I love travelling.
I don’t do it nearly as often as I would like but I’m working on that.
However, on my most recent trip I had the pleasure, anticipation, fear and anxiety…. of travelling with a toddler.
On a plane.
Unfortunately, my trip was affected by the severe hurricane season of 2017, namely Irma, and so, with losing a week, I ended up having a very hectic two week vacation with minimum relaxation.
Let me just start by saying this. If you think travelling with a toddler on a plane is anything like travelling with a toddler in any other form of transportation, erase that thought from your mind immediately.
It is far from. Why?
Let’s start with a basic difference.
You’re taking your tot out for a car ride. In a car more than likely parked no more than two to five feet from your front door. Even if they’re having a catastrophic, world-ending, nonsensical meltdown because their socks match, you can have your toddler in the car and strapped up within maybe 10 minutes, baby bag and sanity in tow. The bumpiness of the car ride will eventually soothe them to calmness.
Now multiply that distance by a mere, I don’t know, 500. Let’s say you have to make it from one terminal to another in 2,500 feet. With a tired, resilient toddler in tow. And luggage. After this tiring journey you must then board the enclosed quarters of a plane and wait for lift off. With plane rides often being smooth, even with minor turbulence you have basically entered a toddler’s worst nightmare.
Here’s what can help.
1. Opt for early morning/ late night flights.
This tip is solely dependent on your tot’s sleeping patterns and habits. When booking my flight, I chose an early morning flight, partly because I’m naturally impatient and knew within myself I would be miserable an entire day until my flight time. But also, an early morning flight meant that boarding time would fall within Liam’s sleep time. Expectedly, when we left for the airport, Liam was still asleep, only waking up to groggily take in his new surroundings once we made it to the terminal. Once settled in the plane, it wasn’t long before Liam was sound asleep again. Toddler asleep for 3 hours of a 5 hour flight?
The same goes for late night flights. If your tot is usually asleep by 9pm, booking a late flight can save you from the mid-flight meltdowns.
2. Try booking a window seat.
When booking your trip, try to snatch a window seat. All of the fascinating sights happening on the tarmac, the sight of other planes and activity may prove enough to keep your little one occupied until lift off. Once airborne, the clouds and the sky and approaching landscape can prove to be both fascinating and soothing.
I made this booking mistake on both of my departures; I was thinking practically and decided on an aisle seat and middle seat- if I needed to do anything with Liam like change his diaper or let him stretch his legs, the only person I would’ve been bothering was John. Smart thinking, right?
Once Liam realised he could see out of the window, and WHAT he could see out of the window, (“pane!”, “coud!”), he was practically climbing on top of the window-seat passenger to see outside. *facepalm* Luckily, on both trips both parties were understanding and consenting to having Liam sit on their lap and look out of the window.
Save yourselves the embarrassment.
The window seat is your friend.
3. Have PLENTY of distractions
I wrote about distractions in a previous entry Toddlerdom: Getting the Most Out of Your New Year Celebrations, and I promise you, most of my time is not spent on distraction tactics.
Or maybe it is.
Either way, as I’ve mentioned, toddlers have the attention span of a toddler which translates to very short. Carry their favourite book- Liam makes me read his favourite books non-stop for well over an hour so that served to be a time-killer although I can’t say the passenger next to me wanted to hear the story of “The Lion Who Lost Her Roar” twenty times.
Helpful travelling distractions include coloring books or pen and paper, electronic devices; even food can keep them occupied so long as they have to feed themselves. If you don’t have an electronic device, here’s a trick. Toddlers are very visual and do not particularly need sound to remain interested. I was able to occupy over an hour of Liam’s time by playing “Mickey Mouse and the Roadster Racers” on the chair monitors.
Distraction level: expert.
4. Try to stick to a routine
This is wayyyyy easier said than done, but if you can achieve this, your journey with toddler will be a breeze.
Trying to maintain Liam’s sleep and eating routines while travelling was nothing short of difficult. Not only were we on the road almost everyday of our trip, with different places come different cultures. My usual 8am or 9am breakfast became 10am. Liam napping by 11am, became Liam fighting himself and everyone around him into eventual sleep sometimes not before 2pm. Dinners were often later as well, and at restaurants. As expected, bedtime was also affected and so was independent sleeping. As we were out often during Liam’s naptime, he was a lot more dependent on his pacifier than when at home. The mood swings, the tantrums…
The list could go on. Literally.
But I digress.
If it’s your first time travelling with your toddler, try to plan your events to avoid disruption to your little one’s daily routine.
5. Have a travel buddy
This is probably the most helpful tip of all. Travelling can be daunting enough; travelling with a toddler is just a set-up.
If possible, plan a trip with your significant other or a group of friends or even another fellow mum with toddler in tow to help tackle some of the expected obstacles coming your way.
Although we had a stroller, Travelling with John definitely saved my arms and back as he was able to alternate holding Liam when he was feeling trapped and wanted a break. It was also helpful when Liam let loose and tore off running from the customs area and John had to hold the line.
If you can’t arrange a travel buddy, request staff assistance at the airport via your booking.
Having an extra set of hands makes the world of difference.
Travelling with your toddler can be a very exciting and fun experience if you’re well prepared. I was actually looking forward to Liam’s first plane ride and luckily had a relatively smooth experience during all four flights. All it takes is a large dose of patience and tolerance.
And a large coffee.
Life is either a great adventure, or nothing.- Helen Keller