Look, I know there are a helluva lot of advice columns out there about what parents should and shouldn’t do when travelling with children. I’m not going to do that here. I don’t know the BEST tips for travelling with a child. If I did, I sure as hell wouldn’t be carrying a packet of Valium in my purse for those long journeys. What I do know is what has worked for me. They’re not great tips. They’re not the Holy Grail and they may very well not work for you at all. But, I hope they do work for some of you and, at the very least, give you some ideas about what you can do the next time you hit the road.
WORK AROUND TIME
G usually has her naps between 10-11 in the morning and 3-4 in the afternoon. At this stage she’s pretty bang on with them (but it has taken a LOOONG time to get here). Knowing this we make sure to book flights around those times so we’re on the plane when she’s due for her nap. We’ve found it’s worked incredibly well for us. During take-off G automatically begins to get sleepy. Soon, as the gentle hum of the aircraft steadies and the journey gets smooth, she right nods off. That said, I’m not saying it always works. On the way down to Tasmania she woke up way earlier than expected and the entire flight was spent trying to keep her entertained. But if you have the option to try and work around your child’s nap time when it comes to flying DO IT.
DON’T PACK TOO MANY NAPPIES
This was a rookie error of ours the first time we went flying. We probably stuffed half a packet of nappies into our carry-on bag for fear of mid-air poo explosions. Look, unless you’re traveling with your baby/toddler into the wilderness for several days, anywhere and everywhere you go there are places to buy nappies. Depending on how long your transit is, try and keep your nappy supply to an absolute minimum.
DON’T RELY ON SCREENTIME
The first time we flew we used Qantas who have this AMAZING app that you can download to your phone and use while flying. On it, there are a tonne of cartoons for kids that will keep them entertained and happy. Not airlines have this. I know, a lot of people are probably rolling their eyes at me right now but I’m not a regular traveller and I know there are plenty of first time parents who would also make this mistake (we’re tired, we’re stressed, we forget you can’t use your phone in the air). So, instead pack their favourite books and toys and lots of them. Use all that extra room you’ve now got because you haven’t packed so many nappies to shove a tonne of entertaining gems. Oh, and make sure you stuff it into your CARRY-ON luggage.
Does your baby like custard? Pack it. Does your baby like apples? Pack them. Did your baby eat a carrot once? Pack it, for the love of GOD pack it. Airplane food is not fit for a baby. Heck, it’s not really fit for an adult. Make sure you’ve packed a variety of snacks to ensure that no matter what your baby ‘feels’ like you’ve got something on hand. Lazy mum tip: I like to pack a chocolate lollypop. The sucking motion helps with the ear pressure and it also works a treat during a tantrum.
BE SURPER ORGANISED WITH THEIR CLOTHES
Ok, this is one tip I most definitely can’t take credit for. I remember reading it somewhere sometime ago (long before G was even a possibility) and I stored it away in my subconscious. Voila! It’s actually come in handy.
Doing this will usually take a little longer than just pulling out a bunch of random clothes and shoving them into a bag (I, uh, *hear* that’s how some people travel *cough* *cough*, animals).
Basically sort out your child’s clothes into outfits: one t-shirt paired with one pair of shorts, etc. Base it on how many outfits you need on how many days you’ll be away for. Then grab some LARGE glad wrap bags, fold up the outfits and pop them into the bags.
Because G is a wonderfully messy eater, I also included a bag which carried a bunch of extra tops and another bag which carried a bunch of extra pants.
The reason this works SO WELL is that it minimises space.
It also makes changing on a holiday so damn easy. Instead of rummaging around the bag for a new outfit and trying to workout which one is clean, you just pull out a bag and everything is already done for you.
Note: This is probably the most ‘K-Mart Mum’s Australia’ I have and will ever be in my entire parenting life.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK
When your child has a tantrum, you can guarantee that people will stare. They will judge you. They will roll their eyes at you. Yes, it hurts. Yes, you’ll want to yell at them you’re doing your best, but don’t. As hard as it is, ignore them. Ignore the judgy stares and the under-the-breath remarks. Stay centered on yourself and your child. And, don’t worry, every single parent has been through this. We’re right here cheering you on.
As I said, I’m no expert on ANY OF THIS. But I have tried all of the tips above and they worked for me: a very impatient and anxious new mum. I hope they will work for you.