It’s hard to believe this will be Mercy’s 3rd trip to Kenya and she is not even three yet! I actually think that makes us borderline crazy….but off we go again across the world, this time with two toddlers and 30+ hours of travel. Oh Lord have mercy..
I have been given so much advice from people about travelling with babies over the past few years. Some has been very, very helpful and some just didn’t work for us. I decided that, instead of specific tips and tricks about travelling with babies, I would go into more general guidelines that we have learned during our travels.
Choose your flight pattern carefully. We generally search for days or weeks before we decide on a flight pattern. We calculate things like long layovers, long flights, children’s amenities, food, visas, and luggage costs and then we decide what we believe our family can or can’t handle. For example, I cannot handle being on a plane for more than 10-11 hours. I just can’t do it. Nowadays, there are fairly inexpensive flights through the Middle East where one of your flights is 14-16 hours long. Nope, can’t do it. Sorry, I will pay more money to be in the air less. Some people like to just get it all over with in one flight (even though it still takes 2-3 flights to Kenya even with the long one). We have learned that if we have layovers more than 6 hours long, we need to get a hotel room somewhere to recharge. For our upcoming trip on Tuesday, we purposely chose a longer layover just to give our luggage a chance to transfer planes because I know what a pain in the pattooti it is to try get missing luggage in Nairobi. Again, it’s doing your research to fit the needs of your family.
Be willing to spend more for the comfort. Tying in with the above point, it is absolutely worth it to spend more money to be more comfortable with kids. 100%. When I was young and single, I would book whatever flight was cheapest and it didn’t matter how long or how terrible it was. I am now willing to invest more to spare my sanity. We also budget more for things like hotel rooms or lounges for long layovers. We love Mercure hotel in the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. It’s conveniently located in the departures lounge so we don’t need to go through passport control (which is tough for Kelvin with his Kenyan passport) and it’s close to our gates. We get to lie down horizontally and have hot showers and recharge. It’s a lifesaver for us. It is a pricy comfort, but well worth it for us.
Pack lots of the essentials. Pack light. Sounds like a bit of a contradiction, doesn’t it? There are so many opinions or ideas about what to bring for kids on flights. What I have learned is to stock up on the essentials, whatever that may be for your family. For us it’s diapers, wipes, extra clothes, lip balm, and sippy cups. When Amina used soothers and drooled like crazy, I had soothers and bibs in every pocket. But try pack light. Don’t bring all the things you think you might need. I have learned that my kids don’t need an abundance of toys or snacks. They eat airplane food and Starbucks and much rather play with the seat belts and video screens. We don’t bring books because they are heavy and bulky and we know we might get through one chapter for the whole trip so we might as well just watch movies. Again, these are our personal preferences that you can adjust for your family.
Use all the special perks offered for having children. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Airlines are actually pretty good at trying to make you as comfortable as possible. Use all those perks. Ask for special seats. Go to the front of the lines. Most flight attendants are more than willing to help out with anything you need so don’t be afraid to ask! On our way back from Kenya, I had a small bout of food poisoning and was going to the bathroom every 30 mins or so. Mercy and Kelvin were dead asleep and I had no where to put Amina so I would just give her to one of the flight attendants each time. They loved it!
Bring (legal) drugs, but not the ones that make you drowsy. Flying across the world with babies can often feel like a marathon so you need every ounce of energy you can muster up. I used to love to take Gravol because it calmed my stomach and made me drowsy cutting the edge off my anxiety a little bit. I don’t do that anymore as I need to be as awake as I can to manage my kids. But it is important to bring a few of your favourite OTC drugs in case of any sickness or pain that may arise. You are travelling for 30 hours; that is more than enough time to get a head cold. And head colds can be brutal 30,000ft in the air.
The first few hours are generally the hardest. Those first few hours of the first flight tend to be the hardest in our experience. And you will think it sets the tone for the whole trip but it doesn’t. It eventually gets better as we all get used to our surroundings.
Bring stuff you are willing to lose. Don’t bring your kid’s favourite pyjamas. You may have a major blowout and may just need to ditch those suckers somewhere instead of trap-sing around with soiled clothes for another 15 hours. We lost our stroller on our last trip. We weren’t too bummed as it was a cheap, umbrella stroller. It just meant poor Mercy had to walk all by herself everywhere.
Relax. Breath. Laugh. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Try not to lose your mind.
Honestly, I am a terrible person to fly with. My poor husband has dealt with me at my worst when we fly. I am anxious and nervous and tense and tired and cranky. I am a terrible person when I am tired. I have had to really try to be pleasant, calm, relaxed when I really want to break down and cry. Kelvin generally gets the brunt of it. Poor guy. Possibly the best advice I have been given is this….The journey ends eventually. I keep that in mind as much as I can, especially after I have changed the 7th poopy diaper 2 hours into our flight. It will end and all will be well again. Try to enjoy it.
Do you have any other guidelines you follow when travelling with babies?