At the age of one, my baby has done 6 Transatlantic flights between Jamaica and England and a handful of short European ones. It’s been some journey. If only it wasn’t so lovely to see friends and family, no sane mummy would do it ever again! Here’s what I’ve learnt.
1) The Buggy. When the smug, smiling staff at check-in say you can keep the buggy and get it back at the aircraft door, they are lying. This hasn’t happened on any one of my flights. Hauling a baby, pregnant belly and heavy hand luggage through Kingston airport to the baggage carousel is no joke, particularly after a 10 hour flight. At Passport Control, you have to somehow balance your little wriggler on the high narrow shelf of the booth, while you sign the inevitably missed bits on your landing card. The only alternative is to ask for ‘assistance’ at check-in. Then you’ll get a wheelchair that’ll arrive half an hour after everyone else has disembarked and your baby has exploded with frustration and tiredness.
2) Delays on the Runway. Having recently experienced a two hour delay on the ground at Geneva, on a tiny crammed little plane, I would recommend just shooting yourself.
3) Breast-feeding. My flights were so peaceful when I was breast feeding! My greedy little baby would latch on blissfully for the whole 10 hours, loving having unrestricted access to my normally well-rationed boobs. A bottle gives you about 2 minutes of the same peace and quiet.
4) The person next to you. On transatlantic flights, babies still get to board first, so usually you’re sat with your wriggling terrorist as the rest of the passengers get on. You smile apologetically at every approaching person, who’s worried face suddenly brightens when they realise they are not sitting next to you. My fear always is I’ll get some scary leather clad yardie sat next to me, considering the number of them on the plane to Jamaica, but last time I got a tight-lipped Scottish granny, who was far meaner than any yardie might have been. She must have shoved ahead of all the boarding mothers with babies, as she was already seated when I arrived to our row. As I went to stow my baby bag above her, she said, ‘You can’t put your hand luggage there. Mine’s going up there on take-off, I’m just not ready to put it there yet.’ It didn’t fill me with hope for the next 10 hours, which my baby spent lunging for her pearl necklace, glasses, book etc…
The best person I’ve ever had was a red-headed Swedish 5 year old. He sat down and introduced himself, ‘Hello, I’m Voldimort and I love babies’. And I said, ‘And I love you Voldimort’. I couldn’t believe my luck, he played with my baby for about 4 hours then passed out completely, the way only children can, with me dropping hand luggage, wet wipes and the baby on him, and literally standing on him to climb in and out of the row. Considering his angelic nature, seems tough his parents called him after the bad guy in a book that’s outsold the bible 20 times over.
5) Hand luggage. It doesn’t matter how much you take; the one thing you need, you won’t have. You’d be as well to stick a couple of nappies in your back pocket, neck some minatures early on and hope for the best. For example: if you take 3 sets of baby clothes, it’ll be you that gets puked on and needs a clean shirt. And, if you’re travelling on your own, how are you going to access your hand luggage anyway? Only if someone kind holds the baby, but most sensible folks will studiously avoid your gaze, or pretend to be asleep, for the entire journey in case you ask them to do just that. On my last flight to Jamaica (10.5 hours) I took a huge amount of stuff, but it got stashed in an overhead locker 20 rows away in Club Class by a flustered air hostess, because of previously mentioned Scottish witch. On my first trip to this spacious, quiet reserve of luxury, I had to set my yelling baby down right next to a sleeping business man. After that, I abandoned the whole idea. Instead, I read ‘High Flyer’ 300 times to my baby, who then ripped it up and ate it.
6) Jet Lag. Just when you think the hard part’s over, and you are ready for nice hot shower and bed, baby’s jet lag will kick in. Mine managed to stay awake for nearly 22 hours on the day we flew over and has taken a week to get back in sync. Seems to be happy to be back in the sunshine though 🙂