Travel date March 2015
Our trip to Fiji was Ariana’s first International flight. As relatively new parents for approximately 9 months, we were novices about having to deal with a baby on a flight.
I will provide a more extensive blog about our trip to Fiji as this blog will focus on dealing with a baby and/or toddler on a long flight (definition of a long flight for a baby is anything greater than 3 hours in the air).
The below tips came in handy when we traveled to Fiji with Ariana who was 9 months old.
Get over yourself!!
The first issue you have to deal with, is you. As parents we assume the long haul flight will be dominated by a crying restless child. We assume the flight will be a terrible experience. Once you assume the negative, it will happen. This is a typical case of being optimistic over pessimistic. Have more faith in your child, that they will enjoy the flight.
Do the basics first- organise everything!!
My wife ensures when we travel, that we have all our passports, money and boarding passess all in one organised travel wallet. Organisation is an important step. You’d rather focus on the well-being of your child as opposed to having to take out your money, passports and boarding passes from different bags and pockets. Once you lose focus on your child, and try to make up for your disorganisation, you will have lost your ability to control your child on a long haul flight.
Pack your child’s regular foods.
There is a high chance that your child will not eat the provided food on flights. If your child goes hungry on a flight then this is a recipe for restlessness and crankiness. If your child loves yogurts then pack it, in the event they reject the plane food. It is important your child is fed on a long haul flight. Hence packing their regular foods is your insurance policy against a hungry child. In addition, on most flights there is an option to choose specialised baby dishes for your child, hence if this option is available make sure this option is notified to the flight carrier days before you board.
The dreaded iPad
Ok, I know, we need to raise a generation of children not reliant on screens. But if you’re confronted with a restless child, then a screen is the best option on a cramped long haul flight. In any other regular situation the iPad should be avoided, but you are allowed to make dispensation as a parent when on a long haul flight. We ensure that all the Peppa Pig videos and games are downloaded on the iPad so that she is distracted from the cramped conditions around her. Whatever your child’s preference is, download everything they love. In addition, using kids headphones will also ensure the passengers around you don’t go crazy from hearing the same Peppa Pig cartoon over and over again.
Prepare your child for the flight experience
Days before any flight, we ensured we read and watched all flight related material in order to create a sense of excitement about flying for Ariana. Every time we saw a plane in the sky we made a habit of pointing to the sky and saying “look Ariana a plane, we’ll be in the sky soon”. As I constantly advocate, children are sponges and will absorb everything around them. If you saturate your child with flight related materiel then their passion for wanting to fly will develop to a point where the flight will be an overwhelmingly exciting experience. They will eagerly look forward to flying as a great adventure similar to the books they read beforehand.
Pack your child’s regular blanket and pillow
Creating a sense of familiarity is a great way to ensure your child sleeps. If your child is engrained by a routine of sleep, then try to match this routine as closely as possible. In Ariana’s case before she falls asleep, we read her favourite books. This is a signal that her bedtime is near. To create a greater sense of familiarity we packed her blanket and pillow to create a level of comfort she would have had at home.
Make nice with the passengers around you
Let’s face it, not everyone loves kids. You’re bound to encounter a nearby passenger who hates kids. Instead of imploring that everyone around you conform to the needs of your child (which is impossible), try to create a calming atmosphere for the passengers around you. We make it a habit to allow Ariana to say hello to the passengers around her. We often ask Ariana to say hello whenever another passenger catches our gaze. This provides a good first impression to the passengers around us that Ariana is a happy and fun child. Passengers are more likely to allow the sudden tantrum, if they feel as though they are connected to your child (a cute smile or wave from your child will be your best weapon). If your child is going through a tantrum that is likely to disrupt the passengers , ensure you are very apologetic. This maybe controversial for some parents, but if you have a crying baby and discontent passengers around you, then this will be a recipe for potential conflict. You’d rather only deal with the feelings of your child, rather than the passengers around you if you fail to say sorry.
Explore the plane with your child
If your child is restless sitting in a cramped chair, then allow your child to explore the plane. The opportunity for your child to walk (or be carried) around the interior of plane allows them to walk off any restlessness they may show.
The above tips were great for Ariana and her first flight. Each child will have their own quirks, but ensuring that you make the flight an exciting experience will allow your child to appreciate a long haul flight.
Chris & Ariana