After all the travels I did with Elisa, though they were mostly short ones, I’ve gotten to know the ins and outs of flying with a toddler. I’m not an expert but I’m just sharing some tips that I’ve learnt along the way..
1. Fly during off peak hours. Planes are less likely to be packed during these times. Check with the check-in staff if it’s possible to give you an empty seat next to yours or a whole row would be best. Remember to be nice!! Most of the time, the check-in staff would accommodate my request especially seeing that I’m travelling with Elisa alone.
2. Choose your seat. Travelling with an infant, they always give me the bulkhead seat. Many parents prefer the bulkhead seat (more leg room) but for me, I don’t like it at all. I prefer to be seated as far back as possible. Normally the aft of the aircraft are less likely to be filled which means if Elisa were to cry, there will be less disturbance to the passengers around us. Also, I have more privacy when I nurse Elisa.
And the thing about bulkhead seat is you can’t leave your bags under the seat in front of you which is kind of troublesome. You have to stow it before takeoff and landing. With a toddler in tow, I prefer to have the bag within easy access.
3. Pack what you need (even if you might not need them) and more. When Elisa was a few months old, we took a flight back to Penang. During boarding, Elisa was crying so badly, asking for milk. I tried to nurse her but because we were seated at the bulkhead, she got distracted by all the movements and I wasn’t very confident nursing her with so many people moving about. To add to the drama, I did not have any milk powder with me coz I thought I would be able to breastfeed her!!! I was almost at a lost. She was wailing and all the eyes were staring at me! Luckily the aircraft was delayed. I quickly brought her to the galley (short of going to the lavatory) to nurse her. On my subsequent flights, I always bring along a serving of milk powder even I might not need it. Also, remember to pack along a set of clothes for both you and the kid. Vomit, spills or leakage will happen. Be prepared!
4. Feed before flight. Make sure your kid is well fed before flight as you never know what time the meal service will start. Sometimes, if you encounter bad weather, there might not be any service at all (that’s for short flight). The reason #3 (above) happened was because I did not feed Elisa while waiting at the holding gate although it was her feeding time. I thought I could drag it a little longer so that I can feed her during takeoff since she was not making any noise. Bad move!!!
Also, request for baby meal or child meal when booking the flight (if they are available). Do not assume it will be catered for your kid.
5. Encourage your kid to drink during takeoff and landing. The cabin pressure during take off and landing can hurt little ears. When I travel with Elisa, I always nurse her during takeoff. If she’s not keen, I’ll give her water or pacifier.
6. Snacks…lots of it. It’s good to curb the I-am-hungry moment and also, this will keep Elisa still, until I ran out of snacks.
7. Bring along her favourite toy. For Elisa, it will be her bolster and rabbit. Whenever we travel, Elisa’s bolster is a MUST!! Die die must bring! The bolster soothes and calm her down. It is her “security bolster”.
8. Entertainment. We were lucky to have inflight entertainment on our flight to Melbourne and back. So that kept Elisa occupied, I did not even need to bring out her books nor the ipad. Also, remember to charge up your gadget if you intend it to be a source of entertainment. You do not want a meltdown halfway through the flight.
9. Boarding. Personally I prefer to board first as it gives us time to settle down. Elisa is a very observant girl. She will want to see and touch everything, rummage through the seat pocket. So for us to board first, she can do all these things. And by the time it’s time for takeoff, she would have done doing her stuff and strapping her in would be easier. This is my personal preference. I know some parents prefer to board as late as possible.
10. Patience and be thick skinned. Just remember to keep your cool no matter what’s the situation. And if your baby is having a meltdown and all eyes are on you, don’t bother! Just do your best to soothe the baby.