This content has been republished from kidspot.com.au with permission
There’s a good chance my family is a no-fly list after our last attempt at international travel. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t pleasant. For anyone.
You see - not by choice, nor intent - we found ourselves an example of the clichéd worse people to be stuck next to on a flight.
Oh, we weren’t the snorers. We weren’t the man-spreaders. We weren’t the coughers, or the stinkers. We didn’t hog the overhead luggage compartment, or clip our toenails. We didn’t chat to our flight-mates about our health conditions, or aggressively grab the seat in front of us every time we stood up. We didn’t even pack stinky food.
We were the family that dared board the flight with a toddler.
He did so well on the flight over
Let me clarify, when I say international travel, I’m not talking about long-haul travel to the other side of the globe. No, I’m talking a 2.5 hour flight from Brisbane to Nadi, Fiji: It would take us longer to get to Melbourne.
Still, all the usual rigmarole of international travel applied: passports, customs, lengthy airport waits. And there were six of us. My husband, myself and four kids consisting of one surly teen, one seven- year-old boy, one sweet five-year-old girl … and one two year-old-boy.
And there-in lies the problem. The boy.
Oh, he was fine on the way over. He lulled us into a sense of sweet security with his exemplary napping skills on that evening flight. We smiled smugly at the air-staff. ‘Look at us, brilliant parents, off to show our well-behaved children some culture and breakfast buffets. We know, we know, we’re great. You’re welcome.’
And then we had to come home
Fellow passengers, I want you to know that despite our disheveled appearance on that flight, we had a wonderful time.
The boy had a wonderful time, in particular. With his big blue eyes and curly blonde hair he was the star of the show. A week of swimming, and kids club, and village tours, local kid playmates, and parents who were relaxed and massaged and happy-houred …
And then it was over. On our last morning, the seven-year-old realised that was his final shot at the breakfast pastries, and despite our warnings went all in on the chocolate croissants.
We then had a one-hour wait at reception for the airport transfer bus – gotta love that ‘island time’. Nothing undoes massage bliss like trying to ensure you have all of the travel documents while waiting for an hour as your children unpack all of the bags again looking for the shell necklace they are already wearing.
This was followed by an hour long bus trip back to Nadi. The toddler went nuts. ‘This is good’ we thought. ‘He’s getting it out of his system’.
Arriving at the airport we were greeted with a two hour, snaking queue for check-in. We strapped the toddler into his pram and he promptly fell asleep.
So flight-mates, please know that you were in our thoughts at this time. We saw you there in the queue with us. We had to weigh up whether to wake him up then to annoy you during two hours of queuing, or take the chance that he was so exhausted that we’d be able to get him to nap again on the flight. I mean, he did on the way over, right? So we let him nap, and you enjoyed a relatively peaceful check-in experience. You’re welcome.
‘We’re going to need some sick bags up the back’
We boarded our flight, you might have seen us, wrestling kids into seats and whipping out playing cards. See, we were prepared.
You might have also seen my seven-year-old turn green before we’d even left the tarmac. Those damn croissants. Within minutes he had filled two sick bags and your irritation began to seep into my consciousness. The air-staff helped my husband move him to some spare seats up the back of the flight. They loaded them up with more bags, and some wet towels and wished him luck.
I was one-man down.
The teen plugged in her earphones and enjoyed the comfort of the two newly emptied seats beside her.
It was just me, the five year old and the boy. I had this.
But I didn’t.
If you were the lady who ended up with an airborne muesli bar down the back of her shirt, I am so sorry.
If you were the man whose feet my son licked while I was tending to his sister, I am sorry.
If you heard me hissing at the surly teen to take. Her. Damn. Earplugs. Out! I’m sorry.
If you were any of the nearby passengers that heard a top-of-the-lungs rendition of the Fijian song my son had learned at kids club approximately 786 times. I am sorry.
If you heard and were alarmed by the weird guttural noise that my son had discovered he could make, and found hilarious, I am so, so sorry.
If your chair was kicked, he threw something at you, if you heard about his need to poo or learned about his displeasure at the lunch options, again, I’m sorry.
Please know that none of this behavior was condoned and I really was trying my best. If it’s any consolation I wouldn’t have wanted to sit near us, either.
I hope you found some good booze at the duty-free, we sure did. We’ll see you on the next flight, when he’s, like, eight or so.
Top 10 tips for travelling with toddlers
It’s not always as bad as that flight was for us (or you). While it’s not always possible to completely control what happens in the air, there are some steps you can take as a preventive measure.
1. Burn some energy pre-flight Think of tiring activities like swimming or climbing on playground equipment. Wear out those little bones in the hours before flight-time. This is a much more effective tactic than keeping them awake through a nap-time because as every parent knows, a worn-out toddler is much happier than an overtired one.
2. Time your arrival Ideally, it is great to get to the airport a little early to save being rushed and frazzled. That energy transfers to your little people, and you really don’t need that. However, you don’t want to be stuck in an airport too long in the case of delays and flight cancellations. Phone the airline before departing for the airport to check that schedules are running smoothly, and if not, re-assess your own schedule.
3. Be super-nice to the staff Remember, they are just doing their job, and this also means that they are in a position to help you out. From check-in staff, to security and the flight staff, these are the people who can do you favours. A cheery disposition can land you a much needed empty seat, or an extra bottle allowed through to keep bub drinking through the cabin pressure adjustments.
4. Buy bub their own seat Of course children under a certain age can fly for free, but you really need to take into consideration if it is really worth pinching pennies – particularly on a longer flight. Think about the realities of your child on your lap in a very confined space for an extended amount of time #nothanks
5. Board last Wait for the queue to whittle right down before joining it. While getting into your seat without squeezing past other passengers might seem appealing, think about sitting in your seat, with your toddler, while all of the bag loading, cabin checks and processes are underway. Your little one is only going to get hyped up by all of that action, so wait until the end and board as late as possible to avoid all of that.
6. Pack ‘surprises’ Any parent worth their salt is going to bring along some busy activities for their kids. Think things like stickers, new toys, card games, crayons. The trick is in the delivery. Wrap each item separately and bring them out one at a time and only when completely necessary. Tip: Pack away the last activity before bringing out the next. You don’t want to be scurrying around in a confined space trying to find all of your bits and pieces at the end of a flight.
7. Play Dough is heaven sent This could possibly be the best toy to take on board with a toddler. Rolling and squashing is great, enduring fun PLUS it won’t easily roll off the tray table onto the floor and under the seat.
8. Baby wipes can save the day We all know baby wipes are the best invention on earth. They might also be the best invention in air too, so pack plenty. Don’t tempt fate with a purse-size pack, you need to go industrial. Tip: Give all the surfaces areas a wipe down before using because tray tables are gross. And give them a wipe afterwards because, well … kids are gross too.
9. Stay away from the sedatives While it might be tempting to dose up little Johnny with some age-appropriate sedation, be aware that sedatives can often have the opposite effect on toddlers. You might end up with a hyped up kid instead of a calm one. It’s Russian Roulette, and you don’t want to play that on a plane.
10. Ignore the cranky flight-mates You have no control over how other people will behave on the plane, heck, you’re stretched just trying to manage your small companion with under-developed impulse control. Try to stay as calm as possible and remember that all things must end. Eventually you’ll land and get out of the sardine can, and you’ll never have to see old Glarey McGlareypants again.