You know that you are living a life of privilege when the parenting challenge that you face is how to entertain your child on the two long flights it takes to get to Europe. Susie (the wife), Tilly (the 15 month old) and I just got back from a 10 day European adventure (Susie had a three day job in Denmark [see comment re life of privilege]), and the thing that dominated my thought life in the week or so leading up to this trip was how the flights were going to be, and what we would do to entertain our cruiser* for 20 hours on a flying bus.
And so what is the answer? Well, the short answer is to wait until your child is much older, and can watch movies.
Failing that, flying with Singapore Airlines is a good start. Having flight attendants from cultures that indulge children makes a huge difference. On the downside they seemed pretty clueless as to what a fifteen month old eats, though this did give me the chance to indulge my love of cheezels and bizarre jelly drinks, while Tilly ate my adult meal.
Take off and landing are definitely the two hardest parts of the flight, since the child has to sit belted on your lap, and endure a lot of noise and pressure changes. Sultanas (substitute your child’s favourite treat here) to keep the child still and to help with the pressure changes (chewing and swallowing helps with decompression) are a must. Overall, you really cannot have too many forms of bribery, distraction and entertainment. The flights are soooo long.
On the long flight from Singapore to Copenhagen there was a lovely Indonesian businessman next to us who had an iPad loaded with lots of kiddie games that his daughter liked to play. On long haul flights, I would highly recommend that, if possible, you organise to have a lovely Indonesian businessman next to you who has an iPad loaded with lots of kiddie games that his daughter likes to play. In a darkened cabin with a child that can’t sleep, after you have been awake for about 20 hours yourself, having a lovely Indonesian businessman next to you who has an iPad loaded with lots of kiddie games that his daughter likes to play is a lifesaver.
If you have some flexibility with flight times, try to make them fit your child’s sleeping patterns. If you can get them up from a sleep and head straight to the airport, it gives you a good start.
Find out if there is a playground at any of the airports you will be passing through, and find out where it is, so you can go straight there and let them burn off as much energy as possible.
There’s always the option of drugs (for you or the child), but if you are going to try something like Phenergan, make sure you do a test a few days before you go. It hypes a lot of kids up. With Tilly, it had no effect either way.
I’m still jetlagged, so I can’t think of anything else…
* For those without children (not sure why you are reading this blog?), this is the stage between crawler and walker, where the child (like the profoundly inebriated) is only able to move around in an upright position if supported by a piece of furniture or another person).