We are about to take a 9-hour transatlantic flight with a toddler. I am quite disappointed that they haven’t invented some other, less painful way to travel and I am approaching the impending journey with dread.
Just over two years ago I made my first flight as a new parent.
I am an experienced traveler having visited countless locales in Europe, North America, Egypt, Sri Lanka and Thailand , including a flying visit to Bahrain. For one strange summer, I even worked as a flight attendant, so I am certainly a seasoned traveler. Yet nothing could have prepared me for the true terror of being trapped in a tin can 39,000ft in the air with a tiny tyrant screaming, flailing and attacking me while the rest of the passengers seethed at me in barely contained hostile aggression.
It didn’t start out this bad, our first few flights together were a breeze, I even wrote a blog post about how easy it was…
“So we survived our first transatlantic trip! I travelled solo with my 4-month-old baby from Ottawa to London, UK. Overall it was a very positive experience, I had worried unnecessarily, people were very helpful and baby slept for a good chunk of the flight.”
I read that now and like Gargamel, the villain in the Smurfs, I laugh a hollow chuckle, “Silly, stupid Mommy”
I also offered the following advice, which I stick by, for making flights with a small baby more manageable.
Gate Check Your Stroller
You have enough things to carry when traveling, without having to hold your baby as well. Gate checking your stroller rather than checking it with your suitcase, means you have it to ferry your baby around the airport, keep them entertained with little rides around the terminal and you can put all your other bags in the basket or hanging from the handles-freeing up your hands.
Prepare plastic baggies of essentials
I made plastic bags of essentials- they contained everything you would need for a diaper change- clean diapers, baggies for dirty diapers, wipes, cream, small toy to entertain and one contained a selection of toys. I then used a hole punch to make a hole in the top corner of the bag and used a rock climbing style clip to enable me to hang the bag from the back of my seat, hooks in the tiny bathrooms and to hang off the stroller in the airport-Once on board I hung these bags up and didn’t need to access my hand luggage for the majority of the flight-these were a lifesaver!
Organise your carry on and know where everything is
This goes for all the essentials such as passports and tickets but also pacifiers, favorite toys or a drink for Mama.
Bring easy to eat snacks and drinks
I found it pretty tricky to eat my in-flight meal with baby thrashing around and trying to smash his feet into the middle of my dish-I really appreciated the granola bars/banana and water bottle I brought with me especially as I could eat them with one hand.
Get the bassinet
If your baby is small, get the bassinet. You have to call beforehand and reserve it-it’s a bonus as you have to have the bulkhead seat, to use it (more leg room-yay!) if your baby falls asleep they can rest in peace and you have your hands free and if your baby doesn’t go to sleep you can use it as a hanging shelf to store all your baby related stuff!
Fast forward to the air armageddon incident, last year. My son was 20 months old, I was travelling alone, Ottawa, Canada to London, UK to attend a friend’s wedding. I sent this message to my Mothers group hours later…
We are here in London but not before the worst air experience ever…
we boarded, everything was ok, especially as the flight was empty, so we had the whole row to ourselves. Little one goes to sleep and I lie him down, he wakes a few times but goes back to sleep, after 2.5 hrs. he wakes up screaming, rolls off the seats, flails around smashing his head on the armrests and generally being a dingbat! He then goes into a crying/screaming fit where nothing I do helps. I offered water, snacks, checked diaper, milk, toys, new toy, books-nothing. He screams for about half an hour, although it felt like days. The entire time a man two rows down keeps turning around in his seat and giving me the filthiest look. He even went so far as to stand up in his place, turn fully around and give me evils.
After 20 mins of this, I lose it and say “Excuse me why do you keep staring at me? What do you expect me to do?”
He says loudly and aggressively “Get your baby to be quiet!”
I say “this is actually more inconvenient for me than it is for you”
He says “It’s funny that your son has stopped crying now”
I say “Yes, he’s probably wondering why Mummy has to raise her voice to this rude man!”
Then I sat back in my chair in the dark while baby fed and I cried and cried. Asshat!
So we have experienced the good and the (very) bad in flight experiences, what could possibly be in store for us this time?
We are armed with a two-person team, an IPad, a CARES seatbelt restraint device that makes the airline seatbelt into a 4-point harness and a whole lot of hope. Please little one, just chill the f**k out!
When we are hugging our loved ones, who live so very far away and all enjoying a beach vacation together, it will all be worth it (we hope!).