtrack of their favourite movie on permanent loop; and your fellow passengers don’t have to. Here’s our favourite toddler hack: if you use an iPad and want to keep the volume low, or even mute for the flight, but your kid knows how to change the volume, set it to the level you want and change the orientation of your protective case so the volume buttons are hidden.  

What to pack: the plane survival kit

A spare set of clothes: not just for your little one, but for you too.  
Remember their favourite snacks. Kids’ meals offered by airlines are quite generous, but they might not hit the spot with your child and sometimes come with sugary juices and treats you may not find suitable. So pack alternatives. If you use food pouches, be prepared to open and even taste them at airport security. 
If you’re thinking of using a product such as the Plane Pal, or the Jet Kids Bed Box, to fill the space between their seat and the one in front to create a ‘bed’ for a long-haul flight, remember to check with your airline first if it’s accepted.  

Novotel Phu Quoc
So Sofitel Hua Hin

Do you really need that?

When you’re putting together your toddler holiday checklist, keep in mind what your resort will provide, and think hard about what you can live without for the time you’ll spend at the airport and during the hotel transfer. If you’re staying at an amazingly family friendly resort such as Novotel Phu Quoc or So Sofitel Hua Hin, everything from the cot to kid activities may be provided. 
That stroller is often the main consideration. It can be a lifesaver at the airport, especially if you find yourself with a sleeping toddler when you land — it could be a long, heavy walk until you find one you can borrow. For toddlers, a basic foldup stroller that weighs little more than an umbrella is an ideal re-holiday purchase. Check it in as you board and it will be waiting for you as you get ff the plane. If your little one still happily naps in their stroller then it’s ideal to bring your own.  
A car safety seat is another major consideration. Check with your hotel or resort if one will be provided for the transfer. If you choose to travel with yours, check it in. Or, if it’s approved for aircraft use and you want to use it in the cabin, confirm with your airline first.
One more thing: if you love the idea of your little one having a ride-on suitcase like a Trunki, or their own mini cabin luggage, remember that the person carrying it 99 per cent of the time will probably be you. 
But above all, no matter what you’ve packed or planned for the flight, you have it in you to stay positive and calm to set the tone for your little one — and for a great family holiday. And remember, there’s always that poolside cocktail waiting for you on the other side!

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