With years of experience of travelling behind me, my main advice would be to be prepared to any eventuality and brace yourself.
We first travelled with Sasha when he was 17 months old, and we were returning from the States to the UK. It was his first ever flight, and it went reasonably well. He slept for quite a good amount of hours. The next flight was shorter, we went to Italy for Christmas, and for several years we have been travelling with Sasha regularly: to Italy, Russia, Austria and Canada.
Some trips went smoothly, some of them I still recollect with a feeling of quiet horror. One of the worst trips was just after the July 2005 London bombings, we had to fly a couple of days later, and it was a trip from hell from start to finish. The Heathrow authorities went overboard with the security and forbade taking anything on board with you. Sasha by then was diagnosed as having autism, and obviously you cannot explain to a young child with the condition why you are not allowed to take your snacks or toys with you. We had a box of grapes confiscated, and forced to leave his favourite toy elephants behind. For Sasha it was a complete blow, he had a particular attachment to those elephant toys, they travelled everywhere with us, taking them away was just totally unnecessary. How can a small plastic toy be a security issue is beyond my understaning. There was no reasoning with the Heathrow people who are not helpful even at the best of times. As he is very picky about what he eats, and we were not allowed to take any food with us, he stayed hungry for many hours, as the flight was delayed and there was nothing at all inside the food malls that he would eat. I suppose if you don't have a personal experience of living with a child on the spectrum, you might dismiss all the worries we have as insignificant.
So, some things you can plan and some are totally beyond your control. Travelling with little ones can be also a learning journey for you.
Sasha delighted in the airplanes, he has no fear of flying and enjoys looking in the window.
Your little guys and girls might have lots of fun, exploring the airport, if there is a chance and going up and down the escalator is a game that never gets boring, believe me.
It doesn't need to be dramatic, try to think in advance on what might happen and how to avoid the worst. Write down the plan if necessary. I am featuring here advice presented by the Tots Too (and if you want to know whether I agree with all they had to say, keep reading)
As the Christmas holidays are almost upon us, many families are taking the opportunity to escape on holiday over the festive period. However, travelling with children can be a stressful experience, especially if they are excited about Christmas. This is why luxury travel specialists Tots Too have put together 10 tips to help ease the stress of flying with young children.Tots Too was founded 5 years ago by sisters Emma and Deborah Barnett, when they realised that many people felt they were unable to go on luxury holidays since becoming parents. Tots Too will guide families through every step of the process, from researching suitable hotels, to giving personal advice on what to pack, and there help is still on offer when you are away enjoying your holiday.
Travel Tips from Tots Too
Flying with children of any age can be a challenging and daunting experience. From first time parents, to families with a whole brood, it is never an easy task to keep toddlers comfortable and older children occupied. That’s why luxury family holiday specialists Tots Too (www.totstoo.com), have put together these top ten simple tips that can help parents and children to travel peacefully and allow you to enjoy your holiday from take-off.
- You can send bulky toys and nappies ahead of you so you can travel light.
- Small children love to have their own luggage to fill with toys for the journey.
- Dress your kids in bright clothes so they’ll be easier to spot if they go astray in a crowd.
- If two parents are travelling, you might consider booking one seat separate from the others at check-in, allowing one adult to rest whilst the other manages the kids (swapping at half time of course!).
- If the flight’s not full, see if the airline staff will hold an empty seat next to yours, especially if your toddler doesn’t have their own seat.
- Bassinet cots are often under the movie screen – if so, a light sheet can shield your child from disturbance.
- You can ask the flight attendant to warm up milk or baby food, but do so a little in advance as it may take some time.
- New toys will hold the attention the longest, or think ahead and hide away some of their old favourites before travelling so they are a novelty again on the flight.
- Don’t bring all the toys out at once, pace yourself throughout the journey.
- Dual time watches and clocks are great for keeping track of baby’s routine in different time zones.
Also if you liked the tips from www.totstoo.com, you can order their brochure.
Sending nappies ahead is not the most useful advice. First of all, our Royal Mail is very unreliable, your parcel might never make it. From my personal experience, if you want a packet abroad to arrive in one piece, you have to pay for the special delivery, and the cost of the postage will be higher than nappies themselves. Also nappies are sold everywhere. Just take enough with you to last for a couple of days, if you don't want to take the whole lot. The airmail packet to Europe (even to Italy, yes, that's a pathetic service) often takes at least a month to arrive, so unless you send them well in advance, you might never see the sight of your parcel.
Bassinets are suitable only for small light babies. Our Sasha was a 10-pounder at birth, and by 17 months was quite big, and though we booked a seat with the bassinet, the whole setting was so fragile, I was worried the bassinet would collapse, so ended up holding my little guy all the flight over the Atlantic. So be prepared to do the same if your baby is not a newborn or isn't small.
Do not make a mistake of booking a seat separate from your child. Yes, one parent might have a rest, but what about the one who is staying with the child? Even going to the loo or eating anything would be an issue. I would say, stay together, after all, you are both parents and you should share the responsibility.
Also spare a thought for the other people on the plane. Of course, you might be lucky and you little angel will sleep throught the flight or sit quietly on your lap. If your baby is miserable, be prepared morally that everyone around would be either hating you and your screaming kid or sympathetic but still wishing to be elsewhere, preferably as far as possible from you. We've all been there.
If you breastfeed, then the best you can do for your baby is b/f him during the take off and landing to ease the pain in the ears. Or give a bottle to your child if she is a bottle baby.
Don't forget your medication. Airports and the confined airplane space are a breeding material for spreading the germs. Take what you think you might need with you, especially if you are not fluent in the foreign language of the place you are going to visit, and do not expect the pharmacist to understand your English.
Check with the airport if you can take the pushchair with you up to the airplane as many terminals now insist on you leaving it at the check-in, which is very child-unfriendly. Terminals are huge, and carrying a tired child along with the handbag that contains all your necessities could be hard on your back. If your child can sit independently, you might want to take one of those Trunki-type suitcases for kids, that have wheels and could be used to move your child around the airport.
Take your camera with you, and take some photos to keep memories. In a few years time you might laugh even at the the most stressful trip memories.
If anything, you will come out of this new learning experience stronger and wiser.
I wish you a safe journey! Merry Christmas!