Monday, April 21, 2014

Tips for surviving a transatlantic long-haul flight with a toddler -- by yourself.

It didn't occur to me until the fifth person told me I was crazy that I may -- just may -- have been crazy for flying Transatlantic with just me and an 18-month-old. I've given it some deep thought since then, and I've concluded that, though I may indeed be crazy, it's not for that reason. If you're not up for adventure, you're not up for my kind of life. We can still be friends, but you're always going to think I'm crazy.

You all know to bring extra diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes. Here are more some thoughts/tips:

1. Sleep on the plane. I know, I know, easier said than done. But flights to Europe leave around bedtime for toddlers anyway, so your kiddo will be tired. Airplanes are basically huge white-noise machines, so my boy was able to get about 4-5 hours of sleep. I managed a little less, but that's just how overnight flights to Europe go. If you aren't able to sleep much, well, perk up and get excited that when you land, you are landing in EUROPE -- land of perfect coffee, perfect croissants, and public transportation! I am usually riding on a travel high when I land overseas, which makes up for my lack of sleep. Also, I haven't gotten a good nights sleep in well over two years, so what's one more night of light naps?

2. Be flexible with your travel plans. We waited until the last possible minute to book our tickets and flew on a Wednesday when the flights were least full. There were over a hundred empty seats on our Cincinnati to Paris direct flight, meaning we were able to snag an entire row to ourselves near the back of the plane. Having an entire row means you and your toddler can snuggle up together and attempt some sleep.

3. Be nice to the gate and flight attendants. This goes without saying as a) you should always be nice to everyone and b) these people, in particular, are essentially Gods when it comes to making your flight pleasant or miserable. Be kind. The gate attendants will be able to tell you how full the flight is and move you to better seats. Tip: if you want to know where empty seats are, you can usually log on to the airline website with your phone and start to buy a ticket for your flight. At that point you can usually see a map of the airplane and available seats.

Toddler on an airplane.
4. Relax. I spent the first few flights with my wee one very stressed out at every peep he made, worrying that I was upsetting my fellow travelers. Try to realize that: most people are or have been parents. It's only people like you (pre-baby, of course) who scoff and wonder why you can't keep your baby under control. Everyone else understands. And unless he's having a total meltdown, it's probably not nearly as loud or annoying as you think it is. Again: airplanes are huge white-noise machines.

5. Bring lots and lots of snacks and a bottle of water. You aren't allowed to sit in 1st class (on most airlines) with a baby, so you are not going to be bombarded with fresh cookies or warm nuts every five minutes. Bring an empty water bottle and refill it after security.

6. Babywear. You can't wear your child for takeoff or landing (I think that's weird, but lots of things about airline rules are weird.), but you can wear him to help him fall asleep, or stay still, or any other of things you might need. If you bring a Moby or similar wrap, it can double as a blanket. I used an Ergo because my kiddo hates the Moby nowadays. You know what your child likes.

7. Check your luggage. You usually get to check one bag for free when you're flying internationally. Even if it's standard carry-on size, consider checking it just for the freedom, particularly if you have a direct flight. It'll make going through security and running through the airport a thousand times easier.

8. Order the vegetarian meal. Or really, order any kind of special meal. This way, the flight attendants will bring you your meal before everyone else gets theirs.

9. Accept help. Most people are nice. I can't tell you how many people offered to do the smallest things for me -- like put our diaper bag in the overhead bin or get it down for us. I am very much an I-can-do-it-myself type of person. This is not conducive to solo traveling with a toddler. Get over yourself, and ask for help if it would make everyone's flight easier.

10. Bring toddler earphones. My friends know me as the screen-time dictator. On long-haul flights, this goes out the window. My kiddo can watch The Little Mermaid the entire way there if it keeps him quiet (though, again, considering the overnight flights, sleep is more likely than movies). Those little earbuds they give you on the plane, however, don't cut it when it comes to 18-month-olds. We got him some little kids' earphones that are supercute and actually stay on his head.

Toddler earning his wings!
11. Bring a new toy. I bought my wee boy a bunch of reusable stickers at an airport shop. He was captivated because they were new and they were all pictures of things at the airport. We talked about planes, control towers, and luggage, placing sticker after sticker, until dinner was served.

12. Nurse if you are able. I have honestly not found that the old saying of "nurse during takeoff and landing" to make much of a difference, though I know some people who swear by it. I do know, however, that nursing makes my little boy happy. It's really, really nice to have an immediate solution to any sort of potential meltdown on the plane. Kudos to Delta, also: when a flight attendant noticed I was nursing mid-flight, she brought me a bottle of water.

13. Pajamas on the plane. It's not only comfortable for the baby and encourages bedtime, but everyone thinks it's super-cute.




So how was our flight to Paris? My little boy watched about 15 minutes of a cartoons, ate some snacks, played peekaboo with the woman behind us, nursed himself sleepy, and slept for about five hours. He then woke up, ate half my breakfast, and was wide awake in Paris. He took a short nap in the Ergo while I was on the train to my friend's apartment, took one short nap later that afternoon somewhere on our walk from the Eiffel Tower to the Champs-Élysées, then went to bed at 8:30 as usual.

Mayb I just got lucky, but it was well-deserved, believe me. (He's 19-months-now and still doesn't really sleep through the night.) He was awake most of the nine-hour flight home, however, and managed to avoid the jetlag better than I did.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Kindergarten and Cargo Bikes!

My wee boy started KINDERGARTEN this week! It's great to have him back on a schedule because he loves routine and structure and rules an...