Category Archives: Flying with Kids

Whirls and bumps on planes and airport shuttles

One of the nice things about traveling with kids, is the laughter that bubbles up when boring adults would be dozing or staring into space.

We left our hotel in NYC via an airport shuttle at 6am today, when it was still dark, and also rainy. Ours was the last stop at the airport and as we swished around the various terminals, Eliane – and therefore Mikaela and Liam and then Chris and I too – whooped and laughed as we went over the bumps of joining ramps and whirled around corners. They also exclaimed in pleasure to see the airport train in action (we caught an airport train between terminals in Madrid, but you simply can’t get enough of such joys).

It’s a cliche to say that being with children can renew your own pleasure in simple things; that taking a child’s view of the world can give you fresh joy and excitement, but it is no less true for all that.

Travel Notes – Day One, Flight Two.

Flying doesn’t give me quite the same buzz it did back when I took my first flight at 19 years old (from Adelaide to Timor via Darwin), but I do still get a kick out of it.

Of course it’s partly being on holidays, especially at the start of a trip like this – the flight is filled with so much to look forward to and is the culmination of months of anticipation, weeks of preparation, but is also the moment we can finally relax.

I wasn’t sure how it would go, this flying with (three) kids thing – and let’s be clear, this is only the second flight of four before we reach our first destination. But so far, so good.

Elli was a bit grumpy and hard to distract for a while there after the first little while in her seat. We boarded early to give us plenty of time to get the CARES and car seat installed, and deal with any more strife over using the CARES device (there wasn’t any), and there was a little delay on the runway, so by the time we made it into the air the kids had been strapped in for about an hour, and Elli was over it. (Lesson learned: don’t strap the baby into her seat until the plane is really ready to take off, and the fasten seat belts sign is on.)

But, I kept her more or less distracted until the dinner arrived, and then she was very happy for a while eating chicken and peas, chewing on some bread and butter, and eating not only her own tiramisu, but most of Liam’s and Mikaela’s!  After which Chris took her to change her nappy and get her into her pajamas, so that in theory she could nurse to sleep. In the end it took probably another half hour or more of play time – mostly on my lap, some on Chris’s, before she was ready to go to sleep, but once she did she’s been great. She’s woken a few times to change positions or nurse some more, but mostly she’s been settled.

So here I am in the middle of the night stuck between another passenger and her car seat with her on my lap, one arm trapped under her. So why am I having such a good time?

I think it’s that not only are we off on a big adventure, but also that this is enforced down time. I’ve just watched two and a half episodes of junk – but fun – TV, something I virtually never have time to do, and now I’m writing a blog post. Something else I struggle to find time for.

Admittedly I’d probably be having a better time if I’d had more than 3 hours sleep last night, and if I didn’t gave the consequent headache. Actually I’d possibly be asleep now – or at least dozing, if we didn’t have to get off the plane in Singapore in a bit under two hours. It is, after all, after 11pm, Canberra time. On the other hand it must be about 3pm Barcelona time, so if I *can* sleep on the next flight (more likely to happen early if the kids weren’t asleep now I’d guess) that’s probably quite good from a jet lag perspective. And that’s a 13 hour flight or there abouts, so it won’t matter if it takes a while for the kids to resettle – except in the sense that I will be utterly, utterly exhausted!

Hmm, they’ve turned the lights back up. Must be time for another ‘refreshment’ 🙂 – I do like the food on these international flights – Qantas ones, anyway. (Edited later to add – and yeah, sorry to say none of the other airlines’ food really matched up.)

Edited to add:

Thirty hours later, we’re on our forth and final (for this week) flight.

Everyone is exhausted, though all three kids got substantially more sleep than me or Chris. Tempers were slightly frayed getting through Heathrow and onto this flight, but overall we’ve all done remarkably well.

I’m the only one who seems to gave any significant ear trouble with take off and landing, which is good. (Edited again later to add that Liam did have some ear trouble, but intermittently, like me, and only one flight where it really truly bothered him a lot.)

I’ve had about three or four broken hours of dozing over the entire time, and with only three hours of sleep the night before we left, that makes maybe six hours in the past 60, with another 10 or so hours before I can go to bed in Barcelona!

Up, Up and Away!

We made it! We’re on the plane!

(I´m typing on my iPhone to upload later)

First flight, a dash 8 from Canberra to Sydney. Eliane was asleep, nursing before we started taxiing to the run way. Yay!

This is the first time the big kids have been on a plane, in their memory. They have both been very excited about it. I was a little concerned that Mikaela might be scared, especially with the bumpy start we always have getting out of Canberra. But no, she giggled a bit nervously, but was okay and interested in the view, and in going through the clouds.

It’s a small plane, two seats on either side. Since we have a seat booked for Elli (she can’t use it, as we can’t use the car seat on this plane, but it’s part of our round the world ticket), we’ve got the four seats on either side of the aisle, plus one behind. So the kids are sitting together, with Mikaela in the window and Chris across the aisle (no-one next to him), and I’m behind them with Elli on my lap (and no-one next to me).

The kids are enjoying being together though it might be easier if Chris were next to Mikaela.

Unfortunately they didn’t let us put the CARES harness on for Mikaela, and we didn’t get on early enough to feel we had time to argue, but I am convinced we should be allowed to use it (according to the Qantas website it is pre-approved for use, unlike car seats, which need to be approved a day or two before flying). I can´t see any reason being on a Dash 8 would matter for it, we had it on the seat fine before the flight attendant told us to take it off. I suspect it will be less likely to be a problem on the international flights, but I wish we´d printed out that page from the Qantas website. (Updated to add – there were no problems on the international Qantas or British Airways flights – other airlines still to come).

(Edited later to add – we did not have another flight where the CARES harness was questioned, including on the Dash 8 flight back from Sydney to Canberra)

Flying with babies (and young children) – the car seat issue

So, we have not yet resolved the umbrella stroller issue (though I have had another recommendation of the Esprit Speed Sun Stroller, which certainly looks like a better stroller overall than the ones I was looking at yesterday, but over $100 – my theoretical limit – and also a bit bigger when folded), but tonight I am focusing on researching the car seat issue.

We have booked a seat for Eliane even though she is under two, because I just can’t see how it is possibly safe to carry her on our laps if it’s not safe for the rest of us to be unrestrained (although yes, I realise air travel is much safer than car travel), and also because for 32 hour trips, or even 8 hour trips, I think having her own seat is going to be a god send. I know we both felt it was well worth the money for Liam’s seat on long haul flights to and from the States when he was this age.

So, we will be taking a car seat for Eliane. The question is about Mikaela. She is still in a five point harness in the car, though she’s big enough to be in a booster by Australian standards (over 14kg) and she’s getting close to the top limit for the standard car seat which is 18kg. She’s not there yet though. So, do we take a car seat for her as well? I don’t think so, simply because transporting two car seats, a toddler, hand luggage for the lot of us and a sleepy Mikaela and Liam between flights just might be pushing things too far.

For instance, we have one transfer where we have to get off the plane in Singapore after flying for something like 8 hours, it will be about 12:30am our time, and we’ll have 1½ hours between arrival and departure (so presumably significantly less than that actually off the plane) , and will have to go through security again (though I really don’t know why – we’re getting back on the same plane, for heaven’s sake, but have to take everything off with us. Grrr.). Then there’ll be another time when we’ll have 45 minutes between arrival and departure (it was an hour when we booked) and need to get from one plane to another. I’m thinking we’ll have Liam pushing the pram with the Eliane in it, me pushing a trolly with bags and car seat, and Chris carrying Mikaela, just to get there quickly enough.

So, no car seat for Mikaela. So I’m thinking maybe we should invest in a CARES harness, but according to this site, British Airways (who we will be travelling with for some flights) approves the harness for 12 months to 4 years. Mikaela is five but she is more than 2 kg under the weight limit, so what the? I’ll have to double check if that is up to date info. In the meantime I’ve found this awesome site: flying with children written by an ex-flight attendant who has also travelled internationally a lot with her own children, and she says:

Just a reminder to never use car seats provided by a car rental company. I had a bad experience once and unfortunately, this is not rare. The car seats provided by rental companies are at best dirty, worn and incorrectly washed (i.e. soaked straps). At worst, they could be expired, missing parts and could have been involved in a recall. Your children’s safety is too important to take the risk of using one of these. Always bring your own or make other arrangements at your destination.

Huh. I’m really not sure what we’re going to be doing about transport on the ground in the various places we’ll be. It’s going to be tricky if we don’t hire cars, since the five of us can’t fit in many other people’s cars along with them. But we can’t afford to hire cars for eight weeks. However, this has reminded me that I’d been wondering if we should invest in a couple of those backless booster seats (this sort of thing) that don’t provide any head support or protection, but do at least position the seat-belt right – just so we have something we can fit into other people’s cars pretty easily. Liam is still small enough to use a booster seat, although he doesn’t legally have to any more in Australia and most of his peers don’t – and of course Mikaela is still in a car seat.

Wow, you just really don’t travel light with children, do you?!

Edited after the trip to add: The only place we had trouble using the CARES harness was on the way to Sydney on a Qantas Dash 8 plane. They told us it was ‘not approved’, and I didn’t argue because I foolishly hadn’t printed anything from the Qantas website (it is approved), and we were among the last getting on the flight for reasons beyond me. By the end of the trip we’d learned a good thing to do was to send Chris on first with the car seat and the big kids, so he could get the seat in and strap Mikaela in, then I’d get on last with Elli, so she wasn’t strapped into her seat for too long. Anyway, on no other flight did anyone question our use of the CARES harness for Mikaela.