We just got back from a 5-week trip with our toddlers (2 years and 3 months) to Thailand - we live in Vancouver, BC, so that was more or less a 16-19hr. trip all together (with layover). This isn't our first rodeo.. we took the boys to Thailand (with a side trip to Japan - we were crazy) when they were 4 months old. And to say that travelling with infants and travelling with toddlers is different is an understatement. I did a lot of research - asked educators who worked with toddlers, asked parents who travelled, asked parents who travelled with toddlers, asked parents who travelled with twin toddlers, asked parents who travelled twin toddler boys - you get the picture, I asked around A LOT. They gave a lot of good advice and a lot of them you'll find in blog posts or articles that talks about travelling with toddlers - you know, the bring LOTS of snacks, bring LOTS of new but inexpensive toys (they will get lost in the plane), bring LOTS of change of clothes, bring an iPad or some tablet so they can watch a movie, bring stickers, books, their favourite cuddly, etc. so I'm not going to talk about that, because we already know that those are the basic things you need to prepare when you're travelling with toddlers. After our travel, I realized we encountered a few things that nobody talked about (I wish they did) that would have been helpful to know ahead of time so we could have prepared for it.. so here goes:
Request for a children's meal (IN ADVANCE)
Ok, this might be a no-brainer for some, but hear me out. So, before our trip, I was thinking of whether the boys would children's meal or not, you see, my boys like to eat what we eat, if they see what they're eating is different from our food, they won't eat their food and they will take ours, so I thought, ok, might be easier if we just had the same food. BIG MISTAKE. And it's not because they ended up wanting the children's meal - it's not even about the food, it's about WHEN they serve the food. You see, if you request for a "special" meal, it gets served before they serve the rest of the plane - and this is a HUGE deal because 1. Restless toddlers - FOOD! 2. When they're serving food, these restless toddlers cannot walk along the aisle - so if they have their food, then they will be eating them as the rest of the plane is being served!!!! 3. The seat is so tight that you don't want to have your tray open full of food while you're trying to feed and wrestle your toddler - best that they have their food while your table is clear then you can feed them and have more room. And by the time your food comes, you can hand your child's food tray back to the flight attendant so your kid won't spill his entire tray on the floor (this may or may not have happened to us.) So, you see, ordering children's meal is great! I rest my case. (oh and you have to do it in advance - give them a call or do it online)
The plane runs on its own "timeline"
This is a simple statement, but realizing this meant that our travel back to Vancouver was WAY smoother!! So, we travel maybe every year or every other year, it's not like we are "newbies", but I never really paid attention to this, because it didn't really matter at that time (pre-babies). But man, with children, this piece of information is GOLD! So, it doesn't matter if your flight leaves at 12midnight (like ours did) or 2am or 7pm or 7am - doesn't matter! When you board the plane, it will be busy, luggages everywhere, flight attendants walking up and down the aisle, etc. and then, they will serve you your food/snacks - even if it's 2 freaking AM!!! You see, our flight to Taipei was leaving at 12midnight, so we thought, ok, the boys woke up from their nap at 3pm, so by the time we get on the plane, they will just sleep right? WRONG. because they can't sleep!!! 1. They're overtired 2. THERE'S A LOT OF THINGS GOING ON!! - have you heard flight attendants prepare the food? they are loud! So, what would I do differently next time? I would have encouraged the boys to nap before our flight (short nap would do) or if they didn't want to nap, I won't let them run around like lunatics to "burn off" their energy so they'll be dead tired on the plane (husband's theory not mine), I would have them relax and slow down a bit, to get ready for boarding the airplane, so when they are on the plane, they won't be so wired up. I'd keep them awake for the meal, and then slowly get them ready for rest/bedtime after - when the airplane turns off its light. I think the key is to follow the timeline of the plane, get up when the lights turn on, and go to sleep when they turn off the lights.
Download movies on your phone (or tablet)
We don't have an iPad or a tablet, so we just used our phones (which was perfectly fine) - but the lifesaver? Downloaded shows on Netflix!!!! Some planes turn off the in-flight movie/video before taking off and when landing - which are the most crucial times because you need something to distract them so that they'll stay on their seats and keep their seatbelt buckled (we didn't have our carseats with us, so if you have your carseat, keeping the seatbelt buckled won't be a problem, not sure if it will help with the screaming and crying part)!! So I can't even express my gratitude to Netflix and their download options, because it has saved me from having to pin my boys down and have them scream bloody murder during take offs and landing. One thing to note though is that some shows or movies that you download won't be available in certain areas (depending on where you're flying to). But seriously, THANK YOU NETFLIX!!!
Our baby carriers (we have a toddler Tula and a Lillebaby) were lifesavers when we first travelled with the boys when they were 4 months old, and it still is for our most recent travel. We decided not to bring our ginormous double stroller, instead we just prayed that our boys would listen to us. LOL. we're risk-takers! But seriously, hauling our carry-ons and running after toddlers is NOT easy - so there were times when I had to tell them that they have to stay in the carrier so we can board the airplane - I only insisted on it when we were boarding the plane. But it also helped for when they needed to be carried on the plane, especially when they are tired and need a little help to fall asleep. Our boys are HEAVY so, we can't really comfortably carry them on our own for extended periods of time.
Travelling with our boys is tiring, I'm not gonna lie.. but oh so worth it! It's a lot of fun too! I am so proud of them because they've grown and learned so much - our trip back was so much smoother because we (the parents) were more "prepared" (we had the information mentioned above), and the boys also knew what to expect, we talked a lot about being on the airplane prior to our flight - having to sit down and keep the seatbelt buckled especially during take offs and landing, etc. and that helped a lot too!
Hope these information helps! Have fun travelling with your kiddos!