Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Travelling with a toddler: the airplane chronicles

I wanted to write out a better post today than the quick one yesterday to really go through what worked for us when taking our two year old on a 5 hour plane ride yesterday.  But first I have to post a photo of the gluten and dairy free cake that my niece had for her birthday part on Sunday.  My sister got the cake from the same bakery we ordered from for my son's birthday.  See here for a refresher.  My son was the only kid at the party that was gluten and lactose free, but everything available was suitable for his diet, from the chips to the meal (chicken fingers and fries in take-out containers w/boxes of mixed munchies) to the cake.  I love my sister.  Just don't tell her I said so out loud!

Now on to the real purpose of the post: a rundown of traveling with my two year old.  For a little background, we're in El Salvador visiting my husband's family for two weeks.  Our day yesterday started at 3:30 AM with a trip through the snow (in April, ugh) to the airport.  The little one was a little cranky when I woke him up, but when he realized that Grandpa would be driving us to the airport, he perked right up.  We brought two suitcases, a big and a small one, a carry on for each of us, an umbrella stroller for Etienne and the car seat for the plane.  The airport personnel were fantastic, and the only meltdown occurred at security, when my son had to give up his teddy bear to be scanned.  The security personnel were great and they tried to console him the whole time! 

Once through security, we get to our gate, and this is what I see set up in the corner:
Jungle Gym at Pearson Airport
I'm not a frequent flyer, but I'm usually on an airplane at least once a year, and I've never encountered a jungle gym in an airport before.  Perhaps they're common in destinations I never travel to, but this was incredible.  My son ran straight to it and my husband and I took turns watching him play.  The two hours before boarding passed without a hitch. 

I was concerned about my son's ability to sit through a 5 hour plane ride without getting bored, so we brought his car seat on the plane and filled his carry on with toys he had never seen before.  I had read mixed reviews from parents who put their kids in car seats on planes before, so I was a little apprehensive.  For us, it worked really well.  He was comfortable in his familiar chair, it sat up his enough that he could look out the window, and it gave him head and neck support for napping. He fell asleep for a good hour until an announcement on the speakers woke him up. The only drawback is that the airplane tray doesn't sit straight because of the seat height, but we brought along a lap tray for him.  Click here to see the one we brought.

Here he is, chilling in his car seat:

We had expected to have to entertain him the whole time, so his Thomas Suitcase was filled with sticker books, crayons and colouring books, trains, etc.  Turns out all he wanted to play with were the toy cars I bought on a whim before we left.  A set of four cars for $3 entertained him almost the entire way there.  He rolled them up the window, across the tray, over my arm, etc.  Bringing along his favourite meal didn't hurt either, and a good 30 minutes was spent munching on fish sticks.  He didn't sit in his car seat the whole time, he spent some time on our laps and went for a walk up and down the aisles, but then he insisted on taking his shoes and socks off and just hung out in the car seat. 

I  have to say I'm pleasantly surprised.  My son is not the most patient of children.  He likes to change activities often and he doesn't particularly like sitting in one spot for long periods of time, so we were expecting the flight to be a challenge.  However, we had other passengers tell us that they were worried about sitting so close to such a little boy, but that they were amazed at how well he behaved.  I know that being prepared set the stage for his behaviour, but I also know that luck played a role!  The best part is that it calmed our fears about flying longer distances with him.  If he's as well behaved on the way home (crossing fingers), then we're thinking about taking a longer flight at Christmas. 

The last thing I want to mention is the staff at the airport in El Salvador.  While waiting in line at customs, the staff at the airport were diverting anyone with small children, any type of special needs, and the elderly into shorter lines at customs.  A small gesture, but a much appreciated one.  Now that we're here, we can hang out in the hammocks and enjoy the weather!

Etienne with his Tio Jaime in the hammock.  This is the life!

1 comment :

  1. Wow, sounds like everything went smooth. I have been nervous about traveling with me little also, but hear stories like this seem to calm my nerves.

    Have a great trip :)