When you live 10,481 km away from family and friends travel is an inevitable part of life. #SHJM has already racked up 28 flights and he’s not even 3. As for #ARWM, he’d already been in 4 countries at 12 weeks of age.
The experience of travelling with kids isn’t exactly as glamorous as my pre child memories of air travel… duty free shopping, decadently chilling in the lounge, a trip to the bar for a vino no matter how early the flight and of course the Bloody Marys and G&Ts in the air. Yet there is a consistency between the two; alcohol. My paediatrician even recommended before boarding a 14 hour flight with a miserable, colicky 8 week old #ARWM that mummy should have a glass of red. (When I say recommended it may have been “joked”, but I took it as gospel!).
To give them credit, the Milne boys are so far amazing travellers. I’m not sure if they are easy to travel with, or just used to it, but either way I’m grateful! What’s worked for us and kept us sane?
Wine. Get one or several as soon as they offer it. A chilled mummy is a chilled flight (ish). This also helps you to remain calm, relaxed (again ish) and have realistic, age appropriate expectations. Sometimes you just need to roll with behaviour that is pushing the boundaries that normally wouldn’t fly…because you’re flying! Like what I did there?! I think managing your own expectations is key. They are never going to sleep or watch movies silently the whole journey so just don’t expect them to and you are already in a more prepared place.
Pack plenty of food, no one wants to be hangry. They serve food at weird times on flights and toddlers don’t understand that. On my last long hall flight I epically failed in the “pack plenty of food” department and was told by a particularly unhelpful member of the cabin crew there was no food until breakfast and after some pleading was given a Crunchie. I know a Crunchie!! This was a win for #MJM who ate the Crunchie but left a hangry confused #SHJM while I frantically scraped fluff covered raisins out of the creases of my bag. Corn on the cob was a winning discovery for us because it isn’t messy or sticky, lasts for ages, is fun to eat and #SHJM happily ate it cold at forty thousand feet. I find a variety of items in small quantities is best (snacks, fruits, pasta, sandwiches etc.). Remember eating on a flight is also about passing the time and providing entertainment not just about nourishment.
Rules and routines don’t exist in the air. If I can drink wine at weird times on a flight (and I do much to my mother’s disgust) the boys can have milk/iPad/snacks. Just do what you need to do. If a baby will sleep for 14 hours in your arms but only 4 in the bassinet don’t kill yourself to keep putting him or her down. Do what you need to do to get through the flight and routines can resume when you land.
Don’t judge or get irritated by the single child free travellers who thought the bulkhead seats meant extra leg room and didn’t realise they were the home of the bassinets. Just feel smug when they either ask to move, freeing up an extra seat next to you. Or feel even more smug, because despite them practically hyperventilating with panic when they realised they were sitting next to your baby the whole flight, the baby behaved like an angel and you hardly heard a peep.
Gadgets can make life a lot easier. Obviously an iPad loaded with Peppa Pig goes without saying but the two stand out ones for me are kid’s headphones and for the solo flights an airline approved car seat (just look for the FAA sticker to know if yours is. It will say “This Restraint is Certified for Use in Motor Vehicles and Aircraft.”). We love these Philips headphones which have been so far indestructible despite the whole family’s best efforts. For the car seat we had the Cosco Scenera NEXT anyway and so we tried it out onboard and found it makes the journey so much more comfortable, especially on a night flight for a child who is too big for the bassinet and has the extra benefit of restraining them whilst keeping them comfy. The only downside of this is you obviously need to buy an extra seat to put it on. We started doing this anyway for #SHJM from about 15 months as he was far too big and heavy to sit on my lap.
If all else fails, hide in the toilet. Those tiny toilets are a beacon of light (literally and metaphorically) in the middle of a 14 hour night flight. There is light, there are cupboards to open, buttons to press. Allowing unlimited hand washing got me through a particularly tough Singapore to Heathrow flight when I was travelling solo. Parentally-solo obviously, as I had with me an 18 month old #SHJM who was ready to party somewhere over the Middle East, while row after row of passengers were cocooned up in blankets and eye masks keen on sleeping for another six hours.
For us the opportunity to explore and travel is what attracted us to Asia seven years ago. I love that our children are in the incredibly privileged position to know no different and are along for the ride. For me it would absolutely not be an option to not travel and actually all it takes is a few minor adaptations to make the process (relatively) pain free.
Mummy Milne xx