Flying with a 3 year old

This is the first of a series of posts detailing our February 2017 holiday to Florida. Hopefully they will give a few hints and tips along the way if you’re planning on doing a similar trip in the future.  This time last year, I published “Flying with a Toddler” (https://leedsdad.com/2016/03/01/flying-with-a-toddler-2622016/). However, with the toddler is more of a three-nager now, so I thought that it would be good to a “Flying with a 3 year old” post!

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This time, we flew with Virgin Atlantic from Manchester to Atlanta and then onwards to Tampa. All in all, about 10 hours in the air and total travelling time of 21 hours from door to door! Flying from Manchester is quite good with a young child as there is a toddler play area in Terminal 3 There is also a really decent play area for slightly older children in Terminal 2. (Feb 18 Update – Terminal 2 play area has been removed). As we found out, such facilities are not as available Stateside…

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Terminal 2 play area

On board the plane, the leg-room was decent in the standard seats. However, the additional legroom seats felt very spacious. The additional cost being only a few pounds and so it is well worth it. There were seatback TV’s with a wide variety of programmes/films etc for all passengers. However, however, given the attention span of a 3 year old, this would never be enough! The Virgin Atlantic website suggests that children goody-bags are handed out, but we didn’t see them anywhere, but they would have been good to see.

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Remember to pack child sized earphones!!

Perhaps the most simple and cost effective method of entertainment was to pack small toys that you tend to get from a vending machine for £1 and allow the child to open one whenever they got bored. So long as you get different ones, it should keep them entertained for a while and clearly don’t cost much. If you have a larger budget, a tablet would be useful for all the games that they can entertain themselves with. A good idea is to check before travelling they don’t need internet access! Also, letting them have their own bag  is a great way of giving them a sense of responsibility and pride.

However, clearly a 9 hour flight is a long time for anyone and so meal time is a bit of a treat! Make sure you book your special meal a few weeks before departure. This is what Heidi was served as a “child’s meal” for lunch and tea. I put it in quotes as the serving was ample for a 3 year old!

While Virgin do fly directly to the House of the Mouse, flying indirectly does tend to cost less. While the travel time is longer, it does break up the day a bit. Yes, it is an inconvenience, but if it is the difference between having a holiday or not, the extra bit of adventure is well worth it! Also, you get to clear Customs and Immigration after your first flight which makes it quicker at your final destination. Even with a sleepy 3 year old, it was easy to manage the various passport and security checks.

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However, the easiest way of flying with a 3 year old, is to try and let them sleep! If they are happy with their own company, let them be and relax a bit yourself, after all, it is your holiday too!!


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Flying with a Toddler

“Flying with a Toddler” is the first of a series of posts telling the story of Heidi’s first “proper” holiday. This will hopefully give some hints and tips to those planning on taking a toddler away, as well as making you smile along the way.

The other parts of my mini-break review can be found here:

  • Oceanarium & Bournemouth – Part 2 – (here)
  • Paultons Park – Part 3 – (here)
  • Longdown Activity Farm – Part 4 – (here)

So the idea was to go on a short haul flight as a test for a longer trip in the near future. After hearing about Peppa Pig World near Southampton, the destination was set. It sounded quite simple, but it never is!

The night before

Flying Manchester to Southampton at 8.30am on a Friday meant that we decided to stay close to the airport the night before. We chose the Premier Inn South, which is a mile from the airport and relatively handy. You can never go too far wrong with a Premier Inn and the room was everything we really needed. However, the adjoining restaurant wasn’t….

I completely understand that some places are not meant to be child appropriate, and we made a wrong decision to go to that restaurant! The food took an age to come and when you’re finishing at 9pm, that isn’t the best start to a holiday! To be fair, the staff were great. Our waitress had a slight scouse accent and a hairband /bandana and was brilliant! The food was good, but it was all a bit drawn out. This meant that we had quite a late night…

Security/Airport Facilities

So an early start took us to Manchester Airport, Terminal 3 to check in and get through security with a tired toddler – great! It took us 40 minutes to get from going through to doors to get past all security so something to bear in mind.

The security staff were brilliantly understanding, given the job that they have to do. We were ushered to the priority security lane, probably because we looked a little stressed out and this definitely helped. At Terminal 3, there are lots of shops to pass the time with. There is also a small, basic children’s area, but is was a quiet part of the airport and allows children to be children for a bit!

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Given that Manchester Airport is one of the biggest in the country, the changing facilities were good. They also seemed to be cleaned at regular intervals, which is a must!!! If you have some time to kill, I would try and find a quiet part of the terminal. This means that you don’t feel rushed and everyone can relax a bit.

As Heidi is a good walker and aged 2 3/4, we decided not to take a pushchair. This would have taken an extra pair of hands and made getting through security a bit more difficult. I imagine if you have a small child who is happy to be in a pushchair, it would help to have one going through security . However, it would have been a nightmare for us!

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The Flight

So, now to the “exciting” bit – actually Flying with a Toddler! Having done my research (aircraft geek!) I knew the plane wouldn’t be the biggest and we would have to walk on the tarmac. With it being late February, we wore an extra layer of clothes! I also informed Flybe (our airline) that Heidi was a first time flyer, just so the flight crew were aware in case Heidi got freaked out!

This proved to be a masterstroke as the flight attendants were brilliant (Alex and Alice). Every time they walked past and the opportunity arose, they talked to Heidi, making sure that she was ok and keeping her entertained and engaged with the flight. This additional interaction really helped break up the flight (even though it was only 50 minutes!) and made sure we had trouble free flight.

Top Tips

Flybe do an excellent “Flying with a Toddler” guide here and this helped, but I would give the following advice as well:
– talk about the journey beforehand with your child (if possible) so they understand what is going to happen.

– plan your hand luggage very carefully. Know exactly where your wipes, nappies, changing pads, change of clothes etc are. As such, in case of an emergency change, you know without thinking.

– pack quiet entertainment. I packed thin paperback books to read to Heidi and that worked well, as did a teddy and other small toys.

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– plan for a delay. Carrying an extra pack of wipes or trousers isn’t going to cause any issues, but a 2 hour delay might.

– don’t forget the liquids! Unfortunately, security procedures mean that you can’t take more than 100mls of liquid past security. Make sure your hand luggage is packed accordingly and buy a bottle of water for your child after security. No chocolates, sweets or fizzy pop!)

I did try and take Heidi to the toilets on the plane, to see how she would react,. It’s safe to say that she didn’t like them! They are particularly small and I am not sure how you would go on changing a nappy.  This is one to ask for the help of the flight attendants, as there might be some spare seats that you could use.

The landing

The flight was so smooth, that Heidi was asleep for the last 10 minutes of it, including the landing!

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As a special treat, we were also granted access to the cockpit after taxiing to the terminal. However, the conversation was very limited with a groggy toddler!!

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And that was it. Heidi’s first flight and Flying with a Toddler went remarkably smoothly. Onto the car hire and then Bournemouth for a day at the seaside!

Continue reading Flying with a Toddler