Back on the travel wagon!
Today’s post is inspired by a trip from Poland to Qatar which I’ve managed to complete solo, with two (!) kids aged 1 and 5. Also, we were connecting flights. Also, the first flight departed at 5:30 AM. Oh, joy! 😀
To be perfectly honest with you, I had started to freak out about the logistics of this trip around the time I booked the tickets, so more than 3 weeks in advance. 😀
How to pack? How to get to the airport in the middle of the night? How to manage bathroom breaks? And what about the food? How to move around with so much stuff, without any help? How to handle a 12kg baby and not break my back? 😉 Those were just a couple of recurring questions that made my anxiety level go through the roof!
I spent a considerable amount of time planning & preparing. And, surprisingly, it all worked pretty well! (Minus one minor tantrum mid-flight to Doha). Now that it’s all in the past and I’m happily lounging on a sofa in our Doha flat, I will gladly share some useful tips with other mamas who happen to be in a similar situation. 🙂
1. CONSIDER THE AIRPORT’S LONG TERM PARKING.
One of the issues I had was how on earth to get to the airport safely and on time, considering that I had to be there around 3 AM. I was alone at home with no relatives nearby. I could have ordered a taxi, but I would need them to provide me with 2 baby seats, enough luggage space AND to be there sharp on time in the middle of the night. Risky. I thought I’ll have to do it anyway when another option occurred to me. What if I DRIVE MYSELF to the airport and leave the car at the long-term parking. Bingo! Major stress relief to be able to take this matter into my own hands. 🙂 If you’re planning a longer trip, leave a spare car key with a friend and let them collect your car the next day to avoid a hefty parking bill.
2. TAKE THE STROLLER.
Some people tend to think that strollers amount to unnecessary hassle at the airport, and can’t be taken beyond a check-in counter. On the contrary! As I’ve previously mentioned in THIS POST, you can drive your stroller right up to the gate (or check it in for free if you wish). I’d recommend the first option, especially if you’re flying out at an unreasonable hour and don’t have an extra pair of hands to help. Your kid gets a chance to catch some sleep and you can use the stroller’s storage basket to transport all the stuff you carry around with you. In some cases, if you leave the stroller at the gate, you can then collect it next to the aircraft once you land. Otherwise, it will be waiting for you at the luggage belt (strollers are offloaded with priority so you won’t wait for long).
3. INVEST IN A BACKPACK.
A real lifesaver! You put it on and forget about it, with both hands free to do things around your kids. I’ve noticed that throughout the journey, the amount of items you have to carry around with you is magically expanding. Kids giving you their stuff to carry, all the sweets and cosmetics you purchase in Duty-Free, various jackets/hoodies/blazers when it suddenly turns out that the airport is not as cold as you thought… The list goes on. Imagine you can just throw it all onto your back and move on with your life. 🙂 Those backpacks can look really cute, too! I hunted down THIS ONE while it was on sale, and it’s amazing!
4. GROUP YOUR ITEMS INSIDE THE CARRY ON BAG.
Firstly, you will know where everything is. Secondly, it will save you a lot of time and nerves during the airport security checks. As you are probably aware, security staff will ask you to remove all electronics and liquids (baby food included!) at the scanner. If you group such items, there’s a smaller chance that you will forget something and find three security officers digging inside your bag, looking for a random 120g fruit pouch. Don’t laugh. That actually happened to me at some point!
5. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP!
I’m one of the “I can do this myself, thank you very much!” kind of people. 🙂 Always hesitating before asking for assistance, thinking it might make me look silly or weak. In some cases though, you don’t really have a choice. And you will be surprised by how people are inclined to help when they see a mom flying solo with kids! To be perfectly honest with you, most times I was offered help before I even managed to grow balls and ask for it. 🙂 Whether it was holding the baby for me while I dressed the older kid, guarding my sleeping kid while I ran for the toilet, or opening the stroller for me while I held the baby. Most people will WANT to help you, don’t be afraid to ask! 🙂
6. DON’T FILL UP HALF OF YOUR CARRY ON WITH BABY FOOD.
Unless you’re traveling with budget airlines, that is. 😉 All major reputable airlines will have several meal options for kids of all ages (those who already eat solid food, of course). I’m not one of those moms who would only allow their children to eat organic homemade food, so I did really appreciate the variety of baby food that Qatar Airways provided. I ended up not using 70-80% of baby meals that I took from home.
7. DON’T FEEL GUILTY FOR ALLOWING YOUR KIDS EXTRA SCREEN TIME ON THE PLANE.
If you manage to keep’em entertained with games and books – I salute you! I wouldn’t be able to do it. Not when I’m flying solo with kids, without my hubby there to help. And so I shamelessly allowed my 5-year-old to devour all the age-appropriate on-flight entertainment, while his younger brother was stuffing his face with cheerios. Both were happy, I was happy, no anxiety followed. 🙂
8. ASK FOR A BASSINET SEAT EVEN IF YOUR BABY OUTGREW THE BASSINET.
While on a plane, it turned out that Danny boy is too heavy for the bassinet (in QA, the weight limit is 11kg, while Danny weighs 12). Nevertheless, I was really happy about our seat selection. First of all, lots of leg space! This means that I could let the little one play on the floor comfortably. Also, no passengers in front of us meant that nobody was disturbed by occasional wild seat kicking activity. And, most importantly, the toilets were right next to us.
9. PREPARE THE “BABY CHANGING KITS”.
That has to be one of my most useful inventions. 🙂 I prepared 3 separate IKEA zip lock bags. Inside each one, there was a diaper, a small packet of baby wipes and a tiny jar of diaper cream (sudocream testers are perfect for this!). Like this, when there was a need to change the baby, I just grabbed the bag and a portable changing mat. No need to dig inside the backpack looking for every single item needed for a diaper change. Also, ziplock bags can double as trash bags for dirty diapers.
10. HAVE CONFIDENCE!
Pep talk time!! You can do this, I mean, you REALLY can! Flying solo with kids really isn’t as hard as it sounds. You are awesome and everything will be ok! 🙂 Other moms have done this before, so why not you? What’s the worst thing that can happen? Is it worth all the anxiety? 🙂 Pack your bags mama, take the kids and get ready for an adventure!