How much fun would it be to fly from France to Australia, alone, with three kids under six? Childbirth may actually seem more appealing.
Yet, a month from now, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing, and to make the experience that little more exciting, my youngest, at 23 months old, won’t have her own seat. I’m about to set off on a French adventure with my family for a month to introduce our children to their UK cousins. Despite all our planning, a few weeks ago we got word that my husband will be staying on in Europe for work. Changing flights so we could stay on as well was cost prohibitive so we decided the children and I would fly home alone. That’s right, I’m not a single mum, but on this trip, I will be flying solo, literally.
If all runs to plan, I have about 26 hours to navigate. I’ve gone on many travels with my kids, including some long haul flights, but my longest solo flight with them is five hours. So, as we prepare to leave Australia, I’m already concocting survival strategies for the trip home. Things might not go to plan but making a plan gives me the feeling that it’s achievable. I’ll be writing a follow-up article after the trip to share what REALLY happens on the trip, but for now, here’s what I think might happen:
NAVIGATING CHECK-IN AND CUSTOMS
I expect this to be the easiest part of the journey. When flying alone with two or more kids, I’m usually escorted to the front of baggage check, luggage screening and customs lines. My girls are well versed at the process of airports so I expect them to handle this stage well.
FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT
Ample snacks and entertainment are a key strategy for long haul flights with young children. Dried fruit, chips or crackers are staples in my bag, they take a while to eat and don’t make too much mess.
My six-year-old is the only one who can watch a TV screen for any length of time, so I’ll need to pack plenty of things to keep the younger two entertained. The older two have backpacks with colouring in, sticker books and a teddy each. I’ve bought pocket-sized magnetic drawing gadgets for all three girls, and there will be some surprises wrapped up to be delivered at strategic moments including a Rubik’s Twist for the big girls, magnetic Tic-Tac-Toe and my biggest draw card – ‘Frozen’ figurines.
This is one of my greatest challenges and I expect I will get no sleep. We took overnight flights to Sabah last year (10 hours) and none of my children slept much at all. Our six-hour flight to Dubai leaves Lyon at 9.45pm and given that airlines don’t dim the lights until after meal service and duty-free, it makes it hard to convince kids they should sleep. There’s a delicate balance between pushing kids to sleep and allowing them to stay up, either way too far can make them hit a very big wall at which point everything falls apart.
Until now I have been firmly against using something like Phenergan to assist kids in sleeping on a plane, but for this trip, I decided to discuss the option with my long time, much trusted GP, and am considering the possibility of using it.
I’m not likely to be able to leave my 23-month-old in our seat as she’s going through a clingy stage and then there’s the possibility of mischief making in my absence, so:
- If I need to go to the toilet she will come with me.
- If my six-year-old needs to go I may have to escort to the door, with my 23-month-old in tow.
- If my three-year-old needs to go I will have to go with her and 23-month-old will come too. Somehow all three of us need to squeeze into the toilet and we have the risk of both girls screaming when the toilet is flushed.
- If my youngest happens to be sleeping it will be on my chest, so toilet breaks will become more of a challenge. If six-year-old needs to go, I am sure she will let a hostess take her. If my three-year-old needs to go, there’s probably a 50:50 chance of her going with anyone but me. Hopefully a hostess will have won her over by then.
This should be straight-forward. Airline staff are good at holding a meal for me until the kids have eaten. They are usually very considerate of clearing trays as quickly as possible to minimise risk of accidents. Lucky for me airline meals are perfect for eating with one hand.
A FOUR HOUR STOP-OVER IN DUBAI
I haven’t been to Dubai airport before so I’m not sure what the facilities will be like. I’m pretty good at creating games in airports with my kids and I never care how silly we look, so I think the time will pass quickly. My biggest challenge will be keeping everyone together. I’m sure I can get an airport stroller, and even though none of my kids will want to sit in it, it may be useful as a bag carrier to ensure I’m free to dash after anyone who does veer off course along the way.
To combat the ‘keeping all three kids together’ conundrum, I’m considering packing a “magic ribbon” which we will all have to hold onto when walking around the airport. I think even my 23-month-old will buy into this game.
I think it is inevitable that at least once in our journey I will encounter a melt down by two or more girls simultaneously. They will reach their over-tired, cooped up limits and lose all ability to reason. In my experience, when my kids cross this line they become very irrational and emotional and really need to be wrapped until they sleep. The problem will be if more than one child needs to be wrapped, because I can assure you that no one wants to share Mum in those moments. Hopefully I don’t have all three in tears at one time otherwise I may just join them.
I dread the moments where the girls start to niggle at each other. The older two tease each other, speak rudely and snatch. My little one gets physical by pulling hair, pushing or biting. How will we deal with this is a confined space? I am thinking bribery might be my best hope… this may just be the moment to reveal those Frozen figurines.
KEEPING MY ZEN
I believe this is the key to surviving our trip home and it is the only element I truly have control over. I choose to approach this flight with a positive attitude and a sense of adventure. I choose to believe my kids have the ability to amaze me. I choose to breathe deeply when I feel my patience wearing thin. I choose to forgive myself and my children for any outbursts, we are human. I choose the mantra “This too shall pass”, the flight home will end and we will all be OK.
You may be asking why anyone would choose to fly alone on a long haul flight with children? Because just like childbirth, 24 hours of potential pain has a huge pay off. The chance to travel with children, introduce them to other cultures, and spark a curiosity and desire to explore the world is well worth the pain. At least, I believe in that now… I will let you know if I still feel the same way on my return.
About the author
Linda is an adventurous soul who also happens to be Mum to three little girls. She is a life coach and founder of Linda on the Go – a site dedicated to inspiring Mums to thrive. You can follow Linda and her adventures on Facebook or Instagram.