A few weeks ago we travelled to New Zealand with Bug for a holiday. It was 38 hours traveling time to get there and 26 hours coming back. Bug was 16 months old when we left and I spent many hours before the trip wondering if we were completely mad to attempt the long journey with a toddler.
We had never flown with her before, the longest flight was 14 hours, and I hate flying myself. Recipe for disaster right?
It actually turned out to be the best international flight that I have ever done (what?!). I read lots of blogs to prepare and came up with some tips of my own.
If you have a long trip coming up here’s what worked for us:
- Pay more for premium economy or get your toddler their own seat in economy. From the start I told my husband that I was only doing the trip if we did this. There was no way that I was going to hold Bug in my arms for 14 hours straight. No. Way. We flew premium economy on Qantas Airlines and it was worth every cent. The seats are wider, recline more and have a foot rest. The air-hosts are there to help in any way that you need (finding food for Bug to eat, giving us extra pillows and playing with Bug in the galley). We were also luck enough to get the bassinet on the way there and an extra seat on the way back. It was a dream!
- Book a day room at a hotel if you have a long layover. We had an eight-hour layover so that’s exactly what we did. It gave us all a place to refuel, Bug got to nap in a bed (along with Daddy), we went for a walk outside by the pool and we could all shower before we continued on our way. It was much more fun than chasing a toddler around a busy airport.
- Dress your toddler in onesies. We love Bonds Wondersuits as they zip up quickly (perfect for nappy changes in a tiny aeroplane bathroom). I only took these for Bug so that if we had to change her we were dealing with one piece of clothing (not separates). Also take more changes of clothes than you think you need for your little one, and for you. Bug’s nappy leaked through her clothes and onto me on the flight there which has never happened before and I had to wear wee’d on jeans for 17 more hours (mom life).
- Take a carrier. Transfers between flights mean a lot of walking in a short amount of time. Also, toddlers are very aware of their surroundings and so might find it difficult to fall asleep on a busy aeroplane. We LOVE our Ubuntu Baba carrier and so it was a no brainer for us to take it with. Bug was allowed to be in it for takeoff and landing so if she fell asleep before we got on the aeroplane I didn’t have to wake her to put on a seatbelt. It also helped to calm her when things felt overwhelming and then between flights I would pop her on my back so that we could quickly get to our next gate while she could happily watch what was going on. I could talk about my love for Ubuntu Baba for days but it honestly was a life-saver on this trip. It’s a familiar, safe space for your little one when everything else is different and at times just too much.
- Busy bags over i-pads. We try to limit Bug’s exposure to screens and so as tempting as it was I didn’t want her to sit for 14 hours straight playing on an i-pad. That being said we had it as a back with some episodes of Jungle Beats ready to go, but it was a last resort. Bug’s granny spent weeks before our trip collecting old make up bags and pouches for us. She then filled over 20 of them with activities for Bug that she had never seen before. From straws to use for threading, to stickers and paper pads, to random items from hospice shops, Bug’s own “purse” to pack and unpack, you name it, we had it. They were all small enough to carry with us and kept her busy for hours on end. She loved it and I loved that she was playing on her own for over 30 minutes without us needing to entertain her. We also used these in restaurants while in New Zealand to keep Bug happy while we waited for food. Short of taking granny with us on the plane, this was the best way to keep her busy!
- Take a diaper backpack so that you’re hands-free. We love our Digiridoodle backpack. It fits a lot of items but never seems to get heavy and is comfortable to carry on your back. In a crowded airport with a toddler on the move you need to be hands-free at all times so this was gold! It also helps to have it for all of the outings that you go on once you arrive at your final destination.
- Make nappy packs for the aeroplane. Let me start this by saying that we try to be plastic free where ever possible and this is not plastic free at all. I did however, keep the ziplock bags to reuse as many times as possible. That being said this was such a nifty way to do nappy changes on the plane. We took a sandwich sized ziplock bag and put a nappy, nappy sack and a random little toy from hospice which Bug had never seen before in it. These packs were kept in our hand luggage bag and then we put two at a time in the seat pocket for easy access. When Bug needed a nappy change we just needed to grab one bag and our wet-wipes to go and change her. The toys worked SO well. They distracted her from the fact that an aeroplane change table is extremely small and uncomfortable and I didn’t have to drag a whole nappy bag to the bathroom. She would then spend the next 20 minutes playing with the little toy.
- Take as many snacks and drinks as your toddler needs. Airport restrictions with regards to liquids don’t apply to your toddler. We took a lunchbox filled with milk, pouches and snacks for Bug and had no problems at any security points. They were actually all really kind and more than happy to let us go through with them. You can even take a full water bottle for them. Have them all in one place if you want to get through security quickly.
Have you travelled overseas with your toddler yet? Share your tips in the comments below.