Bonza! Throw a shrimp on the barbie! You flaming galah! *insert other typical Australia phrases here*
It’s safe to say I didn’t hear any of the above during our 17 days in Australia and this post marks the beginning of a series of posts about our travels. To put everything into one post would 1 and a) take me forever, 2 and b) become very boring for the reader and, 3 and c) be the longest post I’ve ever written!
So where to begin? Well the logically place would be the journey I suppose…it’s safe to say that prior to our holiday I was suitably anxious about flying with a toddler. I did what I do best and over prepared for months before, reading many “Flying with a Baby/Toddler” blog posts and asking friends, who’d already subjected themselves to the horror, for their advice.
Any time I told anyone that we were taking Mini R across the world, and added that it was his first trip abroad, I was met with raised eyebrows and usually a sentence like “Wow, you’re brave!” which just added to the anxiety.
The journey to Oz was a long one, even for an adult. Beginning at 4:10 in the afternoon, our first flight was seven hours from Manchester to Doha in Qatar, followed by a quick change (in just an hour and twenty minutes) then we began our ten hour fifty minute flight to Perth. In Perth we had five hours to wait, which was frustrating considering that we were only four hours from our destination of Cairns where my friend would be picking us up. However, in hindsight, I’m glad that we had those five hours because the airline lost our buggy and we needed time to sort it out…we also grabbed some food (which we nearly had to take a bank loan out to afford – expensive much?!) The journey home was slightly easier as it only involved two flights: Sydney to Doha (fourteen hours) and Doha to Manchester (seven hours).
The Best Bits…
1) The amount Mini R slept. I’d tried (and failed) to figure out the best time for our son to sleep to help him with the jet lag. Obviously with a two year old it isn’t that easy but after the initial excitement of being on a plane, he eventually did sleep for at least a few hours on each plane journey and on the fourteen hour killer on the way home, he slept for eight of them! What a little trooper. The little man loves to spread out when asleep which isn’t too easy on a plane, leaving my husband comically perched on his chair at one point. On the way home he really couldn’t get comfy then a kind lady told us of a spare seat a few rows up so my husband sat in that so our little man could have two seats to sleep and I could curl up next to him. Very lucky indeed! Due to the amount he slept, we were also able to sleep meaning we weren’t as exhausted as I thought we’d be once we reached our destination.
2) Manchester Airport Soft Play. One thing I have learnt from this holiday is that Mini R hates to be confined…not ideal for plane environments! Luckily, he was able to let off some steam in the airport soft play meaning he was happy to sit and watch a film/tv once on the plane and he tired himself out too! Just a shame Sydney didn’t have the same for us returning home but it was 10pm for him so he was suitably tired and Qatar airport has some amazing kids play areas!
3) Qatar Airways Staff. From the moment we stepped onto the aircraft (all flights apart from to Cairns and to Sydney), the staff were so lovely with Mini R! They interacted with him every time they passed and, although he was a little shy (unusual!), he eventually came round to them and they were happy for him to toddle up and down the aisles with his Dad or me (mainly his Dad!) when he got bored of sitting down. One stewardess in particular was on our outgoing and ingoing flights and she thought he was adorable, her interaction really helped towards the end of flights when he was getting fidgety and fed up.
4) Compliments! It’s always nice to hear good jobs about your offspring isn’t it? Mini R was so good that people around us on the plane commented on it to us and said how cute he was – Que proud mummy beaming from ear to ear!
The Worst Bits (and what I’ve learnt!)…
1) Take Off and Landing are the hardest bits. Not due to ears hurting or anything like that, but because toddlers don’t like to sit and do nothing! You can’t have the TV on, bags have to be under seats and, mostly importantly, seat belts have to be on! Something Mini R was not a huge fan of, and they’re easy for little hands to undo! Airlines should make a toddler proof seatbelt! One of my friends recommended a lolly to keep them occupied, now before the sugar haters/healthy eating brigade start having a go, Mini R has never been anywhere near a Chupa Chup but this piece of advice was genius! Probably due to the novelty of it! Not only did it help his ears pop but he happily sucked away on it and we even got into a game of “Mummy have a lick” “Daddy have a lick” (no rude jokes please!) which kept him entertained during take off. Unfortunately by the time he was on flight five of 6, the lolly was no longer a novelty and we had to do a lot of “Sit still or I’ll take your lolly off you!”…whispered in his ear with a manic grin on my face to anyone watching.
Note: on all landings he was asleep outgoing. Not so lucky when coming home!
2) Sleeping child = Dead Weight. Child sleeping on the plane is great but once it’s time to get off said plane, that’s when the difficulties begin! Especially long haul! I made the decision that I would carry a sleeping Mini R whilst my husband took the bags. Great plan you say? Yes well it was apart from that we had my handbag, a mini suitcase, the Gruffalo Trunki, a Spiderman pillow and a Duty Free bag (couldn’t help myself!). On the way back I condensed so we had less to juggle…learning from my mistakes! Whilst my husband looks like a pack horse and I left holding my dead weight of a son. At just over two stones he’s not light but luckily it a) got us through security etc quickly as people felt sorry for my shaking arms and b) it was better for me to do it as the one time my husband was trusted with the sleeping child, on a boat going to see the Great Barrier Reef, he woke him up by stumbling and bashing his head on a doorway! Poor kid! 😂 Add in a lack of buggy (which we only got back 6 days into our holiday!) and my arms definitely got a work out!
3) Security. Within the airport, any of the four we visited, I found the hardest bit to be the scanners in security. In Manchester, Mini R was awake and, with all the toddler crap we had to take, there was a lot of stuff to put in those fiddly little bags! Combine sorting all that with handing over your buggy to be searched, our bags being searched because I forgot that Fruit Pouches and Calpol sachets count as liquid (Doh!) and an excited toddler who just wants to run around and you’ve got yourself a very stressed out Mummy! Saying that, there was a small child having the mother of all meltdowns (lying on the floor, kicking and screaming type which went on for a good 15/20 minutes) so I did feel quite grateful that my small human mostly behaving well. With a sleeping babe in my arms, it was actually easier…because I just left my husband to do it all while I sauntered through the beeper thing 😉
4) Changing a nappy in a plane toilet. Does it need explaining! Limbs flying, poop/wee and small spaces don’t combine well!
So there you go. Overall the travelling experience wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. Mini R behaved excellently considering the 26 hours of travelling and because he slept so much he adapted to Aussie time really well, in fact, he slept in till 7:30am most mornings – surely that’s reason to contemplate moving out there right? Coming home he also adapted well, apart from wanting to be awake at 3:30am the first night we were home which resulted in me falling in asleep in his toddler bed – ouch!
For those of you travelling with toddlers, here is my advice:
1) Go with the flow. Easier said than done for me but I found that my husband and I relaxed nature helped our son.
2) Take something that will give them comfort when they want to sleep. In our case it was dummy, taggie blanket and the Spiderman pillow. Yes the pillow was a ball ache to carry around but it made a lot of difference when he was tired.
3) Wrap presents! I bought some little toys – mini diggers, wooden robots, cards etc that I wrapped up and when Mini R needs focusing on something, was bored or needed rewarding for good behaviour/bribing, I used the presents. They went down really well!
4) Don’t take too much hand luggage. If you have a sleeping child, less bags is easier for the other person.
5) Trunki’s have a mind of their own! As much as they are great, our Gruffalo one could have took out many ankles in the airports! Mini R isn’t quite balanced enough to get the hang of sitting on it and the one time he did, my husband pulled him around so fast he went flying off and was then terrified of falling off so refused to sit on it. I hope he’s forgotten this by next holiday or the Trunki will not be used to it’s fullest! Mini R also has no thought for others when pulling it so we were probably cursed by many as it banged into their ankles. I’m sure they’re a lot more helpful when your child is older.