My Magic Toddler Flight Tips

Well, we have arrived safely back in our little corner of the world.
Actually, we arrived on the 20th, but since there is no Starbucks or Macdonalds to run down and steal internet from (not that I would ever do such a thing. Shame on all of you for knowing what I am talking about.) it has taken me this long to obtain the means to give you an update. 

As most of you know, the getting here process includes several prolonged periods in enclosed Toddler Torture Chambers known as Airplanes. These infernal devices are designes specifically to drive toddlers and the parents of toddlers and everyone unlucky enough to be seated near the toddlers certifiably Insane. 

Over the last couple of monhs since our less-than-stellar experience on the 13 hour flight going to the states, I have been systematically, frantically searching for some magic substance, trick, restraint system, noise muffler, or other device to make the return trip less traumatic. 

Well, I am happy to report to you, that I Won. I did it. I achieved Plane Ride Happiness in the form of Toddler Sleep. And being the incredibly generous and giving person I am, I am about to tell you how I did it, so that you, too, may achieve this peace and harmony and goodwill of fellow passengers. 

Now please do not tale this to mean that a plane ride with toddlers will ever be Fun or Relaxing or anything remotely close... No, a toddler is still a toddler and toddlers and 13 hoir flights do not, under any circumstances, mix well. But, with some tricks and forethought, Non-Horror can be achieved. 

My Magic Toddler Flight Tips

1. Car. Seat


This amazing restraint system is The. Key. The flights on which we had the car seat were happy little strolls in the park beside the flights on which the evil airline people did not allow the car seat. Traveling tip: in Australia, they do not care if your car seat has "approved for use on airplanes" stamped very clearly on the manufacturer's label. You have to have an ORANGE STICKER that says "approved for use in airplanes." And of you do not... Well, 3 hours of Screaming Toddler on that flight. I did not have warm fuzzy Christian feelings towards those airline employees. Quite the opposite. 

But this experience does prove that the major thing making a difference on other flights was the carseat. It seemed to make Theron realize that he was strapped in, he wasn't going to be getting out, it was familiar, and it meant that we were not physically wrestling with him the whole time. 

We almost got the carseat taken away on the 13 hour flight because of the whole orange sticker issue. I almost had a heart attack, and sent up many desparate prayers while they were deciding if my manufacturers label was good enough. With what I am sure was Divine Intervention, they decided to let it pass on that flight. I'm not sure what I would have done if they had not... Probably better to not contemplate it. 

2. Melatonin

This was my magic Toddler Knockout Substance. Yours may be different. Let me encourage you, however, to test your magic Toddler Knockout Substance before the plane ride. Benadryl, for us, was the opposite of a Magic Toddler Knockout Substance. Research options and test them. I settled on melatonin because for one, benadryl didn't work, and also because it is somewhat natural and after research the only possible negative affect I found was possible dependence on it if you use it all the time. So I decided that once or twice on a flight... Well, the benefits outweighed the possible consequences. He only needed half of a 3mg pill to help him get to sleep, and he them stayed asleep for about 8 or 9 hours. 

Beware of overusing your knockout substance, however. Toddlers are active creatures and it really is not reasonable to expect them to sleep longer than they would at home, even with help. 8 or 9 hours straight is about my toddler's limit in non-crib situations. Giving your toddler more knockout substance when they really can't sleep anymore is just a recipe for a tired, cranky, angry, hyper, drugged toddler. Not cool. Just try to prolong the sleep as much as you can and then turn to other activities, such as walking circles around the plane. 

3. Take care of yourself

This is a version of the old advice "sleep when the baby sleeps." 
On the first journey, I was so stressed I didn't sleep at all, I didn't drink enough water, I didn't eat well, and so I was sick, tired, dehydrated, and miserable on top of having a screaming child. 
If you get Sleeping Children, SLEEP! Rest. Breathe. 

Drink TONNES of water. It is so easy to get dehydrated on airplanes.
 Take healthy snacks for yourself and the kids, and eat them. 
Take turns with your partner, if you are lucky enough to be traveling with them, and remove yourself for a walk or a nap during your "time off." On the Flight of Screams (thanks to the stubborn airline employees) I took Lula back to an empty row so I could feed her and let her nap, and I relaxed and read for a while myself. Then, when she woke up, I went back up to help Morgan with Sir ScreamsALot. 

 Take dark chocolate. Buy a coffee on a layover. Do yoga. Stretch. Use the stupid looking eyecover thingy, if it helps you sleep (it helps me). Extra changes of clothes on a long haul trip can make a big difference, as can toothbrushes and a hairbrush. 

Take lotion, comfortable (WARM) clothes, and generally do everything possible to make the flight better for yourself. A happier, more relaxed parent will result in happier, more relaxed kids. Nobody benefits if you don't take care of yourself.

4. When they are awake

Have a plan for when the toddler wakes up. Be realistic- they aren't going to sleep the entire 32 hour trip, on 6 planes and 7 airports. So, don't let their waking hours come as a surprise. Be prepared.

I took snacks of all shapes and sizes and flavours because one gets boring to Toddler. Goldfish, sunflower seeds, wholegrain crackers, fruit snacks, raisins, fruit leather. I made sure to have his water bottle so I could fill it on the plane and keep him hydrated. Lollipops are amazing time consumers, and are great for the up and down portions of the flight because sucking on them helps keep their ears clear. Nursing Lula during takeoff and landing did the same thing for her. 

Kep in mind with snacks, that this toddler is trapped. Sugar is probably not something you want to be feeding a trapped toddler. I kept the snacks completely sugarless, and tried to also limit refined flour because it has a similar effect on Sir Squirm. Know what triggers your child's hyper behavior, and avoid it. One friend of mine figured out that her grandson has a super hyper reaction to a certain food dye! No red plane snacks for him! 

I also took toys- trucks, plastic animals, little toys. And books. And I loaded our ipads with toddler friendly games. Some good free ones are: 
Thomas and Friends Engine Activities
Shapes and Colors

I also put some cartoons on Morgan's ipad... Theron is a little small to figure out headphones, so the plane cartoons didn't have sound for him, although he still enjoyed them. But the smaller airplanes didn't have movies anyway, so he watched some cartoons on the ipad with the sound turned low. Check on itunes... They sometimes have free cartoons. I got several episodes of Finley the Fire Engine, which turned out to be really cute. Wordless cartoons are also wonderful things. The Snowman is a favorite of mine, although I cannot find a digital version of it. 

We also did a lot of walking behind Theron as he explored the airport, and as he ran up and down the aisles of the planes. His little doggy backpack-leash is AMAZING. He loves it, and it makes it possible for us to let him run around without having to hold our hand (tiring for little arms) or worry about losing him. 

5. Routine

Giving the Toddler a sense of security and familiarity can make a world of difference not only on plane rides, but also in hotels and unfamiliar relatives' houses. I do a few things to try to provide this.

Eeyore: Theron carries Eeyore EVERYWHERE. 
PJs: the kids both wore their PJs for the long overnight flight. Warm footy pajamas make the, comfortable and warm and are familiar and associated with sleep.
Essential Oils: I use essential oils in their bath every night at home, because I like the way they smell, and I think they have really made a difference in Theron's sleep. Wiping them down with a warm washcloth with Pillow Potion (auracacia brand oil blend) and putting it on Eeyore gives them a familiar sleepy, calming smell. 
Carseat: as I stated before, this is key. Most airlines in the states will let you bring on the carseat if it is certified for airline use. Even if Toddler is a lap child, ask at the gate if there is an empty seat you can put the carseat in. Most airlines will let you do that. They want your flight to go well, too! Unless they are Australian, evidentally. (Boo.)

6. Stress free accessibility
When you have a screaming toddler with a poopy diaper, or who is hungry and losing it, timing is everything. You don't want to lose precious minutes of sanity by digging through a suitcase fore diapers or snacks. Make sure your carryon is easily accessible and well arranged. I used a bookbag from my college days, and put my ipad in the computer pocket along with tickets amd boarding passes,snacks in the little compartments along the back inside, and organized diapers and toys in the book compartment. Water bottles went outside in the water bottle compartment. I put enough diapers in my bag for each leg of the journey, and then Morgan carried extras, and extra changes of clothing, in his backpack. 
We only had the one carryon each and then I pushed Theron in his stroller and Morgan carried Lula in a carrier. The gate-check stroller was wonderful for Sir Squirm, and no extra purses or computer bags meant less to juggle and worry about. 

Also, I dressed both of the kids in outfits that were easy to change diapers in. No pull-off shorts or fancy ruffles. Easy one-piece suits with snaps around the diaper area. 

7. Perspective
Finally, when all else fails, the carseat is rejected, the snacks have run out, the melatonin is no longer working, and 32 hours of traveling is just too much for anyone, let alone a toddler, try to keep some perspective points in mind: 

It will end. No matter how bad it is, it will eventually end. Don't be afraid to use your magic knockout substance one more time when you get to your destination and collapse at a hotel or relatives house, or hand your child over to Grandma and go pass out. It will be over, and you won't die of Screaming Toddler. Probably. 

The ones who matter don't mind and the ones who mind don't matter. Don't add extra stress to your already full plate by worrying overmuch about your fellow passengers. The majority of the time, they understand and feel sorry for you, not annoyed by you. And if they do happen to not have children of their own or empathy of any type... They just don't matter! You will probably never see them again. Their opinion of you does not matter. So, throw out a general apology to your fellow travelers, smile at them, and them carry on with your life and don't worry about their eye-rolls. 

Toddler. Not adult. Remember your child is just that- a child. Traveling is really hard on anyone, and even the most mature adults who know when it's going to end and have impulse control get tired and cranky and grumpy on long haul journeys. Imagine therfore how much harder it must be for a toddler, who has no idea how much longer this is going to last, what is going on, why we are doing this, and how to express displeasure, tiredness, and general fed-up-ed-ness. Give grace, try not to get angry, and perhaps leave the lesson-learning for another time. Traveling is not, in my mind, the best time to teach new manners or be overly strict on behaviors. At the same time, though, toddlers need boundaries and throwing all the rules out the window, in my experience, just contributes to the overhwleming bewilderment they are already experiencing. So pick your battles. 

So there you have it-- what I have learned from three long haul trips with Sir Squirm, two of which also included his baby sister. Hopefully it helps somebody. :) 

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