Friday, August 9, 2013

How to fly across the world with a 2+ year old by yourself

Jon and Calvin left for the US yesterday for a little family reunion and more importantly, a beautiful wedding in Maine featuring two wonderful people.  I'm really too pregnant to fly (8 months) - Icelandair won't allow pregnant women to fly in the last month of their pregnancy without a doctor's explicit clearance of health.  My midwife wasn't crazy about the idea and the risks of me delivering in the US without health insurance with a premature baby seemed too much.   Sadly, the boys have to go on this trip alone...

Regardless, in preparing for the long trip for Calvin (2+ years old) (and Jon as his only caretaker along the way), we developed a fairly solid game plan.  I've outlined our plan for the 15 hour trip in case anyone is traveling with a toddler in the future.  The red text is what actually happened.

The plan:
  • 11:30am-12:15pm -- Calvin would (hopefully) nap in the taxi ride to the airport (40 mins) -- SUCCESS!
  • 12:15pm - 2:30pm -- Arlanda Airport Terminal 5 has a children's play space, Junibacken, that could serve as a good place for Calvin to work out some energy for the 2 hours before their flight departed -- SUCCESS!
  • 2:30pm - 5:30pm - first flight -- Calvin would stay awake on the flight to Reykjavik and play with his toys, books and possibly watch the kid movie, Ice Age III -- SUCCESS!
  • 5:30pm - 7:00pm - layover - Calvin would play with his toys or explore the Reykjavik airport a bit  -- SUCCESS!  Warning, Reykjavik airport does not have a good food selection (see snacks suggestion below)
  • 7:00pm - 12:00am (Stockholm time) - Calvin would SLEEP on the flight from Reykjavik to Boston.  This was by far the trickiest part because it is Calvin's bedtime but we worried that he wouldn't be able to sleep well on the flight and would be over tired by the time they landed -- PARTIAL SUCCESS - he slept 3/5 hours, so not too bad
  • Calvin and Jon would meet up with Joann and Dave at the airport around 6:30pm ET, which would feel like midnight for the guys.  With any luck, Calvin would have some fun with his grandparents for a few hours and crash out late at night and "re-set" his internal clock and wake up a little later than normally. -- Calvin fell asleep between Boston and Rhode Island and woke up in a good mood. He buzzed around from 7pm-9pm ET and slept until 4am ET.  
He was a happy guy on a 7-hour block of time, so now the trick is to try to maintain a new schedule of napping and bed time.  Good luck with that everyone!
Also for the plane...
  • Pack in a small backpack that is easily accessible:
    • a variety of new and old toys and books -- Jon brought out the new cars when the seatbelt sign lit up just before landing on each flight
    • bring a cozy blanket for the plane
    • grab or bring a small pillow for extra coziness
    • pacifiers (if your toddler still uses one)
    • kid headphones -- Calvin didn't really need them as he was happy to watch the movies sound-free but always good to bring
    • Additional non-electronic toys -- PlayDoh, find-and-seek books, cars, memory cards (with Cars on them, of course), lots and lots of stickers, washable markers, coloring book
    • snacks!
  • Jon said that the toughest times were when the fasten seatbelt sign lit up and Calvin had to sit in one place during takeoff and landing without any movies or electronic distractions
  • It was helpful that the main travel times fell around his usual nap time and bed time.  Even still, Calvin only slept a fraction of what he normally does.  He managed to survive through long lines at customs and baggage claim but it was fairly rough.
Jon was pretty nervous to go on such a long set of flights on his own but Calvin is an easy kid. He is really flexible and was able to sleep well and watch movies quietly.  I also had every confidence in Jon that he can easily handle Calvin completely.  He took care of Calvin solo for 2 weeks total while I was in Cote d'Ivoire and Geneva for work, so he knows what to do.  Jon did ask me what would happen if he had to go to the bathroom.  To which I replied, "Either take Calvin before he falls asleep or hold it. You have 2 options."

We also spent about 2 weeks talking with Calvin about the details of the trip. I told him explicitly that he would be flying on a big plane and he could wear his headphones and watch movies and play cars on the flight.  We talked about all of the family members he would see and we spent a lot of time looking at pictures to familiarize him with everyone again.  I kept emphasizing how much fun it would be for him and all of the fun things he was going do and see to try to make it as positive as possible.

He hasn't seen most of our family since Christmas 2011, so it wouldn't be a surprise for him to be a bit anxious.  Calvin really understood the situation and he was excited about the plane but sad that I wasn't going with him.  He kept asking for cuddles for the past few days and would get really stressed out if I left the room without telling him.  He waved goodbye to me in the taxi and said, "Bye Momma" for a few minutes after they left.  It broke my heart to say goodbye but I know that he will have so much fun with everyone.  We plan to Skype regularly so I get to see them everyday.


So, what am I doing all day without my full time partner-in-crime, Calvin, and my teammate-in-life, Jon?  I'm getting some much needed work done without distractions - it is glorious.  I can schedule conference calls at any time of the day, not just after Calvin goes to bed or is napping.  It has opened up my entire day.  I'm also giving Bessie lots of snuggles because let's all face it, she will be a little neglected when the new baby arrives. It always happens in those first few months after a baby arrives.  She deserves some special attention too.

Samantha is coming to visit next week and we are headed to beautiful Gotland for some rest and relaxation.  We went to Visby, Gotland last year with the Missildines and it was one of the most beautiful places in the world.  Jon and I rarely ever want to return somewhere we have already traveled, but this was one of those special places.  We could walk the streets of Visby all day and still discover new little crooks and crannies that are just so special.  Sam and I are renting a car and will be exploring ALL of Gotland, so there is even more to discover.  I am so excited to not only return but to see more of the island.
We are coming for you Gotland!

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