We made it to Spain and back with our 15 month old and a 7 month baby bump in tow! Not quite the same as the relaxing babymoon in the first pregnancy but a holiday is a holiday and so important. I’ll go into the actual holiday in another post; this one will look at the part that I feared the most – getting there and back on a plane with a toddler! A lot of sleep was lost over the fear of him going absolutely crazy in the metal tube full of people we call a plane… but it wasn’t half as bad as we thought – really!
The flights we booked as part of a Falcon Holidays package were 2.5 hours each way – about the max I would fly with a toddler! Our flight out was the dreaded 6am flight from Dublin (we live 1.5 hours away) so it meant a 2am start. The flight back was at a much more agreeable time of 5pm (Spanish time) so we landed at 6.30pm (Irish time). Thanks to the generous check-in luggage allowance with Falcon of 20kg per person and 10kg for the baby plus 5kg hand luggage each, there were a lot of bags as well as the buggy. We took the financial hit of parking in the short term carpark at the airport which I was so glad of and in hindsight would have payed double for the privilege. Check in was very slow, we queued for over an hour and a half which meant zero time to get breakfast before flying. Everyone seemed a little disgruntled with how slow things moved and there were a lot of tired heads and young families. The flight itself was half an hour late leaving unsurprisingly.
We found Dublin Airport impressively family friendly. They were very helpful going through security and friendly towards the toddler. There was no problem with the mountain of snacks we had for him or my supplies for the gestational diabetes (I had a letter but it was never looked at). The Boots store just past security is where we quickly stocked up on a few more baby snacks (he had eaten a lot of my stash in the check-in queue!) for the plane as well as food for ourselves, it has everything you could possibly need. The baby changing facilities were the usual pull down table in the disabled toilet. I think Dublin Airport Authorities could do with having a look at the wonderful facilities in Dundrum Shopping Centre and maybe improve their baby changing facilities as nobody wants to be trying to change a nappy on the plane if they can help it. I have heard there are also soft play areas for toddlers in the airport but we didn’t have time to investigate.
The Flight Out
At the gate, families were given priority boarding which was great to get settled in. Our seats were a window seat and the adjacent one. We thought this was great at the time but read about the flight back to see our preferred seating! We had one very tired toddler at this stage. Sleep was the ultimate goal but distraction would have to do in the meantime. We had toys, teddies, snacks, bottle of milk, books, ipad, calgel etc. It worked well, he used his soother for takeoff and there was no problem with ears at all. We also had back-up in the form of granny, granddad and extended family members. Always bring backup if you can! So when he got restless with us, he was happy to go to others and even fell asleep on his great aunt and stayed that way for an hour including through the landing which was fantastic.
The Flight Back
I was near tears when we checked in and noticed that we were seated either side of the aisle for our return journey (this was a flight with no backup people as they were staying 2 weeks and we stayed 1 week!). But it was actually fantastic, the toddler was entertained by other children around and could walk over and back on the aisle. Due to the timing of the flight, he already had a full night’s sleep under his belt as well as a decent nap so he was in reasonably good form. Now there were a few incidents like when he tipped up his container of cereal all over the floor and then added some raisins for good measure. Or when he threw his slobbery soother at the man in the seat in front. Or when he was unhappy that mama wouldn’t give him some of her boiling hot tea, or when he had to have his seatbelt extender on. Again distraction was key!
The Tips for Flying with a Toddler
When flying with a toddler, try to stick as much as possible to their sleep routine. Based on our experience, I would aim for a flight time later in the day personally but it’s different for every toddler. Some will sleep on the plane and some won’t. We brought his teddy that he sleeps with which helped a bit but sometimes there’s just too much to look at so don’t depend on them sleeping on the plane.
We bought the Chicco Liteway for our holiday and found it great. You can use it right up to the steps of the plane (although it does need to be collapsed briefly to get through security) and is invaluable if your toddler manages to sleep in a buggy. It also means you aren’t chasing them around a busy airport. I wouldn’t spend a fortune on a travel buggy as they do tend to be fired on and off the plane without a whole lot of care – the key qualities we looked for were easy to fold up and down, lightweight, a good extendable UV hood, a lie-flat option and some storage. Handy for getting out and about for walks on holidays and if your baby/toddler sleeps in it then it’s a bonus as you can bring them out in the evenings or daytime naps.
Full changing bag
We were lucky that we didn’t need to change him on the plane but we were prepared for everything. We had a changing mat, nappies (x3), nappy bags, wipes and a full change of clothes just in case.
Suncream and hat
I always keep a small bottle of Factor 50 baby suncream in his changing bag anyway so it was useful as when we got to Spain we had a bit of a walk from the plane to the arrivals building and then from arrivals to the coach. It was so hot too that the SPF and the hat was definitely needed to hand.
You can never have enough snacks when flying with a toddler, they are the ultimate distraction! Some good ones we used were Cheerios, sweetcorn, breadsticks, ryevita, rice cakes, raisins (I never given him raisins usually but they worked a treat), some Organix snacks. I was very grateful that Nuk recently sent me some of their Annabel Karmel food containers which were perfect for transporting various snacks. We used the stackable food pots to carry stuff and the brilliant Snack Pot with lid which has handles for them to hold and a silicon top that they can put their hand through to grab snacks but it stops the snacks falling all over the place if they tip it upside down – absolute genius. Both those products are available in McCabes Pharmacy and on Amazon if you do a quick google. The last item I want to mention from this brand is the Magic Cup. This is a beaker that is spill proof AND teaches them how to drink liquids as if from a normal cup. It is so clever and my toddler got the hang of it straight away. I couldn’t find this on any Irish stockist but here is a link to the Nuk website itself where you can see it in action and I’m sure they can be bought on Amazon. Brilliant for the plane as it won’t spill in any bag
Toys / Books
We brought a few new small toys for him but he actually had more interest in playing with his food pots than actual toys. I also brought him a sticker book but he’s a bit young yet to really get it. However, other parents swear by new toys and sticker books when flying with a toddler so definitely worth a try. In hindsight, I think one of his story books that he is familiar with would have worked better. We also had an iPad which kept him amused for about 15 seconds!
I don’t agree with giving medicine to a baby or toddler just for the sake of it but I would never leave the house without teething gel at the moment thanks to the appearance of a few big molars in the last couple of weeks. We use Calgel and find it excellent on a soother. We also brought Calpol in case of any temperatures and Teetha granules which are also good for teething and calming, thankfully we didn’t need anything apart from Calgel in the end.
I’ve mentioned this already but having other people with you (the more the merrier!), is the ultimate game changer when flying with a toddler. Just pass that toddler around as soon as they get bored or irritable.
Happy Holidays to everyone!
Disclaimer – this is not a sponsored post, I was sent items from Nuk for free to try out and I was under no obligation to give a good review. I have given my honest opinion on some of them above. I have no affiliation with any other brands or items mentioned in the post.