Saturday, 24 January 2015

Summer in January: Packing and Planning for a Long Flight with a Toddler

God, I love packing a suitcase. Almost as much as I love travelling. It's, like, my special skill. I like to travel light, taking only a perfect little capsule wardrobe, daily essentials, and a few feel-good luxuries - anything else we can pick up there. It's a little trickier with a baby in tow, but not impossible. If I ran my whole life the way I pack a suitcase, I'd be unstoppable. And packing for hot weather in the dead of winter? Heaven.
We're preparing to take our first big trip as a family, besides trips to visit people, and it's going to be someplace warm - hurray! Since the birth of the babe, we've been to California twice to visit my folks, and to Spain once, to visit some of the in-laws. It all went very well, but travelling with a small baby is a LOT easier than with a toddler, and this is going to be a long haul flight. In fact, I'd venture that between 1 and 2 years old is the worst time for long trips - they are too old to spend the whole journey snoozing and breastfeeding, but too young to be plugged into video games or whatever. They want to explore, and are famously pretty unreasonable.  Luckily this is a night flight, so I'm hoping we might just get away with it. This is the plan:
Snacks: Can you pack too many snacks? I don't think so. Packing for a vegan adult usually always involves snacks, so add a toddler and it's going to be half my carry-on. Sorry, aromatherapy facial mist - you've been bumped. Nothing revolutionary, rice cakes, raisins (for once! We don't keep them in the house because of our dog.), granola bars, cereal - anything else I can get at the airport. I aim for tidy and tasty rather than most-nutritionally-perfect, after all it's not every day.
Books: Books are better than toys. They hold her attention longer, are easier to pack, and are less likely to be flung about. Also, much less annoying to fellow passengers than the play phone that is calling the rabbit for the 300th time. I know this is controversial, but I think they are far superior to an iPad. Books are quieter and don't require charging. They don't have to be switched off for take-off and landing, risking a tantrum, there's nothing on them that they aren't allowed to do, risking a tantrum, and we never have to take them away to check our email, ensuring a tantrum. In fact, iPad sessions pretty much always end in tears, come to think of it.
When in doubt, get 'em out: When F. was 4 months old, I flew to California with her by myself. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't THAT bad. Reason? Almost constant breastfeeding. If I was a fellow passenger, I think I'd prefer a little nudity to 11 hours of screaming. Won't be as simple this time, as we aren't boobing nearly as much as we were, but I do still have that ace up my sleeve and I intend to use it.
Accepting Help: Airline staff are always amazing helpful, I've found, especially if you're on your own with a child. If someone on cabin crew offers to hold her while I go to the bathroom, I'm going to gratefully take them up on that.
The Leash: Yes, I have a toddler leash. Not one that pretends to be a backpack either. It's just a leash, and it's 100% essential at this age. Sometimes the girl needs to stretch her legs! If that happens to be at a time when Mommy needs to watch the departures board, she's going to be on the leash. I have zero shame about it.
What else would help with a long haul flight? Tips and tricks?

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