Friday, 22 February 2013

Have a miserable flight

Our 16 mo-old has been on almost 30 flights so far (poor child). You’d think we’d be pretty good at things by now, but our most recent flights to and from Tasmania were rather unpleasant. Here are some tips for flying with a young toddler to maximize your discomfort.

1. Schedule your flights during your kid’s witching hour. We had one 6:30 pm and one 8 pm flight. The babe usually goes to sleep sometime between 7-9 (I know; but this is kind of what bedtime is like at our house), so these were perfectly timed to coincide with his most cranky, hyperactive and frustrated time of day.

2. Bring no toys. Any useful blog out there will tell you that plane flights with toddlers are best when you come equipped with new, interesting toys to captivate your child. After my solo flight with the babe from Hawaii to San Francisco in December, during which the “bag of wonders” I had carefully prepared ahead of time both (a) was totally uninteresting after about 10 minutes and (b) included a balloon, which scared the shit out of the tot, I thought perhaps that was not the answer for our particular child. But on this last flight, much of which was spent pulling my hair, kicking the seats, banging on the tray-table, throwing the in-flight magazine, and crowing loudly, I regretted not having at least something made for children to attempt distraction.

Maybe planes should include baby cages? (please recognize I am joking)
3. Precede the flight with a long drive. Tasmania is not all that big, but we managed to start the morning of our return essentially as far from the airport as possible. It was a rainy, cold day so our stops to provide entertainment and relief from the car seat were also kind of dismal. We went to a restored windmill that actually mills flour with wind, but the babe kept grabbing and attempting to break non-child-friendly objects; then he got wet and cold outside in the gardens. We also went to a wetland area filled with venomous snakes, water, and shocking winds, and an interpretive center occupied by delicate taxidermied wildlife at toddler height. Finally, at the airport he was allowed to run wild for a short time, but it was already too late to burn off the pent-up energy.

When all else fails, handing the kid the camera sometimes works. Here is some of his resulting art.
4. Have an extremely social kid with intense FOMO (fear of missing out). Once allowed out of the seat after the seatbelt sign went off, the babe walked up and down the aisles greeting people. This was cute and enjoyed by all for the first several passes, after which they became a little bored and just wanted to read novels, doze off, etc. I guess it’s a little awkward having a 2-foot tall person standing in the aisle, staring at you longingly for several minutes until you glance up from a book to acknowledge them. So, once that got old for everyone else and he started stumbling with sleepiness, I tried to corral the child back into our seats to fall asleep—which only intensified the fear on his part that he might have missed interacting with someone, and turned into a tantrum. This sequence was repeated for the remainder of the flight.

You might imagine the excitement I have looking forward to our upcoming 10 hours of flights to visit Sri Lanka in a few weeks! At least we might be better prepared this time…who wants to lend me small toys with lots of buttons and lights and things?


  1. As a former field trip environmental educator for middle schoolers and younger, I have to let you know that I think you mean venomous snakes, not poisonous. Poisonous only applies to things you eat (which does sort of apply to snakes, if you were scared Ryder was going to eat one).

    Oh yeah, and nice post...have you experienced an 8 hour trip when the kiddo only falls asleep in the last 15 mins, so then you have to wake them up from their nap you have been trying to get them to take for 5 hours? That's my personal fave.

    1. Thank you, Rachel! Post has been edited and a link included - I never knew there was a difference between those two words! :)
      Sounds like you have some bad advice on travelling with babes, too. Let's exchange them over a beer soon, when we are in the same city!