CONTRIBUTED BY BETH PASCHOS
To prepare for the 14 hour flight with my 19 month old, I made a long packing list. Now that I’ve been through the flight, I learned that I needed only about a third of the items. Here is my Top Ten List of Essentials you will need for the flight!
1. Car seat(s): Of course this only applies if you purchase a seat for your child. Otherwise you can check this with your luggage or ship it to your destination. I chose to purchase a seat for my daughter because of the length of the flight.
2. Blankets: The plane tends to get chilly, so definitely need this for you and your children.
3. Travel Pillow: For extra napping comfort (bring one for you and your children!).
4. Snacks: Especially if you are flying with a foreign airline. It’s better to have something you know your children like, just in case!
5. A few small toys: Preferably books, toys with few small pieces (they will be dropped, maybe even thrown), toys that do not make too much noise, you get the picture. I brought a doll, one of those magnet drawing boards (I don’t know what they are called), and a couple of small books.
6. iPad or something similar: To play videos/cool kid apps. Usually on longer flights the plane will have an individual TV, but this came in handy when the plane’s TV system was frozen for about an hour and my daughter got bored with just watching cartoons.
7. Diaper bag essentials: Wipes, diapers, changing pad, powder, rash ointment, etc. I brought enough diapers for every 2 hours, plus an extra-so depending on how many you usually need for an entire day. I brought 8. There was no rhyme or reason to that number, it was just what I felt comfortable with!
8. Comforts: I haven’t rid my daughter of her pacifier yet because I knew this trip was coming up. It really helped her with her ears and to soothe her. Whatever your kids consider a comfort toy or object, definitely bring it!
9. Stroller: So you can have it at your destination and to wheel a lot of your stuff around the airport and keep your child contained in one place! You can check it at the gate. I used our large jogging stroller because it holds more stuff.
10. Stuff for you: I would do the absolute minimum on this. I brought way too much with the intention that I would brush my teeth and refresh my make up when we got to Korea. By the time I got there I did not care and I still had to lug that stuff around! Plus since you will have your kids you might not get to read a book or watch a movie.
*Note: This list is only for one child. Of course, if you have a smaller infant and a toddler you would need to bring formula or breastfeeding supplies, bottles, more diapers, etc. I would also have a baby carrier, such as a Baby Bjorn, to carry your smaller infant and have the stroller for the toddler.
So I went through security with all of this stuff. Not an easy feat! It took a lot of patience and a conscious effort to remain calm. But I made it through. The key is to devise a step-by-step plan ahead of time so that you can visualize how it will play out. I’m not kidding. This really helped me to keep my stress level as low as possible and I got through security more efficiently.
Once I got to the gate it was easy. The flight attendants for Korean Air were super helpful. They took my bags and car seat on the plane, installed the car seat for me, and put my carry-ons in the overhead bin. I literally stood at my seat with my daughter while they did everything!
The flight was about as good as a 14 hour flight could be. My daughter did not sleep a lot, but that was sort of a blessing in disguise because she slept when we got to our destination. I, however, did not sleep. At. All. I tried, but there was a kid in the next row who screamed throughout the entire flight. I swear, every time I tried to sleep this kid would be screaming bloody murder. So by the time we got here I had been awake for over 24 hours. I definitely recommend trying to sleep, but it is hard to do when you are caring for a child/children on your own and you cannot control noise level from others!
My daughter ate all of her snacks and pretty much watched movies the entire time. The bathroom was right in front of us. Side note – definitely request bulk head seats. Also, if the airline offers it, take the bassinet that goes with the bulk head seats. I wish we had known about that because my daughter would have been able to play and sleep in it. Anyway, she did great and I’m glad there were cartoons and that I brought the iPad!
The flight attendants helped me off the plane and the staff in the airport helped me get through customs. I was beyond happy to see my husband and our friends on the other side! I felt the same feeling that I have after finishing a long race, like a half marathon–exhaustion mixed with relief and a great sense of accomplishment!
I hope this helps someone out there who has to take a long flight alone with children. With some planning and an extra dose of patience, it can be done!