Georgia has now been on 8 trans-Atlantic flights (the shortest of which is 8 hours long). She has been on 21 flights altogether (I hope I'm counting right) and has visited 4 countries. She is also an expert train/bus/tube traveler as we live in London and don't have a car.
Honestly, she does pretty good. She does. The hardest thing about traveling with her is the jet lag. When we finally get to where we're going - 17 hours door to door when we fly from London to Los Angeles - then we have an 8 hour time difference, meaning that our little angel wakes up at 3 in the morning for the first few mornings we're in our new time zone. And on the way home, we have just the opposite - a tired toddler who refuses to sleep until 3am.
Some things that make airline flights more do-able:
1) have a seat for Georgia. She is not yet 2, meaning that she does not need her own seat on the plane. We have not yet bought her a seat. Although - when flying internationally, we have to pay taxes for her. It ends up costing about 10% of an adult ticket. We have gotten very lucky when flying though, and often ask when we check in and when we get to the gate if there is an extra seat on the plane and try to rearrange our seats so that we can have three seats for the three of us. This works for us more than half of the time. Other times, the plane is full, so we just have to live with having Georgia on our laps.
2) we take the car seat with us. Part of this is because we will need it when we arrive in our destination. But, it is also nice to have on the plane. Poor Dave lugs it through the airport (it probably weighs 30 pounds), and we can set it up on the plane if we have an extra seat. We bought a car seat that was very narrow so that it fits on the plane seats. We can use it when we need to just have a break. Put her in the carseat, give her a book or the ipod and she is ready to go!
3) We fly economy plus. More legroom is a bonus
4) We try to strategically plan which seats we have. When flying from Chicago to Los Angeles, our flight was supposed to be at 7pm. It left late - around 9 or 10, meaning we didn't get into LA until close to midnight. I was really worried about how that was going to be with Georgia, but it ended up being one of the best flights we've taken with her! The reason for that was we were in the very front of the plane. No one was in front of us. We had a good 3 feet between our seats and the wall. Georgia fell asleep in my arms and I was able to make a bed for her using the pillows and blankets and she slept on the floor for over an hour of the flight.
5) Lots of toys/books/electronics. When flying I bring the biggest bag possible. I have to admit its a pain. But, it makes the flight much easier. I brought little tubs of playdough. Coloring books, crayons, magic markers (the ones that only work on the specific paper), sticker books, books, ipod, ipad, and Georgia's baby doll. And lots of food. Because Georgia doesn't have a seat, they don't give her food. And on an 8+ hour flight, that is a long time to go without eating! So I pack yogurts, cereal, fruit, a cup for milk (flight attendants will give you milk before take off if you ask them!), and lots of snack type things. Pretty much, the more things I have with me, the better! It is sure a hassle to try to take things in and out of the bag, and keep it organized, but having lots of things to play with makes for a happier toddler.
6) Walking the aisles. When all else fails, Dave and I take turns walking up and down the aisles with her. I doubt the other passengers like this - Georgia is so social that she loves tapping on everyone's legs and saying "Hi!" to them, even when they're sleeping. But, you have to admit that people would prefer to have a happy child on the plane with them, rather than one that is crying.
7) Dealing with jet lag: Pretty much nothing I can do about it! It just sucks. There are those miracle children who sleep whenever and wherever. I don't have one of them! Georgia has a very good body clock and it wakes her up at 8am, British time. That means that even if it is 3am in California, and she only slept 6 hours that night and is exhausted from traveling the day before.... well.... she's up anyways! Honestly I don't know how to deal with jet lag other than realizing that it will not last forever. We try to put her down for naps when she is tired, and we try to encourage sleep by keeping the room dark and quiet. We've even tried to drug her (benedryl) which I honestly couldn't tell if it worked or not. The other tip is to sleep when your child is sleeping! When we landed in Chicago and I put Georgia to bed at 6pm, I also went straight to bed because I assumed she would be up bright and early. Well, I was correct, and we all woke up at 4am. The only way I survived those first few days was by going to bed right around the time that Georgia fell asleep.
8) certain ages are easier to deal with than others. When your child is an infant 0-5 months, travel is relatively easy. The child sleeps relatively easily, just drinks milk, and doesn't need any entertaining. We found the most difficult trip with Georgia when she was 11 months old. She was just starting to walk, hated to be confined, and her attention span didn't last more than 1 or 2 minutes. She didn't quite understand TV or ipads yet, so had a lot of trouble entertaining her. This last trip, at 18 months was the easiest one we've had yet. Georgia was easily entertained by the ipad and the TV on the flight. She also understands that she is tired and doesn't fight sleep quite as much. Honestly, I cannot wait until she is 5 or 6! I will be so excited to just sit back and relax while she reads a book or watches a movie on her own. Now that will be the life!