Mine are frequent fliers. Luisa has already crossed the Atlantic six times. Mateo, twice. Between all legs of all flights we’ve ever done, Luisa has been on 24 airplanes. I won’t even try and count train rides. This is what we’ve learned:
- British Airways is the best. No really. I wish they paid me to tell you that, but they don’t (ahem. hint hint if any of you work for them…). The attendants are friendly and they have always been accommodating to us with our little ones. A week before we were due to fly to Vancouver for the holidays, Josh called to reserve seats. He got Mateo and I a bulkhead with a bassinet. He got seats behind us reserved for him and Luisa. At no extra cost. No fuss. No hassle. Plus, our kids each get a full luggage allowance PLUS car seat PLUS stroller. We also would have been able to bring along any special luggage (skis/surfboards/yeah right) if that’s what we were into.
- Babies in the bulkheads, but toddlers in the back. Yeah, bulkhead seats are great and mean leg room, but they also don’t have armrests that go up. Sitting behind Mateo and I allowed Josh to put an arm rest up and Luisa to lie down and go to sleep.
- Pack the bedtime routine. Oh man. We made a huge mistake on the flight there. We thought because we were flying “through the day time”, we wouldn’t pack Luisa’s pajamas and she would just have an extended nap. Oh no. She did not sleep. In fact, on our entire 13.5 hour journey from Berlin to London, she slept all of 2.5 hours. Oof. There was a puking incident. And a lot of yelling. On the way back, we wised up. We packed pajamas and a bottle of milk. It was all we needed to send her the signal that it was time for sleep and she slept for 6 hours.
- Self-limit your on carry on. We bring two carry on bags. One back pack and one purse. That’s it. If we brought more/bigger bags, we’d just have to haul more/bigger bags around on our transfers, as well as two small children. The backpack held everything we needed for the kids. Electronics (2xkindle, ipad, phones) went into the purse.
- Be realistic about what you need. There is a tendency in parenthood to be “better safe than sorry”. You don’t need 20 diapers for a three hour flight. You don’t even need 20 diapers for a 13 hour flight with two kids in diapers. I pack one diaper change every three hours and then add one as my safety net. I do, however, pack an extra outfit for each. On Mateo’s first train ride, he needed his spare outfit all of 10 minutes into the trip. Babies can be gross.
- Be organised for going through security. I always pack my baggie of liquids at the top of my purse. It means I don’t have to dig around for it while removing little people coats or trying to take off shoes.
- Go hands free as much as possible. I love my Moby Wrap. I can carry Mateo or Luisa in it (though it’s Mateo 99 per cent of the time). It means I can carry a toy Luisa refuses to keep in the backpack or quickly unpack things to go through security. And bonus on the Moby Wrap: It’s just one long piece of stretchy cotton with no buckles or snaps, so I can wear it through the metal detector.
- iPads are lifesavers. No, really, they are. Luisa will happily sit in her seat with her seat belt on with an iPad in front of her. And the flight attendants usually let her. Even during take off and landing.
- Let your toddler eat airplane food. It’s novel and fun and means you don’t have to pack it. We did pack some dried fruit snacks for Luisa to munch on in between meals.
- Give your toddler a task. We brought Luisa’s doll “Hugo” on the trip with us. We would tell her she had to make sure Hugo was safe. When meals came, Hugo had to eat too. When it was time to sleep, Hugo did as well. Transferring through Heathrow, Luisa carried Hugo around just like I carried Mateo around, which (1) kept her busy and (2) brought a lot of smiles to our fellow passengers and I like to think it made some one else’s travel day that much better.
- The smaller they are, the easier it is. Mateo was three months old on our way to Vancouver. I didn’t have to pack a single toy, a single book, a single anything to entertain him with for any of our journeys. I had one swaddling blanket and one Sophie toy. For Luisa? We had books, an iPad, stuffed toys to cuddle with, a sippy cup, a pillow, etc. etc. His ears weren’t bother by take off and landing either. I fed him during then, always waiting for the pilot telling the attendants to prepare for landing/take off.
- When the going gets tough, remind yourself you will probably never, ever see any of your fellow passengers again. It helps to remember that. Most people have been incredibly kind to us as we travel with our little ones. Some people are dicks about it. It’s not your problem that they have a problem with kids. Just focus on keeping your little ones safe and happy.
Oh and it feels so good.
Three weeks is a long time to be away with little ones. Away in other people’s homes. Adjusting to new schedules and new timezones. The flight there was a disaster. We learned from it and the flight home was so much better. One day, when the suitcases are back in our basement and the jetlag has left us, I’ll write about our lessons learned. Mateo now has eight flights under his ever-expanding belt. Luisa is a frequent flyer, clocking in at 26. Not bad for a pair of kids who don’t even own a pair of underwear yet.
The babes were spoiled for Christmas. Even Mateo, thanks to an oma who was worried a three-month-old would feel “left out” if he got less presents than the older grandchildren. She always means well. Despite being plagued by germs and jetlag, it was a satisfying holiday that culminated all into a Turducken feast. Oh, and it’d be a disservice to myself to be modest, but the dessert. I made it. It was divine. It was an eggnog panna cotta topped with a layer of cardamom-spiced pear gelatin. Even though we had all stuffed ourselves with the bird and it’s trimmings, most of us had second helpings of it. The pear was crisp, the cardamom made it comforting and the custard was just the right mix of light and creamy. I nailed it.
Our week in Regina was excellent. One of the best visits we’ve had there. Our parents generously rented us a furnished apartment in the same building. It meant we could spend our days sipping coffees and marathoning Downton Abbey with them, but also allowed us to retreat into our own space when we needed to for naptime and when Josh had to work.
Then it was back to Vancouver for more visits. I saw my friends. We had playdates. The grandparents were on duty and in heaven.
We took advantage and had some extra us time. We went to our favourite Vancouver restaurant (we realised that, since we went there pretty early in our relationship for the first time together, that we’ve been going there for 10 years…). We went out on a Sunday night for a late dinner in Regina. It’s made me want to do more to find time for us in our day-to-day. Time for more than just flopping on the sofa with a sitcom at the end of the day. We found ourselves, more often than not, without one or the other in our hands. And diapers? Even that duty was shared.
I’ll miss those extra hands, but now I’m so glad to be home. And I’m so tired.