All you need to know about traveling with toddlers on a LONG flight
Well, hello there! Long time – no see – no read! Things have been a little slow here and it has been quite a while since the last post. The reality is, I was back home in Bombay in the last month. And it isn’t that I was just geographically far from Boston but mentally too. Checked out completely. During my time away, there were a few ( actually many ) moments, where I was tempted to pick up my laptop and start writing. But I was focusing on my niente ( doing nothing in Italian ), focusing on taking a break, focusing on recharging.
And here I am. Back to Boston, my home, jetlagged, homesick and recharged! So much to talk about the trip, but let’s talk about the part that I was extremely nervous about. Traveling with a toddler on an 18 hour flight! We’ve traveled to India before with Zoe, but then she was just a 6 months old baby. Give them the boob or a bottle and its that simple. But traveling with a toddler is a COMPLETELY different ball game.
I was really terrified to put it mildly. Not so much for myself but for the fellow passengers. Active, loud, naughty, tantrum throwing everything that could be difficult to manage in an airplane, being enclosed in it for hours – is what a toddler is. My idea was to buy drinks for passengers around us if we couldn’t control our child. Hah! But let me tell you – it wasnt all that bad.
Here’s how we prepared and managed on the flight. For context – our total flight time was about 18 hours with a layover of about 4 hours in between two flights.
Most seat bookings can be done up to 36 hours prior to the flight. Get to it the minute it seat booking opens up! Put an alarm for it if you need to. We picked aisle seats for all the legs of the journey.
We took a separate seat for Zoe ( although if you decide not to, kids under 2 can fly as an on lap child. ) Having a seat for her made it rather comfortable for all of us. Having the space was nice for her to stretch and sleep and also gave us the room to watch movies, eat with the trays out.
Keeping them entertained for a 1 hour car ride is challenging at times, imagine the preparation you have to do for such long flights.
Have the iPad ready with videos downloaded. Tip : YouTube subscription lets you download videos and have them available offline on the device. Use the iPad in intervals, like 20-30min and then take it out after a few hours.
Sticker and coloring activities also helped keep her busy. Just keep a couple crayons and some blank notebooks or coloring books. For stickers – Target has some non-pricey options and also these reusable sticker books work great.
The magnetic drawing board is another toy that we love and comes in handy during car-rides, flights.
I also made a trip to the dollar store prior to the trip and picked up some random knick-knacks and pulled them out like tricks from a magic bag every time she started to get a bit fussy.
Keep the snacks ready as entertainment as well. When they are getting fussy or bored, put a few crackers on the tray in front of them. And keep their favorite candy at hand too.
We also had some kids around us and some sweet passengers, who dint mind the peek-a-boos and high-fiving games. Every little distraction helps pass time.
Us, adults, we ourselves get fussy siting in the same place for a long time, I can’t even imagine how frustrating it must be for the kids to be stuck inside an airplane on the same seat for hours. Amit and I took turns walking around the plane.
Sleeping in the flight
The good part about our flight timing was that, both times they were night flights ( as are most flights to and from India ) So in the first leg of the journeys, Zoe slept for good portions of the flight.
It was great – but that also means she barely slept in the second leg.
The BedBox by JetKids wasn’t allowed in our flight ( Air France ) , but if your flight allows it, it is a cool way to transform the seat into a bed. Since we couldn’t use it, we had her sleep across her seat and our laps. The BedBox still came in handy because I had stowed all her toys, coloring books, stickers, snacks, diaper changing stuff in it and had it under the seat for easy access. Basically all the things I might have to get up again and again for were in the BedBox.
Ahhh.. if there is one thing I hate about the flight trips is how small the bathrooms are, making diaper changing really difficult. But believe it or not anyway, those tiny flight toilets have changing tables.
Tip : don’t carry your entire diaper bag to the toilet, just the stuff you need because there is not enough place to have a bag in with you.
Food and Milk
I have a major aversion to flight food. I have seen and read way too many documentaries on the preparation and storage of this food and I cant bring myself to eat it. For Zoe, I carried crackers, bananas, parathas ( Indian bread ), candy, biscuits, kids protein/cereal bars ( I like these ) and other things in small ziplocks.
For milk, these tetra packs worked perfectly. They don’t need to be refrigerated. For going through security, give yourself about 30 minutes extra because the milk will go through extra screening. They open one pack and screen it. ( Note : this has been my experience in all the trips. But I’ve read a couple of instances on online forums where some people weren’t allowed to carry the tertapacks.) Some airlines also have individual milk bottles that you can get from the airline staff, so that is always another option.
Keep a couple spoons, milk and water bottles with you in the carryon. These Dr. Brown cleaning wipes are my favorite for cleaning toys/milk bottles on the go.
For carry-on luggage, we had 4 pieces with us. Organizing everything strategically helps so in the flight you dont have to get up again and again to pull stuff from overhead bins.
We had one carry-on bag between Amit and I for our stuff – extra set of clothes,toiletries, headphones, laptop, book to read on flight, etc.
For Zoe, I love this duffel bag with wheels and extra pockets to keep food, milk, change of clothes, extra diapers/wipes, blanket,, etc. Packing cubes really help in keeping things organized. Don’t forget to keep small laundry bag in your carry-on as well.
In addition, we had a diaper bag and had the BedBox in hopes of using it as a bed, but came in handy for toys and other stuff nevertheless.
Reality check. It’s not easy. Be prepared. Stay patient. It’s not that bad either.
All the naps, entertainment, chocolates don’t guarantee an easy trip . There were moments where she was fussy, especially when having to put the seat belt on. Tantrums when not wanting to play anymore and throwing the toy because … ummm toddler tantrums have no “because”. At one point, she threw her toy and it dropped on someone’s lap. And that person was fast asleep. Oops! the embarrassment. And ofcourse she wanted to go “outside” – which is her latest obsession. Ughh *eye roll* haha! Also, even if I had the entire food pantry in my carry-on – she barely ate through the flight. So the thing is, be prepared for the funny, annoying, embarrassing, tiring stuff. It’s going to be fine. And most importantly – please dont put off traveling because of the fear of how a flight trip might be.
Hope this helps. If you have any tips or stories to share, please do share them. We can all learn from each other’s experiences. xo Neha