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Being Mommy, Travel

Flying solo….with the kids

October 18, 2013

From the moment I first found out I was pregnant with the Prince I knew that this day would come. That at some point soon I would be flying solo across the Atlantic with at least two kids.

I have been mentally preparing to make this trip forever. We simply can’t afford to all fly each time so I always knew this would be my reality.

One of my good friends flew from Cork to Vancouver in the Spring by herself with her then 5-year-old and newborn daughters. At the time I remember trying to build up her confidence on how easy it would be. But in my own mind I was still trying to build my own confidence for my inevitable journey from Cork to NY.

Well, this weekend it was time to put all my mental and practical preparation to use. Having flown over all together, the King left Upstate NY 10 days before us to return to work. On Saturday it was our turn.

In hindsight I now know there is actually no way to be prepared for three flights (one overnight, transatlantic) with two kids under 4 in tow. I feel the need to explain that we booked these tickets last-minute and had few options…generally we try to avoid two connecting flights but it wasn’t possible this time.

All started off well enough, despite my extreme edginess in the morning. The thought of leaving home and saying goodbye is always tough on me. Add to this, flying solo with two kids and throw in some side effects of Sudafed in my system and my heart was really racing.

Generally, I hate the way Sudafed makes me feel and stay away from it, but recent bouts of aerosinusitis- which I never even knew was a THING- have left me pretty debilitated in flight. If you’ve ever had it you know what it is and would probably agree that the side affects of Sudafed are far more manageable and certainly more preferable when flying solo with kids.

Anyway, the thing about being a mom is you sometimes just don’t have time to give into emotions much.  As soon as I turned my back on the family I was leaving behind there was no time for tears because two little people were both demanding my attention. 

We were traveling about 18 hours in total door to door.  Like I said there really is no preparation.  All-in-all we made it with only a bit for sweat & tears (mostly mine) but thankfully no blood. 

Aside from the Princess breaking out in hives somewhere over the Atlantic leading me to stay awake staring at her the entire flight while she slept soundly…and a late landing which forced me to sprint through Heathrow airport with the Prince strapped to me pushing the Princess in the stroller & her screaming “excuse me” to a packed terminal….we made it home sans luggage but on time to collapse in Daddy’s arms, shower and sleep.  In that order.

However there were a few lessons I will take with me next time…..

  • I was carrying far too much stuff.  Although it seems the little they are the more gear they require, I wasn’t making life easy on myself.  Sure having two connecting flight increases the likelihood of getting delayed somewhere but seriously when was the last time my son ever went through 17 diapers and four changes of clothes in a day or even two.  Even if we did get delayed I’m pretty sure wherever we were would have at least one store stocking the essentials.
  • Airports and airplanes are really entertaining for a three-year old….I thought the bag of tricks we brought was quite small but turns out it was completely unnecessary.  Aside from the iPad, a colouring book and her blanket she did not even open her bag of tricks so I was lugging it senselessly.  And yes I was lugging it despite my intent to keep it the size & weight a three-year old can manage…we all know how thatgoes.
  • Raisins are no longer enticing.  During one of our previous trips, the Princes once at 6 boxes of raisins and it kept her quite happy.  There isn’t much point into the big stash of treats (ok…bribes) that I was carrying.  Stopping to get an ice cream and some sweets from the shop was all that she needed to tow the line.
  • Avoid Heathrow at all costs.  I have said this before…that place will one day be the death of me for sure….but I keep going back!!  The security checks and biometric screening for everyone (TWICE) to not even leave the airport is ridiculous.  You try telling a three-year old just off an 8 hour overnight flight that she has to stay still and look at a camera for nearly 30 seconds.
  • Do whatever it takes to survive.

Anyone else have any fail proof tips while flying solo with the kids?



Flying with small children- 10 tips

May 2, 2013

Having a family abroad requires a certain amount of commitment to flying home.  Regularly.

Baby M’s first transatlantic flight was when she was 13 weeks old.

It’s looking pretty like this next one will fly even sooner than that.

We are incredibly lucky (and perhaps a bit broke) that at least some of us have been able to fly to the US nearly twice a year.  I guess maybe even more as Baby M has made no less than 6 round trips to the US and there will be one more before she turns 3.  She is a great flyer.

In all honesty she is the best out of all of us. I like to think my husband and I had some role in this since you know we are AMAZING parents who get EVERYTHING right, but she’s probably just a great traveller.

Anyway we have a few tricks we rely on:

  1. Booking early, or beg at check-in:  I won’t lie,  when it comes to traveling with a family of 4 (soon to be 5) we try to do it as cheap as possible.  Who doesn’t. We hold no allegiances to any particular airline.  While there are a few things I won’t do (like sit in JFK for 8 hours when I could drive to Syracuse in less than 6) for the most part we try to get the cheapest tickets available.  Sometimes this means booking way early and sometimes it actually has meant grabbing last-minute deals.  If you can book early book online and then CALL the airline and explain to them you are travelling with young children….especially if you need the bassinet seat.  Even if you don’t need a bassinet try to get that seat.  There is a bit more leg room.  There is also bound to be other young families near by and, well, misery does love company. For times we can’t book early we try to check in as early as possible and beg for any better seats or more space if possible.  For the most part airlines are happy to accommodate when they can but you need to get their early.  For the times when it has just been myself and Baby M I can’t say enough how helpful people have been but you need to ask.
  2. Cuteness Counts:  Let’s be honest we all know people are far more tolerant of a crying baby/toddler when they are cute. So try to keep this in mind when choosing your child’s travel clothes.  However,  cuteness should not trump comfort, or functionality…especailly when travelling with a newly toilet trained child. A word of caution:  be prepared to possibly toss an outfit…Baby M had the worst blow out of her life while waiting in the security line at Dulles Airport. By the time we made it to a bathroom outfit number 1 went straight into the bin.  Some outfits, no matter how cute just aren’t worth saving.
  3. Liquids & Gels:  Put EVERYONE’S liquids/gels in 1-2 bags. Consider stashing another bag inside the liquids to hold all your passports and boarding cards.  At security you’re only whipping out 1-2 bags and have everything you need leaving more time to struggle with collapsing the buggy/stroller while holding a baby and/or cornering a toddler.
  4. More Ziplocs!!!!:  I might be obsessed with these.  Of course we all have to have them these days but their use goes way beyond liquids and gels. Pack complete spare outfits in their own individual Ziploc bags to minimize rummaging through your bags to find spare socks and vests when a dreaded blow out occurs. Conveniently store dirty clothes in the now empty Ziploc.
  5. Find grandparents:  You know the ones…white hair, smiling at you from afar even though the rest of the gate may be looking at you as though you were travelling with Satan himself. Find them.  Sit next to them.  Indulge them in listening to the stories of their own grandchildren and then…sit back and let them go all goo-goo-gaa-gaa over your kid.
  6. “Repack”before boarding: Take 5 minutes to restructure your bags so that everything you will for sure need in flight is in one bag if possible at your feet.  Surely you won’t need ALL the extra bottles or sets of clothes so throw them above you and just be sure everything you are 100% likely to need is at your feet. There is nothing worse than needing a bottle or your toddler crying for that one toy that is in the bag above you and you have to wait for the bloody fasten seat-belt sign to go off.
  7. Bottle Feeding:  If you are currently bottle feeding and plan on flying with bottles already filled with water (in Ziplocs of course) over fill the bottles and expect an ounce or two of spillage.  We learned this the hard way when we opened bottles mid-flight to find out every single one spilled under the cabin pressure.  Since then we’ve stuck to bringing bottled water (be careful of the sodium content) and filling as needed.  Also plan ahead for delays or cancellations and make sure you have enough.
  8. Arm yourself with snacks:  Forget trying to be “parent of the year” and just plan on surviving.  Baby M ate 4 boxes of raisins during one 6 hour flight just because it kept her happy.  I don’t remember her having anything that resembled a meal that whole day.  She was fine.  Of course I had healthy choices to hand but I won’t lie she pretty much exists on raisins and chocolate buttons while in transit.
  9. The power of “presents” when they are old enough to need entertaining the fun really starts.  Hit up a pound shop or dollar store and find little toys and wrap them!!!! Or even consider withholding a few small toys from them in the weeks to the trip and wrap those…they’ll be like new treasures to them.  The second it’s wrapped it makes it a present and what kid doesn’t love birthdays and Christmas.  We’ve done, mini magnadoodles, crayons, stickers and paper, books, magic paint books etc.  Plan out your trip and try not to offer all the presents in the first hour.  Also look for the fun in any thing…Baby M once spent a solid 30 minutes learning to master pulling open and closing the sports top on my water bottle.
  10. Expect blood, sweat and tears: Well hopefully not blood.  But sweat and tears definitely.  You will sweat and the kid will cry…you might cry too. That’s ok.  Dress in layers yourself. Before I was a parent flying made me cold, now I’m constantly too warm and sweating.  And yes, your kids will cry. They’re kids they do that.  Just be prepared for it and do whatever it takes to get through it.  (Unless that’s inadvertently walking past the no re-entry beyond this point with screaming child and without passports and boarding cards).  Now isn’t the time to be using text-book parenting techniques to curb future tantrums.  Kids get overstimulated, jet lagged, tired and uncomfortable…seriously just get everyone through every bout of crying whatever it takes.  Be sure not to get so consumed with your screaming child & people staring at you that you forget your whereabouts or miss important flight information!!

And lastly,  be prepared that kids aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.   I shamefully will admit my husband and (pre-baby) I sitting on more than one flight holding our breaths as a screaming infant headed our way only to let out a sigh of relief as they went past.

Shameful I know. There must be some bad travel karma heading our way for this terrible behaviour.

As much as possible ignore these people. You will never see them again.

Do you have any tried and true tips for travelling with kids?