A long-haul flight to Australia with two small children. Throw in some teething, turbulence and a bout of diarrhoea. How did we survive? By following the number one rule: break all of your rules. Saying “no” is just not an option if you want to keep your sanity in this most confined of spaces.
Here’s 8 ways we endured the 23-hour flight from hell, from London to Sydney and back, with our three-year-old and six-month-old.
It seems obvious, but you can never have enough nappies or baby wipes. Even if your child is potty trained, put them in nappies. Take 10 more than you think you need, or budget for one nappy per hour of travel. Trust me, you will not make it to the loo in time. My three-year-old decided to have his stinkiest of poos at 30,000 feet. He refused to move from his seat for 20 minutes after he was finished. Neighbouring passengers protested, air stewardesses were summoned and aerosols were sprayed all the way down the aisle. Spare nappies saved us from being evicted.
Fruit will just not cut it at your child’s most demanding moment. Have a box of biscuits, sweets, anything sugary to hand. Boiled sweets or lollipops will keep them quiet for longer. Chocolate fingers kept us all going. Book the infant meal in advance, which comes with biscuits and cartons of juice, and helpfully is brought early in the flight, so you can feed them as soon as possible. Your six-month-old will grab all disgustingly hot, gooey food at hand; the meal will end up on the floor or all over you. Bring a change of clothes for you as well as the baby.
Ignore all child-rearing experts. Let them watch as much television as they can stomach. Download favourite shows or games onto your iPad in advance. My son loves a 54-minute nursery rhyme compilation by LittleBabyBum with all the old favourites (‘Wheels on the bus’, ‘Monkeys on the bed’ etc) from littlebabybum.com. I’m not sure our neighbours loved the singing along quite as much, but you can’t please everyone.
There are lots of free nursery rhyme apps on iTunes and BBC iPlayer allows you to keep downloads on your iPad for seven days, so stock up on CBeebies in advance. It’s really worth bringing children’s headphones too, so they will actually fit on their heads. The KaZoo MyPhones frog or penguin headphones are a winner. (£19.99; amazon.co.uk).
Spread them out. If you let them have the whole toy bag at once, it will entertain them for five minutes. Dole out one different toy for every hour awake on the flight. Small planes, toy phones, trains, dinosaurs, automobiles, kept both my boys entertained; just keep them rolling. Hemashop.com sells inexpensive baby and children’s toys from £2. Stock up at the pound shop and wrap a few in tissue paper, which not only kills time whilst they tear it open, but also makes them feel they have received a new present – a useful bribe for good behaviour.
OTHER NOISE-FREE DISTRACTIONS
Bring new colouring books and crayons, puzzles, activity sticker books (theworks.co.uk), pocket Etch-A-Sketch (8.99, johnlewis.com), ink stamps (littlecraftybugs.co.uk from 1.99), Play-Doh. Simple board or cloth books entertain both baby and toddler (thebookpeople.co.uk). Or try books with magnets such as the Peppa Pig Marvellous Magnet Book (amazon.co.uk). Lacing cards (die-cut cards with holes for threading colourful laces) keep little hands entertained (wordery.com; The Very Hungry Caterpillar lacing card).
Never leave home without plenty of Calpol sachets – to beat the 100ml liquid rule – and a syringe, especially if your baby is teething..
For your best chance of sleep, take the night flight and book the bulkhead seat with the baby bassinet (cot) for all legs of the journey. Your youngest will inevitably wake up your eldest – and vice versa – so any form of distance you can engineer between them the better. Try to nab an empty row further away for your eldest child and have them stretch out, with you at one end. It made all the difference in convincing our three-year-old to snooze for more than 20 minutes at a time. We did a few laps of the plane in advance to wear him out and took him to the play area at the airport before boarding. An eye mask can help a toddler sleep, if cabin lights are on for hours (telling them they look like a pirate sometimes convinces them to wear it.)
For the baby, the sling can be a lifesaver when you have to resort to pacing the aisles to walk them to sleep (babybjorn.co.uk; ergobaby.co.uk). Just pray the seatbelt sign doesn’t come on.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
If all else fails, hand the screaming child over to your other half, head to the back of the plane and order two large rum and cokes. You need it to regain your senses. They will need it to restore their sanity. Tell yourselves that you will holiday in Spain next year.