Although we’re now past the nappy and dummy years, we flew long-haul a few times when Kai was still under two. It’s never going to be easy but I thought I’d share a few tips that helped us to stay sane.
1. Have a glass of wine
Or beer, or G&T – or whatever it is that helps you to relax. And not just because relaxed parents tend to lead to relaxed kids. The first few times we flew with Kai, I was so stressed about how annoyed other passengers would get if he started to cry. Then I read this superb article on why we need to stop apologising for our kids behaving like kids. That advice and one or two of those miniature bottles of merlot – have gone a long way in helping me ignore everyone else on a plane, even if Kai is having a mid-flight meltdown.
2. Bring something to suck on
Whether it;s bottles, boobs or an arsenal of dummies, stuff to suck on is possibly going to be your saviour on a long-haul flight (and it’ll also help guard against popping ears). It’s always a good idea to check, but usually bottles filled with formula or milk do make it through security. If your baba, like mine, won’t contemplate a cold bottle of milk, be sure to plan ahead once on board. I found that bottles of milk tend to come back at a temperature that could melt rock, so allow plenty of time for it to cool down. Breastfeeding moms are at an advantage in keeping babies happy on board, but of course there’s the issue of protecting your modesty. Grab a window seat and practice with a blanket or feeding apron if you’re shy about flashing your boobs to fellow passengers. And as for dummy lovers – my son was – be sure to stock up. If that sucker pops out in the middle of the night, scrabbling around on the floor in the dark while baby bawls is not the ideal in-flight entertainment. I used to sleep with a dummy hooled over every finger, ready to slip a new one in if he dropped one on the floor.
3. Plan your layovers carefully
Kai took his first long-haul flight at the age of 10 months. We thought it would be best to keep the journey time as short as possible, leaving layovers of less than an hour between connections. This turned out to be a terrible idea. He had just learned to crawl, wanted to move and we ended up simply running – in a state of permanent stress – from one flight to the next, with no chance for him to stretch or explore or even get into a new onesie. We have also tried the opposite and learned the long and very tired way that a 10-hour layover is no fun at all (although that could be said for travellers without kids). There’s a balance to be found here – I’m hoping to discover it one day…
4. Forget the routine…and your principles
This would actually be one of my main mantras for travelling with little kids. When you travel, your routine is all over the place so you can’t expect baba to still be down by 7 and to sleep through the night (if you’re lucky enough to have a child that does such a thing). Whatever time you board the plane, the cabin lights will still flicker on once you’re up in the air and the plane will soon bustle with pre-drinks and movie screens, trays of food and the clink-clink of complimentary gin and tonics. To stay sane you kind of have to put your parenting principles on hold while you’re in the air – think of it as international waters, where anything goes. Let them stay up late, let them watch cartoons – it’s only one day and after all, you are on holiday…
5. Accept help
I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to refuse all offers of help without actually considering them first. It’s just a knee-jerk reaction to instantly say “Oh, thanks but I’m fine”. But the first time I flew solo with Kai on a long-haul flight, I made a pact with myself wo accept every piece of assistance I was offered. Let the kindly old lady across the aisle hold your child while you go for a wee. Say yes to the young gent who offers to carry your hand luggage through the terminal. And try not to choke up as an army of people pile your absurd array of luggage on and off the airport train. Not only will it make your journey easier, you’ll also realise that in fact, most people love kids and not everyone who sits by a baby on a plane is silently wishing they were bumped to another flight.
What are your top tips for flying with a child under two? Please share in the comments section.