12 Years Ago
19 years old and flying to Miami. My best mate and I have carefully planned and prepared our flight outfits for weeks prior to the trip, along with a change at the other end to ensure we were beach ready and looking our best on arrival to Miami. We arrived at the airport excited with plenty of time for pre flight cocktails in one of the many bars at Stansted. Leisurely shopping in the duty-free, excitedly chatting about what our latest trip will hold for us in the sunshine state. During the flight we relax with a book, the latest copy of Cosmopolitan and listen to our I-Pods in blissful calmness…
Fast forward 12 Years
I arrive at Stansted with a stubborn toddler in a buggy. I keep repeating to myself to keep calm and keep a positive mental attitude. Toddlers sense fear. I was adamant not to let the Boss Baby defeat me on this occasion. Unfortunately I had no option but to take the last flight out of Stansted to Ireland therefore the Boss Baby is already 3 hours over his bed time. Alas I am confident and in control… It’s only an hour flight, what could possibly go wrong?!
The flight is over. I am back in England on the train from the airport. He is finally asleep and I am sitting (slightly rocking) in peace for the first time in hours. Why am I so defeated? Why do I feel like I have been through the midst of an almighty riot? Mainly because that is what travelling with a toddler or young child is actually like. I read many articles before beginning my trip, one stating how “rewarding and pleasant” travelling with young children can be. Lies. I am here to tell you the truth about travelling with a toddler, in all its brutal reality.
It depresses me to think back to how stressed I used to be packing for a journey. As you may know by now I am definitely not the most organised of people but back at the age of 20, what did I really have to remember that was so important? Sun glasses? Packing for a flight with a toddler brings a whole new level of stress. As I was only flying to Ireland, I decided to simply take a carry on bag with the reasoning that I would only be there for 4 nights, at my in-law’s house. I set myself out 4 outfits which quickly dwindled to 2 as I realised there was zero chance of taking anything more for myself with all the added toddler paraphernalia. My son has multiple outfit changes per day (only when we are actually out… at home he is dressed “feral chic”) as well as nappies, baby wipes, lots of vests, sleepsuits and outfits for all types of weather.
Buy a back pack. If you are like me and hadn’t owned a back pack since you were in primary school this will be an alien experience. However after making the mistake of using a “trendy” / “feminine” holdall for my last flight with toddlers I wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice. Two days prior I ventured into the depths of a “country-type-hiking shop” where warmth and sensibility override any desire for fashion and style. I needed a heavy-duty back pack and that was what I purchased, there would be no struggling whilst chasing a sprinting, escaping toddler this time!
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, one of the main preparations for a flight when I was younger was the outfit. Why do we feel the need to try to look so glamorous for a flight? Perhaps its the multitudes of photos we see splashed across magazines of celebrities arriving at their destination looking immaculate and serene but they are most definitely not travelling with a toddler. With my restricted baggage options I decided to wear a set of dungarees and converse as my outfit of choice. My thinking behind this outfit was they would be practical in terms of pockets and carrying items, also that I could still pass off a half stylish look. However, as I sat in the departure lounge in my dungarees, backpack at my feet, watching the herds of young holiday makers in my Miami style outfits, I realised I definitely was pulling off the country – mumsy look much more than the Shoreditch hipster I may have been rocking 10 years ago.
Airport – Checking In
Security must be my biggest anxiety regarding a flight. Why is it when I get to security that I start hyperventilating that I may have accidentally smuggled an exotic, endangered species into my bag or that some secret, criminal enterprise has sewed 10 kilos of cocaine into the lining of my bra, whilst I chased my toddler for 30 seconds and left my bag unattended. There’s just something about security that makes me panic and that is heightened more so by the presence of my toddler. This flight in particular was especially nerve-wracking as I inevitably always have to be searched, I have no idea why, I must just have a look about me. Of course off went the alarms as I walked cautiously, doing that funny walk you only seem to adopt when walking through security gates (similar to the one you use when someone asks if you’re drunk and asks you to walk in a straight line to prove it) I was asked to go into the tube thing (actual terminology) and then patted down, with all sorts of checks going on with the pram. Meanwhile my poor Boss Baby was unable to be comforted by anyone as he was restrained by a hairy chinned, Trunchbull type character screaming his little lungs out. The singular most distressing part of my journey was this. Alas after realising my pockets and body were mostly padded with soggy baby wipes, random old receipts and a couple of melted milk buttons I was reunited with my inconsolable child. He promptly gave them “knuckles” which is to shake his fist, for treating me as the dodgy criminal I must indeed look like.
The Departure Lounge
Hooray! We have arrived in the departure lounge! London Stansted’s departure lounge shines at me with all it’s wonderfully sparkling duty-free displays, bars and eateries. For a fraction of a second I get those excited butterflies in my stomach. There’s even a Prosecco and cocktail bar with people chattering merrily. Then I hear a squawk and am snapped back into reality as I gaze at the chocolate/snot covered creature gazing up at me angrily from the pram. His chubby, sticky finger is jabbing in the direction of the Hamley’s store opposite him with rows of one of his favourite characters Paddington Bear. I sigh, perhaps a little Paddington Bear will soothe him after the distressing image of his mother being patted down by two security guards. We venture in and I tactfully pick up the smallest Paddington (approx. size of the palm of my hand) before reading the £16.95 price tag and exiting with lightening speed before Boss Baby had the chance to even notice.
Arriving ridiculously early for once in my life, I now had over 2 hours to kill just for my gate number to appear. Intending to treat him to a happy meal from McDonalds I realised there wasn’t any. Instead I had to sit down in an actual restaurant type bar with the Boss Baby and order him a kid’s meal. At first he was well-behaved but as I have expressed in a prior blog post The Eating Out Guide – For Parents this is not a situation I relish. The wait for his meal was agonising as I chased him around the tables of young holiday makers, fought with him to put him back in a high chair and caught every condiment he aimed off the table. I smiled politely and made the usual remarks to onlookers “terrible twos” “he’s really hungry” whilst I sat defeated. After 2 hours of standing and walking and trying almost everything on earth to make him sleep in the pram (he was still awake) my gate arrived and I headed onto the next step of the journey…surely it couldn’t get any worse?
Boarding and the Flight
Whilst waiting to board in the queue I took the opportunity to make as many new “friends” as possible around me. I had been here before and knew that there were many flights of stairs ahead of me and that at one point I would need one of my new-found friends to assist me, especially as I was on my own. I ensured the Boss Baby, who loves to perform for a crowd, was demonstrating all his cutest tricks for the surrounding travellers. It worked exactly to my plan and at one point someone had the baby, someone had the pram and someone else had my bag…I was carrying nothing that’s how impressively my plan worked!
On board I was lucky enough to get a window seat as it meant one less person for my son to terrorise. Flying with a child under 2 has one major catch (if you discount all the above I have mentioned) and that is that the child sits on your lap for the entire flight, unless you want to pay for their own seat. They are attached to you through a belt that loops through their belt and must remain on your lap facing forward. I would say this would be a pleasant enough journey for parent and child under the age of 5 months. However anything over that is pure hellish. Two year olds do not enjoy being held, they want to explore and climb and basically cause mischief. Consequently, when they are being forced to do something such as sit still on your lap, they become uncooperative and volatile. The Boss Baby at the moment has perfected the ultimate balance of making his body as rigid as possible, as to not bend into a seated position, versus heavy/”dead weight” to give him the maximum upper hand as I struggle beneath his arched body, with his heavy head wedged underneath my chin, pinning me to the back of the plane seat. Coupled with that position, every now and then, he would decide to sit like a compliant human mainly so he could continually pull down the tray and smash it back up again into the back of the passenger’s chair seated in front of me. He took great objection to me stopping that game in particular and in a fit of rage began head butting me with the back of his head. How I survived the flight with my front teeth intact is inconceivable.
Findings from flying with children:
- Window seats mean nothing. They lose interest in around 4 minutes.
- The dinner tray is one of the main attractions.
- Constant entertainment is needed; I must have played peekaboo with his blanket for a good 20 minutes straight, luckily we are at the “again” stage where the relentless, tedium of peekaboo is still welcomed by regular joyous laughter.
- Nobody wants to sit next to the parent with a baby on her lap. The look of nervous trepidation was evident in the eyes of the poor soul who had drawn the short straw with the seat next to me and Boss Baby.
Everyone comments on how short a flight to Ireland is. Yes it is approximately an hour maximum but that hour you will feel every second ticking by at a painfully slow rate. I love my son dearly but travelling solo with him took away a small part of my sanity which I may never regain.
I hope you have enjoyed my recount of my recent flying experience with my toddler. Have you flown with a child? What was your experience like? Hints and tips always welcome in the comments section.