Back in March of this year, we headed out to a dear friend’s wedding all the way in Melbourne, Australia and as part of my old travel blog wayoutfar.com, I wrote a couple of pieces about getting ready to travel on such a long distance flight with a baby. It was a sort of therapy as the concept was TERRIFYING! I’d heard a lot about parents going actual crazy on such flights and then reading about those parents that prepared those cutesy little notes and gifts bags for passengers sitting next to them, saying something like “really sorry that you’re sat next to my small noise machine, have a biscuit and some earplugs” sent me into a tailspin (pun INTENDED!) of what I would actually do for 24 hours on a plane with an eating and pooping machine. ***breathe*** This post is a summary of my findings in travelling with a one-year old baby and if they help you just a fragment of the way, you lucky long distance travelling parent, then my work is done.
This was baby’s first ever flight and it was a long one. There were quite a few things to think and worry about beforehand from an organisational point-of-view:
Planning the Flight
Our first flight was at 10.50am for 12 hours 40 minutes, so ideally she would nap twice in the “day” and then go to sleep for the night too. At the time she was a great sleeper once into the night (took AGES to drop off) so was hoping and praying that when we had to get up and leave the plane to wait for our connecting flight in Kuala Lumpa, she would sleep on one of us in a sling and it still be night time for her. Then she should sleep for a few hours on the next flight before waking. You see – I had it all figured out…nothing could go wrong.
To guarantee sleep on the flights I’d need a bassinet. Every blog that I obsessively read on the subject told me to call up the airline and try and organise one of the bassinet cots that you can see at the front of every economy section. We booked with Malaysian Airlines and I after trying for a whole day to speak with someone on the phone (so arcane in this day and age and it’s pretty much the same for all airlines – you need to call if you want this perk), I managed to get a bassinet booked for all of the flights apart from the Kuala Lumpa > Melbourne one so she’s be on our laps for that leg of the journey. As it would be “night” that would be fine we thought. She’d be so tired she’d sleep happily. Right?
What to Pack in Hand Luggage
We couldn’t rely on airline food so the plan was to pack a lunch, dinner and snacks. Liquids are still restricted through check-in when passing security in the UK so I’d have to buy milk air-side in the airport.
I also planned pack whatever the baby would have worn in the same 24-hour period so, a spare pair of clothes, pajamas and dressing gown for the evening and night and then another set of clothes for the “morning” of the next day. We’ll have our nappy bag, except with ‘pull-up’ nappies to make it easier to get them on her either on my lap or in the toilet as she was a squirmy so-and-so at the time. We also packed a bag for the dirty clothes and a change of top each for us in case she decided to vom on us too.
She also got the pre-loaded iPad with films and apps to play with. No internet in the air so she could have a play around and when she got bored, there’ll be a couple of her favourite toys to play with.
How the Flight Actually Went
Well we managed to get a bassinet booked with good seats, so that part of the flight was all in hand. We also managed to get to the airport with plenty of time and walked straight onto the flight without queuing. The plane we were on had two decks and we were on the smaller upper one. With everyone settled, the crew came to tell us that the bassinet would be brought out after we had got in the air, so it was probably around an hour after takeoff that she got really settled. Surprising, she was ever so good for that time sat on our laps. The drama of taking-off and the attention she was getting seemed to stop her from wanting to be a fidget temporarily.
We’ve travelled on long haul flights quite a few times in our travelling days and it has to be said that it was get tedious and boring if you can’t sleep. Having a toddler to entertain makes the time fly by (yes! Pun intended AGAIN) as there’s always something to do: food, a nap in the bassinet, playing with stuff, a walk around the cabin, peekaboo, colouring-in, watching a movie. Before we knew it, we were in Kuala Lumpa. The bassinet had to be packed away for landing and she was asleep in our arms as we disembarked. As we waiting for the buggy to be brought to the door, they let us wait in the 1st class cabin, so we all pretended we were rich for 5 minutes. Gently, she was put into her buggy and tucked in as if it was nighttime. For her it would have been around 2am GMT and the original lan was to stick to the UK time zone. Instead what happened was this:
Yes, a wide awake baby. WIDE AWAKE. This threw all of our plans for the rest of the trip. There we were, despite the bright sunshine and it being 8am local time, we were hoping to get on our connecting flight and have some sleep before arriving in Melbourne. With no bassinet and the baby meant to be on our laps, it was meant to be a time of sleep and snooze. Instead it was a time of red eyes; short sharp exchanges about whose turn it was to do the nappy; awkward moving around to allow one parent to eat while the other held child (and the other was so hungry but had to watch food being ate in front of them without any hands free to eat and oh god they were so hungry by this point SO HUNGRY!!!)
Strangely enough the reduced legroom of not being by the hold made it quite a cosy space to be and in the end we all fell asleep on each other for the final few hours. We arrived in Melbourne with red eyes and smelly breath.
- I can’t stress this enough: BOOK A BASSINET WITH THE AIRLINE (the leg room you get by the hold is totes worth it!)
- Pack tonnes of Ella’s Kitchen and snacks
- Load up the iPad with plenty of films and telly and remember to pack some headphones that fit baby/toddler
- Pull-up nappies help you change baby is a confined space
- Don’t bother with those naff notes to other passengers – just get on and do a great job and ignore the judging
- By all means plan a sleep itinerary BUT THEN THROW IT IN THE BIN WHEN YOU GET IN THE AIR
- Be prepared not to sleep yourself, at all
- If you do sleep – it ain’t going to be pretty when you wake so pack a mint and a mirror
Thanks for reading! If you want to find out more about our travels from pre-baby days, you can visit wayoutfar.com here.
Let us know your own top tips for travelling on flights with kids below as I’m sure that there’s actual proper advice to be given rather than this fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants (PUN INTENDED) approach above 🙂