Ahh.. HOLIDAY! We all love a holiday but some of us often come home feeling like we need a holiday from the holiday that we just had. Probably because the whole family tagged along.. A holiday used to be about shopping, partying and lazy sightseeing. Now as a mother, a holiday with bub means being an extra busy mum in a foreign country. This automatically translates to getting out of routine, constantly worrying about what food bub will eat and searching for the parents’ room in an alien language. As for shopping and lazy sightseeing? Let’s do that again in 18 years! What about the holiday after the holiday? Yes.. that would be skulling down a hot cup of tea on the kitchen island whilst catching up on mail/sleep/washing/younameit.
The first time I planned an overseas trip with Ava, I was naturally anxious. I was nervous about the journey, about her meals, and of course the impact the travel would have on our strict routine. Plus I was traveling sans husband (he was already pre-booked for a conference). Ava had been great on short flights and road trips before, but this one was an 8 hour journey! How to keep an 18 month old toddler occupied for so long?? Since we were flower girl and bridesmaid to a friend’s wedding, we had to go and I needed a plan.
I’ve heard stories of parents struggling with the whole flying experience and conducing to medicate their toddlers for various reasons. Although I took their advice in stride, I was adamant not to medicate Ava..
On the Plane
I purposely booked the daytime flight as an overnighter would have us leave close to midnight, which means broken sleep for bub, not to mention the re-settling on the plane. Caring for a sleep deprived toddler (and self) would not have been a good way to start the trip. Ava is a 7am-7pm bub so the 9am flight was much better. I boarded the plane armed and ready and had allowed Ava to run around the terminal a little bit. The plan was to tire her on land, then keep her occupied on-board without getting hyper. So, I stocked my one carry-on (a huge LV Neverfull is the best mummy/nappy/travel bag) with fiddly foods such as Rice Wheels and sultanas (recommended ear poppers), water, colouring and her fave reading books, and my old iPhone for games.
On the plane, as we discussed where we were going, my worries started to dissipate. Here is my toddler seemingly calmer than myself, pretending to be an airplane and singing “whee whee whee”. On take off, I was pleasantly surprised that the air hostess encouraged Ava to sit in her own seat, rather than be strapped to me. Wow did she feel like a big girl!
For the first few hours, she kept herself busy with food, books and the in-flight entertainment. Upon nap time however, she was too distracted to sleep! Mind you the bassinet provided wasn’t long enough for her and other toddlers around us were crying (they probably didn’t have sultanas!) so I couldn’t blame her. She did end up napping on my chest for a good 40 minutes thankfully.
I saved the trump card – the iPhone for the last leg of the flight, and it worked wonderfully. She shared it with the toddler next to us (which quietened him down too) and I didn’t have to worry about it running out of battery. Phew.. what nerves? This has become a journey more enjoyable than I expected!
So, flying long distance in a nutshell:
– Travel lightly on board by having only one easy access carry-on bag.
– Pack fiddly foods that are low in sugar.
– You don’t have to be the first on board if you are traveling light. Do you really need an extra 30 minutes of toddler distraction? Let him run around a bit longer!
– Introduce toys or activities one at a time.
– Let them watch as much in-flight entertainment as they want!
– Run up and down the aisles a few times and try to say hello to a couple of flight attendants or other passengers. Your toddler will love saying hi to them when he sees another familiar face on board.
– Stay calm. Anxiety is contagious.
– Shower bub with praise when he’s good and speak to him in a distractingly happy voice.
– Be warned – using the lavatory can be a challenge with the two of you in there. So will changing a nappy!
– During lunch, have a sip of wine. You will need it.
– At the end of the journey, reflect on the positives and apply that to the return flight home.
– Once home, reward yourself with a trip to the day spa and some shopping!
Hope that helps all you wonderful parents out there! Traveling with a toddler is a memorable experience and good bonding time. I am hoping to post Part Two of my Guide to Traveling with a Toddler in the next few days. It will cover what happens at the destination!