We recently jetted off to foreign shores for a holiday visiting relatives. It was a lovely trip and just what we needed after the latest phase EDtot had enjoyed (see Duvet Day). Considering we were staying at my aunt's (and most toddler necessities were provided), the suitcases should have been fairly empty.
In fairness, they were, but only due to being free of most of the items EDdad and I normally take on holiday. We had scaled down drastically in order to (a) allow for lots of shopping once there, and (b) make space for ridiculous items such as a noodle for EDtot to use in the pool! For some reason common sense had a little lie-in the morning I decided to pack. At least this time I didn't find a ski glove hiding with the swimsuits.
So here are our handy tips for travelling long haul with a toddler.
1. A night flight is always preferable in the hope that your tot's natural body clock will help them sleep. Be prepared, however, for that sleep time to be a lot later than you anticipated. If your tot is able to use a bassinet, it can be a while into the flight before they set them up and even then you will have to take your tot out and strap them onto your seat belt each time there is a chance of turbulence. Our outbound flight involved 4 instances of "potential turbulence" and I was far from the happiest camper when it took an hour to then get EDtot to resettle with hardly a bump to be felt. (Yes, yes, safety first and all that.)
2. Hand luggage needs to be practical. This may sound obvious, but you really don't want to be lugging a heavy bag around Terminal 3 whilst carrying your tired tot. A backpack or a good wheelie case can really help (especially as our EDtot insisted on being carried instead of using the stroller that we were allowed to take to the gate). And have your essentials (passport, boarding passes, etc) in a small bag on you to save emptying all the nappies out on the airport terminal floor whilst you search for them. You're normally allowed a small handbag in addition to your usual hand carry items.
3. Take their usual pj's and Grobag (or similar) on the plane. It can get pretty cold and a blanket is a pain to keep adjusting. Don't forget any obligatory soft toy from their cot! If your little one is used to a pitch dark room for bedtime, don't expect to get much sleep at first as there will always be a low overhead light or even the joy of a nearby reading light. Must try to get EDtot used to eye shades before the next trip!
4. Buy a specialist earplug to help your tot avoid the pain of air pressure changes. We used EarPlanes and they were an absolute saviour as not only did EDtot allow them be inserted into her ears, she actually let them stay in until we took them out! A flight to France last year had confirmed that she suffers badly during take-off and landing even with the help of chewing/drinking, but on this trip she didn't seem to notice. Make sure you buy them early though as we couldn't find any for kids in the shops and had to order online.
5. Time zones changes. I've found the quickest way to get over jetlag is to power through that first day. Keep busy and stay awake until local time bedtime. We tweaked EDtot's bedtime slightly in order to allow for a nicer holiday (and also to keep her slightly closer to UK time) so she ended up going to bed at 10pm and waking at around 9:30am. This meant not only could we all enjoy a family meal out at lunch and in the evening, but we also had a little siesta mid-afternoon whilst she napped. Nice.
6. And finally...if you don't own one, hire a sling before you go. I love my slings. I have not quite got to grips with flinging EDtot onto my back using a woven wrap (maybe the 'flinging' part is where I am going wrong), but it is really very easy in a backpack style carrier like an Ergo. Slings make so many parts of a holiday easier...getting around the airport, negotiating busy shopping districts, avoiding looking for lifts everywhere and of course, cuddling your tired tot. If you need to hire a sling, check out your local Sling Library. Here in SE London, we have the lovely Emily from the South London Sling Library to assist.
Have a lovely holiday!