My heart was pounding, my hands shaking, the noise was unbearable. I knew I was trapped. I could feel the panic setting in, I began searching for a way out but I knew I couldn't escape... I was stuck on a plane with 3 screaming kids. My 3 screaming kids.
My 20 month old twins, my 4 year old son, my husband and I were quite literally squashed into 3 seats on a budget airline that - surprise surprise - was delayed. It was now WAY past nap time.
Passengers stared, as I sat rocking myself (and the child) back and forth, desperately “SHHH- SHING,” I wondered how on earth I had gotten into this mess? I internally declared....I AM NEVER. DOING. THIS. AGAIN.
Since that horror trip I have learnt more than a few tricks! Here are my top 10 toddler taming travel tips.
1. Timing is everything
Where possible book flights that work around sleep times. There is nothing worse than a flight that departs at 1 am, or two hours after you child should have been having their day nap. Overnight flights are best for long haul flights. Day flights for short haul. Sleep cues are vital for helping toddlers fall asleep. Planes are noisey distracting places, so if your toddler has a bedtime routine at home, follow it as closely as you can on the flight. Change them in to Pj’s, read their fav book, brush their teeth, sing their fav song, bring their pillow or blanket, what ever symbolises SLEEP to your child. If you’re travelling with a baby, check out COZIGO (www.cozigo.com), this clever pop-up black out cover attaches to the airline bassinet allowing your baby to sleep without having to wait until until the cabin lights to go down. It also doubles as a sun and sleep cover for every stroller on the market meaning you can save yourself those meltdowns when out and about.
2. It takes a village
Make friends with those around you, chat with passengers and the hostesses. Introduce yourself and your child. Manners go a long way towards gaining support and sympathy from fellow travellers when your two year old is doing laps of the aisle. Some parents write little notes and give out ear plugs. I think a smile and a hello are just as effective.
3. Surprise! You’re behaving!
Pack a special “Plane Bag.” Show your child this bag of wonders for a few days before the flight to build excitement. Fill the bag with all your child’s favourite things. I visit a local “cheap" store ($2 shop) buy 10-15 small items for each child. I then wrap these. Everything from MatchBox cars, to Play Dough, crayons, stickers, finger puppets (ANYTHING!) The child then gets to unwrap one item at time. For example; sit quietly with your seat belt fastened for take off and you’ll get to choose a present, watch your movie until the food comes and you’ll get 2 presents. Bribery is king on a flight. All parenting rules (other than survival) are out the window. If you couldn't be bothered assembling this your self check out Very Busy Bag (www.verybusybag.com).
4. Comfort comes first
Getting kids comfy on flights is really tough. My kids have always found plane seats uncomfortable and I have always hated the way the kids end up laying over me. Thus Plane Pal was born. An inflatable seat extender, Plane Pal allows your child to stretch out and rest or play while still safely seat belted.(www.planepal.com). Remember to dress your kids in soft comfortable clothes that can be easily changed, avoid zips and buckles. Always bring a spare set, or TWO!
5. Technology is your friend
When it comes to travel, technology is your friend. Embrace it. For maximum effectiveness limit screen time in the lead up to travel and load the tech with new games and movies. Remember to bring the chargers onboard, many seats now have USB charge points.
6. Hydrate and pee!
Kids can become very dehydrated on flights so offer drinks constantly, it's best to bring your own drink bottle to avoid spills. Remember this must be empty to pass through security. On the flip side, when your 4 year old “has to go” they really have to go! So anticipate long toilet cues and take your child to the loo regularly, before they ask, even if they don't feel they need to go. For younger ones, pull ups are a great option. JUST IN CASE!
7. SNACKS SNACKS SNACKS AND MORE SNACKS!
However, ensure you dispose of any fruits or other restricted food items leaving the plane. Many countries impose strict fines for bringing prohibited foods in. Even if by accident. So check twice! An orange slice in a lunch box could cost you $400 USD.
8. Don't take germs with you
Hand sanitiser and wipes are a must. I recommend wiping your seats, arm rests and tray tables. Tests on these surfaces show they are covered in nasties! I remove my children’s shoes as soon as we board, I pack 2 pair of socks to ensure they are protect from germs on the Plane floor, especially in the bathroom. If germs are really a worry for your family them check out www.seatsitters.com
9. Know the rules
Check with your airline regarding regulations associated with travelling to your destination with kids. Do you need to travel with the child’s birth certificate? If traveling without both of the child’s parents what is required? What visas are required? There is NOTHING worse than planning the vacation of a life time and then being turned away at check in!
10. Know where to find help
A little research before hand goes a long way in a crisis. So make plans early. Speak to your doctor about water and other issues particular to your destination. Discuss what vaccinations your child may need. Ensure you have valid travel insurance that covers your child and contact them prior to travel to locate their suggested provider should you require medical assistance. This may seem over the top… until you need it. It's also a good idea to check for any government warnings current for your destination. (www.smarttraveller.com)
11. And a bonus one... BREATHE
Remember travel is meant to be fun. Don’t let the stress get to you. I guarantee even if the flight is a disaster you’ll soon be laughing about it.