I’ve written before about my tops tips for travelling with children but a few weeks ago I flew with my kids in a way that I hadn’t done before and it changed my whole perception of the whole 30,000ft in the air with little ones!
My experiences up until then were of mainly short haul flights, all of which with either my husband or parents in tow. I have flown long haul with both boys once, and that was to Turks and Caicos but Pete was with us and the only flight that I’ve ever done alone with a little one was 3 hours to Lisbon just Jasper and I.
So it goes without saying that myself and my boys have had a lot of experience in the sky but our most recent flight was a long haul to Jamaica of 9 hours and 45 minutes and I flew it alone, just me, Jasper who is 4 and Jenson – almost 2.
Now even though I’m quite the minimalist I would usually pack a lot of ‘just in cases’ for flights; I’ve not been one to take 4 changes of clothes and a bag full of toys but I’ve always liked to take a few different options. Typically the boys would have a flight bag each, or at least Jasper would have his own and me and Jenson would share. They’d have the usual nappies, change of clothes, bottles, dummies etc and then entertainment wise I’d go all out with games, sticker books, books etc and even though everything I take is usually used, I know that it’s not all needed.
That kind of packing is fine when there are an equal number of adults to children but flying on my own with both boys I knew I’d have to keep it simple.
My first thought was of the logistics of navigating through the airport; even with the little ones playing ball I still only have enough hands to push a pushchair and drag a suitcase so I didn’t even want to consider multiple suitcases and the boys own carry ons.
Stroller wise I knew as soon as I booked the flight that I’d need one that could fold small enough to be brought onto the plane as carry on. From experience even bringing the stroller to the gate has it’s downsides as when you get to your destination you then have to get your tired little one/ones to the carousel to collect your stroller – not fun if they both want to be carried or run around and the stroller is the last to come through. Some airports do give you one to borrow but in the 12 flights I’ve taken this year with kids we’ve only seen them twice both of which were at the carousel anyway.
So we opted for the baby zen yoyo and it has been a lifesaver. I take it all the way up to the door of the plane, fold it down with two swift movements and then carry it using the shoulder strap while holding onto both boys hands before putting it in the overhead. Once we land I simple pop it open as soon as we step off the plane and the rest runs smoothly.
We made sure to get the buggy board which up until now I’ve never had before but it’s made such a difference. Jasper used to just squeeze in the stroller behind Jenson but he’s not been made to feel to welcome from Jens recently and as the last thing I want to do is carry him on my hip while pushing a stroller and dragging a suitcase – this was the perfect solution. It doesn’t fold up with the stroller so I simply popped it off and stored it next to the stroller in the overhead.
Even though we’re out in Jamaica for 5 weeks I didn’t want to have a suitcase that was too big, let alone have separate ones for mean the boys. My dad did come with us to the bag drop and I know that even if I were on my own someone would have helped me to lift it but I just wanted to know that in any eventuality I would be able to love it around easily so I squeezed 3 peoples items for 5 weeks into one medium sized case! (Check out this video to see how I did it)
With one hand pushing a stroller (lightweight with a small basket) and the other dragging the case I opted for a backpack for mine and the boys things. I knew if Jasper had his own bag I’d end up carrying it and equally if he used the scooter suitcase that he loves I’d be running after him and eventually pushing that along too. So I kept things very minimal which I’ll go into more detail in the next section and it meant that going though security was a quick job of only emptying one bag (yes I got searched as did my bag but at least it was just the one).
I’m sure I mentioned this is my last post but things like online check in, pre-weighing your case, google mapping your route to the airport, pre-paying for valet parking and putting your liquids in one section of your bag or in a clear bag if you already have one just makes every step of the airport process run much more smoothly.
Take advantage of family benefits
Travelling with children means that you get to use the family security which is often quieter, has bigger lanes and they give your kids stickers! Depending on which airline you fly with they also tend to let families board first and most airports have little children play areas if you want to kill some time! (we however ran to the gate with minutes to spare).
We flew with BA who from experience have always been fantastic. On our flight to Turks and Caicos they had baby food pouches and Aptimil on board and on the way to Jamaica they filled up Jensons bottle with milk without me having to ask for 20 tiny sachets of milk to do myself.
Our seat was chosen for us as the one at the front of the cabin that allows for a crib to be attached for Jenson but as he’s too small for that we just made the most of the leg room that comes with it and I let the boys sit on the floor and even make a den with the blankets!
Keep it light
I mentioned my minimal hand luggage and to see what I packed in my bag check out this video; but basically I stuck to an iPad for each of the boys, headphones each, 3 toy cars and some magnetic blocks (never used). At the airport Jasper bought a magic colouring book and aside from one bottle and two dummies for Jenson, nappies, wipes and a spare vest for Jens, shorts and t-shirt for Jasper – that’s all I took! I knew that they’d both sleep a little bit, I also relied on the fact that there would be movies on flight and meals and snacks to break up the flight and there wasn’t a moment in time that I wished I’d brought more!
Yes things could have gone wrong, there could have been multiple nappy explosions and tantrums but I went in knowing that not only could I do it but also that I didn’t have a choice and that is my one piece of advice – trust in yourself that you can do it and if all else fails once you’re up in the air there’s nothing you can do so you may as well sit back and enjoy the ride!
I’d never let my children make a big mess and swing on the back of peoples seats but at the same time children can’t be expected to sit still for over 9 hours. I let Jenson run up and down the aisle, I let Jasper crawl on the floor in front of me and if Jenson cried I comforted him rather than tried to make him stop because it’s not the most comfortable of places to be and if anyone with the mentality that children should be seen and not heard should get a private jet!
I hope this has given you the confidence to fly solo with your little ones especially long haul because if this mama can do it then so can you!
As always please do leave any tips you have below and let me know if you’ve got any flights coming up!
Thanks for reading,