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Toddler Goes International… Surviving a Flight With A Small Child

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toddlerinternationalchild.jpgSo we are about to take our toddler to visit family in England.

Sorry, wait a minute. What’s that, honey?

My husband just asked me what I was doing. I told him, I’m writing about flying with small children. Oh, my husband said, that’s easy. They don’t serve alcohol on domestic flights any more, but they still serve booze on the international ones. So take all your vacations abroad.

I gave him the look wives give their husbands when they make that kind of comment, and back to typing.

Hopefully this will contain some useful information, gathered from a lot of flights we’ve taken with our son.

Some have been sweet (like one vacation – baby cooed and grinned at fellow passengers, fell asleep, woke up as plane touched down. Several other passengers remarked on what a good baby he was.) And some have been hell (return flight from that vacation. Board with grumpy baby. Grumpy baby turns into fussy baby. Turns into crying baby. Turns into screaming baby. Screams for remainder of 5-hour flight. Disembark, tears instantly melt away and fellow passengers, who have been giving me looks of hatred all flight, look at me as if to say, why didn’t you do that five hours ago, you evil mother?)

There’s nothing to guarantee you’ll have flight 1, and not flight 2, but here’s my advice for the best chance of a smooth flight.

Fly when your baby should be asleep. Definitely fly at night for long haul. The lights are dimmed on night flights, and it’s easier to persuade a baby to sleep.

If your baby naps well, fly during naptime for short flights. Hoping your baby will nap can backfire, as your baby may refuse to nap, become overtired and very, very cranky. See flight 2 above. Only attempt if you are reasonably confident your baby will nap.

Bring entertaining, quiet toys for my son, that’s books with lots of pictures, stuff he can take apart and put back together, playdough, crayons, new toys he hasn’t seen before. Hit the dollar store and buy a stash of new toys, hide them in your carry-on, and produce a new toy every 30 minutes or every hour or so.

TV. Now is a good time to relax the TV ban. A portable DVD player is a great thing to buy or borrow for a flight. If you don’t let your child watch TV normally, remember a few hours isn’t going to fry their braincells. A small bored child screaming will fry your braincells so this is a good time to let it slip.

Lots of supplies. Specifically, change of clothes, diapers, wipes, a new shirt especially for breastfeeding moms, and more food and milk/formula than you think you’ll need. Your child will invent a game called throw-the-cheerios-on-the-floor and then be ravenously hungry.

Avoid Flying With Crawling Babies. Baby will want to crawl up the aisles. Crawling baby would not win an encounter with a flight attendant’s cart or a passenger in a hurry for the restroom. Baby will get extremely cross that parents won’t let him crawl. Aggro all around. Non-mobile babies are easier and toddlers are taller – even though you will be running up and down after the toddler, they are more easily seen by the other people going up and down.

Hope your fellow passengers are friendly. But not too friendly. One flight, the lady in front of us entertained our son with peekaboo between the seats for ages. Thank you, wonderful lady.
Another flight, as soon as we sat down, our son was shouting Bod! Bod! Bod! over and over. We couldn’t work out what bod was. Then my husband has a a flash of inspiration. It’s Bald! he said, slightly too loudly. The bald man in front of us was very gracious at first, but was clearly loosing patience with bod! bod! bod! and husband sloped off with Toddler as soon as the seat belt light was off.
Another flight had overly helpful people. Toddler was grumpy, fussy, and wailing. People kept giving him the in-flight pretzels. No! NO! NO! he shouted at them (he doesn’t really like pretzels, said me) but the next time we went past them, more pretzels. I’ve been off pretzels ever since.

Attitude. Well, the correct attitude. Even the best laid plans go awry with small children. If you get a flight 2, remember you are doing your best to calm and reassure your child, and all the other passengers will glare at you, but eventually the flight will be over and you’ll never see any of them ever again.

But we survived. We think we’ll survive this time. Many, many others have survived. You will survive too.

Any veterans with more words of wisdom?

We are off to the airport in a few hours. Wish us luck!

Anyone else flying soon with their babies or toddlers? I wish you safe and happy travels!


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