Fear of flying… with a toddler

I was going to continue the saga story of our trip to the D-Day beaches this weekend, but I’ve got something else on my mind: fear of flying.

It’s not so much the height, or the smothering tiny size of the cabin, or the risk of a cra- let’s not go there- or anything else as much as the pitchforks.

What pitchforks? The pitchforks I’m sure the other people around us will produce when they see that we’re bringing a 15-m-o toddler on board with us on a transatlantic flight next week. But look how sweet she is.

I'm travel-sized! I'll even carry your coffee for you!

I’m travel-sized! I’ll even carry your coffee for you!

We survived the first flight from the States to Europe unscathed last August- but Adelaide was only 5 months old then, so she slept much more and *ahem* snuggling with mommy was all she needed to be content. At that point she couldn’t even crawl.

Contrast that with the little girl who has taken our baby’s place: she laughs at the top of her lungs, is interested in getting into EVERYTHING, has learned her favorite word, “no,” and running around naked is her passion as of late.

We are in trouble. And so are you if you are on our flight!!!! MWUAHAHAHA! 

So while my nightmares dreams are full of visions of three back-to-back flights with a baby that go really well, I’m not optimistic. I apologize if you are one of the unfortunate people who will endure those flights with us- I really am sorry. We’re trying our hardest to prepare Adelaide for this misadventure, too.

Preparing a toddler for a transatlantic flight

On the other hand, if you’re on our plane hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see Adelaide behave herself. Better yet, you won’t know she’s there because she’ll be so engrossed in coloring. Or sleeping. Or quietly playing with her puppet fox- not kicking the back of your chair or screaming her face off.  Instead, maybe she’ll read her favorite book as of late, Les Chevaliers, which as a French toddler book, I should not be surprised has things like storming the castle, crusades, death, and flammable oil. (!)

With all of those raw emotions out there, here’s what we’re doing to prepare Adelaide for a long plane trip:

1. Blanket training.

We’ve been working on Adelaide’s patience and self-control with blanket training, a method I learned from Michelle Dugger (go momma of 19 kids!) We tell her assieds-toi (sit down) and when she sits on her blankie, she gets to play with an interesting toy. If she stands up or goes to crawl off the blanket, we remove the toy, tell her “no, no” and have her sit again. When she sits again, she gets not only the toy but a shower of praise. She went from being able to only sit for 10 seconds when we began a few months ago to now about 15 minutes unsupervised.

2. Use the metro (or any current transit) as a trial run.

On the metro, we don’t give Adelaide anything to play with, in the hopes that she will take advantage of the opportunity to entertain herself… with her imagination. Strange thing, I know. I’m hoping she gets the point: mommy and daddy are not on-command entertainment centers. So far, she looks at other people, is calm and content, and our longest metro rides are an hour long. Please please please work on the plane!

3. Eat slowly at home in our laps.

If there’s anything that keeps kids happy, it’s food. Making the meals last as long as possible seems like the best way to me to make the time pass quicker. Plus the fuller she is, the longer she’ll nap. It’s inconvenient for us to feed her in our laps when we have a highchair, but I prefer overdoing it to regretting what we could have done for a better experience.

4. Plan her meals around take-off.

On every flight we’ve been on so far, we’ve been able to time Adelaide’s feedings with the takeoff, so that 1, she is less scared of the noise, and 2, so she is swallowing while the cabin pressure changes. Sippy cup + takeoff = no screaming babies?! This was really difficult in our firstflight, when our plane was delayed for thiry minutes every half hour for a total or five hours… but we stilled pulled it off. Here we passed the delay as one should with a squishy 5 month old baby:

5. Keep some of her toys out of sight the few weeks before the flight so they’re new.

Even when they’re small, you can tell when little ones are bored of their toys. To keep things interesting for her when we do want her to be entertained, we’ll let her play with these “new” toys on the plane. We’ll see if it works.

6. If all else fails, we’re planning on buying drinks anyway for the poor souls who will be our in-flight neighbors.

Did I miss anything? Do you have any tips for prepping for long flights with toddlers? Have any nightmare stories? Any inspiring anecdotes? Forgiveness in your hearts for poor parents like us? Look, she’s so cute, don’t you want to ride in a plane with her…

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3 responses to “Fear of flying… with a toddler

  1. Great ideas! Blanket training, genius. We also encourage our kids to not have to entertained all times. Not by us, not with a toy, but to actually LOOK around them and see the world as we move through it. As they get older, it’s so much more fun to have them tell you what they are seeing. My big tip? Eh, don’t let the pitchfork wielding people worry you. Kids are people, people are in public spaces, and if they can’t hack it that OTHER people (even the wee ones) are existing near them in public then it’s their problem and not yours. It sounds like you are doing wonderful things to ease the long travel!

    • Amen to your point about enjoying the world around us! Thanks for the encouragement- I need this perspective more often. Wish us luck, we’re flying next week…
      Bisous, K

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