International Travel with a Toddler: Air Travel
Our flight to Iceland was at night, so we were hoping for some sleep. In fact, we needed sleep as we were scheduled to land at 6am, pick up our rental campervan and start driving to the Golden Circle right away. Sleep was critical. Unfortunately thanks to pure bad luck we were located right next to the washrooms, which meant Little MPB basically stirred every single time someone went to the bathroom – which was about every 3-5 minutes for the entire duration of the flight. Also, we purchased little MPB had his own seat, but did not bring his car seat to sit in, which meant it was hard to get him to sleep and one of us would have to stay awake to make sure he didn’t fall of the chair. About 4 hours into the flight, which was also about 4 hours after his bedtime, he finally fell asleep….for 1 hour. Needless to say the Adult MPB’s did not sleep a wink on the flight there.
As for our return flight, we had much better seats, no-where near the bathroom. Thank god!!! Little MPB slept for 2 hours of the flight on Mr. MPB. Which was great, because Little MPB napped. As for me, once Little MPB woke up, my watch tracked over 1km of walking up and down the aisle on the plane, as I followed little MPB up and down the aisle more times then I could count. I didn’t even know it was possible to walk that much on a plane!! Needless to say, the flight home, during daytime hours, was approximately 1000 times better then the nighttime flight next to the bathrooms.
But truthfully, if I never have to get on a plane with a toddler under 18 months old again, that’s fine by me!
My long haul flight with a toddler lessons were:
- Do not, under any circumstances, sit next to the bathroom with a toddler who needs to sleep.
- Fly with a car seat. We booked a seat for Little MPB, but after a lot of debate we chose not to bring his car seat. We talked with other parents who said they didn’t like using them on the plane at this age because their kids hated them. We also knew that once in Iceland we were required to use a European car seat, and we didn’t want to pay to store our Canadian car seat for the duration of our trip. Honestly, the other similar aged child on the flight who was in a car seat slept for most of the night time flight, I was beyond envious. Next time, for a long haul flight, I’d absolutely bring the car seat and pay to store it if necessary.
- Don’t assume you’ll get any sleep. Next time we travel internationally, we will plan a day of nothing for the first day.
- Walk as much as your toddler needs to. Every single person in an aisle seat was great with Little MPB as we walked the plane. His first few trips down the aisle he nervously held my hand. Then as his confidence grew he started engaging with people who tried to interact with him. And eventually he was running the aisle, high fiving people and even playing with an old man’s toes (I was mortified, the old man laughed). I did make a point to direct Little MPB away from sleeping passengers as to not wake them up. And, I think key to our aisle walking strategy is that Little MPB didn’t cry once and he also didn’t say much (when he meets new people he’ll interact with them but he will not speak to them for a while – it’s his version of being shy). People seemed to really enjoy his cuteness and also sympathize with me as I followed him up and down the aisle.
- Icelandair* was great with Little MPB. On our flight there they gave him a free dinner and on the flight home they gave all the kids a bag of toys/books. Whenever we asked for milk, they brought us some. When we asked for a blanket, he got one. As we walked the aisle, all the flight attendants smiled and made space for us to pass. And when we accidently forgot one of his toys on the plane, the flight crew found me at the luggage carousal and returned it before I even knew we lost it. Honestly, we really didn’t care about the Elmo Car, but it was such a nice gesture that they tracked us down and returned it.
I suspect long distance air travel will be easier once he can talk and understand things a bit better….maybe by the time he’s 3 or 4?
* this is not a sponsored post. My comments are based solely on our recent experience flying with Icelandair.
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