The only people interested in reading this post will be other poor devils approaching some massive journey and wondering how they will manage, and those of you with a sadistic bent! I just flew home alone from London to Kingston Jamaica, with my 7 month old girl and a 2 year old boy, and mainly kept it together except for a total loss of plot at Jamaican Passport Control right at the end. This is how it went…
Having got too much stuff (after a 6 week trip home) and too many children to get a lift from my parents, I took a minibus taxi to Gatwick. This delighted my 2 year old! I had arranged to meet my sister-in-law at Gatwick, who had generously offered to help me check in, and thank god she did; check in took nearly an hour, the usual story with BA. Having been unable to take our complicated booking over the telephone, they had insisted we book our flights online as separate journeys, and then at every point along the way had been entirely confused as to which child was flying with whom. Eventually they sorted it out, but if I’d been on my own, my two year old would have had to stay strapped into the pushchair the entire time, which would have added a lot of screaming into the equation! My fabulous sister in law being there, meant he got to run around for an hour, blowing off steam, before the long haul began.
Getting through security in the assistance lane at Gatwick was the usual highly-anxious obstacle course, but we survived. I didn’t have to collapse the double buggy which was a relief, or taste any of the baby foods or milk I was carrying, which was a surprise! Unpacking and repacking everything is a pain, and a marvel if you can remember it all (I think I had stuff in about 6 trays) but somehow we got through. Having spent so long checking in, I had to go straight to the boarding gate, with one quick stop in a shop to buy drinks. When I realised there was only one staffed checkout, I had to absolutely grit my teeth to make myself concentrate on the self-service check-out while juggling two children in a state of sweaty anxiety. Why does one need a boarding pass to pay for a Ribena?! Why can’t an airport afford check-out staff for over-priced water in shops?!
Adding to my general level of stress, was the ‘Trunki’ my son had been given for his 2nd birthday; a small suitcase designed for a toddler to sit on so he can be dragged across airports. Except his legs are too long, meaning you have to go at slower than his walking pace, so that he can paddle his legs along. Any faster and his legs would have caught on the floor and thrown him off the back. So, he stayed in the buggy, and I dragged it, cursing. I can entirely see why the Trunki didn’t make it on Dragon’s Den; it was like having a dead dachshund on a lead, tripping me and everyone else up! If you get up any speed at all, it falls over, and it’s useless as a piece of actual hand luggage, as it involves setting it square on your lap or the ground with both hands free to open it. An impossibility if you’re on your own with two babies! If you are considering travelling with one, I would recommend it only as a toy for keeping them entertained in the airport, and only if you have a second pair of hands to manage some of the actual hand luggage or the buggy!
We made the gate pretty much last, I collapsed the buggy with my 7 month old somehow propped up against the wall. Then, carrying her, and dragging my boy on the Trunki, I did manage to jump the whole queue of people waiting to board, apologising and saying, ‘babies coming through’, which no one seemed to mind to much and was a bit essential as the baby weighs a ton!
We got our seats, and my son was delighted to have a ‘big boy chair’ all to himself. I sat his sister on the chair next to him, and I sat on the floor, wedged between the seats and bulkhead, a position I would adopt often in the next 10 hours! My son was asleep shortly after take-off, at noon, unsurprisingly from all the excitement of the airport and getting on the plane. But, after an hour, he fully woke up again, getting increasing excited, until at one point, he was literally jumping on his seat, looking backwards at the cabin full of Jamaican passengers all getting ready for a snooze and a movie, yelling ‘Party Time!’
Unable to keep him in his seat much longer, I let him go exploring a bit, and up and down the cabin he went, while I stayed seated, bouncing the baby on my lap who showed no interest in sleeping at all. After about an hour of causing havoc and somehow not getting run over by trolleys, he had started making a game of running all the way through Premium Economy into First Class (damn those blue curtains, why must they look so tempting! The promised land beyond! Even a 2 year old wants in!) Then he knocked his head pretty badly on the sharp edge of the lowered table thing which the bassinet goes on for the baby. I decided enough was enough, so I brought out the Dozol (a parcetamol based, anti-histamine with a big sign on it, saying ‘May cause drowsiness’. As the name might suggest!)
The Dozol worked wonders. I will never travel without it again! Within 20 minutes of watching a film on the iPad, his eye lids were half closed – and that’s how they stayed for the next three hours! He was awake enough that when the film ended he asked for it to be restarted, but about halfway through the second time, he fell asleep and conked right out for three hours! I had to wake him up just before landing, to get him into a clean nappy etc, and then he was wide awake and totally refreshed. For a child with so much energy, the confinement of a flight is so frustrating, that for him, this was a brilliant solution. And it meant I could concentrate on my baby girl, who didn’t hardly sleep at all! She wasn’t fussing, but just active, trying to stand up on me and looking at everybody. I think she slept for 3 hours in total, in short snatches of sleep here and there. There was a lovely Jamaican Granny behind me who took her on her knee a couple of times, so I could change my toddler, go to the loo, get organised etc.
When we arrived in Jamaica, I had begged the air crew to see if they could get my double buggy back for me, but as I got off, it wasn’t there. I asked a Jamaican security man standing there if there was anything he could do.. well begged him actually, and he amazed me, by getting out his mobile phone and ringing down to the people unloading the plane! I saw a guy waving and pointing at my buggy and gave him a thumbs up, and for the first time ever I think, I got my buggy back! Only in Jamaica… That orange sticker BA put on it saying ‘return to the aircraft door’ is almost entirely meaningless, it just helps mums feel better at check in!
Delighted with myself, and oh so nearly there, I wheeled the two kids through the airport, and into passport control where I was practically last, having missed the stampede while messing with the buggy. I’d managed a 10 hour flight with two babies, I’d been on the road for 18 hours, I was so close to seeing my husband for the first time in a month, this was the final hurdle. And it floored me. The bloody BA air hostess had confidently informed me I only needed to fill in one landing card, and pointed out on the back it says for the ‘Head of the Family’ to fill it in on behalf of the kids. But it’s not enough in Jamaica. They want all the same information, three times over, one landing card for everybody, babies included. I couldn’t believe it. With both the babies now screaming crying for the first time in the whole trip, with the sweat pouring down my face, I knelt down on the floor and filled in all the poxy and pointless information, feeling very close to crying myself! It was the last straw in a very long day and I could barely spell the kids names I was swearing so violently… Welcome to Jamaican bureaucracy – they just love paperwork here, the more forms the better.
Finally we were through. The luggage was all there, the queue through customs took about an hour, but the kids had resigned themselves to gentle groaning in the buggy (for them, it was now midnight English time). At last we came out, into the Jamaican evening sunshine, into my husband’s arms. My toddlers said, ‘Go mummy’s house! Go mummy’s house in mummy’s car!’ and off we went. Though, of course, I let Daddy come too J