Travelling With A Toddler Part 1
So in my 'Mixed Emotions' blog, I spoke about a couple of things that I was worried about before going to Disney with a 15 month old. Would I cope on a 9 hour flight? Would he suffer with jet lag, which would in turn affect all of our sleep? Would he struggle in the heat and refuse to eat or drink? Well, I can confidently say all of you were right - I had absolutely nothing to worry about! In this post I will focus on our experience in the airport and on the flight. Watch out for future parts to the sequel!
So the day of travelling was probably the part which was worrying me the most. Not just the flight, but the entire experience at the airport. We had a midday flight so set off at 8am. By 9am we were all checked in and had even got through security! Firstly, I know we only live 20 minutes from the airport so that helps. But things like paying a little extra for 'Meet and Greet' at the airport meant we literally dropped our car right outside the terminal, handed our keys over and walked straight into check-in. We paid £80 for 2 weeks which I think is a great service considering we'd have had to have paid for parking or a taxi anyway.
We were flying in Premium with TUI which came with its own list of benefits. Because of how early we booked our flights, we got a good deal and when we checked a few months before we went away, the seats in economy were more expensive than what we had paid for Premium, so we knew we'd done the right thing. We had a separate check in lane meaning we had no wait time, although the airport was incredibly quiet. If you're flexible on airport choice, consider East Midlands because it was so quiet! We had a car seat to check in which we just dropped off at the oversized baggage section no problem and we could take our pushchair right up until we boarded the plane. It didn't cost us to put either item on the plane, and we filled our car seat bag with nappies to avoid the weight elsewhere.
There was no queue at security at all so we didn't even get to make use of our 'fast track' which was included in our Premium package! Now I ALWAYS get worried when I get to security. I know I've packed my bag 10 times over and I can tell you exactly where everything is, but I still worry that my bag is going to bleep, or I will walking through the machine. Going through with a baby meant that I had milk, food pouches and medicine to hand - lots more liquid than what you're entitled to! The staff were amazing and one of the men was really helpful. He took me to one side to help me separate all of my items into separate containers/bags. You are allowed to take anything through which you will need for your baby, so like I said, I had 3 bottles of baby milk, 2 food pouches and his antibiotics (remember he had that awful chest infection the week before we went away?!). I'm not sure if the man could sense my worries or concerns, but when you've never travelled with a baby before, how are you supposed to know? He was really lovely and made a usually stressful experience for me go really smoothly.
We had access to the airport lounge (included with Premium) which was great. We all had a good breakfast and took it in turns to nip out and browse around the duty free. The terminal was great as it was one long corridor, a perfect running track for Rory! Because the airport was quiet, there was lots of space for him to run wild without getting in anyone's way. The airport also had a free mini soft play area to help Rory run off as much energy as he could before the flight. We stopped him from having a morning nap so that he would then sleep on the plane. This was a brave move which paid off! More on that later...
Again, another perk of Premium was the priority boarding, meaning we got on the plane first and had time to sort ourselves out and get comfortable. Lots of airlines also offer priority boarding to people with young babies so it's definitely worth asking because it's much easier sorting yourselves out on a quieter plane, especially with the overhead bag storage etc. I was worried about Rory not having a seat as he was under 2, especially with him being so active as he rarely sits still for long on our laps. But the 9 hour flight was much easier than I thought it'd be, and he was so well behaved!
They recommend you have a dummy or bottle on hand for take off to ease the pain with their ears. Rory had his dummy and actually fell asleep mid take off! He slept for just short of two hours on Luke's lap which was amazing! The cabin crew were amazing. They helped us do 'shifts' with Rory when it came to meal times and were all very friendly with him. The rest of the flight was then spent doing a range of things, from watching his iPad, playing games, walking up and down the aisles smiling at everyone and EATING! Snacks were always going to be important on the plane, but they were an invaluable thing to take with us! We used our wonderful snack box from Life's Tales. The different compartments made it fun and we allowed Rory to pick each snack he wanted. As Rory was under 2, he didn't have a meal on the plane, but he had some of our cheese and enjoyed our snacks and his milk! Despite the flight feeling like it was dragging at times, all in all it went very smoothly and was way less stressful than what I thought it was going to be.
We were first off the plane, meaning we were first through customs. Despite this, there was a hiccup with our luggage and we ended up being one of the last out of the terminal! Luckily the pushchair came off quite quickly so we could keep Rory safe whilst waiting for the bags. Because we had hired a car, there was no waiting around at the airport for transfers so we loaded the car, strapped Rory into his seat and off we headed for Disney! If you ever go to Walt Disney World, another airport consideration would be Sanford airport. It's further than Orlando International (about an hour away from Disney), but again it's a much smaller and quieter airport.
On our return journey, things were slightly different. We had no issues again at check in, but security took a little longer and because the airport is so small, they didn't have a separate security for Premium. There were only 2 international flights all day, and they were both TUI flights, ours and one to Manchester, which were departing less than an hour apart. Despite this, we were still through security in about 15 minutes. As expected, they were much stricter with everything. We were told very officially, that EVERYTHING must be separated. iPads could not be touching, all snacks must be taken out (you can imagine me at this point with a cabin suitcase full of it!), shoes off and all the usual. Rory's pushchair had to go through the scanner - even his dummy! They took his milk and medicines off for further security checks which obviously all came back fine. Because I'd had so much help on the way out, I was confident with what I was doing, but I'm not sure I'd have had much help if I'd needed it! We headed on up to the lounge which was included and they had a wonderful playroom which Rory loved!
The flight home was great. Because it was an evening flight, we were hoping Rory would get a bit of sleep, so we took his sleeping bag with us. Our aim was to keep him awake until we'd had our dinner (he'd had his at the airport), then give him his bottle at bedtime. In typical Rory fashion, he fell asleep right before the food came out! So again, Luke and I did shifts eating. We fed Rory his bottle and he slept in total for 5.5 hours. Obviously this isn't a good night's sleep, but when you factor in the time change, and the fact that he was only lay on one of us, he did us proud! Luke and I only managed about an hour each of sleep because it's flipping hard trying to get comfy on a plane! In all honesty, we both enjoyed the sleepy cuddles with Rory and before we knew it we had landed back home. This flight was easy and went so quickly.
Surprise surprise, it was our family who had another issue waiting for bags despite getting through customs quickly again, but we were still back home within an hour and a half of landing (perks of living quite close to the airport). We all had a morning nap before returning to a life of normality after a dream holiday!
If I could sum up flying with a toddler into few things/tips -
1. Do not worry about security. Take what you need through and you won't have a problem. The day after we came home, a lot of the rules regarding liquids etc changed for the better, but always remember to check what you can and can't take before you go!
2. Take plenty of snacks/comforts to distract your baby. Snacks always go down a treat and the best thing we did was pack his sleeping bag for that night flight!
3. Don't be afraid to ask for help! Things that seem so trivial to us, airline staff see day in day out, and 99% of the time, they're really helpful!
4. Don't worry about what other people think about you and your baby. Babies cry - it's natural! Most of the people have been there before so know what it's like and understand your worries! But also, it turns out other people can block it out even though you can't. There were other families who had 'testing times' with their children on the plane that we were oblivious to!
I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of my Travelling with a Toddler blog! It was a lengthy one but I felt it deserved it! Any questions, feel free to drop me a message!
Mommy Davies x