A baby changes everything. This is true in life of course. But especially true when it comes to how you travel. A little human now governs where you go, where you stay, what you do, where you eat.. pretty much everything. But all is not lost. It is possible to travel with kids without completely losing you mind. The key word being ‘completely’.
We began travelling with Kabir when he was all of three months old. Today is he almost two. Each phase comes with its own fun and challenges. Travelling with an infant is, in our opinion, way easier than travelling with a toddler. Food is not as issue, they nap almost all the time and wherever you want (the pram and baby carrier were always used for naps) and most importantly -they are not mobile ! Sigh. The good old days where you could leave a baby in one spot and come back to find him in the same spot.
But the fun you can have with a toddler who is walking, running and talking is incomparable. Travel with Kabir today is incredible as we get to see him explore and enjoy a new place in a way only a toddler can – with utmost abandon and an insatiable curiosity.
This is the first of a two part series on travelling with toddlers. This is on surviving the dreaded flight.
The flight, especially if it is long can give any parent nightmares. We ideally like to keep screen time as a last resort, because once that’s done with, well, then what are you left with right ? So here are our 10 rules to travelling with a toddler.
If it is an international flight we always try and take an overnight flight. Our recent flight to Paris is the best example of this. The flight took off at 2 am and reached Paris the next morning. We kept Kabir up beyond his bedtime of 8 pm, let him sleep late, and so he, and therefore, us slept through the flight until we reached Paris the next morning. Similarly with shorter flights. If its a short day time flight locally, we like taking a flight which coincides with his afternoon nap time. It is then usually easier to put him down for a nap for at least some part of the flight.
Not all flights can possibly coincide with your baby’s sleep time. So this is crucial.
a. Colouring books : Kabir loves colouring. So we carry crayons and a colouring book. We have recently discovered this reusable painting book at Hamleys’ which is quite a game changer. Click here to see this incredible buy.
b. Travel games : CQ Games have these amazing travel games for slightly older kids. Keep your kid entertained with whats around you using these incredible on-the-go games. Click here to know more.
c. Books : These are a saviour. Books can keep most children entertained for long stretches of time. Of course travel with a toddler anyway results in carrying so much stuff that heavy books are not ideally what you want to add to the mix. Many books now have online versions which can be downloaded and kept for later. Our favourites ? Anything by Julia Donaldson! And one specifically for flights – Monsters dont ride on airplanes by Hilarye Fuller. You can buy this one here.
d. Stickers: Just buy sheets of stickers. The brighter and more colourful the better. Now take an empty sheet and get them going! You can even buy sticker / activity books which do pretty much the same thing.
e. Screen time : When all else fails you have your dependable i-pad or even the in fight entertainment. Keep their favourite games / shows / movies downloaded and you’re good to go !
We have a backpack (Pavan found this incredible one here) and these amazing packing cubes which pretty much keep our life organised. It’s a game changer. Must have’s for the bag ? Extra clothes. Medicines. Snacks. Wet Wipes/Sanitizer. Diapers. Bottle/Sippy Cup. Entertainment! Sigh. The days of travelling without hand baggage are over my friend.
Cabin pressure is real. And you sure don’t want an inconsolable child during landing / take off. So be prepared. The key is to get that jaw moving. With an infant who is breastfeeding, its the easiest. Nurse while take off and landing both helping ear pressure and comforting your baby in one go. If s/he is slightly older a milk bottle, sippy cup with juice will work wonders. As they grow older lollipops and gummy bears also work amazingly well but be warned. A toddler high on sugar on a flight is not a pretty sight.
Within reason of course. Toddlers don’t like being cooped up for too long. If your child gets restless just go for a small walk with them. Use the baby card and smile sweetly at fellow passengers. It usually works.
If your child is small enough to fit into a bassinet, please make sure you book it in advance so that you get the front row and all the space that goes with it. Lots of airlines have bassinets that can fit babies upto 6-7 months of age. Again this is mainly for long haul flights. If your child is past the bassinet phase but is still not two, like us right now, we try and get the window and aisle seat and request the person checking us in to keep the middle seat empty. You will be surprised how helpful people can be. Having that middle seat empty can change your entire flight !
Did I say snacks ? Go armed with a variety of food. Little things that your toddler can keep munching on through the flight. A hungry child is not a happy one, as most parents would know. Snacks that we love ? Slurrp Farm cookies are delicious ! Healthy and seriously yum. A bowl of mixed dried fruits- raisins, walnuts and cashew work great. Kabir also loves dried fig. Makhana/fox nuts are our current favourite.
If you are tempted to check in your bulky pram, don’t. Most international flights have layovers where you have to walk endlessly between terminals. Usually at 3 am. Trust us you do not want to carry your heavy toddler around. Take your pram all the way upto the flight and they will keep it for you. However, always always remember to tell them that you need the pram right there at the flight when you land, otherwise they will send it to the conveyer belt with your other luggage and then the whole point is lost.
Especially if you have a football obsessed son like ours. One recent airline we used very sweetly gave him a toddler kit which included a ball, much to his delight, and that was the end of all sanity for us. If you want to spend hours collecting the said ball from under everyone’s seat or apologising to people being bonked in the head; the ball would be the way to go. If not, well, you know what to do.
Every child has something they hold on to for comfort while sleeping. Ours has a small pillow which he just loves. Hand this over to them when you see them getting tired. In this new environment with so much stimulation, something comforting and familiar will really help them calm down.
Travel with toddlers is completely unpredictable. Sometimes you can have the calmest, most amazing flight and sometimes you can have a flight straight out of hell complete with poop explosions and temper tantrums. The biggest thing you need, in huge measures, is patience. A little patience goes a long way with these little ones, especially on a flight where everyone is tired and cooped up together. A flight can be hard but well worth the holiday that is waiting on the other side !