Little Bear has family and friends in Sweden, Germany, the Philippines and even more exotic places like ‘the north of England’. Having such a far flung crew, he’s no stranger to flying. Flying with any little bear can be as easy as a cool breeze or as turbulent and stressful as being caught in a hurricane. Getting ready for the ninth flight with Little Bear, we feel we might almost have it down. The first time we took him with us on a big trip was to the Black Forest when he was 3 months old. It was so easy, we decided that he was a great traveller, and would always just fall asleep in Pappa’s arms the whole flight and get excited about travelling on the train… Turns out, not the case as we found out on the way to Sweden. Here are some things we’ve learnt about travelling with a baby the hard way. Hope you find some of them useful, and please feel free to add yours as comments:
1 – Timing – Me to wife: ‘Oh look Babe, this Ryanair flight is £10 cheaper if we get up an hour earlier. He’ll sleep in the car anyway so shouldn’t be a problem…’. No younger naiver Dave! don’t do it! Little Bear wakes up at 6 normally (sometimes more accurately than my alarm clock). He’s also very difficult to move when asleep, and when you wake him up mid-sleep, he single-handedly justifies the expression ‘never wake a sleeping baby’, like it was made for him. So, half a day of irreconcilably angry and tired bear later, we agreed never to stint like that it comes to tickets again. It’s just not worth having to wake him up at 5. If it’s a few quid extra to fit the flights around the routine, then it’s always worth it.
2 – Seating – If we can choose where to sit, even if it costs more, we now always go for the front seats. No need to trip over someone’s legs trying to get out to change a nappy, and accidently shoving a soiled baby’s bum into some unsuspecting elderly Danish lady’s face… The least pleasant way to wake up from an in-flight nap. It’s probably, even worse than when you open your eyes and realised you missed the meal cart… probably.
Sitting in the front row is well worth the extra cost with the budget airlines. When Little Bear wakes up, a smooth unbuckling of the seatbelt and a swift move into hopping around and he falls straight back to sleep. Which reminds me-
3 – Maximise sleep – Little Bear is still a sucker for being strapped into the baby-carrier and falling asleep with a few bounces (provided he’s not really tired, and you didn’t just wake him up mid-sleep). Standing up for 2 hours hopping around on a two-and-a-half-hour flight was well worth it. Plus you get a well-rested baby at the other end!
4 – Paying for an easy life - Yes, there’s a theme here, we were used to flying around Europe on the cheap: EasyJet, Ryanair, Wizzair, I don’t care if you charge me money just to show you my passport and £4 for a tiny bottle of water. It costs £1 to fly to Montpellier and 50p to fly to Rome if I can fit all my clothes into a small back-pack! Flying with a baby is different though, and watching the cost rise as you buy express security and speedy boarding, may feel like you’re no longer flying budget, but we found it’s nearly always worth it at the big London airports.
5 – Travelling light – Travelling so far away from home you may feel like you need to bring all their toys, the next set of clothes sizes (just in case), a mountain of formula, 10 bottles, the ball pit, steriliser, presents for relatives, and all the things everyone else in the party use to bring before the baby. But you quickly find that as parents, you only have four hands between you, and two of them may be taken up with the baby most of the trip. After the first flight, we cut our baggage down to one hold bag and one cabin bag, along with the baby-carrier (essential) and his travel cot. This may depend on where you’re flying to, but you’d be surprised that they sell pampers and aptamil in other countries too! This still means that Mamma and I only have 10 cubic centimetres of space for our own stuff (we’re not stupid enough not to bring the ‘Happy and You Know It’ music book), but at least we can travel easier taking the stress out of the least pleasant part of trip.
6 – Distractions – We tried with toys, books, and even (to the mirth of other passengers) some baby tunes on the iPhone. For the first few flights these worked, sort of. But since he’s now mobile, the only way to prevent a mid-flight or (worse) a gate waiting area tantrum, is to let the Little Bear roam free, like the wild bear he is. This involves Pappa running round the waiting area sweeping bits of old chewing gum aside and stopping people step on Little Bear as he makes a dash down the plane’s seat aisle. But it’s all worth it, because Little Bear is happy, so Pappa and Mamma are happy.
7 – Not stressing the small stuff – flying is stressful at the best of times. With a baby you can triple that really easily. Unhelpfully there will be childless people tutting when your baby’s crying, staff asking you to wake your baby up for landing to put them in a ‘belt’ that looks way less safe than being strapped to your baby-carrier (they’re only doing their job), or no changing facilities available for dads to use (shame on you Basil Airport). After time, we’ve just learnt to ignore the tutters (or shoot them an angry glance), just do as the nice flight people say, and change your baby’s full nappy to the shock on onlookers in the middle of the flight terminal. And in response to the francophone staff member at Basil Airport who says ‘well, it’s not ma problem. Is da baby’s moder not ‘ear to do it?’. Hand them the soiled nappy. Ok, so the last of these is not ignoring the small stuff, but it’s a good way to relieve your stress nevertheless. Which is what’s important.
I'm Dave, dad of Little Bear. Also known as 'Pappa' to the little man as we try and bring out his Swedish roots