Saturday, December 29, 2012

Warm and wonderful SA - or - survive the 10+ hour flight with toddler

Expect some poorly written, but generally happy entries for the time being - we are in South Africa and it is deliciously warm!  We took a direct day flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg and I have to say we were absolutely dreading this flight. We had normal economy seats with Munchkin as a lap child - for our 11 hour flight.

First, there is a 1 hour time difference because South Africa does not observe daylight savings, so the flight was actually 10 hours not 11, so that was already a nice little relief straight away. The flight was fully booked so we didn't get the luxury of an extra seat but we had a suitably understandable gentleman sitting next to us. We took the window and the middle seat thinking she might sleep under the seats in front of us but this turned out to be a good choice anyways because we didn't have to worry about getting up to let someone else out. We also had a gadget we were in theory bringing for our friends but which I think we may need to commandeer, basically it is a child-sized inflatable travel cot which sits on your lap or better, your tray table.

I absolutely recommend if you are planning to travel with a toddler, get to the airport early and run them down.  For example: the ubiquitous moving sidewalks in the opposite direction make for a great toddler tread mill. Munchkin ran herself ragged just moments before we passed through security (happens at the gate for SA flights). We also subscribe to the general advice of sending one parent to situate all the luggage and the other to stay off-plane to allow kiddos to keep running until the last minute. This I think is critical because Munchy was so tired that she was very chill for first part of the flight, ate well, and napped on the amazing travel cot for 2 hours! Other tips for my future self
  • have one of you order a special meal because these always come ahead of the regular meal service. Then it is easy to take turns eating and holding the child.
  • bring food for your kids. First of all it is peace of mind. Second of all it is food for you if you are hungry. Third you know it is as healthy as you like it to be. Lastly, you really have no idea if they will or will not bring food for your lap child, so it's best to be prepared. On our flight they showed up a couple hours later with a random jar of baby food which I think was actually for someone else's kid, otherwise not much was available.
  • definitely follow the general internet wisdom of  "plane parenting". On the plane is not the time to uphold your highest principals of parenting. On the plane is the time to do whatever necessary to keep your child from screaming. Munchkin watched movies (as much as a 16 month old "watches" anything), played on the ipad, ate snacks whenever she wanted, and got her binky (dummy) for the entire flight. All things that never, ever happen in real, normal life. It's a bit of a let down when you arrive and they realize things are back to normal parenting but I am hoping this will reinforce travel as a magical, fun time for her, rather than something to dread.
  • Be ready to do lots of laps, and steal your nerves for tolerant to not so tolerant looks from flight attendants. Just make sure you are not in the way when they need to get by.

So all and all this was not so bad, and we didn't have any delays so we did quite okay. We are now sitting in sunny SA and thoroughly enjoying our holiday.


Dad said...

Wow that inflatable travel cot sounds really cool. Will you post a picture? It is hard to imagine the thing being large enough for a Munchy aged toddler and be able to sit on the tray table.

Enjoy the trip and say hi for us.

Bernice said...

You are so courageous. But then you have the wonderful experiences. Glad it went well.

Monica said...

Enjoy SA and hello Worths! It is warm here too and happy naked children abound in our backyard. Big change from this time last year! xxxx

alexis said...

dad, it goes actually over two tray tables!

monica - HELLO!! So glad to see you back on the radar. :)

Pulisha said...

All good tips! Glad to hear you guys had such a successful first toddler flight :)