*Updated* I’ve travelled extensively with my two young sons, and flown with them many times. Over the years, I have tried and tested several different products which can help the journey go a lot more smoothly and now and then, new items come onto the market. I’ve added them to the list below. On another note, look how big Monkey is now…
Gone are the days where we’d fuel up on gin, watch all the latest hit movies and then have forty winks before tackling the bar and entertainment console over again.
There’s no two ways about it… I was dreading our 12-hour flight to Bangkok. The longest plane journey we’d ever taken Monkey on was to Egypt, just shy of 6 hours.
It’s not that he’s difficult. Far from it, he’s well-behaved (mostly) and loves to watch films now from start to finish, but he’s very fidgety, has a short concentration span and enjoys being super comfortable, sprawled flat-out when he sleeps.
I’m pleased to report that Monkey surprised the both of us and, considering he only had about six hours of restless sleep, his demeanour was pretty upbeat on arrival at Bangkok airport. I do, however, put it down to a few tricks which definitely helped the whole experience. As always, preparation is key to helping you have a more pleasant journey. And remember, no matter how long the journey actually feels, you are getting off the plane eventually…
Order a kid’s meal
It’s only a small thing but I didn’t realise until a friend told me that airlines specifically cater for young kids. Plane food can be hit and miss at the best of times (I actually quite like them!) but for small people who are notoriously fussy this can make all the difference when it comes to getting them to eat something. Monkey’s meal consisted of a fruit salad, breaded chicken, mash and peas, accompanied by yoghurt, cheddar slice, Ribena and a pack of chocolate buttons! Meanwhile, breakfast was a sausage and baked beans, a Ella’s fruit pouch and grapes. He actually ate most of it without too much of a fight.
Still on the subject of food, it’s a good idea to being plenty of their favourite snacks as at some point they will get bored and peckish. We have a Bento Yumbox which Monkey adores. I think it’s because it offers a different variety and it’s his special box. They’re also easy to pack, lightweight and durable, which is an added bonus when you already have to bring so much onboard.
Consider using Phenergan
After reading about it a while ago on travel blog Jetlag and Mayhem, I decided to buy some. You can’t actually purchase it over the counter but it’s available online. Phenergan is an antihistamine but works as a mild sedative for young children. Now, I know some parents will be against using drugs to sedate their children and I’m not advocating this under normal circumstances at home. But after weighing up the pros and cons – side-effects include breathing problems – I decided it was better to have it on the flight then not. I also tried it out at home first to make sure Monkey didn’t have a reaction to it.
I did give some to Monkey during the flight – approximately four hours in. While it made him more sleepy, it didn’t really knock him out for hours on end. But I do think it helped him calm down. Every child is different, but I do know that for some children it really, really works. Please note: This cannot be used for children under two.
Try to book a night flight
If you can fly during the night, then changing your toddler into his pyjamas and doing a mini-bed time routine can really help them settle in for a sleep. In fact, trying to keep their routine as close to normal as possible, is the way to go. This is what we did with Monkey: we got his favourite cuddly bunny, his dummy and his jim jams and because the cabin lights are turned off and you’re pretty much in darkness, it helped reinforce this.
Use a kids neck pillow
There’s nothing worse when Monkey snoozes and his head rolls to the side – it looks like he’s a contortionist and I’m surprised he never complains of neck ache. There are so many different children’s neck pillows on sale now, but we opted for a Trunki Yondi. It was a good support for Monkey while he dozed and watch his films. It’s not as bulky as some travel pillows – which I find quite uncomfortable. The Monkey Yondi worked a treat and fit his small frame well. It also bonds together at the ends from a magnetic clasp right under the chin. I didn’t think he would wear it, so I was surprised he kept it on. Perhaps it had something to do with it being a monkey, too? The Yondi is available in several different colours and characters and retails at £14.99 *
Sleep while they sleep
As much as I wanted to sit and watch the countless movies on offer, I knew I had to try to get some sleep. I am pretty useless at falling asleep on a plane – I can catch a half an hour or so – on and off – but I never feel particularly rested. While Monkey was sleeping, I closed my eyes and tried to rest, and then ended up watching a film anyway because I couldn’t get comfortable. I was pretty exhausted – so the moral of the story is, don’t do what I did, try to get some shut eye…
Bring plenty of activities to keep them occupied
Monkey isn’t very crafty, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t pack our hand luggage to the rafters with activities for him to do. I made a game out of it and acted like they were presents. He absolutely loved the sticker mosaics. Both of us spent a while trying to complete them. I didn’t even need the colouring or sticker book because it was soon bedtime, which is a good thing because I’ll have some in store for our return leg of the journey!
Load up the iPad
I assumed that British Airways would have plenty of the latest blockbusters for him to watch – but alas, there wasn’t anything he hadn’t already seen. Luckily, our iPad always has some of Monkey’s favourite cartoons and games on, so once the novelty wore off of watching the seat screen, he asked for the iPad. I’d also suggest bringing your own headphones, as you can’t be sure the plane’s set will fit small heads.
Pack some extra clothes
During the flight, it can get pretty chilly – best bring some extra layers of clothing just in case the blanket isn’t warm enough.
Use a pull-up…
…If you’re potting training. We still use them for night times and didn’t hesitate to put Monkey in one when he wanted to go to sleep. However, if you’re in the early stages of potty training, don’t worry about deviating from your plan. It will be more stressful for you and your little one if you have to cope with accidents during the flight. It’s only for a few hours after all.
Plump up the seat
Although Monkey is quite slight, he still managed to carry his Travel Snug onto the plane and around the airport with the easily manageable straps. When we first got the Travel Snug, I wasn’t sure exactly how a fleecy cushion seat with blanket would make any difference to the journey, however, I was wrong. Monkey really adored it during the flight. He was super snugly and cocooned and it’s soft material helped in some way to keep him asleep for more than eight hours on our night flight home. The baby even enjoyed sitting on it, too. The Travel Snug is available for children from 15 months to six years, in many different designs, and is priced from £54.99.*
Now how does an inflatable cushion help on a long haul flight? Well that’s the genius thing about the Fly Tot, which was designed by two mums who were searching for a way to make plane journeys more relaxing. Once the Fly Tot cushion is inflated it provides a way for a child to lay flat, as it takes up the space in between the seat and the back of the chair in front. It’s also compact and easy to inflate. We carried it in a rucksack, and once airborne, it took about five minutes to inflate with the foot pump. No one batted an eyelid at the squeaky noises, although we did have to get it out again during the flight when it deflated a little. Monkey found it comfortable, and liked his legs elevated. He even lay down for a little sleep. The Fly Tot is priced at £66.*
* We were sent a Trunk Yondi, Travel Snug and Fly Tot for the purposes of a review, but all my opinions are my own.