Take one 4 year old (currently dealing with the introduction of a sibling) and one 8 week old (said sibling) and put them on an approximate 17 hour journey involving 3 airplanes, 2 stopovers (one of which is over 5 hours), a time difference of 9+ hours, new food, strange accents/languages and way too much luggage and it’s a wonder that any of us survived.
I am not sure if many of you realize exactly how much luggage is needed when travelling half way across the globe for an indeterminate, extended period of time with children. After whittling down to what we now know is defiantly NOT the bear minimum, we were left with three large suitcases on wheels, one travel cot, one infant car seat and one toddler booster seat to check in. Thankfully, we would not have to see or deal with these items until reaching our final destination, Glasgow, Scotland.
For carryon we wisely decided to go with three backpacks, three jackets, one teddy bear and a baby carrier. Unfortunately, it was quickly discovered upon walking to our first flight, after checking in the other luggage, that Goose could not be expected to carry anything other than said teddy bear. Therefore, hubby and I were left to juggle his backpack and jacket while locating passports, boarding passes and consoling a hungry, overheated baby.
Another interesting and fun experience we hadn’t really considered was airport security. During this post 9/11 era, we were required to remove jackets, belts, jewelry, laptop computers, tablet, cameras, hats, baby carrier and baby for examination. I was also lucky enough to be asked to remove my boots (thank you zipper), while trying to juggle a now squirming baby, passport and boarding pass. Fun times indeed.
Now, I have two pieces of advice for plane travel with kids. Number one: bring snacks, lots of snacks and water. This is by far more important than toys, books or other entertainment material. Number two: if you have the means, pay for business or first class. The cost is so worth the extra comfort, service, food, drinks and space. We were lucky enough to get great business class seats, at a very reasonable cost, but if you can’t afford it at least adhere to rule number one, it is the single most important thing when travelling with children.
Layovers can be tricky with children. Gone are the days of sitting in the bar, drinking and enjoying a comfortable meal. Instead, I urge anyone travelling with children to research stopover airports for all child play areas, restaurants, shops and baby changing rooms. It is important to know the layout and exactly what is served at the different restaurants if possible.
For our wonderful 5+ layover we were rather unfortunate to be stuck in Halifax (Canada) airport. Now, don’t misunderstand, there is nothing wrong with this airport, but when you have a 4 year old that has been awake since 4am, and been stuck on two planes for a total of 7 hours, he needs a bit more excitement than what’s on offer. Luckily, there were plenty of other children milling about, so he managed to play and work off some energy before the next flight.
During the final leg of our plane journey, we made a huge mistake as parents. Though we had planned, prepared and packed, we did not execute all the details as we should have. All I can say, is if you know your child and have planned for somewhat expected events, do not start second guessing yourself or expecting a different outcome from said child. It will backfire and you will have to deal with the consequences, usually in a tiny airplane bathroom 20 minutes before landing.
We have only ourselves to blame, but for some reason we convinced ourselves that Goose didn’t really need to wear a night-time pull-up for the final leg of our journey. Though we had packed two and planned on putting one on him during our 5 hour lay-over, for some reason we decided otherwise when the time came. Needless to say, we (and I mean I) was stuck changing a very wet 4 year old in said tiny airplane bathroom, just before the seat belt sign came on to prepare for our landing. Unfortunately, I also needed to beg a garbage bag for Sid the teddy bear, as he was also soaking and in desperate need of a good wash.
The most grateful thing I have to say is that our children dealt with plane travel WONDERFULLY! There were no melt downs, crying or bad behavior. Though I can still see the horrified expressions of the other passengers when first sitting down in business class – it was very gratifying to hear their kind comments and smiling faces when, after 5 hours in flight, our children were both well behaved and quiet. Let’s just hope the travel gene continues for our next adventures… driving from Glasgow, Scotland to Ibiza, Spain!
*Disclaimer: no teddy bears were harmed in anyway during this adventure. Sid the bear now resides in Ibiza, Spain with Goose – he is very happy to be clean.*
A note about children and jet lag: it is HORRIBLE. Do not plan any major site seeing for 4-7 days. Do not attempt to keep the children up or make then eat at meal times. They will not be hungry and will not be able to stay awake no matter what you do. Let them sleep when they are tired. You will be awake at 2am, prepare yourself for it. Try to get them outside and exposed to daylight as well as dusk. Let them eat when they wake at 2am (they will be hungry) for the first 3 days. Afterwards, give them only milk if they still wake up at night for a day or two. Then expect them to stay in bed as normal. Even after a week, expect them to be a bit out of sorts and yourself as well. Enjoy!