I’m sitting on a flight to Toronto, on our way back home to Saskatoon from South Africa (flight route: Johannesburg – Munich – Toronto – Saskatoon via Lufthansa operated by Air Canada) as I start typing this post, and my oh my have we been having fun flying with two littlies… Said no parent ever! 😉
We are super blessed that we get to travel with our kids, and they are actually pretty epic little travelers and we are training them to be happy jet setters for sure! I refuse to complain about flying as we are completely blessed and privileged to be able to do this as a family. But it is challenging traveling such a far distance with small children – and I’d hope to offer some insights and share our experiences more than whine about our struggles if you know what I mean. Because that’s totally hashtag first world problems. I’ll keep it completely real though and won’t hold back at all 😉 I’ll be sharing our experiences and my flight hacks and top tips and tricks in the next few posts – too many things to mention for just one post guys 🙂 If you have any advise for me, please comment on the posts and share your insight – I’d love to learn from you as we prepare for the upcoming season in our lives which will also include some travel (more local travel at least).
We’ve done three long flight journeys with our kids so far, and quite a few quick domestic flights too. We’ve been super lucky with some really easy flights, but our latest trip included some of the most challenging traveling experiences yet, so I thought it may be apt to start with our worst experiences and then you know it will only get better from there! 🙂
We recently took our first trip back to South Africa – it’s a seriously far flight journey guys! A friend of ours here told us that she was somewhere near Calgary on holiday, and she saw a sign that said the furtherest point from Pretoria – how crazy is that! We are literally the other side of the world guys 😉 So flying back to South Africa for a visit is seriously not quick and easy. Our planned flight journey was Saskatoon – Calgary – Frankfurt – Johannesburg – Durban on the way there, and Johannesburg – Munich – Toronto – Saskatoon on the way back.
My sister, Summer, Hudson and I were doing the flights to Frankfurt alone, and meeting Adrian in Frankfurt as he was in Europe on business the few days before. We arrived at the airport in Saskatoon to be told that our first flight had been delayed. Yay – what a great start 😉 Air Canada had to reroute us through Toronto (it was supposed to be through Calgary) in order to make our Frankfurt connecting flight. Ugh! You know when you have a plan and then it changes at the last minute… Also I am not a fan of Toronto airport in general so I didn’t have the best feeling going into this flight. My top concern was that we had pre-booked parenting seats with extra leg room and the bassinet for Hudson, but now that we would be flying on a completely different flight, at the last minute, we would not be guaranteed those seats 😦 I phoned Adrian and told him about the change of plans, and he reminded me that flying is unpredictable and we need to go with the flow as there is nothing we can really do at this point. Coming from the guy who has had to run across the airport trying to catch his flight many times, and has arrived in a few locations only to be told that his bags didn’t arrive… He knows what he’s talking about.
So, we got onto the first flight to Toronto. The flight was alright – Summer did activities, watched some shows on the iPad and had her milk, and we tried everything to get her to have her usual day nap. Nothing worked. I knew the next few hours would be hectic if she didn’t nap, but fellow parents will know that sometimes you try everything and it just doesn’t go your way. So we arrived in Toronto after the three hour flight with a very tired toddler… and it began…
Our flight had been delayed previously so we knew we didn’t have much time to manoeuvre through Toronto airport to get onto our next flight, in order to make it in time for our flight to Frankfurt. We also needed to collect our new boarding passes and find out about our seats because we were bumped onto this new flight with no guarantee of those treasured parenting seats. We realized we only had minimal time to get to the other side of this airport and Summer just couldn’t walk fast because she was exhausted. By the time we had gotten through security, we had seriously no time to mess around. We started running – me pushing Hudson in his stroller and pulling Summer along. My sister trying to keep up while carrying most of our hand luggage (which is a lot when traveling with kids)! Then our little Summer had enough and went into full meltdown mode demanding the toilet and screaming that she needs a pooooooo… and in true toddler style, this was not a quiet request but a loud verbal demand for all to hear.
We went into survival mode and found a bathroom – we named this bathroom of hell later on as the things that went down in that bathroom are unspeakable. The screaming toddler, my exhaustion and anxiety, my sister reaching tipping point – all led to a very crazy bathroom visit and a frantic phone call to the husband saying that we just can’t do this and we were not getting onto the flight… Yes guys, it’s hard to explain, but everything fell apart right there. I’m not sure how, but we managed to get out alive and make it to our boarding gate.
We got our boarding passes which showed that Summer, Hudson and I would be sitting alone (and not in parent seats and with no bassinet), and my sister would be seated far from us. This did not delight me in any way but my sister worked her magic and chatted to the air hostesses telling them we are freaking out, we are NOT coping, we NEED to sit together. Which translates into if I don’t sit with my sister and help her with the kids you’re going to regret it! 😉 A very kind person moved seats and allowed us four to sit together in a very squashy three seater. Hudson on my lap the whole flight with Summer in between my sister and I. And it began… Luckily Summer was so exhausted, she managed to sleep very well on this flight and had minimal meltdowns. Hudson was an absolute champ and slept and fed and slept and fed. Such a relief for me. Besides my back and arm cramping due to holding him for an entire seven hour flight, we made it out in one piece, and greeted Daddy in Frankfurt 🙂 Then I knew everything would be okay. It’s crazy how your anxiety disappears the minute your person is around. Adrian didn’t even need to do anything, just having him there was enough to make me me again. A big shout out to my sister for taking everything in her stride and surviving this parenting thing before her time. Epic!
Adrian was staying at the Hilton the night before and was still checked in for the day, so we got to shower and nap and laze around the room before our next flight to Johannesburg. Spoilt! This was a saving grace for sure. Parents traveling with kids, use the airport lounges or airport hotels as much as possible. Having food and drinks and bathrooms and changing facilities right there is a game changer.
We then got onto our next flight to Johannesburg that evening, and Hudson and I were seated alone in the parenting seat with a bassinet (yay!), and my sister, Summer and Adrian were seated in a four seater right behind us. All the passengers had boarded and the pilot let us know that there was a delay (our third delay so far) and we would only be heading out in an hour or so. Besides that it was a pretty decent flight with a few meltdowns from Summer and some seat swaps to manage it all, and with only a few bad moments with Hudson. Overall, a normal flight with kiddos, nothing extreme 😉 The issue was, we were landing in Johannesburg and then needed to be on a domestic flight to Durban, and with this most recent delay, there was no guarantee that we would make it. We landed and rushed off the plane and luckily with Hudson’s awesome Canadian passport, we went into a nice short queue at passport control and were out of customs in no time.
We said goodbye to my sister who was staying in Johannesburg, and we rushed to connecting flight check ins. The lady behind the counter kept saying that it was impossible and we were going to miss our flight, and then she decided that we must make a run for it… So we did. We RAN across Johannesburg airport and flew through security and got onto our flight. The angry stares from the people on the flight would have normally made us feel embarrassed, but we were so exhausted at that stage, we didn’t let it get to us too much. A quick side note that I personally hadn’t slept a wink on any flights so I was ready for bed 😉 Hudson, of course, desperately needed his diaper changed as we didn’t even get a quick moment to stop during our frantic rush in Johannesburg airport to feed or do changes, so I had to wait until we were in the air to get to the bathroom. So if it wasn’t enough that we made everyone wait for us, our screaming baby either made everyone feel sorry for us, or more annoyed than before! At least it’s only a 45 minute flight, and as we were in the air at altitude, we pretty much start preparing for landing. We made it to Durban after four flights, lots of delays, no sleep for me and many meltdowns (from kids and grown ups)! Flying with kids is not for sissies 🙂
I’ll stop right there and share our flight journey home (from South Africa to Saskatoon) experience with you next time, and then my top flying tips and tricks to follow too. Our journey home involved way more meltdowns, sore ears, and lots of vomit… Stay tuned 😉
4 Comments Add yours
I have done quite a bit of travelling and I have watched moms and dads with their children 👶 trying to pacify, walking , rocking them up and down aisles it can’t be easy, especially when a baby/child is crying/whining in such confined spaces. I have given up my seat, helped young moms especially if they have been on their own, As a young mom I had never travelled on a plane ✈️ when my children were little so can only imagine how exhausting it must be. Well done taking the step with 2 little ones on such a long journey, memories for sure. Love reading your blog and such a wonderful keepsake, I kept diaries when my children were growing up, and I have started typing them onto my laptop, You think you will always remember everything but you don’t that is why it is so important to write down all your memories so you can always go back to them. One day you will say I am so thankful I did what I did. Photos, dates, written words are such keepsakes, looking forward to your next part of your journey, blessings Aunty Susan xx
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Thanks so much for reading and for engaging with us on our journey, aunty Sue! I’m sure you’ve experienced a lot of similar things moving across the seas yourself!
I totally agree – recording these memories are so important and we will be so thankful that we took the time to do so now! 🙂
Wow! How amazing that you’ve helped fellow mommies on the plane – I’m sure they have appreciated it way more than you realize. It’s hard going, but as I’ve mentioned, a huge blessing to be able to travel with our kiddos because I didn’t do that with my parents either growing up. It’s a privilege and we will keep learning as we go, which is pretty much parenting to me too haha. Sending lots of love to you and your special family xx
The challenges of travel. A word of advise – you can ask for assistance if travelling with small children. On my last trip to Canada in 2017 (British Columbia) which as you know is very farrrrrrrr I was travelling with an elderly person and it was a breeze. There were many woman with one, two or more small children also travelling with assistance. You would have avoided the running and it is a breeze they drive you from one terminal to the next ensure you board first etc. So some good advice – sign up for assistance, even if the four of you are travelling together. Sending Blessings and Love to you special people xxx
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Wow, thank you. What great advice, we will look into that. To be honest, it’s totally doable when Adrian is with us and when there are no delays. The challenge is when a flight is delayed and you need to rush to make your next flight. But it’s all fun and games, and such a joy and privilege to travel with our kiddos. I know you’ve traveled with your family a lot – and know the real blessing it is.
Spending so much love xx