Friday, 23 May 2014

Making It Easy: Travel with a Toddler

I bit the travel bug when I took a gap year aged 19, and I've never been able to shake it off.

Plus taking my daughter to amazing places around the world has always been one of things I really want to do as a mother.

So that means getting to grips with how to make international and long haul travel work with a toddler.

Believe me, once you have flown long haul on your own with a baby, nothing seems impossible!

1. Expect it to be challenging
Allow yourself more time, for everything. Have low expectations and know there will be stressful moments, but at some point you will arrive and it will be holiday time.

2. Take advantage of family friendly arrangements.
They are often not well-advertised, but usually airlines have fast-tracking for families. And airport staff are often of parenting age too, and know first hand how tough it can be. Make sure you ask:
-Is there a family lane through security?
-Is there a children's play area in the departures lounge?
-Is there fast tracking onto the flight?
-Can they bring the buggy to the doors of the plane on arrival?
-Where are the baby change loos?
-Can the air hostesses supply extra pillows, blanket, snacks etc?

3. Get an iPad and fill it with Peppa Pig.

4. Buy chocolate, crisps, biscuits.
Now is not the time to insist on organic seasonal produce (though a little zip-lock bag with some cut apple, pear and grapes is always handy). Have proper treats for the moments when nothing else works.

5. Prepare your hand luggage
If your child is still too little for a Trunki, then it's all in your hand luggage. You will need a couple of toys and books, maybe a new story wrapped up as a surprise present. Have two more nappies than you need, and collect mini sizes of sudocream etc. Note that the liquid limit is 100ml, and some products (eg Piricon) come only in larger bottles. Every time I've travelled, security have let me have two bags of liquids. Have them pre-loaded, so you know what needs to come out of your hand-luggage when you go through the scanner and can focus on dismantling the buggy and getting your little one through the scanner. When travelling by myself with Kiddo as a baby, I would just ask airport staff to hold her so I could collapse the buggy (which must be Maclaren - leave the fancy ones at home).

As for the type of luggage, a roomy, unstructured bag has always been my preference. However, a friend takes a wheely-suitcase then uses it as a footstool to allow her little one to sleep flat in her own seat.

6. Know the drill
How does the flight fit with your routine? Sometimes it makes sense to feed Kiddo at the airport while waiting to board, rather than during the flight. It's worth considering the timing of the flight - we flew back from Hong Kong on a midnight flight, meaning she was asleep before we even got on the plane.
Always change nappy/go to the loo before boarding and then just before landing. If travelling as a lone parent, take a baby sling to put baby in while you go to the loo. For timetabled tips, I can't do better than this awesome Jewish Mom or this Delicious Mom (their descriptions, not mine)!
Giving baby milk or toddler a drink from a sippycup (or red Evian bottle which Kiddo thinks is the height of grown-upness!) on take off/landing can help reduce painful earpopping.
Have your pick-up arranged at the other end, or check the in-flight magazine to see where the taxi rank is.

7. Let others help
Most people love children and most people have experience of them and understand that it's hard. Don't let the tutters persuade you otherwise. Take up offers of help and let other passengers chatter to and coo over your child. It always makes me feel more relaxed, them more understanding and Kiddo tired out for sleep!

8. Have some tricks up your sleeve
Know a few games to play when little one is tired of the toys or songs with actions - soft singing is unlikely to be overheard in other rows. I'm always amazed by how much entertainment Kiddo can have from the flight safety card, and the novelty on offer in the plane itself, like adjusting the armrest or looking out at the wing.
There are plenty of other online mums offering their secrets - I love these tips from Cup of Jo.

9. Look after yourself.
Travel is tough even when you're not a mum: you still need a glossy magazine and maybe a little duty free treat. And going to the Sisley tester counter and loading up on insanely expensive serums and creams is even more fun when I put a dab on Kiddo too!
Wear lots of layers, a pashmina or scarf and flat shoes. I take a spare blouse for myself as well as a change of clothes for Kiddo, so that I feel fresh on arrival. If it all hits the fan, half the plane will be staring daggers at you. You can control your image, even if you can't control your child.

10. Enjoy it.
Enjoy their excitement, enjoy the extra cuddles, enjoy watching back to back movies while they sleep - and - enjoy the holiday!

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