Now that it’s all over, I’ll admit it. I was apprehensive about our recent long-haul flight. After all, 23 hours stuck on a plane is pretty horrendous on your own, let along looking after a strong-willed three-year-old. Of course, when hubby said he was dreading the flight I dismissed his concerns. “It’ll be fine!” I said. “What are you worrying about?” Now, I’ll admit it, I was worried. But one of us had to remain optimistic.
We survived. We survived both ways (46 hours in total, not including the additional train and plane trips we made at our destination) unscathed. So, how did we do it? Here are my top tips.
Give in to demands
This is the one time that discipline needs to be put aside for the sake of survival. The 23-hour flight is not the time to say “no”, or to let your child have a tantrum on the floor for the sake of learning a lesson. Of course, some people do this, but you need to think of your fellow passengers, in addition to your own sanity. So, for just one day your little one gets to watch as much television as they want. They get to have a chocolate. And, if they insist on wearing their headphones through the transit lounge, with the cord dragging on the floor, just let them. It’s only a day.
Related: How to survive a flight with a baby
Invest in travel games and activity books
Prior to our flight I hit Kmart, spending a mere $20 on enough activities to keep missy entertained for days. Winning activities included a magnetic travel snakes and ladders game; a bag of pipe cleaners and beads, which missy could thread for hours; and numerous colouring and sticker books. Most of the activities required our attention (even when not warranted), but they were essential for those times that missy wanted a screen break.
Download some favourites on a separate device
Just before we went away hubby got himself a new phone, freeing up his old one for missy’s exclusive use while away. We discovered that you can download most children’s Netflix shows onto a device. Be warned though, the shows expire a few days after being watched when you’re offline, so you want to download more than enough to keep your little one going – it also came in handy while we were away and without internet (sometimes you just need a little Peppa Pig to allow you to have dessert).
Related: Flying with a 20-month old
Bring enough snacks for a trip to Everest
I thought we had packed more than enough snacks. When packing them, I remembered an article I read about a family stuck on the tarmac for ages, with no food left for their toddler on the plane. I made sure I packed for all scenarios. Even so, I found myself with little left when we landed in London from Melbourne. I do have a guzzler though.
To start with I packed all the cold favourites in a cool bag, to last the first leg of the journey. This included berries and squeeze yoghurts (which can be frozen if you want them to last longer). Then I packed more fruit, sandwiches, rice cakes, vegetable chips and sultanas. While it sounds excessive, it came in handy for a couple of reasons. 1) Missy wasn’t always awake for a meal 2) Missy wasn’t a huge fan of the aeroplane meals. It’s important to remember you need to throw out things like fruit at your destinations, so it’s worth bringing extra dry food as they’ll come in handy when you’re traveling back from the airport.
Also, don’t forget a drink bottle! Everywhere we went had drinking fountains we could refill from.
This aligns with my first point on going with the flow. Expecting your child to sleep their usual 12 hours in 24 hours (or thereabouts) is not realistic. For our trip from Melbourne to London I think we got about six hours out of little miss. On the way home it was a total of four. Yes, it made jetlag difficult for all concerned, but we had an easy flight, and I figure surviving that confined space makes a lack of sleep worthwhile.
Pack a change of clothes
The reasons for this are obvious. Accidents happen. Missy spilt numerous drinks, and the change of clothes came in handy. It’s also good to bring pyjamas for when you want them to sleep. Also, don’t forget to pack a change of clothes for yourself. If I hadn’t, I would have smelt like sour milk the whole way there!
Invest in airport lounge access
We only did this on the way back, and it was absolutely worthwhile. While we get airport lounge access with our credit card, what I didn’t realise is that you can just pay for access at some lounges (I wish I knew that when we travelled with a 10-month-old). Most lounges offer free food and drink (yes, alcohol as well); and have showers. Never underestimate the power of a shower. Our lounge in Heathrow even had a little cinema that was playing Fantastic Mr Fox – a great distraction for a tired toddler, in a quiet, relaxing environment for Mum and Dad.
And here’s what we didn’t do that we should have …
Invest in a sleeping aid
I think missy would have slept better had we investing in a Plane Pal or equivalent. While our airline, Qantas, states they don’t allow them, I think it would have been worth trying (I’ve read a number of comments indicating some generous air hosts will allow it). These devices create flat beds for little ones, allowing them to stretch out and relax in comfort. It’s easy to think your toddler doesn’t need this, but it would definitely help.
Ask for kid activities
This is a trivial one, but I found myself a bit annoyed that the airline didn’t offer any of the kids on board activity packs. After all, I had told missy she would get a treat – her cousin regularly receives amazing packs when she flies Emirates. Qantas, however, were not forthcoming. What I didn’t realise was you just have to ask. It wasn’t until the return journey that missy finally got a treat for flying. I know she doesn’t HAVE to get a freebie, but it does make kids feel pretty special, and it’s always more fun to play with something new.
Bring an extra squeeze bottle
I’ve eluded to the sour milk situation. Missy loves a milk, and delighted in getting them on the plane. However, each beverage came in a plastic cup. A plastic cup which sat on a tray table that was easy to knock when you’re juggling pencils, soft toys and headphones. Suffice to say we had a few spills. Enough spills that we were out of clothes and blankets by the end of the flight. In hindsight, an extra squeeze bottle that the air hosts could fill would have been a good solution.
This list is by no means exhaustive. In fact, if you have additional tips I’d love to hear them. This won’t be our last long-haul flight!
In the meantime, keep an eye out on the blog for more travel tips to come!
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