Thursday, 30 August 2018

How To: Fly Solo with a Toddler (Successfully)

How could I have been more nervous about flying with Achilles than I was about giving birth to him...?

This isn't his first plane ride but when he first flew, he was eight months old, not quite yet walking AND I had his father with me for help. Of course he flew like a dream, happily interacting with other passengers, looking out the window and then a lot of sleeping.

This time, I didn't know what to expect! Achilles goes in and out of the "terrible twos" and at times is the ultimate "three-nager" so yeah I was kind of nervous. So... I did hours of research and took away the tips I knew would work for us and they did!

Achilles was literally an angel on both flights and I couldn't be more proud! You really have to plan ahead with things like this. As the saying goes "fail to plan and you plan to fail". And it really is true! Without all this preparation, I just know Achilles wouldn't have been as calm and composed as he was.

Here are my tips on how to fly (successfully) with a toddler by yourself! 

GET THEM EXCITED/ Talk about it - a lot

The great thing about flying with a toddler instead of a baby is that they can actually understand you.
For weeks before our trip, I spoke with Achilles about our holiday and the plane and what happens on a plane and that we must be nice and quiet and sit in our seats with our seatbelts on so the Pilots can concentrate etc etc. Once we got on to the plane each time, I repeated these things to Achilles and he happily sat in his seat and was excited for the plane to take off.

The more that toddlers are prepared for their surroundings, the better they will handle being somewhere different.

Get to the airport EARLY

We arrived about 1.5 hours before each flight after already checking in online. On our first flight, I asked my Mum to come to the airport with me just so I felt more organised and less stressed. This allowed us to drop our bags off with ease and go through security without trying to hold on to all of our carryon bags and a toddler at the same time. If you can enlist help at the airport, DO IT. If you are going solo (like we were on our flight home), getting there super early will allow you plenty of time for things to go wrong and that way, you don't have to stress, you have PLENTY of time to make it to the gate. In Airlie, it was just me, a toddler, two suitcases, a huge carry on, a little carry on and a pram. My hands were indeed full and there were times at the airport where I had to drop it all to chase after Achilles who decided to run off... but hey.. that's why I got there early, you have to expect these sorts of things to happen. Just take deep breaths, everything will be ok, you will make it! I promise!

Dress you both well and comfortably

When you look good, you feel good! So instead of going super comfy and wearing active wear, I decided on jeans (because pockets are ESSENTIAL) and a comfy white tee and dressed Achilles in the same. When your children are dressed well, people think you have your shit together and unfortunately, people are nicer to you when you and your kids are dressed nicely.

And don't forget a spare set for your toddler just in case of any spills!

Here's the fun part - let them run free in the airport before boarding.

It is genius!! Rather than strapping them in to a stroller or making them sit still, let them run free, tire those little legs out! In Brisbane, I had Mum with me, so I could relax and know that there were two of us to chase Achilles around the boarding gate area but in Arlie, different story. I put our bags on a seat and made a game with Achilles which involved doing laps of the chairs haha. When you tire them out before the flight, when they get on the plane, they will have used up all of their energy (hopefully) and they will be calm and may even sleep! Achilles didn't sleep on either flight but was definitely calm.

Surprise bag!

I think this is what literally saved the day! I filled his little aeroplane bag with little toys he hadn't seen before for him to open on the plane. He played with them for almost the whole flight to Airlie nice and quietly so definitely a massive win. Our whole holiday, I kept them out of sight so by the time our flight home came around, he had forgotten about them and was excited to see them again! Loads of fun and seeing his excited face while opening new toys was so special.

Here is what I put in Achilles' Surprise Bag:

Pay for extra leg room (Economy X).

It was $35 each for each flight so $140 extra but it was so worth it and mainly for me. Let's be honest, flying with toddlers can be pretty stressful and can bring on some anxiety. I thought by buying extra legroom, it would help with my anxiety by not feeling like I was in a confined space on top of everything else, normal economy can be pretty tight! I chose row three on both of our Virgin Australia flights which is the bulkhead row and has the most leg room in the whole plane. I felt really calm during the flight and like we had lots of space. For me, definitely well worth the upgrade!! Now, every post I read said to sit near the back of the plane but I chose to do the opposite. I know that the back of the plane is where nearly ALL of the children sit and knew it would be super noisy and not calming for either of us. Up the front was so quiet and lovely and encouraged Achilles to be nice and quiet as well. I couldn't imagine if he had other screaming children around him...I gave Achilles the window seat as well so he could see the sights and point things out to me.

iPad/ Phone with toddler headphones

Luckily I did my research and read many posts just like this one before we left because I didn't even think about headphones for Achilles so he could watch movies on my phone without disturbing others! During our flight home, Achilles started to get a little sleepy, so I put a movie on for him (current obsession is The Secret Life of Pets) and he sat and watched that until it was time to land. I highly recommend introducing your children to the headphones well before you go away because Achilles was a little funny with them when I first gave them to him a few weeks ago, he didn't want to leave them on. But by the time our trip came around, he was used to them.


Did I mention snacks? Pack their faves and lots of them! I did read a few posts that said now is the time to drop your healthy food restrictions but I didn't see the need to considering Achilles already loves lots of healthy foods. The one thing I did get were these Wriggles and Fish which you can buy from both Coles and Woolworths. They are made from real fruit with no added sugar and Achilles loves them more than he loves lollies.. so I packed lots of these as treats during the flights. We also snacked on fresh blueberries because they are both our faves and some muesli bars. Always pack water in their fave bottle/ sippy cup as well.

Stay Calm

We all know by now that our children feed off our energy. If we are calm, they are calm. If we are running around like crazy stressing about every little thing that could go wrong, how do you think they are going to be? Don't go overboard and get complaisant and think everything will be perfect, because it won't be, we had our moments trust me, but I have perfected the art of remaining cleverly calm and it honestly works a charm!

So that is what worked for us. I think the most important one is the communication. Sometimes, toddlers can be underestimated on their ability to understand and adapt. As long as we prepare them and constantly communicate with them, most of the time, they will  acclimatise just fine.

If you have any other tips you would like to add, please leave them in the comments below, I would love to hear them!

Keep smiling!

Tahana x

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