Undertaking air travel with a toddler in tow can be a stressful. Just last week, the Little Monkey and I completed the trans-atlantic journey to visit family in America. I’d avoid this if I could but the reality is that when you live on an island, it’s pretty difficult not to get on an airplane if you want to travel. And if your family lives 3000 miles away across an ocean, it’s not just difficult, it’s impossible. OK, I could take a boat but let’s be realistic. We’ve still got the return journey to complete (assuming that England is still a democratic state to which I can return), but here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Pack more than one pair of extra clothes for your child.
You never know when your toddler will have an explosive poo. In our case it was before we even boarded the plane at Heathrow. I made the call that the trash bin at Heathrow was a better place for the offending clothes then in my carry on bag. This also meant that if we had another incident in our 14 hour journey, he’d have to travel naked.
Bring your own entertainment.
Now I’d packed a few books and crayons and puzzles and things that I thought might keep my child entertained for the long journey. But I had thought that we’d spend at least part the time watching whatever cartoons and kids movies were available on the flight. That is until they announced that the in flight entertainment system was broken. Good god! You mean I’ve got to keep a two-year old entertained for seven hours in a confined space without TV? Thankfully, I had the foresight to copy a few videos onto my iPhone (further evidence that this is the greatest device ever invented) and let’s just say it was a good thing I did or there would have been a mutiny.
Plan ahead for the security checkpoint(s).
If your child has a favorite toy that they cling to for comfort, be creative and figure out how to get this away from them before security. Prying Mr. Zebra away and waiting for him to come out the other side of the x-ray machine is not fun. And, TSA, toddler shoes, really? I appreciate that we’re all security conscious these days but requiring already stressed out parents to remove their toddler’s shoes is a little overkill. Particularly considering that said toddler had already been through security clearance 9 hours earlier with the shoes on.
Give yourself permission to break the rules.
Your child will not eat when they should or sleep when they should. While the long haul part of our journey covered what normally would have been my child’s bedtime, he could not have been less interested in sleep. And you never know when you’ll be spending and extra hour killing time in Newark (on top of the two you had planned) waiting for a crew to man your connecting flight. Excessive Peppa Pig watching was allowed and foods entered my child’s mouth that he doesn’t come anywhere near at home. I was just glad to get him to eat something. So relax and go with the flow.
Cover their ears in the toilet.Really. I had never thought about how loud the whoosh of an airplane toilet flushing is. And, with me and the Little Monkey on our own, he had no choice but to accompany me into the loo. The noise scared him to death the first time. The second time we planned ahead and did earmuffs.
Here’s looking forward to the lessons I’ll learn on the return flight!