Prior to traveling with children, I had only ever been on a float plane once – and it was one of my favorite experiences of all time. The views are outstanding and unmatched by most other modes of transportation. It was an emotional high for me at the time.
I knew it was something I had to do with my children – to show them all that the world offers and from different angles.
Rick and I took our two toddlers up in a Harbour Air flight to get us from Vancouver to Victoria, British Columbia. I was a tad nervous about taking toddlers in a float plane and googled it a lot before we went. But, it truly is a family experience for anyone at any age.
Tips for taking toddlers on a float plane:
(1) Make every step of the experience a total enjoyment
Despite a long travel day for us (we left our home at 5:00 am and then experienced a flight cancellation) we made sure our kids took in every moment of the excursion. From check-in to de-boarding, we kept up our energy and enthusiasm, which was inevitably contagious. This will help everyone maximize the enjoyment of this incredible experience.
(2) Befriend Airline Staff
Upon check-in, we brought our boys up the counter so staff could see we were traveling with young ones. The incredible folks at Harbour Air brought out miniature foam float planes, a stuffed captain otter and some activity books.
We were allowed to board first as well so the kids could get settled before the rest of the passengers boarded.
(3) Position the float plane as a ‘ride’ for younger kids
When traveling with young children, lay-overs and connecting flights aren’t always an attractive option. Parents often exhaust all of their in-flight entertainment options on the first flight and kids are typically over it all.
We positioned our second flight of the day, on the float plane, as a ride. We watched other families board flights ahead of us and said, “look, those kids are going up in a ride just like you will be.” It helped to build up some excitement. When it was our turn, they marched along the dock ready for their own ride.
(4) Pack light
On our first float plane, with kids, we packed snacks, screens, books and a few small toys by our feet (out of fear that we’d need to distract them). But, keep in mind, the space is very limited (these planes are compact with only a double and single seat separated by the aisle). You honestly don’t need much. Aside from water, the views outside the window will captivate your kids.
Note: If you’ve got your luggage and are using the float plane to get from location A to location B, then don’t worry. There’s ample room for strollers, luggage and carry-on bags at the back.
(5) Sit near the front for extraordinary views
We weren’t sure where to sit when we first got on the plane (seats are not assigned) so at first we sat near the back. But, then I realized that the door to the cockpit area stays open so we moved to the front. If the kids tire of looking outside the window, they can then watch the first captain and pilot in action.
(6) Enjoy the outdoors
Float planes = water (obviously) so leave enough time to enjoy the terminal and take it all in. Harbour Air in Vancouver offers two convenient terminals — one is right near the YVR airport (the main Vancouver airport) and the other one is located in the heart of downtown. Both offer attractive waiting area amenities.
At the South terminal (near YVR) we spent the majority of the time outside breathing in the fresh air and playing alongside the water. At the downtown location, we took in the city sights and watched all of the action.
(7) Use the ear plugs and noise cancellation headphones
In our case, the airline provided noise cancelling headphones for children as well as ear plugs for adults. We often recommend calling ahead to double check though – if you’re traveling with a lot of children, you want to make sure the airlines (and you) are prepared. If they’re not provided, you can pick some up before arriving for your flight. They’re very important for the wee ones — the planes get very loud especially on take off.
(8) Safety First!
Keep in mind that you are on a float plane, which means water and air transportation. The staff at Harbour Air brought infant/child lifejackets right to our seats before take-off. Make sure you review the safety brochures and watch the video provided. It’s a totally new experience for everyone and, although they’re extremely safe flying to multiple locations all throughout the day, you just want to be prepared.