Last autumn, we were invited to my cousin’s wedding at the sumptuous Brocket Hall country estate outside of London. We love London more than any city (though I may be a bit biased, as it also happens to be where I was born) so it didn’t take much consideration before we decided to make the trip out. Once the excitement of booking the plane tickets wore off I realized that I was about to embark on a 10 hour flight with a 3 year old and 10 month old. Yikes. Usually if your toddler decides to throw down the gauntlet in Trader Joe’s you can flee to the safety of your car while they meltdown or when your infant spends a long and noisy night teething, at least it’s in your own home. But the thought of being thousands of feet in the air over the Atlantic Ocean with two kids at such unpredictable ages was daunting. I must admit that the thought of giving the beasties Benadryl, as many mothers recommended, crossed my mind. Hell even the thought of drugging myself crossed my mind! But I knew my game plan. I was going to be as prepared as any mother could hope to be on a flight. Anything that was out of my control I would just have handle as it came I told myself – which is all you really can do.
I made a list of my recommendations for when you fly with babies. In addition to the obvious, like a well-stocked (but not overloaded/heavy) diaper bag, there were a few things I brought that really helped. Luckily my son, Henry, needed nothing more than headphones and an iPad with games on it. He was so grateful for the no screen time limit that he didn’t make a peep the entire flight.
For babies, which can be trickier if they are of walking/exploring age, start by booking the bulkhead seat. Most international flights have baby bassinets to hook up to the wall so you can have your arms free while they sleep. We did this and lucky for us, Vivi slept most of the entire red eye there and about 1/3 of the way back in it. Ah-mazing! When she was awake we put a swaddle on the floor with some snacks and toys so she had some space to do her thing. For snacks we brought things that weren’t too messy like blueberries, pouches, and puffs for her to nibble on between meals. This prevents a hangry baby from disrupting the plane. For entertainment, we brought colorful window clings, books with flaps (makes them a bit more fun), pictures of family members to look at, and stacking cups – basically lightweight toys that don’t take up a lot of space that they are currently interested in. Bring extra clothes for the kids and yourself as you will almost 100% need them (I always pack an extra black, loose tank top for myself. It’s forgiving of stains and when you’ve got a kid on your lap half the flight you will most likely need a new top to change into before you land).
When navigating a busy airport (and later the London Underground) it’s helpful to have a lightweight, compact travel stroller that is simple to use and quick to open and close. We brought the Mountain Buggy Nano (link at bottom of post) as it can actually fit into an overhead bin for a speedy exit from the plane and it was SO helpful when jumping on and off of the tube all day. It’s a bit pricey but the ease of it was worth it. I stored my Ergo baby carrier underneath it so Henry could have the option to walk or rest up in the stroller if he needed a break.
If the kids are asleep and I have a little time to myself, I like to apply this amazing facial toner and these cooling eye pads. My best piece of advice is to just RELAX. Most of my stress was from me over-thinking the flight before hand and all the ways it could go horribly wrong — I prepared for the worst. In retrospect I wished I had just chilled out a bit more before. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. And if it’s a total nightmare, just remember — you’re never going to see these people again, so just ignore the rude comments and scowls, have a glass of wine and try to get some sleep so you’re ready to hit the ground running when you arrive at your destination.