I was asked recently if I had any tips for long plane rides with toddlers. You’d think, with as many of them as we’ve done, that I would, but the truth is I don’t have a lot of advice on this topic. In my experience, they’re just really hard! It helps a lot if you can afford to get a seat for them and bring their carseat on. I try to bring lots and lots of snacks and I pretty much let them eat as often and as much as they want on the flight (including nursing if that’s still going on.) I figure we’ll have to get back on schedule because of jetlag anyway, so once we get on the plane, I don’t worry at all about schedules until we arrive!
The most important thing for me is my own attitude and expectations. If I recognize that I have to be “on” for the next however long and don’t expect to be able to sleep, then if I do get any rest, it’s an added bonus rather than me being frustrated that I can’t sleep when I thought I would be able to. If I plan to have to sing and entertain and rock and nurse constantly, then if I get a 20 or 30 minute period of quiet when she’s playing alone or maybe even sleeping, then I’m happy and can receive it as a blessing rather than being frustrated that it’s not long enough.
Another thing we do is try to give as many “treats” as we can come up with. I don’t mean sugary things – I mean things that my kids usually aren’t allowed to do or that are very limited. So on the plane, my older ones get lots of movie and ipod time (that’s very unusual for them, so it’s a big deal), and I let little ones play with my phone and use markers – things like that that I know will entertain them because they always want to and I never or rarely let them.
And finally, I pray a lot!!! I pray that they’ll be happy, stay healthy, that there might be kids or playful adults near us who will enjoy them rather than being annoyed by them. I pray that I’ll be patient, loving, not get a headache, not get airsick, etc. And when things are really tough, I remind myself that I can do anything for 36 hours (or however long it is), and (this is silly, but it really helps me), I think about the plights of people a few centuries ago on ships for months at a time and those today who would give anything to be able to hold even their screaming baby but can’t for whatever reason.
You probably think I’m insane after all that rambling. Sorry. I guess the summary is that I’ve found it’s never really about having the right toys, entertainment, etc. It’s always about having the right attitude and perspective. When I’m angry and frustrated, my kids follow suit. And when I’m thankful, patient, and loving, they usually follow at least a little bit there as well.
How about you? Do you have any great tips to add here? I, and I’m sure many others, would love to hear them!