We’ve taken the boys to the Netherlands at least 5 times by now. We took our first trip in December of 2011. We’ll be going again this coming summer (2017). So I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned about international travel with little ones. The advice changes, of course, as they get older. So I’ll try to indicate how old they were when we did certain things. If you have some advice of your own, I’d love to hear it!
TRAVEL TIPS FOR THE PLANE:
- When booking your flight, consider nap/bed times. Not that your child will actually sleep, but at least there’s a better chance.
- Before boarding, let your child run around a bit if you can. Some airports even have a play area or playground, so you might want to check out the airport websites to know where it is. As our boys get older, they love to just watch the planes take off and land, if you can find a place to do that.
- If flying at night, do as much of your bedtime routine as possible. Change into pajamas, bring a lovey and a book or two.
- At age 2: We changed Froggy into pajamas before getting on the plane. We brought his sleep sack and his favorite lovey along with a book to read to him. The two biggest hindrances to sleep were distractions (people going up and down the aisle, food being served and cleared, etc.) and the lights being left on a long time. But I haven’t figure out how to get around those issues yet…. I read somewhere about pinning the airline blanket over his seat, but I never quite figured out how to do that.
- During take-off and landing, you know how your ears can pop and that can be even more painful and confusing for a child. It helps to have something to suck on – water from a sippy cup, a pacifier (if they still use one), etc. As they get older, you can try a lollipop or gum.
- On our first flight, this wasn’t a problem. But the second time we flew (Froggy was 2-and-a-half), it was a different story. I swear, he actually came down with a cold IN the airport before we left!! So as we descended toward Schiphol Airport, he became hysterical. It was the kind of scene I’d always dreaded: we were THAT family with THAT screaming child. But in that moment, I couldn’t care a fig what anyone else on that plane thought. My sweet boy was clearly in pain. We tried everything to help him pop his ears, but he wouldn’t take anything. I finally got him to calm down a little by doing some Elmo stickers with him. Finally – after about a half hour – he calmed down as we were about to land. So if you are THAT family one day, don’t worry about it. It won’t last forever!
- Changing diapers can be tricky on the plane! On our USAir flight, there were changing tables in the coach section. But they were soooooo small!! It worked well to have PER there to help. He held Froggy (age 2) while I went into the bathroom to set up: pull down the table and put down the changing pad, open the diaper, and get the wipes ready. At just 2 years old, only Froggy’s torso fit on the table! So I laid him down and had his legs go up the wall. It was the fastest change ever! I handed him back to PER and quickly cleaned up. And to be honest, we changed his wet diapers right there on the seat.
- We brought a change of clothes but I wish I’d brought 2. Especially for the daytime flight on the way home from Europe. For some reason, Froggy’s diapers kept leaking. (We use Pampers 12-hour, and I’ve never had a problem with them leaking unless we waited way too long to change it.) Eventually I just kept his pants off and put his changing pad down on the seat for him to sit on.
- Once they are potty-trained, one change of clothes is usually enough. But it’s still a good idea! You never know what is going to spill!
- Dealing with jet-lag: The best thing we did was get Froggy on his schedule asap! Normally the rule in our house is never wake a sleeping baby, no matter what. Exception: to get over jet-lag! Even though Froggy only slept about 3 (interrupted) hours on the plane, once we were landing and going through the airport, everything was so new and distracting that he was wide awake. Same thing once we arrived at Oma & Opa’s. So we were able to give him a snack at 10:30, lunch at noon, and then put him down for his regular 1pm nap. We let him sleep until 5 and then woke him as gently as we could. We had to wake him in the morning, too. This lasted about 2 or 3 days. But he adjusted so well!! The flight home was a little more challenging, but the same rule applied: stick to the schedule, and he’ll adjust quickly.
- If you’ll be staying in different places and traveling by train on your trip, you might consider a KidCo Peapod. We’ve never used one ourselves, but in preparing for our trip, fellow blogger Tamara over at Our Non-Native Bilingual Adventure highly recommended it. They got Kaya used to it for a few weeks before the trip, and then she always had a place to sleep wherever they were that was comfortable and familiar.
- Tablets – life-saver or horror story? These days, we all turn to technology at one point or another to distract our children. But allowing your child to use the tablet for too long is a recipe for disaster! Best to limit use to 20 or 30 minute periods, or you’re headed for a meltdown like you’ve never seen! For more on the story, check out this post.
This page is a work in progress. More to come!