I’ve only flown once with H, but if you’re going to fly, may as well make it Australia, right? Just walking, almost talking, and not as sleepy as she used to be. Sensible. If for any reason we happen to have a second child I’ve already said we’re flying when number 2 is 6 months, so they can sleep the entire time – it’s exhausting. I’ve written up a load of advice for mum friends over at various blogs, but decided it’s time I did a more coherent list, as I do like to ramble.
For the record, we went for a month, we had three large suitcases, one small cabin case with a car seat strapped to it, plus a changing bag, and one large record bag (also for cabin luggage), plus one 15 month old and a stroller. Oh, and the day we flew we missed our flight thanks to London’s evil snow at the end of November 2010 – thanks to the trains being cancelled. We didn’t end up stranded at Gatwick (thanks to friends nearby) and did fly out three days later, but it certainly was the biggest thing we’ve learnt about travelling. Hopefully it’ll be some help for you.
• Take a car seat if you can. You can’t always trust hired ones at the other side, although if you do take a seat with you, put it in a bin bag (helps protect against rainy weather), and try and strap it to hand luggage (we bought a case from M&S). We had to buy a seat for H, which meant we didn’t qualify for bassinet seats (she’d have been too tall anyway) but it meant she could be strapped in and was quite happy watching the Mr Men on the in-flight entertainment when we needed a break from entertaining her! We could only find one car seat which was lapbelt compatible, the Britax Prince – as we’d read some airlines will put the seat in the hold if it can’t be fastened that way.
• Next time we’re going to book a day room at a hotel nearby. Our flight was 8.30pm, but we couldn’t have allowed for the weather – our cab was gridlocked, so we had to resort to getting the train. At least if you’re in a room it’s not the most fun, but you’re there.
• Food-wise you’re doomed most ways. We did Baby Led Weaning with H from six months, so being offered mush (and she’s 15 months at this point too) on takeoff for her to eat was kind, but something she’d never eat. The kit with the spoon and wipes and everything was useful though, so even if you’re offered food but a meal has been booked, make sure you get one. We ordered H a toddler meal, which seemed to consist of crisps, chocolate, more chocolate, sweets, sugar, boing boing, hyper child sort of medicines. We swapped most of our food with hers and kept all crackers, cheese, savoury things, fruit and vegetables to one side for her. The tray on the back of the chair wouldn’t work on her side due to the car seat, so fortunately I got my meals first (vegetarian), and scoffed it so we could use the other two trays that we could access.
• In-flight Entertainment. Up until a month before Oz, the television was never put on at home – mind, she didn’t need too much distracting as she could crawl, and was happy sitting on the chair reading a book. However, we decided to introduce some Cbeebies into her life so that if we needed to put her in front of a screen on the flight, she’d have some familiarity. They had a handful of Cbeebies programmes, and also had some Australian ones (including several Wiggles episodes from ‘Wiggle And Learn’) which she watched on the way back (after having seen it on tv there almost every day). The Mr Men was the big surprise hit – the bright colours and simplicity worked a treat.
• Stroller – we got a battered old stroller from Freecycle, as I didn’t want to take our nice one on the plane – which was a sensible move. We had it up to the gate at Gatwick when it was put in the hold, and fortunately Dubai had some complimentary Emirates ones (all MacLaren’s), so we got to see the stroller again on arrival in Oz. On our return they had complimentary strollers at Perth, so it had to be checked in straight away – so it’s worth knowing what the policy is at each airport before you travel, depending on how you get there.
• Nappies & changing – the airplane apparently had some nappies, but we had plenty in the changing bag, so never needed to ask. The changing area in the loos on the plane were surprisingly good too – no space, but it’s do-able – though there’s no belt to fasten baby to (thank god she’ll lie still anyway). We got a large plastic bag to put any used nappies in, though didn’t realise until we’d landed – in London. Oops. Although one bag for a 12 hour flight is a bit hopeful, I think. (we had our own nappy sacks)
• That old “the attendants will take your child for a walk” thing… it happened once on four flights. We got about five minutes of child-free time and it was good to do things like reorganise our seating area, and stop, and breathe, and relax. Then back comes our crying toddler unhappy as she’s not with mummy or daddy…
• Child amusement packs – Emirates are pretty good – they had some notepads and pencils, a quiz book (H loved this, she pointed out all the animals she knew), as well as some odd looking hand puppets. We brought some sticker books and some Cbeebies magazines which also helped pass the time.