Allow me introduce Gillian McGoey and Donal Fitzpatrick and their three year old son Bryan. Gillian has kindly reported back on her recent trip to Australia for us in this special guest blog. It’s a really honest and insightful account of the journey and I hope, useful for anyone considering flying long haul flight with young children:)
Christmas in Australia to visit our family (my sister in law, her husband and kids) was a dream and we made a quick decision to book it in May 2015. December seemed a long time away in the far distance but it came hurtling in very quickly. Rather than leave it to the last minute, it’s great to be somewhat organised when travelling long haul with small children, in our case our 3 year old boy.
There’s never a definite answer to the question ‘will I be the parent with the child who screams the plane down’? A little prep work can help!
Preparation is Key
We made a little deal of it rather than a big one! We watched YouTube for Etihad flights from Dublin, we looked at pictures of aeroplanes, and we even sat in the car at St. Margaret’s watching them taking off and landing. A children’s book explaining what happens at the airport and on aeroplanes can take some of the apprehension away. Our little man knew all about security, the x-ray machines and the body searches before we left.
I made a snap decision to invest in a ‘Trunkie’ and it was inspired. His very own suitcase, he was delighted. We packed in his soothers, his teddy, 2 sets of pyjamas, slippers, a cushion, pull-ups, wipes and snacks. Little man sat on it and held the horns while I pulled him along, and we were running in Abu Dhabi to catch our connecting flight. The sight of a flying toddler on his roll-on suitcase cleared the paths and we may not have made it otherwise!
Airport Family Services.
Dublin Airport is great. I can’t stress enough how helpful the ground staff are. Our buggy was packed into a large clear transparent bag by me at the gate and handed over. There it was in Perth at the end of our journey, in perfect order. Whatever airport you are in on departure, ask for a plastic. We didn’t get one in Perth, and on arrival in Dublin, the safety clips on our Out ’n About Nipper were missing, and the chassis had been bent over backwards. The buggy is a write-off and I’m currently in the process of making a claim for it. If it does happen to you, report it straight away before you leave arrivals at the baggage handling desk for your airline. Get the damage witnessed by the staff, get the report slip and make sure you have a reference number.
Our toddler is 80% toilet trained. But aeroplane toilets are small, noisy and the space is cramped. We went in pull-ups for the whole journey. It hasn’t compromised any good habits, and it made our lives that bit less stressful. We took an early morning flight from Dublin, and due to a 5am start, we were tired. This isn’t a bad thing! He slept for 7 hours.
Abu Dhabi airport has strollers you can borrow to get around. As we had ‘trunki’ we didn’t need one. Our departure gate was in the less salubrious part of the airport, where it was crowded, with long queues. Tetchy security guards were checking passports and boarding cards, and no water was available once we got past them! Make sure you have plenty, and snacks. The wait may seem easier to manage.
My good friend Eimear had given me what she called ‘a bag of crap’ for the plane for little man. It was far from crap! Packed with sticker/colouring books, dinosaur crayons, snap cards, and make your own pom-pom Santas. We had fun. I had the treats in a special bag and one treat was allowed at intervals where I felt patience was waning and a bribe was required!
In-flight entertainment is a God-send. I invested in a pair of noise-regulating kids headphones, JVC brand for 20 euro. They’re available in Curry’s. Don’t use the ones provided by the airline, they’re too loud for little ears that could be damaged by loud audio. We watched a cartoon film called ‘Lava’ about 50 times. I knew the songs, I can still hear them going through my head. But it was a good distraction.
We travelled as a party of 5. I booked an aisle seat and a window seat for little man in a two-seat row. Less moving about, and he could look out the window if he wanted, and both of us could stretch (within reason, hey it’s only economy!).
I didn’t sleep for the entire journey. I had no expectations in advance that I would. There were no tears. On arrival in Perth it was late afternoon. We had a take-away, a drink, and stayed up as late as we could manage it. And we all got a full-nights sleep! Jet-lag wasn’t a problem for our man. However, full-on contact dermatitis from the heat was. We required a doctor’s visit and a steroid cream to clear it up. We’re still adjusting a week later now that we’re home again. 5am wake-ups. It’s harder to go back 8 hours than forward it seems.
Would I consider flying long haul with young children again? Absolutely!