Foregoing an absolute worst-case situation, what types of things might parents do in order to make toddler travel as smooth and pain-free as possible? How may airport toddler tantrums be avoided?
1. Keep the same routine. One of the best ways to avoid toddler travel disasters is to stick to your child's schedule as much as possible. The routine adds stability, familiarity, and comfort to your child's life in the midst of changing and perhaps frightening surroundings. Provide snacks on time. Allow for naps. In fact, if you can do so, speak with your travel agent about scheduling a flight during a time when your child would normally be sleeping. Consider flying at off-peak times. Traveling late at night may not only enable your child to sleep, but the airport may be less crowded, less noisy, and much easier to navigate.
2. Nix the potty training. If your child is just starting Potty Training 101, now is actually not the best time for another lesson. Being in diapers (or disposable pull-ups) for a handful of hours will provide much less hassle for you and less stress for the toddler than the undesirable and malodorous worst-case scenario.
3. Bring toys. And more toys. Pack several favorite books (and perhaps a book about airplanes), small non-noisy toys, and comfort items (such as a favorite blanket). Do you have a small portable DVD player? If not, consider borrowing one from a friend. Bring a couple of movies that are special to your child. You may also wish to bring a secret toy along for a special reward.
4. Backpack benefits. If your child is old enough to wear a small backpack, let your toddler place his or her favorite items inside it. The pleasure of wearing it, unzipping it, and adding and removing items from it, may provide entertainment and amusement when you need it most.
5. Choose window seats. Looking out the window can be a marvelously interesting distraction. The view beyond the airplane window is also fraught with educational opportunities and possibilities.
6. Fly non-stop. Do this if it is at all possible. This completely eliminates the added hassle of connecting flights.
7. Set boundaries. Ahead of time, explain to your toddler what is expected of him or her during the flight. Let your toddler understand (to the best of your child's comprehension) that the trip will involve sitting and playing quietly.
8. Take charge. Always remember, you are the adult. It will ultimately be your responsibility to handle things before a situation can escalate. Because you understand what is best for your toddler, you can correct your child in a loving, yet firm manner.
Make every effort to enjoy the time spent traveling with your toddler. Definitely do not let an off-hand remark by a disgruntled fellow passenger ruin your trip. Be as courteous as possible to those around you, but remember the safety, health, and well-being of your child is your highest priority.