Long flights with young toddler: How we survived

Our travel itinerary to Jamnagar, India included a 2 hour flight Chicago to New Jersey with hour and a half layover, a 15 hour flight from New Jersey to Mumbai, an overnight stay in Mumbai, and then an hour flight from Mumbai to Jamnagar. LOTS of flying in a short period of time for anyone, especially a toddler. Compiling my list of travel toys and tricks from various websites and Pinterest ideas, here is what I did to keep my little guy entertained.
1.       Enlist the help of relatives in finding/ buying appropriate travel toys. Because we knew we would be traveling and not have a home to put large toys in, I had Landon’s grandparents buy him ONLY toys for traveling for Christmas this year. Now we have a giant repertoire of toys to bring and switch out in between assignments.
2.       Tablet: Fuhu Nabi 2 This is a controversial idea, for me at least, unleashing the 19 month toddler wrath on an expensive and powerful tablet that would be ideal for him to use in the next 3-5 years. I was a firm “no screens until 2” mom at home. On an airplane, though, whatever tools I can have in my belt to keep Landon happy and entertained, I will do it! When I thought about all the travel ideas I had read (coloring, DVD player, mp3 player, simple puzzle toys, books, etc) The tablet has all of these things and more. His attention span has JUST gotten long enough to really enjoy this thing. As a little boy, his favorite things are balls and cars, so the games we play most are shooting hoops, kicking soccer balls into goals, and a toddler cars app that has different vehicles that you press on and it says what it is and shows it driving. Maybe I will do a post on toddler apps that are excellent for traveling. Later. I have loaded a few episodes of Baby Einstein about sports, as well as a few feature length films that he does not have the patience for yet. He will not keep headphones on at this time, but I think this is something he will grow into as he realizes that the videos are much cooler with sound.
3.       Toddler Tote: Grandma Ev gave us this awesome and compact tote that has several different foam shapes that can be popped out and put back in. There are also some pieces with holes, and the set comes with pegs to work on fine motor. My favorite part is the foam is so dense that Landon can’t bite through it, or even leave teeth marks if he is feeling ferocious. Also, I only pack a few of the shapes at a time in a plastic baggy so it takes up less space.
Fun fact! I remember having these do play with on airplanes when I was a child!
4.       Colorforms: These “stickers” aren’t really sticky, but are made of plastic so you can peel and reapply as many times as you want. I imagine as kids get older this can get more fun, but right now Landon gets a kick out of peeling the stickers off and putting them on the board. We have a Very Hungry Caterpillar set and as he picks things to peel and stick, I make up a story to go along with it (loosely based on the Very Hungry Caterpillar). Also grouped in this category are those little sticker books where there is a scene on the inside of the front and back covers, and then stickers in the middle that you can use to make a story and scene on the outer pages. This is the first time Landon has been interested in doing this, but it kept him busy for the short flight this morning.
5.       Aquadoodle: This is a fun art type set that comes with a “pen” that you fill up with water. When the pen hits the “paper” the paper under the pen turns red or blue. This will keep him occupied for approximately 20-30 seconds, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
6.       Select favorite books: We are traveling to move to a new place, so of course, I have to bring a few books that are tangible- I’m just not a complete convert to the e-readers yet. If he is having a hard time, I bring out a snack and a favorite book and suddenly, the world is so much better!
7.       Good, nutritious, not too sugary snacks: Some of our favorites are almonds, peanuts, craisins, raisins (not too many, though!), freeze dried yogurt bites, cheese sticks (for the first leg of the trip or in the airport), animal crackers, goldfish, freeze dried fruit bites, and baby/toddler food pouches- lots and lots of pouches. I try to buy ones that have fruits and vegetables in them hoping that they have less sugar that will get him wired, but who knows. Last trip to CA, the whole flight was supposed to be after his bedtime. At the United club lounge, he proceeded to pick all of the fake M&Ms out of the trail mix and eat them.  A lot of them. He did not sleep. Since then we pre-screen the trail mix for M&Ms (Austin’s favorite parenting job of all time) and then he can have the rest of the trail mix, which is actually protein rich and has some fruit as well.
8.       A GREAT attitude: Kids pick up on the slightest changes of mood and emotion in their parents. I have found when I get flustered on an airplane, he can become inconsolable and become more frustrated and it is a vicious cycle of doom. When I have a cool, calm and collected attitude ( of course after preparing all of the things above in case of melt down or boredom), Landon is a much happier camper, goes to sleep easier, and has a much better flight. I did hypnobirthing in order to have Landon naturally, and so if I am getting upset or frustrated, I do some deep breathing and some self-relaxation techniques and I’m good to go.
Our 15 hour flight was an overnight flight, meaning it left around Landon’s bedtime. Sleeping in a car seat in the upright position is not fun, so after about 3 hours, he woke up and we did some laps up and down the airplane. I find most people are fine with this, they like seeing the cute baby running quietly down the aisle in footsie pajamas, and those that don’t just don’t have a soul. After that, we ate a snack and he went back to sleep in my arms. He was resisting the car seat, so I slept with him in my arms for about an hour before transferring him over to the car seat again. Austin being the awesome businessman he is had a seat in business class that he mercifully let me have for half of the flight. I was able to get some real sleep and some real “me” time with reading and watching movies and not worrying about Landon. What a stud!
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