I am currently writing this from Sydney, Australia.
At the beginning of this month, I made the big leap and traveled all the way here on my own with my two little ones, who I must stress are aged 2 and three quarters (heh) and 14 months. As you can see, I lived to tell you the tale, and here I’ll share my tips for survival.
I had been contemplating making the big trip for a very long time – since January, in fact, but kept putting it off because the very thought of travelling alone with two small children would either give me heart palpitations, nausea or both. Come April, the decision had to be made, and I decided to shut my eyes and just book those tickets, and agreed to deal with the consequences later.
Unfortunately, time flew by way too quickly for my liking, as it usually does when you have children, and I found myself facing The Day of Doom as I like to describe it, and I was completely bricking it. Given my travel history, I was already quite well seasoned traveling with one child. We had some fantastic opportunities to travel up and down the east coast of Australia, and around Asia, as well as relocating to the UK – all within my daughter’s first year. Despite our 20 odd plane trips before my daughter turned one, I’d come to realise that the older she got, the more difficult it was to keep her entertained and placid on those flights, so the thought of entertaining both a big toddler and not-quite-baby-not-quite-toddler was making my hair curl.
I am quite pleased to announce, however, that the flight and travel was nowhere near as traumatic as I thought it would be, and my two children were little champs, given that they had to endure a combined total of 24 hours of flying in a small limited space called an aeroplane!
Prior to flying, I hit my favourite parenting forums, and asked for any advice from any travellers. I’d had a bit of trouble finding any info on travelling with two small children, but there was loads of advice from some very friendly mothers who had travelled with toddlers (something I’d not done myself!). One helpful hint almost everyone had suggested was to invest in a Trunki suitcase for my eldest child. The other incredibly helpful tip was to carry my youngest in a sling. I found these two things to be invaluable for helping me travel across the world.
I decided to carry my youngest in a Manduca (soft structured buckle carrier), due to it being both incredibly comfortable and the fact that I could pre-adjust it and just buckle him in and go. We managed to get through security at Heathrow with little fanfare or trouble, and I didn’t have to remove my sling (or child!) when going through the scanner, and having decided to catch a late night flight, my little one could sleep at his usual bed time without any trouble, because he was snuggled right up against me!
The longest stretch of the flight – from Heathrow to Singapore was fairly easy, admittedly! The kids slept for the majority of the flight, as did I! The stop over at Singapore was relatively seamless too, and the kids really made the most of stretching their legs. I went against the advice of stopping overnight at Singapore, instead making the choice to have a two hour layover, which I definitely preferred. Singaporeans have a huge love for children in general so they were extremely helpful and I had the privilege of three burly security guards stop and spot for me while I got my little one on my back! The flight from Singapore to Sydney proved to be slightly more difficult given my two were wide awake for more of the flight, but with a lot of in flight entertainment and quite a few empty seats on board, we really had the luxury to spread out and the crew were happy to humour my eldest with endless cups of drink, toys, crayons and snacks. On top of all this, I’d packed a very handy Trunki full of sticker books, little toys, snacks and games for the kidlets to enjoy. The final leg of our journey – getting to Sydney and picking up our luggage did end up being the trickiest by far. I hadn’t really pondered the thought of having to collect my luggage off the carousel whilst wrangling two small children, but a lovely man was happy to collect my luggage for me and put in on a nearby trolley for me to push.
All in all, the flight and travel were a complete success!! Based on my experience, I’d now like to pass on some tips that I found incredibly handy!!!
- Carry your passports, itinerary, e-ticket (make more than one copy!) and travel insurance in a bum bag and keep this on your waist at all times. I didn’t have to rifle through bags of stuff, and it was all on hand. Make sure you also keep a pen so you can fill out your arrival card on the plane, mobile phone, bank card and some money.
- If budget allows, invest in a Trunki suitcase, especially for your older toddler. It is made from the same material as regular hard suitcases, and has stabiliser wheels which makes it double up as a great ride on. They hold a fair bit too, and I was able to carry 4 activity books, loads of snacks, small toys and some nappies and wipes.
- Pack another small bag for spare clothes, nappies/wipes, and toiletries. Don’t forget about international laws for carrying liquids on board – everything needs to be in containers holding no more than 100ml and it all needs to be presented in a clear zip lock bag. I carried lip balm, toothpaste, face cleansing wipes and a small travel sized moisturiser in one zip lock bag, and carried Calpol sachets, Bonjella and sudocreme in another.
- Rather than carrying a whole pack of baby wipes. I put 5 or 6 wipes in a nappy sack and then popped that in a zip lock bag with a nappy. It made the nappy changing task so much easier, given that I could just pick up a nappy and go!
- Do not hesitate to ask for help on board. It is impossible to fit two little children and yourself in a plane cubicle, so the staff of board were happy to hold my youngest while I tended to my eldest.
- Wear comfortable clothing! Rubber clog shoes were fantastic for my eldest. Admittedly, I kept my children in pyjamas for the entire flight. I wore yoga trousers, a long sleeved tee and light waterfall cardigan, while keeping my feet covered with ballet flat shoes. Not the most glamorous look for any of us, but we were comfy!
- All your food and meal time routines will go out the window. Flying long haul is a one off thing, so don’t stress if your kids don’t eat three square meals. My children barely touched their on flight meals so it was muesli bars, fruit, juice, water, crackers, pouches and other snack foods for us. It kept them fed and happy! Don’t be shy to request snacks and fruit while on board, and be sure to keep your little ones hydrated!!
- ALWAYS praise your children for great behaviour. I know it sounds obvious, but try and see things from their perspective. 24 hours of flying is a lot for an adult, let alone two little people, and I tried to make sure I praised them every time I could. My eldest, especially fed off this positive attention and I believe it really helped. Remember that it’s totally OK for them to behave a little differently (and by that I mean mortifyingly wild and loud!). Little children can’t keep their frustrations in like us grown up are expected to, so just go with the flow and gently remind them that we’re all in this together!
So that’s my story. Thank goodness my husband will be flying with me when I make the return journey back to the UK 😉