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 😉