We have finally started our long-awaited immigration journey to New Zealand. On our way there we decided to travel around the South American continent for six months. The first part of our journey involved travelling for more than 24 hours from Johannesburg, South Africa to Santiago, Chile. We flew for 11 hours from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo, Brazil. After the stopover we flew for another five hours to Santiago, Chile.
Our toddler appeared to take to long-haul travel like a duck to water. I had put a lot of thought and planning into our travel plans. I’m sharing with you what I did to ensure a successful long-haul flight with a toddler.
What Were the Essentials?
Everything, from the travel systems, to her clothing and snack intake was meticulously planned, and it turned out to be a success. These are the things I planned to ensure that my daughter was happy and comfortable all the way to Santiago.
We originally planned to use the hiking baby carrier backpack to carry Sidney around. I am so glad we didn’t. We just had too much weight to carry on and around our bodies. In the end we decided to check the hiking baby carrier into the checked luggage instead. The stroller was absolutely essential to our baby’s comfort as well as ours. We were able to stroll in comfort right up to the door of the plane on boarding.
A Full Tummy
This meant that she was being fed at times that may have been outside of her normal routine, but all her meals were as nutritious as possible. This was essential to ensuring she was nourished properly, instead of feeding her food with empty kilojoules which would have caused her to bounce off her seat.
Limiting Her Sugar Intake
By curbing Sidney’s sugar intake and avoiding any other food or drink that dehydrates children we didn’t only avoid tantrums in flight, but I believe that this ensured that she was as comfortable as she could have been.
I packed very light when it came to snacks. I didn’t want to carry extra weight and I preferred real food. They do, after all, have things to nibble on in the plane. However, I had some raw date bars and protein rich bars for her to snack on. I allowed a bigger intake of milk than I do at home and I believe this made her feel secure. I made sure that she had her familiar bottle with her favourite teat.
She had her dummy attached to her and I didn’t stick to our rule of “no dummy during the day”. The simple act of sucking helped to soothe and comfort her. It also has the practical benefit of helping to alleviate any possible pain in the ears during take-off and landing caused by the changes in pressure.
A Favourite and Familiar Soft Toy
Sidney enjoyed having her “Froggie” with her, to “show him” the aeroplanes and to sleep alongside her. This also provided another aspect of familiarity and comfort to her.
Less was more for us. Sidney hardly needed an activity pack to keep her busy, but I believe I had the right things onboard the flight.
Before leaving I attended a Parenting Workshop hosted by Mini Matisse Diaries where I learned about the “Sensory Diet” of children. To make sure that I was stimulating all her senses I took my child for frequent walks around the plane. I also had a “Feelie Box” on hand.
This box contained simple household items that provided a variety of sensations to the touch on her skin. For example, I bought soft little scrapbooking balls from WestPak which we could play with to match the colours. Then we also had rougher items like steel wool and tiny wooden items. Furthermore, I had a thin colouring book with four crayons. We had a sticker book.
Throughout the entire flying time, Sidney watched Mickey Mouse on screen for a total of three minutes. Is the screen time even worth mentioning? LOL.
I made sure that my child was barefoot for the better part of the duration of the flight. (During our walks around the plane, carpets in the aisles also send stimuli to the brain via bare feet.) During our airport stopovers, I made sure she was in 100% cotton socks and breathable genuine leather shoes with a comfortable and flexible sole, by GreenSteps Footwear.
Clothing & Appearance
Her outfit by KEEDO was super comfortable and resembled pyjamas. By ensuring she was comfortable at all times I eliminated the chore of changing her clothes before it was time to sleep.
I never made a fuss about her appearance either. I didn’t worry about brushing her hair or making her look presentable, or even brush her teeth. She was able to simply enjoy the experience without having to worry about the things we would normally have to do at home.
Sleeping for toddlers in-flight took the most amount of effort in my research as it was the most important to me. When I’m traveling, I need to keep my Mental Health Challenges at the top of my mind. Sleep deprivation is one of my main triggers and I can hardly afford insufficient rest over and above the stress of traveling a long distance. I needed my child to be sleeping as comfortably as she possibly could because her sleep directly affects mine. But I guess any parent wants to sleep for as long as possible on a long flight. It goes without saying that all other passengers would also prefer to sleep than to listen to my toddler bouncing from seat to seat.
There are many solutions to “sleeping products” and ride on luggage for toddlers that one can choose from. I chose the JetKids BedBox by Stokke. Sleeping in-flight was seriously just a walk in the park for us. My child slept like a boss and so did the rest of us too.
The JetKids BedBox by Stokke
The BedBox solution by Stokke is a 3-in-1 solution. It is the carry-on luggage of the child, it’s a ride on suitcase and it also transforms into a bed, even in economy class. For me, the all-encompassing solution from Stokke was by far the best value for money. The other deciding factor for me was that this BedBox is super quick and easy to install. It is approved by almost every single airline on this planet. Seriously, the list of approved airlines contained names I had never even heard of and we need this flexibility. The BedBox can be installed in a window seat or a centre seat. The only limitation is that it cannot be installed in an aisle seat. I’m almost certain that small children are not allowed to occupy aisle seats anyway, but don’t quote me on that.
My own child was not at all keen on riding her suitcase. She appeared to be too overwhelmed by the airport experience to take on the activity of riding anything. She preferred to be in the stroller at the airports and when she was walking, she wanted a hand to hold. But the sleeping arrangements made the decision to go with the Stokke solution totally worth it for me. Once we eventually reached our destination, she did end up enjoying a ride on her little suitcase.
Reaching Our Destination
We reached our final destination at 00:30, local time in Santiago, Chile.
As a well-rested family, we had the patience to let our toddler take in all the unfamiliar scenes. It was important for me not to be in a rush, regardless of arriving at an ungodly hour of the day.
I took my daughter to sit outside the airport building for a while. We watched the buses and cars go by.
She was mesmerized.
Adjusting to Different Time Zones
We reached our accommodation at 02:30 in the morning.
It is my personal belief that we need to let our bodies take the time to settle into a new and different time zone. There is literally nothing we can do about the time of the sunrise and the sunset. There is very little that we can do about our body’s natural production of melatonin.
It was our plan to put Sidney back to bed as soon as possible but we were patient and prepared for the unexpected.
She went back to sleep at 03:30 and we eventually went to bed at 04:30 after the most glorious shower.
I rose again at 08:30 and my husband and child slept until 09.00.
All in all, I would consider this experience of ours as a very successful first long-haul flight with a toddler.
With Love and Gratitude,
*This is not a sponsored blog post.
*Shoes and socks are sponsored by GreenSteps Footwear.
*Clothing is sponsored by KEEDO International.