When a dear friend of mine announced she was getting married in Rarotonga we immediately agreed to go – baby in tow – and this is the story of how we survived the 3-4 hour flight there and back again.
Before I start, I just have to say that travelling anywhere by flight with a child is stressful. It’s stressful for your child, stressful for your fellow passengers, stressful for you as a parent, stressful for the flight crew, BUT, if you have the chance to travel I think you should take it.
Travel isn’t a given. It isn’t something that everyone is lucky to experience, and I reminded myself of this often when things got a little tough.
Terribly, we cheated a lot with our travel. We booked a seat for baby (when most people try to sit them on their laps) and we used the Air New Zealand lounge before leaving Auckland.
The Lounge... OH. MY. GOODNESS. It was heaven. So much heaven-ness* was to behold that I didn’t even notice the posh pricks sipping their bubbles and giving us side eye for taking a kid into the lounge (not real champers, mind). So much heaven-ness that I wish you could pay to get in there, because I’d use it always and forever, and not just when hubby has free passes from his work travel. The free food, FREE WIFI, free alcohol, kids playground, luxury bathrooms were something to behold. My wish for you, dear reader, is that you get to visit The Lounge one day, and you will know what it is to have: the heaven-ness.
Anyway, back to the point: How to Travel with A Baby
Honestly, google “how to travel/fly with a baby” and you’ll get a tonne of blogs pop up with endless lists. Here’s a good one. And another. And another. Oh at this one is hilarious!
All great. Super helpful. But here’s the shit they don’t tell you about. The good tips. The one’s that saved my life (not really, but really):
- Border security let you take whatever the heck you want for you kiddo through security (within reason, people, don’t try to carry on your emergency swiss army knife. lol)
We took three pouches of pureed food, two bottles with sterilised water, two sachets of formula, baby crackers, fruit, biscuits, a sippy cup of water, the kitchen sink, the cat, and the sweat I produced in packing it all. You get the point.
- Enlist help: Not long after we made the decision to go to paradise, my parents humm’d and haa’d about coming too which I FULLY ENCOURAGED. They did end up booking flights and it was awesome having two spare sets of hands, and people for Mackenzie to go and visit during the flight when I was part way through The Intern and hissing at her to be quiet and go to sleep (I swear I’m a good mother some of the time). I’M KIDDING I would NEVER leave my kid unsupervised on a plane, hubby did most of the back and forth as I was designated the window seat.
The point? If you can travel with other people who can offer help, MAKE IT HAPPEN.
- Carry on: I made up a little backpack for Mackenzie which had her food, milk and water plus:
A couple new books
A little DIY colouring in pack
A few small, but new, toys
These items kept her occupied for 30secs a piece which I think is a win for a 1.5 year old
- Sleep: This was a big fear of mine, as in, I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to sleep at all. In prep for that I carried on her pillow, her favourite sleepy time muslin, her Sleepytot and her sleeping bag. Of course only the Sleepytot helped, but at least I only mildly strained my back in carrying all that extra shit.
What actually got her to sleep was when they finally dimmed the freakin’ lights in the cabin, and all the parents threw their hands up in hallelujah. And all was right in the world. Amen.
- Making your life easy:
– Check in as much stuff as you can. I carried a small carry on backpack as I knew I’d have to carry M’s stuff around too.
– Get a foldable pram (this is our one, bought in a 50% off sale) which you can wheel up to the gate. Ground crew then stow it in the hold and you can pick it up on the other side. This saved a lot of backache lugging our gigantic child around the airport and she actually had a few naps in it over the course of the holiday (seriously though, she’s in the 90th percentile for height, and 80th for weight. goddamn!).
– Buy a travel wallet. Use it. Nominate someone to carry it and all your important documents. And make that person not you, because take it from me, it sucks as a job.
– Take kiddy headphones (from Kmart, yo), download some games onto your phone/Ipad/other technology device capable of grabbing your kid’s attention.
Seriously. DO NOT be the perfect parent and claim you don’t give your kid screen time when you really, really, really need it. No one will judge you if it gives the plane some peace and freakin’ quiet for half an hour. Make yourself feel better by choosing “educational” games if that’s what you need to do.
People will only judge you if you give them the screen and then clock out and give yourself a nap!
– Be kind to your fellow passengers, and believe in the goodness of humans. I was so shit scared of being snarled at for travelling with a baby, but the people around us were so, super sweet. Really kind. And I felt like giving a supportive hug to every other parent I encountered who was travelling with a baby and looking a little harried.
- The big stuff.
Try, as much as you can, to NOT take all the gadgets you think you can’t live without.
We took… here it comes…. Wait for it….. The 50% off pram. And that’s it.
We hired a car seat at the same time as hiring a car, we paid $20 to hire a portacot from our accommodation (which was set up on arrival at early AF o’clock, thank god), we sat M on our laps during mealtime, and you know what? We didn’t even notice not having all the extra “stuff” we think we need.
My only tip here is to do what works for your kid. Rarotonga is only a hours difference to NZ so it was super easy to keep her in routine. It was actually perfect because she “slept in” and went to bed “late”, but was still on her normal NZ time.
No comment about big time zone differences, but most articles say it takes a few days which is FRUSTRATINGLY generic, of an explanation. But, whatever. Just roll with it homie.
- Last but not least, ENJOY THAT MOFO!
Rest and relax (if that’s possible with a kid), spend time as a family, make loose plans for places to explore and be flexible with what your kids need, like a good old nap. Read a book (I read two!) love your kid and document it as much as you can. You really are lucky if you ever get to show your kids other places, to broaden their experiences, to show them how others live, and how others find their happiness.
Thank you Rarotonga, for being a great first start to travel as a family, and probably our last for a while (…shuffles off and checks bank account…eek).
(*not a real word)