He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Saturday, January 4, 2014

So you're traveling internationally with a two year old?

From someone who's been there/done that, let me offer a few pieces of advice from our experiences...  

First of all, throw all of your expectations and rules out the window.  All of them.  You have a 14 hour flight, do you?  Well that 14 hour flight could very easily become 16 hours if you have to sit on the runway for 2 hours before even taking off while waiting for the captain to show up!  Oh really?  You had seats together?  Aisle #17 on the side just might be about 2 aisles up from aisle #17 in the middle- thank goodness for teenage daughters who are excited about sitting alone!

Thankfully, 2 hours in (still on the runway mind you!), this little missy was still pretty fascinated by the whole flying experience!
 (notice she found the perfect place to store her crackers in the seatbelt holder- she was initially quite distressed that there was no cup holder for her milk....)

 Ok, so maybe don't throw ALL the rules out the window...   Probably the only rule you should keep is one related to doing all you can to not be a disturbance to the passengers around you.  Which essentially means that rules for your two year old are secondary.  You are in a survival game.  It's not about who has the best disciplined child on the plane.  It's not about who's 2 year old is the most obedient on the plane.  It's about who will survive the plane ride with their sanity still intact!  As the parent of the 2 year old who could easily turn it into a miserable experience for surrounding passengers, you must be ready to break some of your rules to prevent meltdowns at all costs.   Believe me when I tell you that I  have tried the "we are keeping all of our normal household rules while at 30,000 feet approach" and it didn't work out so well.  I speak from experience when I tell you, don't be afraid to break your own rules!! 

There may or may not have been some diet coke actually in that can...

...and she definitely ate her dessert before (instead of) the rest of the food on her plate...
(the whole eat your veggies first thing doesn't work wo well with airline food....)

Bring plenty of activity options and try and space them out...

We had a few new coloring books saved just for the plane.

Naomi brought her spiral art kit.

I was actually amazed how far the coloring got us- all the way from hour 2 to hour 3!  Notice how she has colored the eyes and bows on the dress very deliberately and is working on the apron- sweet girl!

We managed to hold off "Doc McStuffins on the iPad" until about hour 3 or 4....

This particular trip had a pretty rocky start: fighting with the airline about getting seats together, sitting on the plane for 2 hours before even taking off, and that heart-wrenching 10 minutes when there was a "functionality problem" with all of the TVs on the flight meaning no inflight entertainment.... Believe me when I tell you this was a huge deal on a 14 hour daytime flight with 4 kids.  I was very close to shedding real tears.  
Thankfully, they started working and we had quite a selection of games and movies.  

AB was somewhat fascinated by the games.  She liked the movies too, but wouldn't wear the headphones, but she seemed content to watch.  (and there was always "Doc McStuffins on the iPad")

Naomi is 7 and has reached the age of being an easy traveler.  She was happy with the food, the entertainment, pretty much all of it .  

Another important thing to remember when traveling on long flights with toddlers is not to be afraid of a little drug induced sleep (doctor approved of course!).  We were hopeful that AB would nap, but considering we took off at 11 in the morning (Jordan time), it was not necessarily a guaranteed thing since she is kind of on the brink of giving up her nap....  Anyway, thanks to a little Benadryl we got a 2 hour nap out of her....

This was our first time to do the extra long flight straight from Amman to Chicago.  In the past we've done a flight from Amman to somewhere in Europe (usually Paris) and then on to the US.  That first flight usually leaves around 2 AM.  So there's a 5 hour flight leaving in the middle of the night, a layover and then another 9-10 hour flight.  The way we did it this time, our flight left (well, was scheduled to leave) at 10:30 AM flying 14 straight hours to Chicago where we'd have a 4-5 hour layover and head on to Memphis.  Leaving in the daylight hours after a full nights sleep was definitely the better option in my mind, even though it meant 14 hours straight on an airplane with 4 very excited kids. Let me just say that with about 4-5 hours left of that 14 hours, I was beginning to think that I would have to be committed to the looney bin.  I mean.  At least on an 8-9 hour flight, when you're halfway done, you only have 4-5 hours left.   I swear at one point I thought, SURELY we are close to done and we had  like 6 hours left- GOOD GRIEF!!

But I must say, that I would do it this way again.  Overall, Anabelle did amazingly well.  She really entertained herself pretty well.  Another piece of advice for traveling with this age, would be to confine them to their seat area for as long as possible.  I did not want her to discover that she was "free to move about the cabin".  

We had a little sing-a-long.  Pretty sure at this point she was bursting out with Alicia Keys "Girl on Fire"

We did let her move up to join big sisters for about an hour.   One of the games on the in flight entertainment was a matching game that she loved.  Kept her entertained for quite a while...

Also, with about 4 hours left (when I had decided that I was completely losing my mind), the fairly large man behind Naomi requested that she not lean her seat back.  By this point it was about midnight our time and I had encouraged her to try and sleep for a few hours.  She did (try) at which point he leaned up and said to her that she shouldn't lean her seat because he didn't have enough room....  huh...

And of course, AB fell asleep about 5 minutes before we landed meaning that when we landed and had to de-plane, gathering up all of our many belongings, she was complete and total dead weight.  But we made it, and more importantly, we would do it again!  (which is a good thing I guess, considering in about 9 days we don't have much choice....)

So anyway, remember that thing I said about expectations.  Make sure they are still set aside.  Because your 5 hour relaxing lay-over in Chicago, may turn in to a supposed 1 hour layover once you've gotten through customs, re-checked your bags, stood in line at the ticket counter to get boarding passes that they refused to give in Amman, stood in line in security (all the while with a cranky, very disoriented toddler).  You may rush through the meal that you planned to relax through, only to rush to your gate and find that your plane has been delayed for 30 minutes, oops make that 45, nope an hour.  Oh and wait- now we're changing gates.  And now it's snowing so some de-icing will have to be done.  And that will take 30 minutes once we get you on the plane an hour late.  Oops, no, not 30 minutes, more like an hour and a half.  All that meaning that you arrive not at 11:30 but more like 3 AM.

And your sweet little toddler who doesn't even have any idea where she is anymore may just steal all the chick-fil-a nuggets that her Annie bought for her and her sisters the day before (it is Sunday after all) and heated up in the oven at 2 AM...

...and she may even steal one of the Krystal burgers that her uncle John brought (apparently if you are awake in Memphis at 2 AM it is mandatory to buy Krystals- and not just 1 or 2, like 10 or 12) and refuse to let anyone near it.  She won't eat it, mind you, but don't you dare touch it!

Remember, the main rule to remember is there are no rules.  Keep that in mind, relax and get ready for an adventure.  It probably won't be too fun, and it definitely will be exhausting, but if your destination is anything like ours, it will undoubtedly be worth it.