One of my worst nightmares is having to cope with cranky child on the plane because, to be honest, I used to be the person giving a harsh look to mothers of screaming children on the plane (which now I feel terrible doing that in the past). So when I have to take my 1 year old kid to Auckland to visit his dad, I was a bit worried. This was not his first trip on the plane since he traveled to Bali and Singapore before, but this sure was his first long-haul trip. 1,5 hours from Jakarta to Singapore and 9 full hours from Singapore to Auckland, to be exact. After done a few research here and there, browse all the websites regarding traveling with baby and toddler, we managed to arrive save and sound in Auckland without any problem. Well, if you do not count the lack of sleep as a result of high anxiety.
Here are the things that I did to survive the long-haul flight with my one year old:
1. Choose a night flight
Even before I got married and had baby, I always prefer a night flight than morning or afternoon flight when I travel long-haul. The reason is simple; I can always go to sleep when I feel like I have nothing else to do. So this is also what I did when I booked the ticket for both of us. If you have a stopover flight (like mine in Singapore), choose the time wisely as well. I prefer 2 hours stopover time after considering the probability of delay time (which can happen even to Singapore Airlines, like my case) and also the time to change his diaper, clothes, and warm his milk in Singapore.
2. Fill his stomach
If an adult can get cranky and hard to fall asleep with an empty stomach, so can toddler. Be sure to give him foods but do not go overboard. Be sure to give his stomach some space for biscuits during take-off and milk for the last flight (that is from Singapore to Auckland). The last thing I want is for my kid to be too full and throw up.
3. Let him play in the plane before take-off
I will never understand why the passengers with children have to board first. Seriously, the waiting time for all passengers to board and the plane to take-off are insanely long. Since I know that my one year old is easily bored, I let him play on the floor until all the passengers have been board and the stewardess remind me to buckle up. Be sure to stuff your bag with some toys, preferably small ones. My kid loves hand phone and wheel at that moment, so I brought couple of mobile phone toys and cars with big wheels. Luckily the toys also keep him busy from take-off until the safety belt sign is off.
4. Give him something to chew or drink during take-off
I guess this is the first and the most important lesson ever taught for every mom planning on taking baby on a flight. I used to think that I have to nurse my baby during take-off or give him something to drink. Turn out I just have to make sure that he moves his mouth like an adult chewing candy during take-off. Thus, when he refuse milk or water that I gave him, I already prepare biscuits and teether nearby. I even prepare my finger for him to suck on just in case he refuse all things listed above.
5. Take him for a walk in the plane when he bored
When the safety belt is off, I took my kid for a walk in a plane, just to let him aware of his surrounding. I guess it’s best to let him know the surrounding rather than being curious. This is not something that I find on the internet, only from experiment. I feel that my kid is pretty similar than me so I try to treat him like I treat myself during the flight. Thankfully, after a brief walk, he ask to be held on and fell asleep.
6. Stick to his schedule
What I learn from experience and websites, babies and toddlers love routinity. No matter how cheerful my kid at night time, he always feel tired and yawn around 9 pm. When we stopover in Singapore, I put him in his sleepsuit, gave him milk during take off and after he finished his milk, went on a walk, he started to dozed off and slept all the way until we almost reach Auckland. The only times he felt annoyed was when the baby sleeping next to him was crying and having a hard time sleeping (I talked to the parents when we were in Auckland and turned out they flew all the way from Poland … bless them).
Bottom-line is know your child and try to make them as comfortable as possible and probably the key to calm your child is by being calm ourselves. Have a happy holiday and enjoy your flight.