It never gets easier. Honestly speaking, the best flights of your life will likely be those you took before you started a family. Still remember your honeymoon flight? It was just the two of you, all lovey-dovey and comfy-cosy and relaxed…
Fast forward to now, with a little person on board with your party, and all your dreams of lying back to enjoy the latest inflight movie and a glass of wine are disappearing up in smoke! Or so it would seem…
In many ways, traveling with a precocious toddler is the toughest. Why? Well, with a baby, their life is basically all eat-sleep-poo, so your best bet is to feed (breast or bottle) during take-off and landing, and nap them as much as possible in between. And since most airlines today have proper diaper changing stations in their toilets, you’ve got nothing to fear if baby does a big poo, except the possible embarrassment of your neighbours getting a whiff of his hard work.
However, the older the kid is, the more inquisitive, chatty, mischievous, mobile, expressive and awake they tend to get! And while a slightly older child is more able to comprehend and obey instructions and requests – “Please stop kicking the man’s chair, you are disturbing him” and “The stewardess will bring our food later. Now it’s the other row’s turn to be served” – a toddler is generally much less able to understand and comply with our directions.
So, understandably, there will be reactions to everything new – the take-off and landing, service carts, toilet doors, remote controls and seat buttons – and some of it may not be pretty. It’s not uncommon to hear a toddler wailing to get off the plane when he’s overwhelmed with fear from the noise, movement and building air pressure.
Then there is the possibility of your kid needing to pee or poo desperately, and all the toilet cubicles being occupied. Or having such fun playing with everything in the tiny toilet (“Don’t touch that! So dirty!”) when you finally get a cubicle for him.
The following are eight terrific tips we recommend you pay close attention to if you’re planning a trip with toddler-in-tow anytime soon. Here we go!
#1 Just wear diapers
Whether or not Junior is toilet trained or in the process of being toilet trained, forget about underwear for the duration of the flight and stick to good, old, dependable diapers. Of course you’ll need to bring extra ones if it’s a long flight or in case he does a poo.
#2 Bring your own food
As long as you finish any opened packets onboard, most airlines are fine with you bringing food for your child into the plane. At the very least, bring a few healthy snacks for your child, and if he is a fussy eater, it would be good to pack a full meal for him as well. This way you won’t have to worry if your child protests violently against the inflight cuisine.
#3 Something new
All children are won over by novelty. Prepare a small present that you can give your child onboard. Save it for that moment when you most need to occupy his attention, such as during take-off or while waiting for food to be served. Some ideas: a sticker book, small jigsaw puzzle, photo album, a pack of flashcards, or a new movie to watch in your i-Pad.
#4 Let him choose what to bring
When packing for your trip, get your toddler involved by asking him to choose a few small toys or books to bring onboard the plane. You can also use this time to explain to him that it may be challenging to sit still on the plane seat for the duration of the flight, which is why he needs to bring something to entertain himself.
#5 Bring a change of clothes
Accidents can and will happen. The juice might spill. His elbow might get in the gravy. The plane might lurch and toss his food onto his lap. Or he might have a diaper accident. Be prepared with a fresh set of clothes in your travel bag.
#6 Bring a plastic bag (or two)
Useful for holding the trash that will accumulate throughout the flight, from tissues used to mop up spills, to torn up bits of paper. And also handy in case your kid does the ‘merlion’ more than once.
#7 Pen and paper
Two of the most useful items to have onboard with you. In the event that you can’t fit any toys or books into your handcarry, bring a small notepad and a pen or pencil along. Great for letting your child doodle, or for you drawing items at his request.
#8 Know when to let go
Choose to be flexible in certain areas. For example, perhaps your child is only allowed to watch television half an hour every day on a regular basis. If your flight is a long one, you might want to relent on that aspect and let him clock in a couple hours of viewing time so you can take a break. And if your kid is a naturally energetic and active one, it would be unreasonable to expect him to sit still for an 8-hour flight. Find a time when the aisles are relatively empty and take him for a walk around the plane to explore every nook and cranny and work off some steam.
By Dorothea Chow
This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine