I love to travel, I always have and I still have so many places I would love to get to. My parents are also avid travellers and from as young as I can remember, they have taken my brother and I with them on every single adventure. My love of travelling has obviously come from my parents who have also taught me that life doesn’t have to stop when you have children. Kids are very resilient and can handle just about anything.
It is through the total ease with which my parents managed their parenting journey that I have grown up believing that travelling with children is no more challenging than travelling as a couple… but it does require a bit more planning and preparation.
As my husbands family live overseas, (on the polar opposite side of the world to be exact) travelling long distances each year is going to be inevitable. So when we had our son and we started talking about heading overseas to meet his grandparents, it surprised me when I realized I was a little bit nervous. A good friend of mine suggested that we take a short flight as a little test to see how he does and with the hope that this would boost my confidence for the long haul. It was with this in mind that we decided to go from Perth to Melbourne.
So, at 10 weeks old, our little pickle was getting ready to set off on his first flight and we were about to see what its like when 2 becomes 3.
I decided that less was more and that I was going to travel light – little people need so much stuff and it amazes me how much stuff goes with me every time I leave the house – I didnt want to spend our holiday lugging around bags of unnecessary ‘essentails’ so… I allowed myself only a small bag and filled it with warm clothes, disposable nappies and one little teddy that he is familiar with.
The flight was only 4 hours in each direction which isn’t too bad but I was still nervous about being ‘trapped’ on a plane for 4 hours with a baby for the first time – aside from the recycled air and exposure to a bunch of air-born viruses while his immune system was still so vulnerable, I was worried about being stuck in a tiny little seat amongst a sea of people I didn’t know, knowing that I couldn’t escape if things didn’t go well. .
What if he got upset?
What if his ears hurt or burst during takeoff or landing?
What if he was crying and I wasn’t able to settle him?
What if I had 300 sets of angry eyes on me imploring me to shut my baby up?
How would I handle the pressure?
It didn’t help that in the past I had witnessed a few families struggling with their little ones on long haul flights. I really felt for them as I noticed their tired, drawn and emotionally worn faces as they paced up and down the isles trying to soothe those ever flowing tears and sobs. It seemed to appear easier with older children who could be entertained with colouring in books, toys or in-flight movies. These images seemed to stick in my mind now that I was one of them and I choked on the thought that it could be me pacing the isles in a state of despair. Over dramatic? Probably.
I surfed the web for a day or two perusing flight deals online and eventually booked a well priced flight with what I considered to be a ‘family friendly’ flying schedule on one of the well known budget airlines.
When booking the tickets I selected 2 adults and an infant and what I didn’t know was that neither of the carriers that I booked with offered the infant capsule which meant that our little pickle was going to be on our laps the whole flight. [I have since found out that Qantas airlines is the only carrier (domestically) that has the infant capsules and that booking an infant ticket doesn’t mean that you will be allocated an infant capsule, they actually need to be booked separately by calling the airline direct. Capsules are then given to the youngest infants first or single parents travelling alone). These are the things I had no idea about before we had a baby!
Lucky for us our little pickle was an absolute star and more than happy to accommodate. I was a little surprised and disappointed with the seatbelt situation. We boarded the plane with our little pickle sleeping peacefully in the sling, I couldn’t have been happier thinking to myself that everything was going so well. We thought that we would be able to get through the take off with him sleeping in the sling… until it was brought to my attention that they don’t allow babies to sleep in the slings on the plane which makes no sense to me at all. He couldn’t have been any more secure tightly held against my body while I was safely buckled in. They informed me that I would need the infant seatbelt, which is a smaller version of the standard seatbelt that loops onto mine and that he would have to sit on my lap facing forward. Not only did I have to wake him up to make this all happen, I had to try to keep him there for 4 hours?! We were lucky that his head control is really good and his core muscles were already starting to work as the sitting position is not really suitable for babies of his age.
Well, all in all we were very lucky. Our little pickle was woken from his nap without a fuss and managed to sit quietly on my lap looking around with interest while the plane taxied onto the runway and then waited in line for the plane in front to go first. This set the mood for the rest of the flight and I am very proud to say that he was a delight to fly with. He didn’t shed a single tear or utter as much as a single complaint. He was relaxed, calm, interested and very patient as I switched between holding him at the back of the plane, feeding him in my seat, changing him in the tiny little toilets and laying him lengthways across my husband and I while we played with him. 4 hours later we were coming in to land and he happily took the dummy for a few intermittent sucks to help his ears.
The air hostesses, who had been admiring him for most of the flight, came to tell us how impressed they all were with him the end of the flight – 3 cheers for the little pickle!
We had decided not to take the pram with us as it would have taken up all our luggage limit and I couldn’t help but feel that it would complicate the trip having this big thing to lug around and I felt it would make it tricky to get up and down stairs, escalators, trams and taxi’s to and from the airport. It was only 4 days, how hard would it be to carry him everywhere? As we are avid ‘baby- wearers’ anyway, we took both our ergo carrier and our ring sling for the shorter trips. This worked beautifully for us while we were away although I admit he may have gotten some slightly longer sleeps in had we been able to pop him into the pram during the day. Nevertheless, travelling ‘light’ made the whole trip easier and with all the new noises of a big city, I think being against our bodies the whole time would have made him more comfortable.
Another thing I had to consider was nappies. We use cloth nappies so I was wondering how I was going to manage in a hotel room without a washing machine. Do I take our gorgeous little cloth nappies with us and then cart all the dirty ones back home? Would I have enough nappies to cover us for 4 days without washing them and 4 days worth of dirty nappies on a plane might be taking things a bit far. I ended up opting for disposables for the 4 days and this was the first time I had used them – they were actually pretty good and I was happy that our pickle didn’t get any reaction or nappy rash during our time away.
For our big trip later in the year we will be staying in a self-contained apartment with a washing machine so that will work much better with the cloth nappies.
So… the days drew nearer and 2 nights before the flight it occurred to me that I had completely overlooked the car seat issue to get to and from the airport. I hadn’t planned on taking our seat with us as a few people had suggested, and I had no clue whether a taxi service would even provide one. I called a taxi company from home, which was surprisingly unhelpful, so we decided to take our own car to the airport and leave it in the long stay parking. But what about when we arrived in Melbourne? Would we have to catch a bus? Would there be a taxi that would bring a car seat for us? I rang the hotel we were staying at and asked them whether they would be able to provide hotel transfers to and from the airport with a baby seat and they informed me that in Melbourne, its legal to nurse and travel with a baby in the backseat WITHOUT a car seat. Pretty crazy that the rules are so drastically different between states – why is it safe there but not here?
If you have read some of my other posts, you might already know that my little pickle is not really a fan of his car seat so it was so fantastic to be able to hold him in the back while he slept or smiled up at us.
All in all the trip was really great, an awesome opportunity for us to spend a few days together as a family and I enjoyed watching as my husband and my son strengthened their bond.
My parents were right – that wasn’t hard at all. Hopefully travelling to the other side of the world in a few months is just as easy.