Travel anxiety with toddlers and how to overcome it

I have been avoiding air travel with my kids since this minor incident. 

At six months old, Tate and Levi had travelled on six flights in 10 days across Eastern Australia. 

They were little enough that they could only just sit upright and still slept every three hours. 

Five of the six flights were honestly easy and painless.

The last flight returning home to Melbourne from the Gold Coast (GC) was a disaster. 

Firstly, the flight was delayed an hour. 

This wouldn’t normally matter, but with two young babies, it throws out the whole schedule. 

We boarded the plane, only to sit on the tarmac for another 40 minutes before take-off. 

Levi then proceeded to scream; not cry; scream, for ¾ of the flight. He calmed down 15 minutes before we landed – then Tatey took over. 

I sensed passengers around us were frustrated – yet no one offered any help or even a kind word to a visibly stressed Mum. 

Bryce doesn’t easily get affected by these situations. For me, I was more worried about everyone else around me. 

To top it off, we waited an hour for our bags and the pram to be removed from the plane upon landing.

We got back to the car at 9pm (after having arriving at the GC airport around 3pm) and vowed to not fly again. 

May 2022 Image: Liss Rawson

Last Christmas (2022), we drove from Melbourne to the GC to avoid the potential two hours of flight anxiety. 

However, it was now time to finally take the plunge again!

This New Year’s Eve, we flew up to the GC with the twins to visit family for 9 days. 

I had been doing extensive research to prepare and plan for the trip so it ran as smoothly as possible – again, for me more than anyone. Stay tuned to the end for the outcome.

Here, I have compiled my pre-travel tips for travelling with toddlers.

Create a checklist

What you carry on board with you in the nappy bag is crucial. Of course, you will have the usual items:

  • Nappies
  • Wipes
  • Water/milk
  • Extra clothes
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Snacks, snacks and more snacks

What I also added to the bag:

  • Window suction toys
  • Educational activity boards
  • Drawing and doodling toys
  • iPad
  • iPhone with youtube videos pre-downloaded
Hope for the best, plan for the worst

From sore ears, loud noises and restrictions on where they can play, accept that it may not be smooth flying. 

You’re not the first parent to deal with a sad, disruptive child on a plane and you certainly won’t be the last. 

Make light of your situation with other passengers to lighten the mood. I’d say, “I’ll buy anyone a drink if they take my child for a walk up and down the aisle for 5 minutes!” – joking of course. 

If your child is upset and it is safe to do so, take them for a quick breather to the host area. Many flight attendants love a chat and a cute little one to look at – that 10 minutes of distraction may be just enough to calm your little one down. 

Burn excess energy

The airport is vast and busy, but let your little one run and play while in the terminal. Being respectful of others of course, however, there is no point in making your child sit still and build their boredom and frustration even before getting onto the plane. They want to roll on the floor? That’s fine, that is what the change of clothes is for if they get dirty. The hand sanitiser and wipes to clean their hands (just keep those little fingers from going in the mouth). Our twins love to play a game called ‘Stop, Go!’. 

Check the stroller at the gate

This depends on the airline and the family of course. 

I personally don’t enjoy lugging our heavy double pram around the airport. 

I feel stressed and sweaty having to quickly dissemble it before boarding the flight, at the curiosity of onlookers watching me work my magic. 

However, it is better than Bryce and I carrying a twin each for over an hour. 

Especially now that they weigh in at a decent 11 kgs each. 

Accept help from anyone

Whether it be carrying a bag, picking up a dropped toy, getting your luggage down from the overhead compartment or even just holding your baby while you stretch your legs –  let people help. I try to remember that people wouldn’t offer to do something necessarily if they didn’t want to do it. 

Liquid courage 

It is your choice, and if it is safe, reasonable, and needed – have a glass of bubbles to calm the nerves. Or, even to celebrate making it on the plane without bursting into tears!

Want to know how we went flying from Melbourne to the GC? Stay tuned.

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In the spirit of reconciliation, Her Second Shift acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today