As you probably know by now, although we live in Australia, I am originally from France. I actually don’t really miss it, but I do have family that I like to visit as regularly as possible. Now that we have a family of our own, I feel a bit of an obligation to bring our son to see his grand-parents, aunt, uncle, and even more great-grandparents. It is a big chunk of our budget and now that I am no longer working, it means we can not really put any money aside, but that is the choice I made in coming to live all the way across the world.
Now comes the organisation part!
Flying with a baby/toddler is an adventure on its own, but when we start talking about flying for over 24 hours with a really active not-so-little one, it’s a whole other cattle of fish!
So far, we are only at the planning stage, as we will be leaving at the end of June, so I thought I would share some of this organisation process.
1. When to fly
At the moment, the Ouistiti only sleeps in his crib or in the car (but not when it stops, even if the engine is still running…). Now we were faced to a hard decision: should we choose an overnight flight, also called a red eye, or fly during day time?
As I mentioned, flying between Melbourne and Paris takes over 24h, so either way, we would have to fly both during night and day time. Our choice regarded whether to do the longER flight during either of these times.
Personally, with our Little Man being such a light sleeper in unfamiliar environments, I think the red eye flight will be the hardest one. That said, if we can get through the first 14h flight, the second one should be a little bit easier… The Ouistiti will probably start getting used to it by then, and also be a bit more active. So a shorter (7h) second flight during the day should be a bit easier to entertain him.
On the way back, we did not have as much choice, so his night will be split between the 2 flights. I will be able to tell you afterwards if this is a better choice for an active baby. I’ll be your guinea pig!
This second flight also scares me as I will be flying with the Little Man by myself…
2. Who to fly with
This is not sponsored by any airline, and only reflects all the research and experience I have had with the different airlines.
As we have flown several times between these two destinations, we have had a bit of experience with different airlines.
Our first criteria used to be the price. These tickets cost between $2,000 and 5,000 on average… It is A LOT of money. No need to draw you a picture there! So we flew with various, usually Asian, airlines and were pretty happy with them. I am quite small (1m58/5ft 2in), so space doesn’t bother me too much, but some of these airlines did lack a little bit of legroom for longer people, such as my fiancé. Air China was one of those.
Now, with our little one in tow, we decided to upgrade a little bit, still considering the price, but without overlooking comfort.
We had noticed on previous flights that Emirates and Qatar both seemed to have good baby facilities in flights and were definitely very comfortable. After a bit of research, it confirmed that these airlines, as well as Ethiad, had great options for families.
They all have bassinets overhanging front rows, baby food and kids entertainment, and even in-flight nannies on long-haul flights for Ethiad! This seemed a wonderful idea, enabling us to get at least a couple of hours of sleep (I’m talking more for myself, I know Daddy’s rest won’t really be disturbed…).
In the end, we had a look at these 3 airlines, but Qatar came out as the cheapest. (I would have loved Ethiad but saving $500 or so does seem more important at the moment…)
By the way, we did not get a chance to get back to Melbourne in time; otherwise, we would have got a quote from STA Travel. We’ve been using them for a while now, as they have cheaper fares for under 26 (30 in some flights) and for teachers. And we are both! (Well, I’m no longer under 26, but still a teacher and ‘Daddy’ is still both…)
3. What stop-over to choose
One more decision: choosing a longer or shorter layover between the 2 flights? Or even choosing to break down the flight into 3 separate flights?
We chose not to go for more than 2 flights. We’re still not sure of our decision but in the end, it seems like a good thing not to have to pack all the goodies back in the diaper bag, between crammed seats, more times than necessary!
Now for the second decision… This one was a hard one for me, and I am still not sure we took the right one!
Shorter layover: we’d get to our destination faster; no time for the Ouistiti to get bored and unmanageable.
Longer layover: more time to stretch our legs, maybe even catch a snooze if he hasn’t managed to really sleep on the plane.
In the end, after talking it over with our travel agent, we decided to go with a shorter layover. We will still have around 2h in the airport, which should be just about enough for the Little Man to run around. Now, I am just hoping that our first flights won’t be late…
4. What seat to choose
Unfortunately, there is only a limited amount of choice in this matter. It mainly depends on how early we will arrive at the airport, how full the flight will be, how many other families will be on board…
Our baby boy is already too big – at only 8 months old – to fit in the bassinets…so he will definitely not be able to sleep in them at almost 13 months! This means that, as an infant (under 2), he will not have a seat of his own, unless there is a spare one, which is unlikely in such a peak-time flight… The Ouistiti will have to be seating on our lap and find a way to sleep in our arms, or possibly on the floor, but without risking airplane safety…
So, no ideal solution for us there. The BEST solution would be to pay for a child seat and therefore be sure that he will have somewhere to seat on his own for these 24 hours. But this would mean $1,500 more and we have decided the discomfort of two 24h flights was not worth that much.
5. What to bring
I will be writing more about this after all our trial-and-error first flight late June, but here is what I plan on trying:
- drinkers & bottles;
- small, easy snacks, without too much sugar that could get him quite hyper;
- wipes (and, of course, diapers & diaper disposable bags);
- blankets to play on and be wrapped in;
- board books;
- stickers & maybe a bit of colouring;
- his soft ball;
- stacking cups;
- quiet book, maybe handmade if I find the time;
- iPad with appropriate apps;
- pre-prepared ziplock bag activities.
The hardest thing I find in planning this is that babies change every month! I can’t really know what my son will be interested in in 4 months time. And I like planning as you can see. Hopefully this should still come in handy.
Any tips on flying long distance with a baby or toddler? What were your best strategies? Short or long layover? Which airline?
I can’t wait to read about your tried tips!