Next week, we fly back to the UK for the summer. This time ‘round, however, I’m flying sans husband. So it’ll be me, my 5-year-old son, and 2-year-old daughter on a ten-hour flight followed by two hours in a car. Knowing what to pack in our suitcases is easy; it’s what to take on the plane that I stress about.
My youngest is now toilet-trained, so thankfully I don’t have to pack diapers, a change mat, and nappy sacks. Accidents do still happen though – not only the toilet kind, but also travel sickness, which affects my son most of the time we travel. So I’ll still need a couple of changes of clothes for both kids (and for me). I once had to endure the last two hours a flight with the smell of vomit on my t-shirt.
Baby wipes are one of the best inventions ever for parents. Granted, they’re not ideal from an environmental point of view, but there really is nothing else that can properly clean noses, hands, bottoms, and back to vomit again. Plastic bags are a must for soiled clothes, and you can’t beat the zip-lock type – guaranteed no holes and therefore no leaks.
Aside from what to pack for cleanup time, there’s also the task of keeping them fed and watered. Empty drinking bottles of the non-spill variety are essential. Although my kids are more than capable of drinking out of a proper cup, they still have the wonderful knack of knocking things flying from the tray table.
Drinking during take-off and landing is a good idea, as it helps ease the pressure on their ears. However, for a travel sickness-prone child, milk isn’t always the best choice of drink. Water or juice – diluted of course – is ideal.
When you fly with British Airways, it’s a bit hit-or-miss as to whether you actually get the kids’ meals. So I tend to go for the pasta, rice, or noodle dish and share with my youngest. My eldest will get an adult’s meal and manage to eat some of it.
So for the other nine hours of the flight (it’s a daytime one unfortunately), it’ll be snacks. Dried fruit is good, although they find raisins a bit boring now. So I give them dried apricots, bananas, and apples.
Crackers and breadsticks are always a big hit, and I try to go for plain ones without any salt or sugar.
For treats, I’ll have small tubs of mini digestive biscuits, ginger biscuits, and some sugar- and additive-free jelly sweets. If all else fails and one of them has a meltdown, out comes the Pocky sticks.
What to do in amongst all this snacking? We have a fabulous book by Usborne called Look Inside an Airport packed with pop-ups and picture reveal flaps detailing everything that happens at the airport and on the plane.
It’s a great way for kids to understand why it takes a long time to get through security, encourages them to put on their seatbelts, and helps explain why it’s not just mommy being awkward, you really do need to put your tray table upright during take-off and landing.
I also take plenty of coloring books and crayons, reusable sticker books, and of course reading books. My youngest loves finger puppets, so we have The Puppet Company range of nursery rhymes and fairy tales. With each story book, you get puppets of all of the characters in the book so she can act out the whole thing.
This year, I will probably be taking loom bands too. I realize this will result in the flight attendants having to hoover up hundreds of elastic bands after we’ve disembarked, but as my son doesn’t really know how to make the bracelets on his own, I’m hoping he’ll spend at least a few hours trying.
When it comes to long-haul flights, screen time restrictions are lifted for my own sanity and out of respect for fellow passengers. I have already downloaded tons of stuff from the BBC children’s channel CBeebies, including Charlie & Lola, Shaun the Sheep, Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures, and Peter Rabbit.
For films, we have all their favorites: The Gruffalo, Peter Pan, Bambi, Rango, and of course…Frozen. I’m just hoping they don’t burst into song.
For games and apps, we try to stick with educational ones like Toca Builder, Curious George, Little Writer, and Learn Chinese. Let’s face it – there will be other times during the holiday when the iPad will make a reappearance, so it’s good to have apps that will help support their learning.
As for me, I’m taking a magazine, have downloaded a few e-books, and would love to see what new film releases will be playing in the on-air entertainment. Wishful thinking, but I’m also praying for an upgrade.
Photos: Sally Wilson, Michael Ocampo (Flickr)