Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Travelling BC (before children) vs travelling with kids

Well, we've made it. 9 hours out and 7.5 hours back, on the mighty American Airlines. Despite the aircraft looking concerningly like it was recently used to film Pan Am (seriously, televisions in the ceiling of the plane is something I didn't realise was still possible), the crew were helpful and it we couldn't really have asked for a better experience at the airports or in the air. Booking with BA was a mistake, but that's another story. 

But, I can't help comparing the whole experience to a time when air travel was a very different beast. Before I had children, this is roughly what I had to look forward to when travelling:

- 24 hours before flying - check-in online. Obviously, no issues here. Consider whether or not to pay the 'special offer price' to upgrade. Generally decide against it, thinking I'll save the money to shop at the airport
- 2.5 hours before flying - pack. No real planning required - just throw a few things into a bag. Anything I forget, I'll buy when I get there. Argue with relevant travel partner that this should have been done earlier. Head to the airport.
- 1.5 hours before flying - get to airport. Check in bag and head to security. Curse people with children that take hours to dismantle all their luggage / pushchairs / hand luggage for the x-ray machines. Tut under my breath as I swan past them with only my coat and my handbag to go through the machine. 
- 1.25 hours before flying - shop. Wander round duty free, buy make up / perfume / gadgets / clothes. Have a quick look round Boots and buy whatever it is I've inevitably forgotten.
- 1 hour before flying - head to the bar. No matter what time of day it is, it's always wine o'clock at the airport. 
- 30 minutes before flying - check the board to see if the plane is boarding. If it is, order a final drink to help the journey along.
- 15 minutes before flying - the board now says 'final call'. Consider buying another drink - depends how far away the gate is.
- 5 minutes before flying - head to gate. Discover the gate is bloody miles away, break into a gentle jog and make it just as they are closing the doors. Settle in my seat and wait for the drinks trolley to arrive.

I would like to point out that this system never failed me - I have not yet missed a flight. 

And the routine for the most recent trip - with two children and me being six months pregnant:

- 1 week before flying - start packing for the kids. Also call the airline, discover there are no children's meals and that we can't sit together as a family. I'll do a separate post on this, but in short, after a week of trying we finally discovered that we couldn't check-in online and couldn't do anything to change our horrendous seat allocation. 
- 1 day before flying - finish packing for the kids. Start and finish my packing. We have a total of 10 items - 3 x suitcases (one for me, one for Mr. Martini and one for the Martini children), 2 x car seats, 1 x pushchair, 1 x change bag (for me as hand luggage), 1 x back pack (Mr. Martini's hand luggage) and 2 x trunki's. These are brilliant by the way - highly recommended. For all the toys you need at the airport and on the plane to entertain the children. If I wasn't pregnant, it would also have contained a bottle of vodka for me.
- the night before we leave - load the car so we're ready to go.
- day of the flight - 5.30am - wake up, get dressed and then get the kids up. Give them a snack and then get in the car.
- 6.30am - head to the airport.
- 7am - arrive at the airport. Unload our 10 bags onto two trolleys and push them to the check-in desk. This takes half an hour. Oh, and our flight departs at 11.30am. We are at the check-in desk a record four hours before we take off.
- 7.30am - check-in. As previously mentioned, we couldn't do this online, so it takes quite a bit of time.
- 8am - we now only have four hand luggage bags - light in comparison! Prepare ourselves for the security checks. Queue patiently, get stopped, have to go through our bags, produce the toddler food supplies and wait for them to be security checked. Try and stop the kids running back through the security scanners, which they find very entertaining. Try not to irritate all the other passengers with all our coats, bags, shoes and other random kit while the security guards check our food. Fail to stop Elder Martini riding around on his trunki making ne-naw noises and sometimes knocking into other people's legs. (His trunki looks like a fire engine.) Make huge sighs of relief when we're finally given permission to progress and head through to the air-side section of the terminal
- 9.15am - head straight to the airport lounge (okay, some habits are too hard to give up). Get the kids breakfast. Attempt (and generally fail) to get a cup of tea and some toast whilst the kids are distracted looking at the planes. This doesn't last long. 
- 10am - begin checking the screens to see when the gate opens. 
- 10.30am - head to the gate to get a good spot close to the front. Make ourselves known to the crew and ask if we can board early. We can't - families don't get priority - so just wait until our row block is called.
- 11am - settle on the plane. Unpack half the toys from the trunkis and get the water beakers ready for the kids. And then sit back to prepare for the nine hour flight. 

What a difference two children make. Weird thing is, I wouldn't have it any other way. (Although I'll admit, I did look ever so slightly wistfully at the duty free shop at T3 as we walked straight past it.)


  1. In the States now and just did our first long haul with a 7 month old.  This all sounds scarily familiar, although more difficult due to more of you.  Super tiring and certainly reminded us of the luxury of travelling BC, but seeing her with my family has DEFINITELY made it worth it.  Now glad we have got a ladybug Trunki as maybe that will quench the desire to make 'nee naw' noises through security.  

  2. Clearly, you are far more wise than me - the ladybug Trunki is a good call. I shall apply this knowledge to the next purchase ;-)