After having kids, I looked forward to business travel. I loved the anonymity of being a business traveler, and it provided my only opportunity to have large blocks of time to myself. I appreciate those trips all the more during our around the world journey with two toddlers. Whether it's the 16-hour New York to Hong Hong flight or short hops from Thailand to Malaysia, traveling with our toddlers can be exhausting. Here are some lessons we've learnt to make the plane journey less taxing for the entire family and fellow passengers.
Board last. We confine the children to their seats for as short a time as possible. We decline the airline's invitation for families with young children to board first. Instead, we watch everyone fight for the front of the line, which is entertaining in itself. Once final call is announced, we claim our seats, hopefully just in time for taxi. Ava needs her own seat but her legs are so short that we put the carry-ons under the seat in front of her.
Eat and fly. Our kids are cranky when they are tired or hungry. (Well, sometimes they are cranky around the clock, but it's worse when they are tired or hungry.) We've found that having a meal or heavy snack at the airport provides something fun for them to do and fills their bellies for the flight. Eating on the flight is also great since the in-flight meals have little dishes to sample. This may not apply in the US, in which case take time-consuming snacks with you. We give the kids lollipops during take off and landing. It helps avoid ear pressure and keeps them quiet for 15 minute blocks during take-off and landing.
Fly while asleep. This is only practical sometimes, but we plan to be in the air a couple of hours after the kids usually nap. This way, they are tired and pass out just as the flight is taking off. Red eyes for long hauls are great for little kids who have strong sleeping schedules. Ava and Kayan slept 13 of the 16 hour midnight flight from New York to Hong Kong.
Use the airport playground. We let the kids run around at the airport to burn off energy. Airports are an enormous playground of escalators, ramps, elevators and observations towers. We make games around finding our gate number and racing down low traffic hallways.
Get excited. Kids will feed off whatever pre-travel stress us parents exhibit. Instead, get them involved in the planning. Both kids help us pack when we move on to the next home. It gives them some closure but also gets them excited about reaching our destination and taking out their stuff.
Take little. Chances are that toddlers will run wild in the airport. Running after them is a lot easier without bags bouncing off parents' limbs. Between computers, cameras, diapers and a change of clothes, we don't have room for toys. Apart from one multi-colored pen and some paper to draw and do origami, we make use of what we have to take anyway. This is where a digital camera or iPad comes in handy. Our kids love looking at picture of home and their destination.
But don't forget the stroller. We debated this one, but in the end, the stroller comes in handy. If it is not carrying a kid, it holds our carry-ons. The stroller is great when we're trying to balance waiting for last call and not missing our flight. The international departure terminal at Bangkok is huge and it would have taken us an hour at Kayan's glacial pace to reach our Air Asia gate. We strapped him to the stroller and sped on our way. We have a low-cost umbrella stroller that the kids take turns using. Strollers must go through some sort of pulverization mechanism in the cargo compartment, so it doesn't seem prudent to carry around anything fancy.
It may not be as smooth as a business trip, but traveling with toddlers can be less exhausting by making a few adjustments.