Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Travelling alone with a toddler and baby

Over the Christmas holiday season, we had decided to spend some family time back in Malaysia.

Due to hubby’s work commitments and other engagements, we decided that I would fly ahead first with the children and hubby would join us a week later.

I am not entirely sure what I was thinking at that time that made me decide to do this. Travelling alone with two children under three is most people’s idea of the perfect nightmare.

A few other factors that made the trip considerably more challenging:

  1. We were flying a red-eye flight departing at midnight
  2. The flight duration was five-and-a-half hours long
  3. I was not able to secure a bassinet or bulkhead seat

But on that fateful night, I got on that flight with both children in tow and somehow emerged on the other side safely in one piece (more or less).

The question everyone is asking me is: How did I do it?

So here are a few jottings on how I managed to survive my adventure of…

Flying Alone with a Toddler and a Baby

  • I called the airline ahead to book a bassinet seat, in my case unfortunately they happened to be all already booked out. But at the check-in counter, I mentioned my plight and put on my most pathetic and helpless pose with the kids. So the officer kindly blocked out an extra seat for us so we had three seats all to ourselves.
  • I borrowed a child leash from a friend. As a general rule, I am not a fan of child leashes. But I did not want to take any chances being alone with the kids at a busy and frantic airport. I was just going to have to ignore the evil eye of my fellow travellers looking disapprovingly at my child being tethered on a leash.
  • I wore baby in my sling to keep my hands free. The airline staff had offered me the use of their complimentary strollers, but after a while I found it so cumbersome to push around whilst keeping hold of Nathan and very time consuming to collapse and reopen each time we went through the different checkpoints.
  • I prepared a little surprise for Nathan, a small matchbox car packaged in wrapping paper. It was the perfect antidote to pass the time while waiting to board the plane.

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  • I let the inflight entertainment programme do its job. This was no time to enforce my usual restrictions on screen time. We were on holiday mode after all.
  • I nursed baby whenever she needed. I nursed her during take-off to minimise the effects of the cabin pressurisation, and later on I nursed her to sleep.

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  • I leveraged the help of the flight attendants for toilet breaks. A very real but not often mentioned challenge about flying alone with kids is managing going to the toilet. I was able to hold it in until after the kids were fast asleep. Then I buzzed one of the flight attendants over to stand watch over the sleeping beauties, so I could finally relieve myself. It took some delicate action to extricate myself from the tangle of legs and arms of both children sprawled across my lap. But they were tired enough to keep dozing on.
  • I relied on the kindness of strangers. Sometimes all it takes is a smile and people are generally more than happy to lend a quick hand with the many little things along the way… lifting my bags, picking up an item I dropped, letting me go ahead first. It was just little things, but it really made a difference.

Could I do this again? Yes, I survived one time, I’m sure I could again. Would I do this again? Weeeeell… it would not be my first choice.

Anyway, the next time you are travelling and you see a poor mother (or father) limping along with a couple of kids all alone. Walk over, give them a smile and lend them a hand with whatever they are struggling with. I can tell you from experience that it would be appreciated tremendously.

Have you ever travelled with the kids alone? Would you do it? Could you do it?

 

Linking up to Jess @ IBOT

23 comments:

  1. I would gladly go on tour alone with my son because it creates a special bonding time for both of us. I will use a child leash too, less stress for me.

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    1. I agree that it is definitely a great opportunity for special bonding time. I know you have such a special relationship with your little Dinoboy. And a child leash is a great sanity saver, especially in busy and crowded places.

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  2. What a mission that must have been? I have been overseas with my hubby and our 4 month old, 2yo and nearly 4yo - it was hard work. Great tips for those doing it alone and congrats for surviving it all!

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  3. I went from Australia to Europe with a 1-year-old and a 3--year-old and I thought it was alright, but I'd never go with a 2-year-old. On the very next year I went with a 2- and a 4-year-old... My last trip was with three kids, one of them a baby. I don't think I'll be going this year, but wait until summer hits the Northern hemisphere and it gets cold and miserable here (I've been known to change my mind at the last moment). I got bassinets for my babies every time, but not one of them wanted to sleep in them! It still good to have that extra leg room and a place to put all your stuff out of reach. Breastfeeding is great for long flights ;)

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    1. Three kids in tow! That must have been quite an adventure. The bassinet is definitely a hit and miss thing, but the extra leg room and the front row position definitely makes a big difference.

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  4. Thanks for the advice, I'm heading down to Melbourne in 10 days by myself with our two year old and 9mth old. It's only 2 1/2 hrs, but it's still making me a little nervous!

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    1. I would definitely feel a little daunted handling both kids all by myself no matter how long or short a trip. All the best and enjoy your trip, Lauren!

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  5. WOW! Good on you! I guess you just do what you have to do when you're a mum hey? Great tips but I'm hoping I never have to use them because I will have a partner with me flying there and back.

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  6. The longest I've travelled with her by myself was a two hour car ride - which normally takes 20 mins when there isn't a massive pile up on the highway. There were tears! Lots from her and a few from me, but there wasn't much I could do. I was also busting to pee the whole time.

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    1. I remember reading that status update on your Facebook... poor you! So you were actually BOTH the driver AND the person who had to pee! That is one tough spot to be in. Everytime I find myself in a bursting to pee situation I always tell myself I must wear adult diapers in future. Sigh.

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  7. When Mr 19 was 15 months old, I took him to NZ with me as I had to attend a funeral (hubster couldn't go). My son was good as gold, fortunately we got a bassinet seat on one of the flights, and the flight attendants were all really helpful and made sure I had a stroller at the airport etc, can't speak highly enough of them. It would be a lot trickier with more than 1 child though, and for a longer flight - so you did really well!

    Visiting today from #teamIBOT xxx

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    1. Having a great team of helpful flight attendants on hand makes a huge difference! Thanks for stopping by, Janet.

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  8. Oh I'd never even thought about how you manage to get to the airplane bathroom when with kids!! Sounds like you coped well though :)

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    1. I never thought of it either until I found myself in that very situation on the plane with both kids asleep on me. Something to keep in mind for next time!

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  9. Oh you are a brave woman and you did so well. Good on you. We are heading over to NZ for Easter. I will have my husband help me with our three and one year olds but I'm still petrified :)

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    1. It's two against two in your case, so hopefully it all works out. Unless something else happens to tip the situation on the kids' side of the scale! Enjoy your trip.

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  10. It's not my choice to travel alone with kids. But at times it just happens that way.
    The important thing as you learnt is to allow others to help when offered, however to remember it is not always a given that cabin crew and fellow passengers will be obliging.
    I have heard of cabin crew who have not been helpful and have had fellow passengers diddle us out of a spare seat (obtained by our kind travel agent when booking the flight) for our child to lay across, so that they (2 adults) had a bit extra room.

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    1. You are right, Sally. Not everyone you encounter is helpful and obliging. Most people just ignore you or pass you by. But the handful people who do show a little kindness really stand out.

      Can't believe those adults managed to get away with taking away your extra seat. It takes all kinds I guess, but we could do without this kind. Hope that tuned out to be just a once-off situation.

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  11. I've traveled alone a few times with my son. The last time was 2 years ago when he was 3 and he was a dream. It was a 12 hour long train ride and because it left at 11pm he slept a majority of the way. I helped that along by making sure we took him to the park that day and let him run off all of his energy.

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    1. How fortunate that he was able to sleep through the journey. Good timing and planning ahead on your part!

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  12. I did it once with a three year old and 4 month old, and it wasn't too hard. I remember though I didn't drink anything for fear of that toilet issue :)
    But yes it's not a time for strict 'rules' in terms of food eaten or screen time, or breast-feeding to a schedule. You do what you can to make it work for everyone.

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    1. Hi Jess! That's very close to the age range of my two little ones when I was travelling with them. It turned out not as bad as I imagined it would be or maybe I imagined things too extremely to begin with. I never thought of the toilet issue until I found myself in that situation. Shouldn't have drunk so much water during the meal. You live and learn!

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  13. I travelled by plane with my 3 on my own on 3 separate trips within the same month. Each trip was 5.5 hours plus stopover and 2.5 hour flight. They were 5.5, 3.5 and 1.5. All of them were either very early in the morning or red eye flights. One stopover was 7 hours long after a long red eye flight, so I checked in for 5 hours into a very comfortable airport hotel with the biggest bed I could find to rest before the next flight out, while the kids milled around the room and watched the airplanes take off and land.

    The 1.5 yo was prone to stirring and crying himself back to sleep lasting 15-20 min, while the 5.5yo was a poor traveller suffering from motion sickness, especially with turbulence. The 3.5 yo was the best traveller but emotionally very reactive.

    The first two trips went more smoothly (except for the moaning 1.5yo), the last one was probably the worst one for us, but we had very good stewardesses and understanding passengers who helped me. 5.5yo threw up from motion sickness and cried, and accidentally soiled reactive and tired 3.5yo who complained and cried, and somehow the 1.5yo picked that time to stir and cried. I also had a bit of her throw up on my sleeve (and then I got sick but in a bag)... it was a mess to clean up, and deciding who to take to the toilet to clean up first, or not. In the end the stewards got me a box of tissues and lots of paper towels, I removed and covered everything as best as I could, put a blanket over the soiled areas and tried to get 5.5yo to sleep, then went to change 3.5yo when 1.5yo was awake enough to be quiet, and waited until the flight was over to get off and change too. The air stewards got me off the plane, passengers helped with luggage, and airport staff took over and gave us priority checkout through internal lifts to get to the security checkpoint.

    Here I got changed, freshened everybody up and then headed to security and baggage, phew!
    I didn't travel by plane at all for almost 2 years after this!!

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