The past few weeks have been so busy, filled with lots of packing, unpacking, and settling in, as I have flown back to the States. I will be here until October. Now that I am back and (somewhat) settled in, I will be posting once or twice a week again. I also plan on updating my blog a bit, customizing it and maybe getting my own domain name.
The trip back to the U.S. was my sixth international flight with Miles. You would think that by now I would be an expert at it. Unfortunately I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to become an expert on this subject, because there are so many things that could go wrong. However, I have collected many tips to make flying with a little one easier. So here they are:
1. Snacks- and lots of them
This is number one on my list because snacks are usually the number one lifesaver when traveling. Bring healthy snacks that you know your child likes. (For Miles it was bananas and rice cakes). Also bring a couple of special treats (goldfish, animal crackers). Yes, they give you snacks on the plane and you can buy them at the airport, but ALWAYS pack some of your own. I’ve had flights delayed and no time to stop in airports for a snack, so I was so thankful I brought my own.
What snacks are good for:
-Taking off and landing. When our ears pop as adults, we know to swallow to make it stop even without thinking. Young children however haven’t learned this habit yet. So giving them food or drink during take off or landing allows them to swallow which reduces the pain of their ears popping.
– Lines. When in line for checking in, security, or boarding I gave Miles a snack that he could hold and eat himself to help him be patient.
– Distraction. Of course, if your child loves eating as much as my son, this was the best way to calm Miles down when he was really upset. I saved the special treat snacks for this occasion.
2. Movies and iPhone apps
Movies and iPhone apps were the second lifesaver during my trip. Miles usually doesn’t just sit and watch movies for long periods of times. However, on the plane he watched the movies for a good half hour. I don’t have a portable DVD player (although I may invest in one for my next flight), but he just watched the movies provided on the plane. Gnomeo and Juliet was his favorite. Luckily, he didn’t mind too much that he couldn’t hear a thing because he refused to wear the headphones.
I’ve always used iPhone apps a little bit (mostly as a distraction while changing Miles’s diaper). These came in handy for when I needed a quick distraction. Miles is at the age (15.5 months) where he just wants to walk around all the time. So when he started shouting “UP! UP!” at me, I would pull out my iPhone and it would distract him from wanting to walk up and down the aisle.
I managed to capture a picture during the 30 seconds he kept the headphones in.
3. Books and toys your child has never seen before or hasn’t seen in a while.
It is really good to have books and toys that your child is unfamiliar with for the flight. I bought Miles a few new toys and books, and also hid a few of his favorites a couple weeks before my flight. Here is a picture of some of the toys that I brought.
I included 3 books, 2 finger puppets, a fish pencil, a sticker book, a toy marching man, a container full of little sea animals, a play cell phone, a toy that vibrates when twisted, and a bath toy bee whose wings turn when pulled.
The biggest successes were all of the books, the fish pencil, the vibrating toy, the bee, and the sea animals.
The sea animals would entertain him for about 20 minutes at a time, until he started throwing them.
4. Songs and poems.
Songs and poems are always great, and they work wonders on the flights. I sang Miles calming songs when trying to get him to fall asleep (which was really difficult with so much going on) and more upbeat songs with signs or actions when he was getting restless. Toddlers love being involved, so the more you can involve them in the song the more they will enjoy it. For some of the songs Miles tried to mimic my motions, for others he would hold onto my arms as I did the motions. Here are a few good ones:
5. Bring a stroller.
I have flown both with and without a stroller, and I definitely recommend bringing one. You can collect your stroller to use for each layover. I brought a roller suitcase carry-on bag and just attached it to the handle on the stroller to stroll the two together. I prefer bringing the stroller because I didn’t have to worry about Miles getting too heavy while carrying him or about him running off if I let him walk. Arguments against the strollers are that they don’t allow children the chance to burn off their energy before and in between flights, so once we got to the correct departure gate, I would let Miles out of the stroller to walk around a little bit.
6. If you can, get the toddler his own seat.
When your child is under two, he can sit on your lap for a tenth of the price of your ticket (depending on the airline). This is very convenient because it saves lots of money, and you can still check in a bag for him and carry ons for him. However, an 8 hour flight with a toddler on your lap can be very uncomfortable and overwhelming. So here are some things you can do:
-If it is an infant under 25 pounds you can get a bassinet that goes in front of your seat. Call ahead to make sure you get this seat.
-Pick your seat online. If your child is too big for the basinet go online and make sure that you get a seat with a lot of room. On the smaller planes a lot of room is nearly impossible, so I usually choose an aisle seat. Some people prefer windows though. I do not recommend choosing middle seats. Sitting between two strangers with a baby on your lap is NEVER comfortable.
-Ask the flight attendant if there are any open seats available. Chances are that person sitting next to you would rather move to an open seat without a toddler sitting next to them, and the flight attendants know this will make it easier for you, so usually they are very willing to help.
7. Keep everything important very handy.
Passports, money, phones, and cash are all things that you will need to keep in a place thats easily accessible. Usually I bring a separate purse with all of my important items with me, which works great. This past time, though i put all of these things in the side pocket of my diaper bag so that I would only have one bag, and it worked just as well. Other things that I kept in a side pocket so I could easily grab it in the airport or plane were Miles’s pacifier, a ziplock bag of wipes, a snack for me and Miles, Miles’s juice cup, and a couple toys that Miles could entertain himself with (yes, the colorful, light-up, singing ones).
8. Make sure you both get some rest.
My flight left at 6 in the morning which meant we had to wake up at 2:30 AM to gather last minute things, get dressed, and get to the airport for 4:00 AM check in. I let Miles take only one half hour nap the day before and put him to sleep for the night at 6:30. However, he was still exhausted. I tried to keep him up in the airport instead of allowing him to sleep which was a BIG mistake. On the first flight he WOULD NOT sleep even though he was completely exhausted. There was just too much going on all around him. He was very grumpy and the smallest things would send him into a loud piercing cry. Luckily, that first flight was only an hour and a half long, and he fell asleep right away when I put him in his stroller at the airport. I let him sleep this time in the airport. I realized that a happy awake toddler was much more manageable on a flight than a grumpy sleepy baby.
Miles finally got some sleep during the long flight.
I unfortunately did not get as much sleep as Miles the night before. I went to sleep at 10:30 PM and woke up at 2:30 AM. I had 2 chances on our long flight to sleep while Miles took his naps. The first chance I took, the second chance, however, I realized that The Perks of Being a Wallflower was playing on the plane. So, I chose to watch it instead of napping. Luckily, I wasn’t too tired.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I find that most people are very helpful to a woman alone with a baby or toddler. So many times people offered to carry my bags for me, fold down my stroller, put my bags in the overhead compartment, etc. But, if nobody offers to help you, and you can’t manage by yourself, don’t be afraid to ask for help. When we got off the plane in Atlanta, I couldn’t find my stroller that was meant to be waiting for me when I got off the plane. (This is when we had to go through US customs). I was quite angry that my stroller had been misplaced, but was going to try to manage without it until I saw the incredibly long line and realized I could not hold my wiggly and very heavy little boy for that long. I approached a flight attendant and told him about the situation (and embarrassingly enough, started crying), but he was MORE than helpful. He took me to the special assistance line which only had five people ahead of me and he waited in line with me. Then he helped me find my stroller and locate my bags. If I wouldn’t have asked for help, I probably would have miserably waited in the incredibly long line with a crying toddler and my arm nearly falling off from his weight. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. People understand that it is hard to travel alone with a child, and usually will be more than willing to help.
10. Be prepared.
When traveling with a little one, you have to be prepared. Bring extra food, snacks, and juice, because you might be delayed and not have time to stop in the airport, or they might not serve what your child likes on the plane. Bring extra diapers, wipes, bibs, and changes of clothes, because you never know how many times your child will poop, or what’s going to spill all over his clothes.
When I got off my last flight, a lady approached me and said, “You know, he was so good, and I think it was because of how relaxed you were.” I hadn’t even realized that this could have been a factor, but it definitely is. When you are sitting on the plane, try your best to relax and just enjoy the time that you are spending with your child. While it may be a hectic experience for you, it is exciting and new for your child. So, try to relax and make the best of it. If he sees that you are happy, most likely he will be happy too.