Wednesday, August 17, 2011

{how to take a one-year-old across the world in six easy steps}

We are by no means experts on traveling with children. But, having made the trip to England last Christmas with a five-month-old Tilly, to Oklahoma this year with an eleven-month-old Tilly, and now preparing to jet off again to Denmark with fourteen-month-old Tilly, we've learnt a couple of things about keeping babies happy on planes. And, as some of you have asked how we survive the flights, here are a few things that have worked for us.

One. Choose your travel times wisely. It is much easier to spend ten hours with a sleeping one-year-old than a waking, shaking, trouble-making one-year-old. Travel at night, when you can. Bring bedding.

Note: Don't count on any sleep yourself. Channel your caring-for-a-newborn self.

Further note: As you will most likely be beneath the sleeping one-year-old, do not count on any toilet breaks. Drink sparingly.

Further further note: If your baby is generally a light sleeper, think about bringing infant earplugs, or improvising some sort of ear covering so that the incessant announcements from the cockpit don't keep waking your little one up. I'm planning to stick a semi-chunky hat over Tilly's little ears. And whack any air stewardess who comes by with duty free after Tilly nods off.

Two. Pack as lightly as possible. How lightly? Well, a good rule of thumb is that you can physically move all your bags, plus your baby, all in one go. Common sense? Maybe, but picture this very real scenario: the park-and-ride bus drops you off in the middle of the road outside Houston airport. You, husband and baby have three large bags, three small bags, a car seat and a push-chair. Can you make it out of the street, with your stuff, before a passing truck flattens you? (Hint: If the answer is no, maybe you don't need ALL those changes of clothes!)

Three. Bring entertainment. Not wanting to spring for the portable DVD player that some people recommended, we tried hiding a few of Tilly's favourite things a week before we left. We brought the hidden books and toys with us on the plane. She loved them already, plus she missed them, so we got a good few more minutes of interest from each one.

Note: Keep weight in mind. No matter how much your baby loves that set of fifty wooden blocks, you will not want to carry them around for twelve hours. Compilation books, with more than one story inside, are a good choice, as are toys that can be played with in more than one way. I packed Tilly's toys into a case that Velcros shut, creating the extra game of take-things-out-and-put-them-back-in.

Four. Bring food. As many Gerber Puffs as you can carry. Other favourites of ours for baby-friendly snacks are blueberries, cooked macaroni with melted cheese, cheese cubes, cranberries, raisins, and cereal. Beware of bananas -- it's oh-so-easy to squish one against your passport!

Five. Dressing your baby in layers allows for high or broken air-conditioning on the flight (both of which we've experienced already with Tilly!) Also, something with easy access down there makes using the tiny changing tables slightly easier. If you're flying overnight, pajamas might remind your baby to go to sleep.

Six. A secret Weapon. Okay, you don't normally let your little one watch TV/have sugar/chew on your phone, but bring something that you don't normally allow, just in case of a major meltdown. A friend recommended lollipops -- this is our secret weapon this trip. We've also heard that stickers work well, paired with plain paper. Of course, any new toy might calm a crying child through novelty alone!

And, a few other things that might make travel easier:
  • packing pajamas near the top of the suitcase, for easy access the first night
  • a push-chair that locks when folded, for easy storage on the plane
  • a large bag to stash a car-seat in, to keep it a little safer on route
  • imagination -- anything can be entertaining, from plastic cups to pictures in the in-flight magazines

If all else fails, repeat my little mantra to yourself: 

It's only ____ hours. I'll never see these people again. It's only ____ hours. I'll never see these people again....

Have you got any tips to share? We'd love to hear them! Just get them in quickly -- we're off to the airport in a few hours!


Anonymous said...

Great post Astrid!

I wrote a similar post a while back and a lot of the stuff crossed over:

Jadyn said...

Have a wonderful trip! Hope the plane ride with Tilly goes smoothly!

Astrid said...

Thanks, Carin -- loved your post! you inspired me to stick a last minute pack of stickers in my bag!

Thanks, Jadyn! We've got our fingers crossed for many hours o' sleep!

joy langford said...

Sweet Astrid, I am crazy about your blog and am beginning to think you can't be human to have the amount of creative energy you seem to while also mothering such a little one. :) Wish we could be mommies together in closer proximity! Anyhow, just thought I'd add that Elijah loves to take one of his dearest companions (froggy or little buddy or Lightning McQueen) and show him EVERYTHING. For some reason, this is more entertaining than just seeing things for himself. So we show "little buddy" every detail of the plane and all that we see out the window,how the seat-belt works, etc., etc.

Anne Schjødt Ersbøll said...

Hi Astrid,

Great blog you've got!

We've had succes with:

- Little presents like new books, hand puppets or just good old favorite toys. The unwrapping itself is just as entertaining (and time consuming!) as the content.
- Apps like Peekaboo Barn, Peekaboo Wild etc.
- Paper, crayons and stickers. Draw and tell your own story.
- A lot of the stuff you've already mentioned in your post like the food, toys

When are you going? If you're going to Copenhagen and want to visit just email. We'll be in Paris on the 25th-29th but besides that we're at home.

Sewandthecity said...

Very nice post...i had to laugh a few times:-) Have a fab time in Denmark!