"Your crazy!" "Why would you do that?!" and "Fuck that" are most of the reactions I get when I tell people I'm travelling by myself with two energetic toddlers on a long haul flight. However, I'm here to tell you that it's not only do-able but can be incredibly fun and enriching for you and your little jetsetters!
I have been flying solo with my both my children since they were three months old. I have a lot of family overseas so we did the NZ to Australia flight many times a year. We also flew often to many places around NZ to visit family and friends. By the time the big NZ to Los Angeles trip came looming upon me I felt confident and ready to make this entire journey with easy and infused with memorable moments and learning opportunities for the kids. All it takes is some planning, organising, awareness and a big helping of surrendering.
Lets start with age and expectations. I have a three year old and a 1 and a half year old. To expect them to act any differently or with less enthusiasm and excitement than they would with any other new experience is futile. In fact, you can expect them to be even more stimulated and ready than ever to explore the bright lights and hustle and bustle of an Airport. Over stimulation is the biggest hurdle to overcome when travelling and balancing moments of calm with running wild to see the planes take off is the key to keeping the stress at a minimum. Here are some things to ponder when planning your trip:
- Be aware of where they are at age and developmentally wise. Do they need lots of running around time? Tactile stimulation? Is teething an issue? Do they have lots of questions that need answering? Are they just wanting to help mum or Dad with everything?
- How can you create calm or "out breath" moments in between all of the excitement. This is so important so you don't get over stimulated and over tired children! I like to take moments to sit down with a snack and read them a story or taking a longer than usual toilet break away from all the people is a good one too. I might change their clothes and wash their little hands and faces and even rub my favourite baby calm balm on their pressure points.
- Surrender to the fact that there will be meltdowns and tantrums. Toddlers and babies don't care that you may be in an enclosed space or surrounded by many weary travellers. They will still express their big emotions, but I have some tips for that too!
So now your high expectations are out of the way its time to start preparing. When travelling on my own I take two carry on bags, an umbrella stroller and my Ergo carrier. Here's what goes into my carry on:
Bag 1: I brought a lightweight trundler bag that also has wheels and its so good for trawling around the airport. I would hook the handle over the stroller handle and it would just roll effortlessly next to me. Boom.
- Three changes of clothes for each child
- Six nappies and a packet of wipes
- A change mat
- Hand sanitiser
- Calming balm for babies. Its infused with lavender and smells heavenly!
- Rescue remedy - my number 1 essential for calming for all of you in times of stress!
- Arnica tablets. These are great for easing the effects of jet lag and also safe for children but talk with your homeopath first about the correct dosages for you and your family. You can also get something called No Jetlag from the pharmacy which is also a homeopathic supplement and works great too.
- A little first aid kit which has Olbas oil (good for clearing stuffy noses but can also be mixed with some coconut oil and applied to the neck to help ward off airport bugs!), a thermometer, Tylenol/Pamol, a syringe for giving medicine, bonjela, band aids.
- A couple of toys. My daughter brought a few of her pony friends on this trip and Louie had his toy car. I also had beeswax modelling clay for them to play with and this is the best for those calming moments. It needs lots of warming up in the hands and focus on making something so really works to calm the senses. It doesn't go everywhere like playdough either!
- This is optional but I did bring my daughters Leap Pad to use when she wanted to run buck wild and I really needed her to stay put during lining up for customs and also when she wanted to stand up during landing!! I know some parents are really against media pacifying but I'm not a martyr and sometimes a screen distraction is in order. That's in my opinion anyway.
- Spare pants and socks for me. I also pack my deodorant, lip balm and mini moisturiser.
Bag 2: This is the snack bag and its a kids backpack. I have tons of food intolerance's and I don't want my kids eating high sugar and high processed foods so I pack all of our own bites to eat.
- Six of those vegetable and fruit squishy packs.
- Crackers and cheese
- Homemade bliss balls as a treat
- Small bag of cashews
- Vegetable sticks and hummus
- A couple of fruit leathers for treats. I buy the organic ones from Trader Joes.
- A water bottle. Keep all of super hydrated
Checking in, customs and what to do at the airport:
- Grab a trolley, get kids into stroller and backpack and ASK FOR HELP! People are always willing to help. Ive never had anyone turn me down and airport staff are usually ready and willing to help a solo mama traveller and her babies with all the luggage and holding little excited hands.
- Explain whats happening as you go through the processes of checking in and going through customs. Toddlers love to be involved!
- If you have to line up for a while in customs I find snacks and a little toy come in handy here. Most major airports have family lines so hopefully you can get pushed to the front in quick time.
- We always head straight for the viewing platform to see the planes take off and for some running around time. I like to get out as much energy from the kids as possible so they will be sleepy for the plane ride.
- Find out if there's a play area at your departing airport. LAX has an awesome one by the way! Its on the second floor FYI.
- Just before we are about to board I will get the kids into their PJ's and start setting the bedtime vibe.
Taking off and the big long flight:
- Ask for a couple of extra pillows and blankets.
- Before putting your carry on in the overhead lockers, stick nappies, wipes and anything else you want easy access to in the seat pockets in front of you.
- Give your toddlers plenty of warning and explanation about having to wear a seatbelt. I give my kiddies their night time milk (if its a night flight) and a little snack if they want it to help keep them settled and seated.
- My three year old has been known to refuse being belted and this is when a book, a t.v show or her little leap pad comes in handy.
- If little ears get sore try getting them to breastfeed, bottle feed or suck on something. The olbas oil on a little tissue to inhale can come in handy too.
- Once we are in the air I take a blanket and hang it across our aisle seat (always ask for an aisle seat!!) and the aisle seat in front to make a little tent so its darker and blocks out view of all the people so they settle easier and without distractions from the tea lady ;)
- Hopefully your little ones sleep for a little while so you can take a breather, eat something and sip on a glass of vino.....and try to get sleep too if you can. I always take an eye mask, ear plugs and neck pillow to help me drift off. Some ankle, wrist and neck rotations followed by some yogic breathing are good for tension release.
Activities for on the plane:
- Explore! Let them walk up and down the aisles, mingle with the crew and seek out other friends and their weary parents.
- You can do a lot with a cup, some tape and a box of raisins. Seriously. This is the best tip I got from a friend. You can make little shakers, pouring out games, magic tricks. The possibilities are endless!
- Beeswax modelling clay. This is a Waldorf sensory activity. Kids love warming it up in their hands and making little creations.
- A sketch pad and colouring in pencils.
- Band aids for playing doctors and general stick on silliness
- Books to read
- Movies from the inflight entertainment
- Leap pad or other children's gadget if things aren't going so well and you may take a leisurely jump out of the window if your kid doesn't stop kicking the other passengers seat or wailing that they want to get off the plane..... Like I said, don't be a martyr. Use the tech if you need to! Remember, if your flying solo you're already a lady boss so give up the guilt and chill those babies out.
Landing and reaching your destination:
- Again, something to suck on to help with the change in pressure on their ears.
- Use your excited mum voice to make them look out the window and to watch the landing. Make up a story about seeing the "birdies" flying next to us, that sort of thing.
- If all hell is breaking loose because everyone is tired and over it then a special pre prepared wrapped up present is a little trick I use to keep them seated and belted up.
- A snack or treat helps.
- Watching a kids movie or show can also come in handy.
- Again always ask for help with getting off the plane and getting bags off carousel. Don't exhaust yourself by trying to do it all on your own. No one expects that.
- And also again, ask about family lines for customs, have snacks or games for waiting in line and then run like the wind into the arms of the one who is picking you up!!! Or at least tip the cab driver really well so he will let you have a vodka and tonic on the ride home ;)
What it all comes down to, like any life experience is the attitude you present. If you can take it all in your stride and care a lot less about what everyone else thinks then your going to have a fun journey with your little ones. Please email me if you have any other questions or tips! I've done this solo travelling A LOT so I'm happy to help or take on advice.