Day 421: Surviving a 10,5 hour flight with a 18 month-old

We are safely back in Sweden for the coming week before we go back again to Hong Kong for one last month.  It is going to be weird when we are finally back here, but until then we have a lot to think of so that is what is at the front of my mind.  One of the things is the remaining long-haul flights with the little guy.

On today’s 10,5 hour flight, he was basically amazing.  He had a slight fit after we were up in the air for about 8 hours, but after we were thru that, he was back to his old self again.  I would say that this was basically the smoothest flight we have had with him.  And I do not think it was an accident.  Here’s the factors that I think can help make a toddler an easier traveler.

  • Travel with them frequently, starting when they are little.  I guess it does not have to be airplanes, but getting them out of the house so they learn early on that being in the world is what it means to exist, then they will probably be more keen to be in new environments and less dependent on everything in their life being tied to home.
  • Get to the airport early and find a play area and let them play play play so they are a little physically tired at the beginning of the flight (helps them sit longer, which can help especially if you get stuck on the runway for a few hours!)
  • Have the same rhythm you would when you go through a normal day.  Including snacks, meals, and naps.
  • Pack the whole regimen of snacks, but don’t panic and get them all out at once if they get whiny.  As they say in war movies, “steady, steady, S T E A D Y” – keep a cool hand and only get the snacks out when it’s time.
  • Pack a select grouping of toys and books that are a good representation of what they have at home – some favorites should be included.  But also, time things so you do not get everything out at once.  Maybe also put some away when you bring out the new ones, too.
  • Get a few new toys and books for the flight, so they can “discover” them with you as something new.
  • If both parents are traveling with them, take turns giving the little one the attention they need.  If the child is in a “mommy” or “daddy” specific time (like now the little guy really likes his mom a lot, and if she is around I am basically garbage), then do what you can to help the other parent – when the meal comes, get it set up for them to grab a few bites, have a napkin ready for them, etc.
  • Be in a good mood, laugh, and play with them.  It really helps the time go faster if you see the little person you are traveling with as a fun person to fly with.  Plus, I think people like to see little ones laughing, and if they see that and then there is a mild freakout, they will probably be more forgiving and less annoyed with it.  But:
  • Don’t worry about annoying other people because you have a child.  You will annoy them.  But they can just as easily be annoyed by someone leaning their seat back or the bad movie selection.  It’s public transportation, after all, and you are obviously doing your best, right?  So if there is a little noise from your little one, don’t get more stressed than you need to be.
  • Band together with the other parents.  Today, there was a family with a little baby in front of us, and I helped them get situated when the flight attendant was doing an amazing job at not being helpful (and being kind of mean to them, actually).  And then later, when the little guy was sleeping sprawled out on my seat when I came back from the bathroom, the father told me I could sit in the spare seat they had.  Nice, huh?

I think the biggest thing is to just be comfortable in the situation you are in.  Your child will feed off the energy you put out there, so you want to make sure you are not worried, anxious, or short-fused – or they will be those things x10.  But it also works the other way – if you are happy, glad to be there, and curious – they will also be, maybe even x20.  🙂





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