My first tip might sound controversial, and feel free to disregard it, but it works. I can tell you from experience. I’ve flown with my daughter from Australia to New York three times before she turned three. This last trip we were completely on our own. #nailedit
A Born Traveler
I’m a natural wanderer and I feel at home in airports, in-transit and in-between. All my travels have taught me to appreciate the journey as much as the destination…but of course that was much easier before children.
The first time I flew with my daughter she was six months old. I felt panicky, like all eyes were on us (they weren’t). I remembered my days as a single passenger when I silently prayed that no child sit next to or behind me (seat kickers). I thought I deserved the karma of at least a few dirty looks.
My daughter and I survived that first trip and she was a dream, compared to me. I worried for no reason. Yes, there were moments of fussiness but everyone sitting near me was cool about it. That’s life- kids are in the world. People deal.
They say that the younger the baby, the smoother the journey. As I mentally prepped for ‘operation toddler migration’ I did lots of research. In the form of asking advice from my American Expat Facebook community. What would we do without Facebook and Google?
They came up with a terrific list which you can read in this post here. I took these suggestions on board (literally) and below is my run-down of what worked best.
1.To drug or not to drug that is the question
This one is controversial but I would be dishonest if I left it out. I took my toddler halfway across the world and I gave her an antihistamine to make her sleepy. When it comes to my kid, I typically reach for natural remedies first. I spoke to two doctors, a pharmacist, my therapist and the advice ranged from; ‘Technically we are not supposed to recommend it,” to “dose her up as soon as you get on the plane.”
The downsides: It’s not recommended for children under two and sometimes the medication can cause the adverse reaction, making the child more alert (test it before you travel) so I’ll state the obvious: proceed with caution. That being said, for us, the drugs were a freaking lifesaver! The only time Lavinia slept was after I dosed her up (a meager total of 6 hours out of 24.) I truly believe the sleep benefitted her far more than any adverse effects of the medicine.
2. Snack bribes
My ‘emergency’ stash of M&M’s came out before we even made it to the security line at the airport but at least they kept her quiet. It’s all about survival folks. Little treats, even if they are not exactly ‘healthy,’ can be a good distraction.
3. Keep supplies within reach
Generally, when you travel with small children they seat you in the bulkhead- which means no storage in front of you. If your kid melts down the last thing you need is to dig through the overhead bin. Pack a nappy bag with a few basics in it (diapers, a few snacks, a change of clothes, wipes, and toys) to keep in the floor in front of you during the flight. Store the bag plus refill supplies in overhead during take-off and landing.
4. A new toy every hour
This is good one. I went to the dollar shop and bought a bunch of little (disposable) toys to present to her throughout the flight (you can wrap them up for an extra five seconds of entertainment.) The ones that held her attention the longest were interactive like stickers and colouring books. My profuse apologies to the cleanup crew.
5. Give in to the power of the iPad
My daughter didn’t spend much time playing with our iPad until the flight. I admit we have crossed over to the dark side now as it’s a staple. So be it. Sometimes you just have to let things slide. I don’t want her to be the only freak in kindergarten not knowing what her top three favourite apps are (I joke, I joke.) Which brings me to my last point.
6. Chill..because the flight will end eventually and so will your trip
This may sound funny coming from me because I am a stress-head. A lot of it comes from trying to control the uncontrollable- welcome to parenthood. Lavinia’s sleep schedule, what she eats, wears, who she sees. You can’t control external factors, especially not in a big steel bird in the sky.
Trying to take my own advice here.
While in the USA Lavinia has become obsessed with juice, bagels and ice cream. She’s been staying up late, bruising her shins and chasing dogs. She’s fallen into a pool, gotten slightly tanned, and you know what? She’s having a freaking ball.
If you are hesitant to travel with young kids because of the planning, packing and panic- do it anyway. The memories you will make are more than worth it. I’m a firm believer that, no matter how young, travel makes you a better, richer human being.
This originally appeared as a guest post on Hello Mamas blog.