Flying with toddlers : Part 1 - what went wrong on the 4hr flight.

If you've read my previous "who we are" blog, you'll know that Kids Travel Boutique started with the night-mare hell trip to Cancun.  Don't get me wrong, Cancun was wonderful, we had a wonderful family time while we were there.  It was the 4hr plane ride from JFK to CUN and back that made it not so fun.  

I said too many things went wrong to list all on the "who we are" page, so I'm dedicating a whole blog page for what went wrong so the readers can learn from it.  

It was our first trip with two children, at the time at age 1.5 and 3.  Our flight was scheduled meticulously so we have enough time to claim baggage, get picked up by reserved private suv taxi with two car seats, and arrive at our Playa del Carmen resort a bit earlier than the 3pm check-in time, so we can ask for early check-in.  If not, we just wanted to relax at the resort, making most out of our first day at the resort.  So that carefully calculated and scheduled plane time was 7:30am. Do you see a red flag already?  If not, read on.   

Since it's an international flight, we had to be there at least by 5:30am.  We had to leave from home at 4:45am.  As I'm writing this, I'm talking to myself, crazy...  crazy... so stupid....  Children both woke up as we're checking in, which was around 5:30am, 2 hours ahead of their normal wake up hour.  By the time they're on the plane, they were tired, and I hoped they'd fall a sleep like what Scott and I wanted to do.  We were up since 3:30am, so we were already dozing off every chance we had.  


This photo was taken as we were getting ready to take off on the plane.  All was good when this photo was taken.  

1st one hour after take off went by smooth with help of everything we prepared to entertain them: iPad, candies, gummies, fruits, mini toys, play dough, etc.  All that in one hour.  We couldn't use iPad efficiently enough because we didn't prepare headphones for them, and we didn't want to be too loud for other passengers who's trying to sleep through the ride.  We had another 3 hours to go, and Emerald started feeling sick.  I never knew she had motion sickness, but I think watching and trying to hear the sound of low-volumed iPad for an hour in the air caused it. Scott took Emerald back and forth to restroom for her to puke several times throughout the ride, and she was miserable, crying.  So was Scott.  Well, not the crying part.    

Meanwhile, Daniel, our 1.5yr old who's been on the plane for the first time, didn't even get his own seat because he's under 2 and mommy and daddy wanted to save money on his seat.  He wasn't so happy he had to sit on mommy's lap and try to take a nap on mommy's lap.  He made sure all the passengers on the plane hear that he's not happy.  He wanted to nap and he wanted his flat bed.  Being tired, he was drown into short naps, but that didn't last 5min each, and every time he wakes up from it, he would throw 10min tantrums.  We tried putting him across our laps, gave him his own seat and had Emerald sleep in our arms, put him on the floor to lie flat, and nothing made him happy.  He yelled, cried, waved his arms and legs, punching and kicking all seats in front.  It was a mess, and long 3 hours of a mess.  I've tried my best to calm him, hold him, lure him, nothing worked, and in that hours of non-stop effort, I was drenched  in sweat.  I felt so so so so so bad and sorry for fellow passengers, but I gave up, I let him cry out.  I remember getting off the plane with him still crying.  We never knew he could throw that long of a tantrum.  

Scott and I both feared the coming back home ride.  Our coming back flight, meticulously scheduled again so we can do a late check-out, get to the airport by the same SUV taxi with car-seats, do some shopping at the airport duty-free, was at 4pm.  4pm.  Thinking back, gosh, how can I be so ignorant on scheduling flights with kids?  By 4pm, kids were tired and cranky because they haven't had a chance to nap because of all the transporting, eating, and shopping.  Around 2hours into flying, Emerald started to get sick again.  This time, no iPad but the plane was somewhat bumpy.  She and Daniel had a carton of chocolate milk for lunch, and after few gags, she pumped out chocolate milk all over the floor under our seat.  Now, that was when the plane was bumpy and no one was allowed to get out of their seat.  Our wet wipes were on the overhead bin, and we couldn't get to it.   As soon as the seat belt sign went off we grabbed wet wipes and tried my best to clean the floor, and I used it all up.  We had just enough to use it to change Daniel's diaper and make it home.  All of a sudden, I hear another gag.  I saw a chocolate milk puke puddle dripping down the floor that I just cleaned from the seat.  This time, Daniel puked the same damn chocolate milk onto the seat.  And we had no more wipes.  Scott ran to restroom to get paper towels and I used my scarf to soak up the puddle.  We had extra clothes for them, so we change them and sat on their clothes to cover the wet seat.  What followed was the same horrible tantrum by Daniel who wanted to lie flat to take a nap.  

Next, rush-hour taxi ride home.  One right thing we did was to bring the plane provided barf bags we never got to use with us, in case any of them or both barfs again in the taxi.  And they did.  Again, no wipes, so we used our own clothes to wipe them off.  

It was such a miserable flight experience and Scott sincerely swore that there will be no Africa trip  - which was planned for 5 months later and 5 times longer flight than the flight to CUN.   That Africa story will follow on my next blog!  

To wrap this miserable story, let me pin-point my faults from above so at least those who read this blog don't make this same mistakes and don't make fellow passengers miserable.  

  • Flight Times:  Do your best to schedule it right before their bed time so they can sleep through the flight.  Or even at  their regular nap time.  
  • Prepare their minds before flight: Tell them they're going to sleep on the plane so they know they're getting on the plane to sleep.  If it's a nap, tell them, and convince them with whatever works to make taking a nap on the plane is a mission. I stress on having kids sleep on the plane because confined into small uncomfortable space with mandatory seat belt at times can't possibly be fun for more than an hour or two at best.  For best sleep and comfortable experience on the plane, I recommend Fly-tot.     
  • Seats I : Take advantage of the "families with young children board first" system most airlines have when it's a full flight.  You don't want your bag to be 20+ seats away because the overhead bin above your seat is already full.   Worst if it ends up further behind you.  When the flight is not so full, board the last, and let kids move their muscle as much as they can and enjoy the open space before boarding.  
  • Seats II: Book earlier so you can book a seat right on top of the wing(center of the wing is best) for the most smooth ride.  It's a common sense, but the more closer you are to the tail, the more motion you will feel.  If the top of the wing is unavailable, try going toward the front, rather than back.  
  • Have their own headphones.  Wether you plan to show them a video, play game, or even just listening music, headphones helps them cancel out all the ambient noise from the plane and focus and concentrate on what they're watching and listening.  Have them get used to it before the trip.  If you have one device for multiple children to share, I suggest buddy phones.  If you want a real quality, good noise-reduction headphones, I suggest Puro headphones.  
  • Snacks:  Don't feed them too much sugery sweets.  It will make them sick.  Bring healthy snacks such as fruits and biscuits, cheese, etc. 
  • Prepare for motions-sickness.  Even if your child doesn't usually get motion sickness, certain situations can cause one.  Psi bands are great, and if your child easily gets motion-sickness, consider bringing an over the counter motion-sickness pills.  
  • Have extra clothes for all members of family, not only for children, and more wipes than you think you might need.     
  • Clothing:  Dress them light, but warm.  Stuffy and heavily layered clothes makes children uncomfortable and even prone to motion sickness.  

If you're a parent who already did even a minimal research to prepare for flights with children, the above bullet points would be a common sense.  I learned it the hard way, and I hope this reaches to other parents who are just starting to look into some to do's and not-to do's when flying with children (especially toddlers).  

I will share my great success stories of flight to Africa next!  Go NOW!