Later this month we will have our first foreign holiday as a family. There will be lots of firsts for Little Chick, including going on a plane, staying somewhere all inclusive, and access to several swimming pools. Potentially all very exciting; potentially completely overwhelming and dysregulating. Whenever we try something new as a family, we are mindful that Little Chick thrives on routine, likes to know what to expect, and needs to know that he is safe. This holiday could be brilliant or just plain bonkers. We know that we can’t always legislate for how he feels, and he has often surprised us by coping far better than expected or even thriving in situations we thought might be tough. But we have made some preparations to ensure that we make it as straightforward for him as possible.
We have been drip-feeding information about the airport and flight for some time now. We have taken a trip to the East Midlands Aeropark so that we could watch planes land and take off, while playing with cousins and enjoying a picnic. Little Chick can be especially sensitive to noise so we wanted him to hear just how loud it could be so that it isn’t a shock.
Little Chick enjoys role play toys and we managed to pick up some Playmobil bargains, which can be incorporated with his existing play sets. The check-in desk is darn cute and he loves playing with the ticket machine. However, I fear we might have a little disappointment on the day when he isn’t allowed to work the computer. We also purchased a private jet. It’s not the most realistic example (with only two passengers), but it does allow us to run through several possible scenarios with him. One tip though: always read the product details before bagging a bargain. I anticipated that the plane would be small enough to slip into hand luggage and be played with inflight. When it arrived with a wingspan of almost 50cm I quickly realised it would be staying at home!
We have bought an I-Spy Airport book, primarily to prepare him for what he will see in and around the airport. The I-Spy element may be too tricky on the day – due to the age appropriateness of the book and the logistics of checking in and boarding – but it should familiarise him with some of the sights and sounds he will likely encounter.
My biggest concern is the flight itself. A four-hour journey is a lot for any first flyer, let alone a busy, fidgety three-year-old. I have sacrificed my hand luggage allowance to ensure he has enough storage for the books, toys, etc. we have compiled. For the past few months, I have been scouring pound shops and charity shops for small toys and blind bags. Bling bags are great because you never know what you might get, though it may be disappointing if you get duplicates. Where possible, I try to buy small toys I know he will like and wrap them in tissue paper. He loves the sensory quality of the paper and unwrapping them can last longer than the time he plays with the contents. We have several activity books, mostly with stickers, so he has a variety of quick activities to flit between. However, I am fully expecting that his Kindle will be our lifesaver. He loves his Kindle, perhaps a little too much, and we have agreed that he can use it freely on the days we travel if it keeps him happy and us sane. We have also prepared a streamlined version of his calm kit – a collection of sensory toys that he uses when he is overwhelmed and/or dysregulated. Oh, and snacks. Lots and lots of snacks.
Probably the best weapon in our entertainment arsenal is Grandma. She and Grandpa are holidaying with us, in an adjacent apartment, and will be on hand for babysitting and fun. Within reason. It is their holiday too. But I’m hoping that Grandma’s presence will help and somebody else to do a toilet run will be appreciated.
We have tried to explain that the flight is long because we are traveling a long way, making clear that we will all be coming home again. Using his inflatable globe, we have shown him where we live and where we will be going, using stickers to show both. Additionally, we have shown him videos online of the resort, so he knows where he is going. We have printed off photos for a small scrapbook, which will work as a prompt before we leave and as a souvenir upon our return (it will go in his memory box, along with any other bits and pieces he takes a shine to while we are away).
As I said, this could be brilliant or bonkers and all the preparation in the world doesn’t allow for the response of a three-year-old, much less one with a tricky start in life. We hope he will enjoy it as we have always loved travelling and hope to share that with him. But we appreciate that if he is not ready yet (or ever) then we will find other ways for the Other Mrs Reed Warbler and I to get our travel fix. The main thing is we have assured Little Chick that we will keep him happy safe and well wherever we are – and we intend to keep that promise.
NB. I will not be blogging while we are away, to ensure that my focus is fully on my family and our holiday. We have been looking forward to this time together for some time and I want to make sure I am ‘present’ throughout our time away.