This is another in a series of guest posts by other bloggers. Read to the end for a longer biographical note on today's guest blogger, Michelle from The Parent Vortex. This post is also part of my special HAVE KIDS, WILL TRAVEL series to give you advice and wisdom on traveling with kids along with some fun giveaways of travel-friendly items. Michelle is sharing her tips for floating peacefully above the clouds, even when kids are along for the ride.
Flying on an airplane is one of the quintessential experiences of modern life. High in the sky at 30,000 feet above the ground, we are far, far removed from our ancestry as primitive hunter-gatherer people. Space is tight, movement is restricted, safety is paramount and we're surrounded by a hundred other people in close quarters. It's not exactly the ideal situation for human beings in general, but the allure of quickly traveling around the world is strong and being able to fly somewhere in a few hours is certainly easier than many days of travel by car or boat. So how can you make air travel easier for yourself and your child?
Before you depart:
- Find out what kind of restrictions your airline currently has on hand baggage and its contents. Can you fly with a bottle of pumped breast milk? How many pieces of hand baggage are you allowed to bring?
- If you can choose seats in advance, choose some that are close to the bathrooms. Aisle seats are good for parents with children still in diapers or who are currently toilet learning or doing EC, so you can make a quick getaway to the loo when needed.
- Talk to your child about what flying on an airplane is like. Practice using inside voices instead of outside voices. Read books about airplanes and spot them flying by.
- Consider booking a flight during your child's usual nap or bedtime. Chances are good that they will sleep at least part of the flight, which makes keeping them occupied a little easier.
- Resist the urge to bring every single thing you know your child likes. I know I have a tendency to over-pack, so I have to consciously remind myself that it is better to bring a few things and do laundry frequently than lug a massive bag (plus the carseat, stroller and carry-on) through the airport and keep track of my toddler at the same time. I usually bring our cloth diapers with us and launder as usual while we're away, but I know many families prefer to use disposables while away from home. If you do choose to use cloth while away, a nice big wet bag is a great investment.
- Give toddlers and older children their own carry-on bag, and let them choose a few toys or activities to bring. I usually sneak a few new toys in, too, like tiny books, a new box of crayons, a small stuffed animal, or hand puppet.
- Always bring snacks, including protein such as cheese, roasted chickpeas, a hard boiled egg, or nuts. Protein will help avoid the perils of a sugar high and subsequent crash.
- If you are traveling with a breastfeeding newborn, remember to bring lots of extra nursing pads, diapers, a change of clothes (or two) for baby, and at least one clean shirt and nursing bra for yourself. When I flew with my 4-week-old baby from Ireland to Canada, I went through two shirts and three sets of baby pajamas over the course of our journey. After cleaning up the third diaper blowout in an airport or airplane bathroom I figured I had survived my new-parent initiation rites, only to leak milk through my last clean t-shirt during the next feeding. I was really glad I'd worn a cardigan that could be buttoned up to hide the giant milk stain on my shirt.
While you're airborne:
- Most airlines will ask you to hold infants and young toddlers upright and facing back over your shoulder during takeoff and landing. While you won't be able to breastfeed during these times, nursing or offering a bottle as soon as the seatbelt sign goes off will help your baby's ears adjust to the change in pressure.
- Practicing elimination communication (EC) on an airplane is possible, but it's challenging. If you want to offer your baby or toddler a potty-tunity during the flight, it's best to take them to the bathroom and hold them over the toilet there. Understandably, airplane bathrooms can be scary for little kids, so don't push it if they're frightened. At the same time, if your toddler is accustomed to eliminating in the potty, they may well hold it and wait for the chance to go in the toilet instead of in a diaper or pull-up. If your habit is to offer the potty every time you think they need to go, continue as normal when you're on the plane. You might just be pleasantly surprised, and if not, have some extra diapers or pull-ups on hand just in case.
- Read stories, sing quiet songs, do some coloring, look at the in-flight magazine or watch cartoons on the tiny TV in the seat in front of you. If your child wants to walk up & down the aisle, go with him or her. If your child has a tantrum, take a deep breath and try to stay calm. Sometimes flight attendants can provide a small distraction with an extra packet of cookies or a blanket. Do your best to comfort your child and remember that every kid has tantrums. You're not alone.
After you arrive:
- Adjust to your new time zone by going about your day as the local time dictates, and do the same for your child as much as possible. On our holiday back to England/Ireland two years later, I found the first night and day was the hardest. After a harrowing trip to Marks & Spencer, during which my toddler actually fell asleep on her dad's shoulder mid-tantrum, she ended up adjusting to the jet lag faster than Tom and I.
In general, I've found that flying with kids is not as difficult as I thought it would be. The hardest part, for me, is accepting that I won't be able to sit back and read my novel through the entire flight! Being prepared with a few interesting toys, some good snacks, and a big supply of patience will help make your journey a peaceful one. Bon voyage!
Michelle Carchrae is a freelance writer and mama to two little girls. After moving from Ireland to Canada with a newborn baby, she can safely say that while a transatlantic move during the postpartum period isn't exactly recommended, it's certainly possible! You can read more about Michelle's adventures and thoughts on parenting at her blog, The Parent Vortex.