Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Solo Mom's Guide to Flying with a 2-Year-Old

Like I mentioned in my New Year's Eve post, we went on an impromptu trip to Singapore. My SIL had some surgery and she needed someone to take care of her while her husband was at work. My son and I stayed there for almost 2 weeks.

It was just my son and I who flew to Singapore. My husband followed after a few days as he couldn't just leave work. I have learned many things in this experience and I'd like to share them with you today.

Travelling solo with a 2-year old is challenging but doable. It has its many ups and downs. First, I got to bond with my son. The flight to Singapore is 3.5 hours plus we got delayed by 45 minutes because of air traffic. Being in a confined space for more than 4 hours served as a really good bonding time for us. However, there were many instances when I just wanted to pull my hair out because of frustration. You see, back when he was younger, he used to just sleep in the plane the whole time. I was expecting this so I didn't pack a lot of toys and activities. Boy, was I wrong. He slept while the plane was going around the airport, waiting for air traffic to clear up. When we were about to take off, he woke up and he never slept a wink anymore!

If you find yourself travelling solo with a toddler or 2-year old or a hyperactive-gifted boy like mine, here are my tips.

Ask for a porter when you get to the airport

Terminal 3 has become stricter. They no longer allow companions into the check-in area. We had 2 big suitcases, one carry-on and my own purse. Plus, I am not allowed to carry heavy stuff for health issues so this was all a problem. We spent a good 30-45 minutes waiting for a porter. We asked the guard to call one for us and it was so hard because all the porters were busy. Good thing we were there early. 

Keep your little one occupied while queuing 

My son wanted to run around while I was queuing for the travel tax and check-in. Good thing I had Lightning McQueen in my purse. The trouble with that is he kept flinging Lightning to far areas so I had to run around and ask the people in the queue to save my space. So, bring a toy that doesn't move or run. 

Bring snacks, lots of it

For some reason, my son kept asking for snacks. It might be because of the altitude and he wanted to equalize the pressure in his ears by chewing. My purse was packed with pumpkin seeds, crackers, M&M's and water. Oh, if you are using a sippy cup with a straw, be sure to open the cap first and let the water drain down the straw. Do not pop up the straw as water will fly everywhere! Yes, I forgot that we were in a plane and ended up getting soaked. 

Talk to your seatmate beforehand and explain the situation

My seatmate was a Singaporean man and when he arrived, I immediately smiled at him and said hi. This breaks the tension. Then he said that he saw how energetic my son was while in the boarding area. I explained to him that he is diagnosed as hyperactive and gifted that is why he is like that. He immediately understood and so was very forgiving when my son would cry or have fits. It's also great that he came prepared as he was busy watching his movies in his iPad with earbuds on. 

Load up your tablet with offline videos

I totally forgot to do this. Fortunately, we have 7 videos saved in the iPad. Zac keeps saving videos for some reason. He got bored immediately so I had to think up ways to entertain him. By the way, I think Singapore YouTube does not allow saving videos for offline use. We tried to save some for the trip home but got nothing. 

Bring crayons, toys and lots of activities

Prepare a busy bag, if you can. It is a lifesaver, I tell you! I had to come up with different stories/scenarios for the crayons and the cars we brought just to keep my son from getting up his seat. 

Do not load up on food and drinks before and during the flight

Airplane lavatories are tight and small and you don't want to bring along a wailing child with you in there. Just eat some energy food and drink water to a minimum. It's bad for the skin, I know but just bring a TSA approved facial mist instead. 

Pack a change of clothing for you and your child

I have motion sickness. My son does too. You'll never know what will happen. Fortunately, none of us had an accident but I was prepared nevertheless. 

Request for assistance from the ticket counter or when you book

I asked for assistance for when we land. Unfortunately, no one came because according to the ground staff, it was a Sunday and there was a scarcity of staff. On the plane, the attendant told us to go out last because we needed assistance. There were over 400 passengers so we spent some time waiting for all of them to disembark. Then we spent another 15 minutes just waiting for the help that never arrived. Way to go, Changi! I've been to Singapore many times and I was frustrated and angry with this one. So, I borrowed a child stroller, which my son didn't want to ride and just put our heavy bags there and walked to immigration. 

Of course, there were super long lines in immigration. I chose a line that was shorter than the rest but still, Zac wanted to just move on and get out of the airport. It was a very trying time. The officer didn't help as well when it was our turn. She was talking to the other officer about where to get cheaper food when she can already see that my son was having a fit. It took her such a long time to check our passports because she would pause every now and then to talk to her colleague. 

When it was time to get our luggage, I was hoping that a janitor or porter or anyone was there to help us. There was none. I prayed to God for strength, got a cart and waited for our luggage. Thank God, I was able to carry them and put them on the cart. 

You will get nasty looks from ignorant people

Being stuck in a plane for more than 4 hours is not fun for any child. So, my son had tantrums when we were queuing again for the taxi. There was a bunch of Europeans in the line and whenever my son would scream, they would look at us and whisper to each other. I got fed up and one time, I met the woman in the eye and glared at her until she got embarrassed. I was tired, hungry, frustrated and angry and I have a wailing child who keeps lying down on the floor. The last thing I needed was ignorant people judging me and my kid. Hey, if you don't have a child, you are not allowed to give an opinion, stare, judge or whisper with your companions. You just don't know how it feels like until you have a child of your own. Have some respect for mothers. Your own mother probably went through the same thing with you. 

I ended up leaving my BIL to queue and getting my son outdoors for some fresh air. However, the taxi line attendant yelled at us, telling us to go back in line. I told her, in a clear, loud voice that my BIL was queuing and that my son needed to get out of there as he was already cranky. There was no need for her to yell at us because we didn't go and ride the taxi that was in front of us. We just went directly to the side, where the chairs were. If it's your first time in Singapore, some old people are just always very angry and bitter. You'll get used to it.

Finally, put everything behind you and get some rest when you get to your destination

When we finally got to the house, I released all my frustration by talking to my mom, husband, etc. and then I moved on. My son and I got cleaned up, ate dinner and got some rest. Tomorrow is another day. 

Travelling alone with a hyperactive-gifted child is hard but it can be done if you prepare for it. Also, just go with the flow, this too shall pass. 


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