Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Our Summer in Rome + flying with a toddler

enjoying his tractor/truck book on the way to the airport
Well, our month, really, but "summer" makes it seem longer to me, so I'm going to go with that ;) Brian received a couple of fellowship awards to conduct research in Rome for the month of July, so Matteo and I decided to tag along; it is really one of the only "perks" for our graduate student family, so we needed to cash in while we could!

For me, the flight was where I was most anxious, so I did a lot of research on how to best travel with a toddler. Here are some things that I prepared and that worked really well for us:

eating fish and chips before boarding
1. Book an evening/night flight: this was by far the BEST advice I found. Our first flight to London was 9+ hours, so we booked a flight that left at 7:30. Matteo went to sleep within an hour into the flight, even before dinner was served! Which means that mama and dada were able to enjoy our airplane chicken curry without interruption.

2. Board last: I had read a recommendation to board last, even though traveling with babies bumps you to the front of the boarding line. The thought here is that the less time the babes have to spend on the plane, the better. When we mentioned it at the check-in counter, though, the airline worker said it would be better for us to board first, because we would have to wait in a long line and Matteo would get fussy. I wasn't buying it, but thought, "Shit, what do I know?!". However, we accidentally missed the entire boarding call, and by the time we realized our gate was downstairs, they were doing final boarding and we ended up being the VERY LAST passengers to get on anyway. There was a bit of a line as people were boarding the plane, but this worked out because Matteo was able to run around and get that last bit of energy out before stepping foot on the plane :)

dada going up and down the escalator
3. Let them run around while you wait: We had about an an hour and 1/2 after we settled into the (wrong) gate waiting area, so we let Matteo do his thing. He wanted to go up and down the escalator, so we took turns entertaining that fancy. He wanted to see the airplanes, ride the moving walkway, climb on the chairs... we let him exhaust himself on all of the above.

looking out before take-off
4. Pack lots of special snacks: this is the time when they get to eat all the treats that they don't normally get to and in abundance- lollipops, cookies, gummy bears, chocolate, fruit snacks, beef jerky, etc. Although Matteo went to sleep before he really needed to be bribed with much, he did require a lollipop upon take off... and that's ok :)

5. Presents: bring a few new toys for a little added surprise! We brought along a couple of new cars, a book about trucks/tractors, playdough, and a little gift bag from a friend with toys and treats from Japan. I was actually really looking forward to pulling out these little pops of fun every hour or so, but we didn't even get to them until our second flight, which was only 2 hours... just enough time for one car and some gift bag Thomas treats.

6. Nurse during takeoff and landing: for us, nursing was a lifesaver!!! Matteo is almost 22 months and we are still nursing (often), and it was a big comfort to him on the plane when he was tired and "all done, down please" with being on a plane. But more than that, nursing helps the little babes to release pressure in their ears as you ascend/descend, allowing them to pop and avoid ouchy pressure :(

funky bassinet seats, but they work, although he was just about too big for the chair
7. Request a bassinet seat: since we were traveling with a toddler, the airline (British Airways) automatically put us in one of these seats. It was nice because there was a little more room to groove (Matteo was a lap ticket, MUCH CHEAPER, but no separate seat for him), and when he fell asleep I could lay him down. Note: Not sure if all airlines are the same, but ours was a fold down table tray, in which they strapped a baby seat to... it was funky, but secure. However, once we hit turbulence, about 2 hours after I put him down, I had to take him out again because these things are not made to withstand the bouncing. After that, I held him the remainder of the flight while he slept, which was cool, though, because the extra floor space allowed me to put up my feet and avoid airplane canckles!

Anywho, that is how we survived! Do you have any recommendations? What works for you and your family?

More about our arrival and first two days later... now, time prendere un caffè latte!


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