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Why everything I was told about travelling with a baby was wrong

The Popple looking out the window at the airport

When I mentioned to some of my friends that I was planning a trip to New York with the Popple to visit family, I got a lot of advice on how to survive a long-distance flight with a baby. This was well-meaning advice, and I’m sure most of it was very good advice for travelling with your average baby.

But the Popple…well, she always does things her own way.

What I was told: Don’t worry about the long flight. She’ll probably sleep the whole time thanks to the white noise from the engines.

What actually happened: The Popple slept for the first 40 minutes of the flight, then was wide awake for the next SIX AND A HALF HOURS.

Those six and a half hours involved the following:

  • Bribing her to stay quiet with unlimited baby corn snacks.
  • Walking her up and down the very narrow aisle while she pointed at other passengers.
  • Watching her rip up the in-flight magazine.
  • Listening to her bang my fold-down tray repeatedly.
  • Lots of watch-checking, followed by lots of saying things like, “FFS – we still have to do this for another THREE HOURS?”
  • WINE. (For me.)

What I was told: Buy a few new toys and give them to her on the plane.

What actually happened: Adrian and I bought the Popple a few small toys and a book, all of which she threw on the floor as soon as we handed them to her.

Things she actually played with: a pen, a pair of free airplane headphones, the plastic bag that the headphones came in, and the flight safety card.

What I was told: Breastfeed her during takeoff and landing to help relieve the pressure on her ears.

What actually happened: This actually worked during takeoff on our flight to America. On the way back, she was so furious that I had to try to boob her as soon as we boarded the plane.

It didn’t work.

If you’ve ever sat on a quiet, crowded airplane with your boob out while your baby howls and tries to escape from your arms, you’ll know how stressful it is. The people who are seated near you are staring. The people who are seated away from you are feeling pretty f***ing lucky. Everyone kind of hates you.

After 20 minutes of purple-faced shrieking, the Popple finally screamed herself to sleep on my shoulder, and I nearly wet myself with relief.

What I was told: Just load up lots of videos onto your iPad and let her watch as much as she wants.

What actually happened: I’m a big fan of some cleverly-deployed screen time. Would I usually plop the Popple in front of the telly and leave her for hours? No. Would I let her watch back-to-back episodes of Peppa Pig on an airplane if I thought it could get her to actually sit still for more than five minutes? Hell yes.

But here’s the problem – the Popple can’t watch anything on the iPad because she can’t stop herself from touching the screen. Or, more accurately, hitting the screen as hard as she can until she’s closed the video and opened up some weird programme I’ve never heard of.

I did try to get her to watch Kung Fu Panda 3 on the little screen on the back of the chair in front of her. And she did – for about 15 minutes.

Those 15 minutes were epic. She pointed at the screen and laughed her a** off, even though the film was on mute. I marvelled at how cute she can be. I watched a few minutes of my own grown-up movie. I drank some wine and didn’t have to worry about spilling it on her head.

Then she wanted to get out of her car seat. And this happened. For pretty much the rest of the flight.

The Popple pulling my hair on the airplane

29 thoughts on “Why everything I was told about travelling with a baby was wrong”

  • Oh wow…I’m sure this is exactly how it would have played out if I had ever taken my son on a flight! Well, at least you tried lots of different things…kept you busy at least…? And there was wine, so hurray! Congratulations for surviving xx

  • haha! its never easy! I remember the preteen getting so ill on the flight back from florida when she was 2.. constant sick and crying and stuttering passengers was a joy (not!) she still gets sick flying home to this day, so my plane rides are still always eventful.. I feel for you! Hope you had a great trip though! #stayclassy

  • Haha well done on surviving it! We took our daughter on a few flights when she was little (under 9 months and immobile). We are doing a short flight to Paris next month with her (now aged 19 months) and our newborn….

    Baggsie I get the baby!!!

  • Yargh! The fear of them waking up when they do fall asleep runis the experience anyway! Now he’s two it costs so much more but at least I get my own seat 🙂 #stayclassy

  • Hmm just wrote a comment but disappeared into thin air! Anyway, was just saying that I hd one like Popple and that SIX AND A HALF HOURS is the longest of your entire life! Sorry to have giggled at your excellent recount but did make me laugh lots. Great blogging material! #triballove

  • Oh Katie you really make me laugh! But I am sorry the flight was stressful for you. TM can’t watch things on phone or iPad yet without trying to touch them either. Well done for surviving it! And like Helen said at least it’s great blogging material. #StayClassy

  • What a drama!! This is exactly why we haven’t gone abroad yet with our four!! We managed with two which actually, I found easy as my youngest was just a few months old and slept the entire time, but four? No way!! The furthest we go is Devon which is still an eight hour drive and an entire day of HELL ON EARTH, but once we are there, it was worth it!! #PoCoLo

  • Yikes! Well done you for surviving what sounds like a little bit of a tortourous flight. I’ve heard all of the same things and when we travelled with our 2 year old last summer they seemed to work on the whole, although it was only a 3/4 hour flight! This summer we will be doing a 13 hour flight with a 3 year old and a 1-2 month baby and I am absolutely wetting myself about it, especially after reading this! I think ill expect the worst and hope for the best and see where we end up, gulp. Emily

  • Haha I think these might be tips for toddlers rather than children – my two and a half year old is amazing at ipadding (recent events aside) but the baby is just not interested. My only tip for flying with baby is pray. Even if you’re not religious, pray to the gods of sleep. #KCACOLS

  • Oh nooo! My mum used to regularly take myself and my sister back and to from Saudi Arabia from 2 & 6 weeks – I asked her how on EARTH she managed and she said, oh it was easy! I drugged you with antihistamine you were allowed to do it back then”…………..#KCACOLS

  • I’m sorry, that sounds grim. Thing is, you never know how they’re going to react until you try it. Sometimes things work, other times not so much and you have to ride it out. Hopefully next time will be better

  • Argh it is never easy travelling with little ones on a plane is it!! I think the best course of action is to buy ear plugs and then if anyone looks at you and your little one grumpily you can sweetly offer them to the person. Thanks for joining us on #KCACOLS and we hope that you will join us next week 🙂

  • Hehe! I feel your pain! Well done you for surviving. And every cloud – you wrote a fabulous and funny post! 🙂 I hope you had a lovely holiday though X #KCACOLS

  • Oh god I feel your pain, I wrote a handy/popular guide to flying with a one year old (http://yummyblogger.com/2015/07/06/taking-a-one-year-old-baby-abroad-including-flying-tips-and-checklists/) but in reality it was hard work… And even harder when he was 20 months old… And we haven’t flown further than Spain with him do I can’t imagine going as far as NY! We’ve said that our next foreign holiday will be driving to France… Lots of stops, an in-car DVD player etc! #KCACOLS

  • Oh goodness that must have been one very long flight! I do think to myself well if we can do it now, we can do it anytime it will only get easier…surely?? Hmm famous last words perhaps. At least you were able to see your family when you got there p, must have made it all worth it xx #ablogginggoodtime

  • Oh honey I feel for you so much! I took both my boys on a plane to Florida when they were babies and it was a nightmare! It’s okay for the few minutes they drink or watch the TV but for the rest of the time it’s a tough slog and I totally feel for you. I tried iPad, toys, playing pat-a-cake, all sorts and for the most part we spent the time crying (both of us!) or fighting. The only advice I would give to a person taking a baby on a long-haul flight would be to take plenty of alcohol!!
    Hope all is well now honey.
    Thanks for linking to #PoCoLo

  • Haha, well everything you’ve told me is EXACTLY how I imagine a flight with a baby! We’re yet to attempt it and now our first is 2 and #2 is coming along, it’d probably be a while yet! #KCACOLS

  • Oh bless you, I’m so not looking forward to my 28 hour flight to Melbourne with my girl…it’s so tricky isn’t it? Glad you had a great trip and well done for getting through the journey 🙂 #triballove #KCACOLS

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