We’ve just emerged from the other side of a very long dark tunnel of travel. We are all still alive, and as such I now feel qualified to offer some advice on this lunacy.
First of all, don’t do it. If this trip is not absolutely essential, don’t bother. It will drain you of all your life-force, and then some, and when you think you can’t carry on anymore, you will not only have to do so, but carrying a deceptively heavy small child who ‘can’t walk Mummy’ and cumbersome backpack plus child’s carry on thing (more on that later). My overriding advice here is, don’t choose to be a lunatic, it won’t be fun and it won’t be relaxing. So if a ‘holiday’ is what you’re after, hire a babysitter and go and lie down in a hotel for a few hours, then come back. Job done.
However, if it is compulsory (e.g. family emergency or, you have run out of English chocolate etc) and you cannot avoid boarding that plane (or planes 😫), then there are some things you can do to reduce the horror.
1. Do not buy kids ride on carry on luggage (you know the one) unless you enjoy carrying them. They seem like a great idea, and my kids love riding them around the house, but got bored of that after 15 minutes at the airport. After that, Mummy and Daddy carried them (and the children) the entire way from check in to plane (compliance with a pushchair also non-existent so to avoid pushing that plus carrying child and said ride on, so we checked it in). And let’s be sensible, you only want to be messing about with 1 bag on the plane for all the crap you need. Trying to remember which of the 5 carry on bags contain the nappies, and then where the spare clothes, and flight pillow that you won’t get to use, is a cerebral step too far.
2. Try to avoid the 1-3year old window- 1-2.5 year olds do not generally travel well and can’t be folded into bassinets.
3. Decline all meals, pack 20,000 snacks you know they like – a carton of banana milk is not your friend, and plane food is shit anyway, plus there’s no bloody room for it if you’re flying in scum class.
4. Somehow work out which planes are less busy, extra seats will save your sanity. Find out when school hols are where you’re going and don’t let them clash with your dates. Children like to stretch out when they sleep, and lets face it, economy seats are ALREADY SMALL ENOUGH. Beware though that some planes are just busy because, well they just are. Prepare for the worst. A feeble, pleading look in your devastated neighbour’s direction might end up in them being kind to you, so it’s worth a try.
5. Medicate. Only if you want to keep your marbles. You decide who.
6. Sticker books. BEST INVENTION EVER. Next to the iPad and child size headphones. Fortunately the sticker makers have moved on from my era when they were made never to be removed again from a surface. But on the plane who cares anyway?
7. Pyjamas are your friend. Well for your kids anyway if you don’t want slightly odd looks. My kids wore them all the way. Yes, for 24 hours. Pack some spare ones too. Oh and hoodies. They conceal the Star Wars and snoopy pyjamas a little.
8. Train your children for nappy changes in confined spaces. Aeroplane toilets are only designed for a teeny tiny baby to fit on the change table. They seem to ignore that some kids (ahem mine) are taking their sweet time to be loo trained.
9. Speaking of toilets, prepare for the worst and hopefully it won’t happen. But hear this. A very good friend of mine experienced a major poonami episode with her young son on a (mercifully) short flight, where poo ended up caught in the seatbelt buckle (oh yes, hand sanitiser all the way please, shit (snigger) gets everywhere…), all over her dress, and somehow got on her forehead, pointed out by a kindly neighbour. BRING SPARE CLOTHES FOR YOU TOO. And occasionally look in the mirror.
10. Believe it will end eventually. Even the longest trip, which mine was, is over now and I can write this. We were pretty lucky, not so sure about the people who got smacked by our children’s ride on suitcases as we navigated the ‘slim people only please’ aisle to our seats, but it could have been so much worse. So head into that tunnel battle ready and hopefully you’ll emerge a little battered, and tired but hopefully not too traumatised.