Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Are we nearly there yet? Travelling with the weans….

The prospect of two weeks in Spain stretched enticingly before us….

….Long hot days,  jumping in the pool, ice-creams and sangria…..

Standing in our way, a two and a half hour plane journey from Southampton to Malaga, with The Wilburbeast on someone’s lap!

We opted to travel from Southampton, because it’s a small, regional airport – you can literally see from one end of the terminal to the other.  Ideal when your four-year old is like Damon Hill on her Trunki!  You can always spot her (and hear the “Ow!” from fellow disgruntled passengers as she careers into them!)  Also, airports in general bring out the worst in the travelling public, me included; and the effect of this seems to be directly proportional to the size of the airport…… Travelling from Heathrow, with two children, for example, is likely to leave me a gibbering wreck!

So, we get a taxi to the airport – after much tantrumming “Mummy, I don’t WANT to get in the taxi, I don’t LIKE him (the driver) and I want to take our car!”, we load up the car with two suitcases, a huge bag,  Trunki, two handluggage bags, The Wilburbeast and Miss Bags (at her shrillest!)  Luckily it was a BIG taxi! 

We arrived at the airport, unloaded, got a trolley for all our luggage and put The Wilburbeast safely in his buggy…. All to the tune of “Mummy – PLANE!”, “Mummy – another one plane! – is THAT our plane?”  After checking in successfully – 55 kilos of baggage later…. We went through security.  Miss Bags wanted to go with Trunki through the X-Ray machine, but we persuaded her that Trunki would be OK by himself.  We managed not to hold up the line too much as we folded and unfolded our buggy, kept tabs on two children, removed the contents of our pockets, and belts (and thankfully NOT our shoes this time!) and our baby food was swabbed for explosives  - trust me, the only thing explosive we have is contained in Wilburbeast’s nappy!

We found a nice place to sit upstairs in the terminal, where The Wilburbeast could crawl to his heart’s content and Miss Bags could watch the planes take off and land – which she did – LOUDLY!  Thankfully we weren’t delayed, and they called us for boarding on time.  Call me strange, but this is the bit I love the most about travelling with children….. all of those people in the check-in queue, and all of those people waiting in the departure lounge who had eyed us with the “Oh-god-I-hope-they-are-not-on-our-flight” look, suddenly had their worst fears confirmed as we joined them in the queue at Gate 7. 

We had agreed a strategic plan for boarding in advance – while queuing I would fold and secure the buggy…. Crummy Hubby would carry his rucksack, The Wilburbeast and the buggy, depositing it at the steps to be loaded in to the hold (the buggy, not The Wilburbeast!) and I would be in charge of Miss Bags, the change bag, and Trunki (who could NOT be ridden out on to the Tarmac for obvious reasons!).  Trying to keep an over-excited 4 year old away from the dangers presented by being loose on the runway at the airport, and heading in a straight line for the rear steps while man-handling a change bag, Trunki, passports and boarding passes in a howling gale is no mean feat let me tell you!!

Once settled in our seats, me next to Miss Bags, who had the window seat, and Crummy Hubby across the aisle from me – for ease of passing The Wilburbeast back and forth should the need arise.  We really needn’t have worried, he was so engrossed in the Safety Card he put it over his face (like an old man with a newspaper) and promptly fell asleep!  Miss Bags was also interested in the safety card, but for different reasons, while pointing to the diagram of the plane cabin filled with smoke, “Mummy why is that man crawling – walking is FASTER!” – and me trying to explain what is going on without scaring the bejesus out of her, thus scuppering any hope we had of a quiet flight!   Luckily, she seemed happy with  my explanation of “it almost never happens”!  After the seatbelt sign was switched off and she had gotten over the excitement of being up in the clouds, she settled down to watch some Peppa Pig on the iPad, and did a spot of coloring.  The Wilburbeast was still sleeping… All in all an uneventful flight! 

Flybe clearly paid the cheaper landing fees at Malaga airport because despite there being several vacant stands with jetbridges – we taxied to the far corner of the airport to await transfer to the terminal by hot and sweaty bus.  Having said that, once in the airport we came through passport control and baggage reclaim with no delay or stress. 

We collected out hire car – loaded up all the baggage and set off to our apartment!  Miss Bags said “we have been on a plane and a bus and how we’re on the mototrway – how much further is it Mummy……” We had made it!  No one got lost, hurt, shouted at, or had a nervous breakdown!

Having said that, and having felt very smug about our journey to Spain…. The flight home was a different story!  I admit – I was a little more highly strung having come through Malaga airport, and the undercurrent of excitement we all had on our outbound journey was gone – replaced with the thought of returning home to a drizzly and grey Southampton.  Add to this two overtired children and you have a recipe for disaster.

On board, no sooner had the Captain said “Cabin crew, doors to automatic and cross check” than The Wilburbeast let out a HUGE soggy fart, that definitely had follow-through and not only filled his nappy – but also the plane with the stench of baby poo!  As we taxied down the runway – there was nothing either of us could do about it – apart from shush the gleeful shouts of “He’s done a POO!” from Miss Bags, and smile apologetically and through gritted teeth at our fellow passengers!  As soon at the seat-belt sign was switched off, Crummy Hubby gamely went to change The Wilburbeast in the airplane toilet - not easy considering how small airplane toilets are – how ANYONE manages to join the Mile High Club on an Embraer 190 is beyond me!  A clean nappy later, and The Wilburbeast is happily ensconsed on his Daddy’s lap – drinking his milk and stuffing crisps!  Once the crisps and milk ran out, however – and we started out descent into Southampton he became increasingly agitated and screamed the place down!  At one point, he started to retch, as if he was about to be sick – at this point, all thoughts of  glee at the “Oh-god-I-hope-they-are-not-on-our-flight” brigade getting what they fully expected on a flight with a young child, turned to despair as I met the gaze of the gentleman in the window seat next to Crummy Hubby and The Wilburbeast…. I silently willed The Wilburbeast not to be sick, and the man looked like he would have climbed out onto the wing if he could have!  There was no sea of kettle chip studded vomit thank god, as we landed safely at Southampton….

All that in mind – here are my tips for travelling with young children:

  • Pack enough nappies/baby food/wipes etc to cope if you are delayed
  • Keep all travel documents together
  • Travel from your local airport where possible
  • Try to pick daytime flights – late night flights do not happy wee travellers make!
  • Pack a change of clothes for EVERYONE!
  • Pack drinks for the children to specifically to have during take off and landing to help them ease the pressure in their ears.
  • Ensure, that where the child is old enough, they understand they must carry their OWN hand luggage!
  • Take an iPad/iPhone/portable DVD player to keep the children occupied both at the airport and on the flight!
  • Ignore all the filthy looks you get from people who are NOT travelling with children as yours scream, shout, run about, eat junk food etc.
  • Travelling brings out the worst in everyone – try to cut your children some slack as they will be excited and/or tired.  This is definitely a time to pick your battles!
  • Once you have arrived at your destination, toast your successful journey with a LARGE GLASS OF WINE!

It won’t always go to plan…. But its SO worth it for the holiday memories….