Traveling with a toddler overseas – the struggle is real
This post has been LONG time coming ladies, but I have finally (4 months later) found the time (welcome to motherhood haha) to put this down on paper. Where do I even begin when it comes to traveling with a toddler? I will start by telling you our story & how we thought we were prepared for the longgg and agonizing flight & it turned out we weren’t even close…
Lets rewind to beginning of this year when my husband and I made the tough decision to leave beautiful Marina Del Rey and move to my husbands home town of Lyon France. Once the decision was made it was go time to pack up our whole life and our two bedroom 1600 square foot condo and dump it all into storage. With 11 suitcases, stroller, car seat, diaper bag, two computer bags and our own hand luggage we embarked on what turned out to be the longest 24 hours of our lives with our at the time almost 2 year old.
Let me mention that at that point in our lives, we only traveled with our daughter twice on a flight and it was a cross country 6 hour flight when she was 2 months old & a 5 hour something flight to Hawaii when she was a 1.5 years old. She slept most of the time & was an angel on most of those flights especially the one where she was only 2 months old. So naturally before the flight overseas I turned for guidance to all my mommy friends who are little jet setters and do this thing on the daily for tricks and helpful hints on how to make this trip more enjoyable. I received so many pointers of what to do and what not to do, I was overwhelmed but at the same time felt that this is going to be a piece of cake right? I mean how hard can it be? Lots of people do it. We don’t have a monster for a child, she is pretty tamed and not too crazy right? WRONG
We confused the reality that the child we have at home, well behaved & somewhat manageable is way different than the child that is locked up in a small metal tube for 12 hours at a time…
Thinking I was being smart I made sure to think of everything (or so I thought), from making sure our departing flight from LAX is during her bedtime, to packing a whole bag of toys she’s never seen before, stickers, markers, crayons.. you name it I packed it. And yes I even packed a Benadryl for the just in case moment when all hell breaks loose and nothing else works..I even looked into one of those cool little bassinets that attach to the walls, but was told that our child was already too big for it (make sure to check each airline on the measurements if you have a baby flying & reserve it ahead of time!).
So we get into LAX with a whole caravan (thank god for our dear friends who packed up two huge cars to get us there on time)! Thank goodness for the helpful staff that wheeled all our crap to check in our luggage. We end up getting through security. So far so good.. we get on the flight and things seem to be going well, we take off around 5:30pm and since our daughter goes to bed around 7 we do the usual of reading books, giving her dinner and so on… a thought crosses my mind and I think again to myself “this isn’t so bad…” That is when it takes a turn for the worse and shit hits the fan big time… As we are trying to get her to sleep (in the middle seat between us) our daughter turns into a complete monster. And I mean I have never seen anything like this before nor have I experienced it. My husband I are both looking at each other in complete horror as we try to calm down our child that seems to have lost it & has become someone else entirely. We try walking with her down the aisles, pacing, break out the giant bag of goodies, even try to put the tv on for her so we keep it calm. Nothing works. Time to break out the Benadryl. It seem to have worked for a hot second until tiredness, grumpiness & restlessness all hit her at once and once again we were in the trenches.
As my husband takes her to the ‘snack’ area, there is a woman there who starts to give us advice on our child.. at that point were about 6 hours into this awful flight with a stranger giving me advice (we find out she has no kids so this pissed me off even more as you can imagine haha) I try to smile and nod and decide to remove myself from the situation and go back to my seat before I myself end up loosing it myself! ha
Round 8 of “lets try to get our child to sleep” begins and we are at the end of our wits. She proceeds to scream and nothing comforts her at this point… so we decide to try another angle.. lets let her cry for a few minutes and maybe she will get tired and fall asleep.. no.. that ended up escalating and once again we were in utter horror looking at each other feeling helpless & exhausted. At that point not sure how many hours went by & I lost the count of all the dirty looks I got from some of the people on the plane. Most people were understanding, but there was a few (one woman in particular) that kept walking back and forth by our seats covering her ears and glaring at me. I literally wanted to bitch slap her and smack some sense into her. I would understand if we were one of those parents that weren’t doing anything to help the situation and was just letting their kid wail, but we were the opposite. We did everything except for stand on our heads at that point.. You get the picture. Flight from hell! We finally land in London (our layover) and wait for our next flight for about 3 hours at that point we have been traveling for almost 24 hours, no one has slept and everyone is on the edge. To be honest looking back I don’t really even remember the lay over, maybe it was the exhaustion maybe its selective memory but I really have no recollection! (I laugh as I write this!)
The final flight from London to Lyon our daughter climbs on both of us for the first hour, hyper and awake then ends up FINALLY crashing on top of us for the last hour… we looked at each other as she was peacefully passed out “really, NOW you decide to sleep…” My mind was blown to say the least. Happily we got to our new home and slept for what felt like a few days. Looking back on this trip I kept pondering what we could have done better? Or what we should have brought with us? I blamed the meticulous schedule I have had her on since she was a baby on our crappy experience (she was/is used to sleeping in her crib in a black out room ever night) which is great for when you are home, but for traveling purposes not so much? OY.
One of the reasons why I wanted to document our experience and share it with my fellow mama’s and papa’s out there is to shine some light on this topic & make sure that we as parents don’t over blame ourselves or feel like we aren’t doing enough. Having kids is hard work, traveling with kids is BEYOND tough. So for all the parents out there who have had similar experiences to ours, or are about to embark on a long haul flight remember something that was told to me before our adventure “at the end of the day you will never see the people from the plane again, do what you can because thats all that can be done & don’t worry about everyone else..” And to all the innocent bystanders that have to endure a crying baby or toddler on a flight, I know its hard, trust me, but have some compassion for the situation and the parents, they are doing their best 🙂 Safe travels everyone!