*Warning this is a long haul post- put the kettle on before commencing!*
I’ve not done a lot of posting lately, mainly because I’ve not done much crafting lately (turns out being a “working mum” is harder than it looks- go figure), but also because we took a little (read: big, hard and expensive but lovely) trip to the other side of the world….so a perfect opportunity to share some tips I took from pinterest, and now some of my own, on flying with a baby.
The door to door trip from our home in London to the in laws home in New Zealand took 33 hours (!) so quite a lot to consider in the parenting department. I thought I’d let you know a normal day in the life of our one year old, and then a day in the life of a flying baby!
8am: wake up, breakfast, get dressed. 10am: Walk to the shops/playground. 11:30am: Lunch. 12pm: Naptime. 2:30-3pm: Wake up and play. 5pm: Dinnertime. 6pm: Bathtime with daddy, milk, book. 7pm: Bedtime.
Sounds lovely right?! The thing with flying is that there is no time – you have no real concept of what the time should be because you feel so out of whack, and you have no feeling of time passing because you’re missing the normal cues. Our plan was to recreate F’s normal pattern of activity to give her the feeling of a day passing…but of course it doesn’t work out like that.
Here’s 12 hours of F activity on the plane – Boarding: play on the ground with toys, explore under the seat, sit with mummy and read. Take off: snacks galore, books, grizzle (? bored- offer toys/? ears sore- offer milk). Hours 1-2: walk around plane, read books, watch 5 min snippets of cartoons, more books. Hour 3: trying to make dinner last as long as possible, all utensils played with etc etc. Hour 3.5: Ready for bed: wash, pjs, book etc. Hour 4 lights dimmed- baby easily drops off to sleep (yay!), gingerly place in bassinet and cover with blanket. Hour 4.15. Baby wakes up and realises she can reach touch screen from bassinet. Rest of hour 4: playing with touch screen. Hour 5: Crying, cuddles with mummy, breastfeed, asleep (yay!). Hours 5.5-7: Asleep! (alas, mummy unable to sleep). Hour 8: Noisy neighbours (drunk on the way to Las Vegas), baby awake and crying. Hours 8.5-10: Tired grizzly baby (better than screaming baby near by however)- toys, books, snacks, walks, more books, lots more walks, nappy explosion, refusing to be held by daddy = lots and lots of mummy cuddles. Hour 10: Breakfast dragged out as long as possible. Hour 10.5-11: Get washed and dressed, bubbles in the bulkhead area, visit all the other babies to say hello. Hour 12: Preparing for landing- grizzling as wants to move around, mummy cuddles, more books and toys, 5 min snippets of cartoons. Landing: as before + grizzle (? bored- offer toys/? ears sore- offer milk).
In case you were wondering, it was pretty much the same story for all four flights, the longest she slept was 4 hours in one flight…and the longest mummy slept? Half an hour (and that was only once, and only on one flight!).
So that all sounds kinda stressful, but it was worth it in the end. If you’ve kept reading this long I certainly don’t want to put you off flying with babies, however long haul is hard – there are no two ways about it. It is survivable as we have discovered and here are some things we learnt:
* Try to recreate the pattern of baby’s normal day as much as possible (eat, play, sleep), and incorporate bedtime cues like getting into pjs, book, milk etc. F loved the toilets on the plane so brushing her teeth in there was probably not a winding down activity but helped pass a bit of time! Getting ready for “bed”:
* In the UK you can buy baby neurofen or paracetamol in individual packets, this saved on customs issues and was way less messy to administer. Helpful for sick or sore babies mid-flight (F sprouted a new tooth during the flights on the way back- happy days, not!).
* Take some new toys or books that baby hasn’t seen before. I have heard of parents of older children also wrapping the toys like presents, so that adds to the distraction and time spent playing with each one. For F a couple of new lift the flap books worked a treat.
* Dress baby just in pjs during the flight, much comfier and not a big deal when they get dirty. When we were needing to pass time before landing we gave F a morning wash and got her dressed after breakfast. For me it also felt like we were giving her a time reference- who knows what time it was but we were trying to convince her it was morning. It was also nice to arrive with baby in clean clothes. (I always change my top and underwear before arrival also, makes a huge difference to how you feel. I also take my make up off as part of my own “bedtime routine” on the plane and reapply it before landing. Nothing wrong with a bit of deodorant and dry shampoo either!)
* Bring snacks- the more the merrier, bring them in little bags so that baby can play with the bags to pass time too. Things that worked for us were raisins, mini breadsticks and fruit bars. You can take non sealed food of course but just remember to discard it before customs at your destination.
* Speaking of customs, we found them very helpful with all our extra gear and baby related food etc. We never once got asked to open or taste test food (although I know several people who have), and we were allowed baby food/liquids over 100ml volumes.
* Bubbles: these were great for the transit lounge when F was quite over tired (I’m sure other passengers were enjoying it more than the lady in this photo- who can resist a giggly pyjama clad bald baby?!). At one stage I also walked her to the bulkhead/emergency door area and blew bubbles for F and another baby on the plane as they were both so over it by then! Bubbles in LA:
* Ask the air hostess for nappies and wipes if required. We figured we’d paid a lot of money for F to fly so might as well maximise the service! Each nappy time we got two free nappies and some wipes, and we also kept all the unopened jars of baby food she didn’t eat which was really helpful for meals not on the plane during the rest of the trip (transit lounge delays etc).
* On the food note: check what your baby is booked for mealwise. F was classified as an infant meal which meant she received pureed baby food at each meal (about 6 jars a time?!). The banana/porridge ones were good for snacks and dessert but, as she is on the same meals as us at home, we ended up feeding her quite a bit of our food so she could feed herself, plus using a spoon to feed a baby sitting at right angles to you is kinda tricky, especially a wriggly baby during turbulence! The two babies who sat near us on the final flight were both 18 months old and had much more adult looking meals prepared for kids (fruits, biscuits, pasta) which I will check to make sure F is getting next time.
* And my number one on the plane tip….mini boxes of cereal! Not just for the hotel continental breakfast anymore, these saved the day for us. We took one box per flights as I thought it would be a good snack for during take off and landing as F would be chewing for so long, and it worked a treat. Sometimes she ate them out of the box like popcorn, other times she liked passing them between two plastic cups, eating the odd one. Also it passed quite a lot of time trying to put them in daddy’s mouth, shirt pocket, in his hands etc. F really didn’t seem that bothered by take off or landing so I’m going to say that her grizzling was more down to having to sit still with the child lapbelt on, rather than her ears hurting- thanks Cheerios and Shreddies!
I should say at this point that these are tips for flying with a non-walking one year old, there must be a lot more tips I’m yet to learn for entertaining a moving child for 24 hours on a plane!
Here’s a link to a pretty good pinterest found site for some more baby/toddler tips.
Before our trip I read a lot of blogs and posts about flying with kids. The above idea was mentioned a few times about buttering up your fellow passengers before take-off. We got a few alarmed looks when we sat down next to childless passengers preparing themselves for 12 hours of economy class luxury. It’s certainly a cute idea and might make you feel a little less stressed about your crying baby, but overall I think if adults are going to travel, some of them are going to be taking small people along for the journey, and unfortunately small people can’t watch films or drink two glasses of wine and take a sleeping tablets to pass the time…so try to forget about the people around you, smile, be polite and just do your parenting job as best you can given the circumstances.
Just a couple more things while I think about them:
* Highly recommend taking a stroller to the airport. A fold up umbrella style buggy can be taken right to the plane door and is so helpful for carrying all your bags and gear (we were not allowed a suitcase for F but were allowed an extra carry on which we filled to the brim…mostly with snacks!). Basically we looked like this guy:
* Having a stroller was great also for our 4 hour transit time in LA- as it was midday local time we left the airport building and found a little grassy spot in the sun. F slept for almost 2 hours and we enjoyed stretching out to read our books.
* Ask and you might receive- There’s no harm in asking and having a baby often gets you to the front of the queue and some unexpected freebies (nappies anyone?!). By asking we got free bassinet usage for both flights on the way home (approx £200 saving). And just for traveling with a child we were taken to the front of the queue at LA and Heathrow passport inspection (time saving of about 30mins/3 days?!!!), our carry-on never got weighed when everyone else’s did at LA (good thing too), and the Auckland airport check in desk were not in the slightest worried we were 2kg over weight with our suitcases when we mumbled something about lots of gifts for baby inside!
I could do a whole post on packing tips as I love a good suitcase sort, but how about just one little beauty from pinterest- put your shoes inside shower caps to keep them together and stop the soles touching your clean clothes: