Planes conjure up exciting images of foreign adventures for me after four years of travelling through Europe, but I wasn’t looking forward to sharing a flight with our two-year-old when we took a trip to the UK.
After previous experiences travelling with him in the car that usually ended with my partner sitting in the back to keep him quiet, I was extremely nervous and the long haul flight between Sydney and Seoul and then again between Seoul and London. But there was no need – he loved the experience and would do it again tomorrow if he could!
This is a child who starts crying after more than 30 minutes in a car. I wondered what I was thinking contemplating taking him on two 12-hour flights in the space of 48 hours to England – and then doing it all again three weeks later to come home.
But I was armed with techniques this time that I had never had before. The length of confinement the flight involved for my son meant I had to plan it all very carefully to ensure he didn’t hate the experience and, so, refuse to get back on again when we had to finish the journey. I started talking about planes weeks before we left and told him we’d pack his Thomas the Tank Engine suitcase with his clothes and his matching backpack with his favourite wrap, stuffed toys, crayons, paper and snacks for the trip.
But the best, and probably simplest, tip was I found a great board book on planes in Borders that covered arriving at the airport, checking in the luggage, going on the plane, waiting for the luggage at the other end and then leaving the airport as the other planes took off. He knew exactly what was happening and was telling everyone who would listen.
By the time the day of our flight actually arrived, we had a very excited two-year-old on our hands – and he was almost beside himself when we sat at the observation deck so he see the actual planes taking off and landing.
Once on the plane there were a few factors that made everything even easier than my planning had accounted for – the airline (Asiana) had a children’s channel, which showed cartoons on a two-hour loop. One was our son’s favourite – Thomas the Tank Engine. He was transfixed as it was on and then excitedly waited until it came on again. But the even better perk of the trip were the ever-attentive cabin crew who took our son under their wing instantly and lavished him with cardboard toys, pencil cases, special meals and lots of attention. He was right in his element (being an only child and only grandchild, he already thought the world revolved around him) and once we landed couldn’t wait to get back on the next flight. It was almost too easy, and now he talks about planes, his case and ladies whenever he can. He loves plane travel.
The by-product of this successful adventure, though, is whenever he sees a woman in uniform he takes off after her! Now I understand the Skyhooks song and why males can’t resist.
What have your experiences of plane travel with children been?
Publication: Essential Baby