As I walked past a Travel Shop recently, I stopped and looked at the 'specials' and noticed '10 days in Fiji for ….... - children under 12 free’
My eyes misted over – well sort of – as I remembered my husband and I moving to Fiji to live for three years with an almost 5 year old, a 3.4 year old and a just turned 2 year old. Yes – that's right and yes – I did cope!
I cannot remember what the flight was like on a fairly small plane – no magic screens on the back of the seat in front of us but I do remember a wonderful cabin crew who looked after our family so well with the exception of a spilt glass of fruit juice all over our eldest boy as the plane went through a bit of turbulence. Lots of apologies, mopping up and a fresh glass of juice. With three children aged under 3 at the birth of number three, this was not unusual!
What I remember vividly is, that as we were coming in to land at Nasori airpot in the midst of a tropical downpour, our 2 year old going to sleep with a large bun in his hand. He had been fighting sleep for an hour!
We travelled backwards and forwards between Fiji and New Zealand and Australia several times during our stay in Fiji and I became highly organized with drinks in my hand bag, a few little healthy nibbles, a new book or two, some small toys never seen before, just to keep the children occupied as we took off with seat belts in place.
Prior to all this travel, I took my third child to Australia in 1973 to visit my twin sister and to meet up with my husband after he was returning via Australia from the UK. A big reunion as I hadn't seen my twin sister for 2 years. Travel was not so regular in those days.
My baby at 7 weeks, I travelled with a small bag checked through and then a longish fabric bag, lined, with one large pocket inside the bag. My mother had made that bag 43 years ago, and I still have it!
In that bag were 6 rolled up cloth nappies – no disposables in those days, a baby's bottle of boiled water, my passport and some cash.
I was breast feeding my baby – so a feed as we took off to prevent his little ears from causing discomfort– he then slept probably for most of the journey to Sydney. My babies were all in a routine by 4 weeks and were being fed 4 hourly, with boiled water if they needed it.
Another 10 mins or so on the breast as we landed – and a repeat of all this on the plane to Canberra. My baby would have though all his christmases had come at once!
What I'm explaining here is to put in place a plan to cover the flight with a small baby.
If the baby is being bottle fed – have a couple of bottles already prepared – one already warmed and in a 'keep warm' device - so that a feed can be given as the plane is taking off and to prevent the baby from getting to the stage of screaming with uncomfortable ears. I have experienced such a distraught baby on an internal flight and by the time I suggested to the hostess that the mother should give the baby a bottle – or the breast – it was too late as the baby was past being soothed.
With toddlers, if a bit of pre-planning has been achieved – a small fabric bag – with draw-strings can be used to place a number – maybe 6 – of wrapped - age appropriate inexpensive, safe,noiseless little things, that when the older baby – toddler + can be given. Please don't give them the bag – that can come late, but one little parcel given and then the bag hidden! It takes time to unwrap this little plaything which will keep the child happy for quite some time. Put the dinner tray down – another playing surface and with lots of interaction between child and parent it will keep the child happy and those adults around you happy too!
A drink – one of those in a cardboard pack with a straw attached is a great thing to have in your bag. Sucking on a straw and swallowing will help prevent sore ears. You can also teach a toddler – maybe – to hold his nose and blow – or you can hold his nose and get him to blow!
Now back to that little goody bag!
You will know when it is time to get another little wrapped gift out of the bag. This goes on until the bag is empty and the you can give the little person the bay – and another period of play will commence!
I made a 'Jet Pack' for a couple who were travelling with a 15 month old from Sydney to Europe and they told me it was the best thing ever. They had a happy child – and after she had had a play with everything – and then had control of the bag – had something to eat then a sleep – out came the bag of those new and special play things and the play cycle started again – with lots of interaction from Mum and Dad. The little bag was worth it's weight in gold.
Just with a bit of planning.
And then of course there is the magic screen on the back of the seat ! Also have a supply of nibbles – not sweet and sickly – not anything on a stick – plus water from a water bottle.
Of course there will be a favourite soft toy to cuddle and maybe a favourite small blanket to cuddle up in for a sleep.
A little walk up and down the aisle is a necessity – maybe one child at a time – and of course there will definitely be a toilet stop or two!
My twin sister and her husband and three children all under 5 – travelled to the USA for 3 years and the 4 yr. old had a full sized pillow which my sister had decided was just too big and bulky to take on such a long haul.
She had a plan. I took the 4 yr old shopping – my sister cut the pillow into 4 and then sewed one up. When my niece and I arrived back, my sister told her daughter that the pilot had phoned to say no big pillows were allowed on the plane – so here is the small pillow which you can take to America.
No tears – no stamping of feet or whining. That darling little girl just accepted her mother's word and off they went to a new life in Indianna.
Happy flying – happy children and happy nearby passengers!