Well, we survived! There’s always at least one moment in a long-haul flight where you look at your watch and can’t believe there’s still hours to go.
On the upside, this didn’t happen as often as I’d feared. A combination of several naps, a bit of food, lots of new entertaining ways to pass the time and an extremely good-natured Minnie, meant we had minimal tears and probably the most fun you can have on a flight to Miami with a toddler.
Around half a dozen people even commented how well-behaved she was. Smug? Damn right. Regardless of how little was probably down to me.
So… what worked?
1. The family play area at Heathrow’s Terminal 3. Judging by how quiet it was (an expected oasis of relative calm compared to the main terminal), not many people know about it – Minnie spent an hour very happily climbing around the soft play area and there was baby-changing attached. I’m sure a good crawl/toddle helped before she had to sit still for hours.
2. Premium Economy. I’ve never actually travelled in Premium Economy before (either Virgin Atlantic or anyone else) – on a few occasions I’ve been lucky enough to get an upgrade to business, the rest of the time in economy. I was lucky again on this trip as work meant my ticket was covered but I’d seriously consider it again. Just having that bit of extra space for paraphernalia, a wider, comfier seat and cabin crew with fewer passengers to attend to (and therefore more time to help me!) was fantastic.
3. The seats. We were assigned one of the front seats in the section – where a bassinet would go. Minnie is too big for one of those but the drop-down table came in very useful for putting books/food/bottles out of her reach (with cabin crew’s approval). The notice saying not suitable for putting drinks on is spot on though, as there’s a slight slope which nearly saw off my wine. Amusingly, the one spot which was safe was on the notice itself which had enough grip to ensure it stayed put.
4. Entertainment! I was relying on a combo of new options mixed with some old favourites, while ditching any normal rules about screen time. Two apps recommended to me – Little Learners and Old McDonald from Duck Duck Moose – were interactive enough to let her do more than watch, plus I had episodes of 64 Zoo Lane (one of the few things on CBeebies that I don’t mind watching) and knew Monsters University was one inflight option to watch. (Do, it’s great). Then some mixed success for lift-the-flap Tales from Acorn Wood from Julia Donaldson (along with a current fave, semi pop-up Peepo Baby, snapped up at M&S). Lastly we had stickers – a new experience, recommended by a friend, which were great. I’m not sure her sticker sticking would win prizes but it gave her something to do as most toys just won’t work on a plane – too big/bulky/small/easily thrown etc. On the basis quantity was a factor, I had got My First Sticker book with 500 to play around with.
5. Sleep. I’m making no great claims for jetlag but as well as a slightly shorter version of her normal lunchtime nap, she had a couple of hours at her normal bedtime. That kept her going through the long immigration queue and wait for the cot in our hotel room before going off to sleep not long after her normal bedtime in this time zone. Again, I can’t claim much credit as once she’d fallen asleep on the plane, I was too scared to wake her (we’d already had tears when she’d briefly awoken during the nap) in case of meltdown. Happily she then woke herself, which neatly solved that dilemma.
6. Milk – the milk powder has been a resounding success. Easy to transport and mix with water, it was cheap to buy (just over a pound for the tin) and meant I could give her a bottle on the plane and at the hotel (as well as in the morning) without worrying about fresh milk – or, as it turns out, the total lack of a minibar.
As it’s now nearly a respectable time to go to bed, I shall do just that – and cross my fingers that neither of us finds ourself awake/ravenous at 2am and unable to go back to sleep…
Image copyright MummyTravels/Cathy Winston