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Long distance flight travel with a toddler

Though we were excited about travelling to India (from Canada), deep down both me and my husband were dead scared as how to handle our son during the journey. It was his first flight travel and that too a day long one (close to 30hrs from Canada to India, inclusive of the travel time to-from airport, air travel and layover). Even minutes before starting from home, we double checked if we are ready for the expedition, as travel with a kid calls for unexpected surprises. 

In this post, I shall be sharing how we prepped for the travel (along with few personal tips) and how it turned out in reality.

1. Don't miss on taking enough rest day(s) before travel: First and foremost, we as parents should have proper sleep and pumped up energy to handle the tantrums of our little one. But with all the last minute shopping and late night packing (for obvious reason to avoid any distractions by the kid), sleep was the last thing I could accommodate. But luckily, my son slept during the first leg (as it was his usual bed time). 

Ensure to take their toys or anything that they associate with sleep. I know they would like to have the entire house with them, but do remember to take 2-3 without which they won't let us survive. 

When you book tickets, try to book in accordance with your kid's sleep schedule. Our return journey was at odd hours. We had to reach airport around 12am (midnight) as our flight to Abu Dhabi was at 4am. So our little one didn't sleep till 5am (IST). Since the first leg is just for 4 hours, we had to wake him up within couple of hours, turning him cranky.   

2. Dress up to the climate of your source and destination: Consider the weather of your destination too, while you dress up and pack your luggage. Since it was fall, we could get away with light fleece when we started from Canada. We didn't need any special clothing at India, as the climate was in mid 20Cs. While returning, we carried our winter gear as it was freezing cold (-5C) at Toronto, the day we were to reach. 

Do remember to pack a pair or two additional dress for the kid and at least 1 for you to handle any accidental spills or other during the travel. I took shorts as well as a pant for my kid, to change based on the temperature within the flight. Before covid, the flights used to get really cold, but I didn't find it the same this time. May be airlines regulated it on purpose?

3. Carry your kid's favourite on board: Pack everything (almost everything) that you think your kid wants, as that is the only way to keep yourself sane. 

a. I packed his favourite snacks (like biscuits/cookies, lollipops, fruit jellies - which otherwise are a strict no), some cut fruits, cereals and nuts, yogurt etc. I saved lollipops, cream biscuits and jellies to handle him in his bad mood and the rest to kind of keep him full as we didn't have vegetarian kids meals on board (another aspect that Etihad Airlines has to work on)

 b. Carried few of his dearest toys in his small back pack, along with two new ones (to cajole him when is not the cheerful self). Click this amazon link to buy the cute back pack I bought for kid. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

c. Took a small drawing book, crayons, iPad - loaded with rhymes, drawing apps he is fond off, small books to read, personal videos he likes to watch on mobile. These were really essential to manage him during our journey. You may have to carry the ones based on your child's liking. If you are carrying electronic devices, have them fully charged. You certainly don't want those shrills, when those devices get switched off soon after handing it over to your (otherwise sweet) kid­čśť

5. Factor in diapering needs: If your kid is not toilet trained, pack diapers, wet wipes, diaper rash cream. Ensure to change diapers more frequently, to avoid any rash or other discomfort, calling for everyone's attention on the flight. Mine isn't toilet trained and got very cranky by the time he wanted to go for potty. He immediately wanted to get out of the flight, as the crowd made him uncomfortable. This was something which we were dreading about. So don't rule out such possibilities and be mentally prepared.

6. Take a stroller, to our advantage: Most of the airlines allow stroller till the gate when we board. Do not forget to check the airlines guidelines (there will be an age limit too). Otherwise you can check in the stroller as a luggage. If you have kids, taking a stroller will help you in many ways - your kid can sleep/ relax in it, making you relieved from the swollen shoulders due to carrying him; dump your jackets/ handbags/ backpacks in it while you navigate through the airport; and most importantly, passengers with stroller get to board first. In any case, taking a stroller is in our favour­čĹŹClick this amazon link to buy a light weight and compact stroller, suitable for travel.

7. First aid kit is a must: Carry medicines for fever or pain like Tylenol, vicks etc. as we never know when they get fever or ear pain during flight take off. Also keep any medicine you might need during the flight (including band aids - remember the fuss they make for even a slight scratch)

8. How you book flight tickets matter too: Given a chance, book your family members tickets together. This will mostly likely get you seated together, so that you and your partner can take turns and attend to the kid's needs. The kid will also get enough room to lie down between both of you and can have better sleep, though not as comfortable as the one he gets in his crib. While coming back to Canada, we didn't get our seats together even after trying with the airlines help desk and requesting our co-passenger to exchange seats with my husband. Unfortunately it was the longer leg of our travel. It was tough, but we somehow sailed through.

These are the few aspects I could think of really helps us to have a smoother travel. It is also equally important to be mindful of the following while we prepare for any travel, especially a distant one.

  • Both kids and elders are going to be jet lagged (at least for a week). So consider this aspect while planning your activities where you go (as well as once you are back home). With kids, its going to be really tricky. Basically, prep yourself for sleepless days and nights.
  • Due to the change in climate, water and food, cold, cough, fever or upset stomach are something to be expected. 
  • Finally, most of the kids out of excitement or travel fatigue, may not have the same appetite as before. Mine didn't touch food for days together. Keep a tab on them to see if they are healthy, energetic and playing well. Otherwise consult a doctor. In any case, keep them well hydrated always. 
Hope this post was useful to you. 

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