How to prepare toddler for long haul flights

As you know, I had recently brought Caitlin to Sydney for Christmas. Mummee was already there in Sydney- Yes, I flew with a 3 yr old alone!

She’s been to Sydney once before when she was 2. So for this trip, she still remembered the whole experience of the journey (which is what airlines should pay attention to! It’s not just the flight that customers remember- it’s the whole experience of the journey!)

So how did I prepare for the journey?

Prepare ahead
If you can help it, book an overnight flight. What follows will explain why.

Deprive them of sleep
To this day Caitlin still takes afternoon naps. On the day of the (night) flight, immerse them in activities during the day so that they don’t have a chance for the nap. What follows will explain why.

Check-in early
Get a window seat. Box the toddler in so that they cannot just unbuckle & already be on the aisle.

Hopefully there isn’t going to be a send-off party for your journey. Because checking-in early also allows you the time for airport terminal exploration. And do explore: The retailers, the facilities, especially if there are glass elevators in your terminal. It’s amazing how many times toddlers like to ride glass elevators. Caitlin kept exclaiming “whoooaaaa” everytime it was going up / down; the tourists in the same lift would find it funny the first time, but of course at the 100th time for Daddee, it had lost its cuteness.

What follows will explain why check-in early.

Don’t sit down, keep moving
This is crucial to the above points. What follows will explain why.

Don’t enter the boarding gate till you have to
This supports the above point. Once you enter the gate, you have nowhere to go but to sit down.

Be the first ones to board the plane
Two groups of passengers can board early (rather than board according to your seating numbers): Those who can afford first & business class, and those with kids.

Boarding early allows for quicker settling-down. Being the first ones on also allows the crew to notice & make mental notes of you & the toddler. This makes it easier to ask for toddler-favours!

Now, the why if you haven’t already figured it out :)

S L E E E E E E E P

If you can, arrange for toddler to stretch out
Of course this is quite difficult on full flights. But once the plane starts taxiing, scout around for empty seats to possibly move to. Caitlin is already over 3 feet tall, it will make her sleep a lot easier.

I did all the above on both flights to & from Sydney; where I also managed some snaps of her with the Christmas tree.

She was quite full of anticipation & excitement. This started a few days before when Daddee started creating the buzz. The adventure starts when she starts getting dressed ready for the airport and the flight. “I am going to Australia“, she would tell everyone. The experience then includes the KLIA Express train ride to the international airport. She’s always loved train rides. Arriving inside the massive structure of the airport, the checking-in, another short ride to the satelites, are all mini-adventures of running around & ahead of Daddee on this great journey. Oh, the travelator also makes for interesting if not somewhat exhausting-for-the-Daddee activity of “let’s go again!

Once settled on the plane, and making Caitlin understand and accept that the jie-jie will only start bringing around the headphones once the plane stops getting higher and higher, I had asked the crew to get me some warm water for her milk feed. Airplane food isn’t always very toddler friendly. Depending on what it was, some things she ate, but mostly it was just the bread roll.

From her first flight experience she remembered the inflight entertainment. Still reeling from the ongoing adventure, she insisted on watching something. Note to parents: the headphones provided will be too big for the toddler.

headphones_plane.jpg

I had to MacGyver-ise something to make the headphones fit her little head. I took the headrest sheet of tissue & folded it a few times to make up for the gap between the top of her head & the headphones.

I think it worked pretty well- she was happy with it.

On the Sydney – KL flight returning home, I did more or less the same things again. on this journey we had a 1-hour stop-over at Brisbane. Caitlin was already wearing out by the time we were due to board back on the (same) plane. When the plane was taxiing on the runway, even before take off, this seasoned traveller was already asleep.

And, she slept all the way to KL. I, however, didn’t sleep well not because of tending to her needs (toilet visits, meals, “I can’t hear the tv!”, “Caitlin come back here!”) but because I was concerned about her rolling off the seats in her sleep.

So, if I can do this flying with toddler alone, so can you!

One of the wonderful innocence of toddlers, at least for mine, is their ignorance of differences among people. While she was in Sydney, she saw no difference in the people she met: white, yellow, or black. This innocence was all too apparent at the Australian immigration check point at the airport, when we were leaving the country.

“.. And where are you going, sweetie?” asked the officer.

“I am going to Australia!”

Well, we must have made her feel like home, wherever she was! ;)

2 Responses to How to prepare toddler for long haul flights

  1. Welcome home.

    Thanks for all the tips. shall remember to get the night flight next time we travel long distance!

  2. Sleep, yes, the traveling parent’s bestest friend! My luck, though? The overtired toddler would have meltdown after meltdown that, to an observer, would look like one veerrrry loooonng meltdown. Torture for all!

    ladybughugss last blog post..A Summer Friday, in bullets