In this wonderful time of Covid-19 we are all doing what we can to plough back into some sense of normalcy. I am back in Costa Rica for the start of the season after spending a fun 5 weeks in the UK. Family to me is so important and getting to spend valuable time with my family in the UK who I had not seen in months, closer to a year was priceless. I got there at just the right time. Before the second lockdown so we got to experience some of the best things about it. The outdoors and countryside that I love so much. We stayed in our own little bubble and enjoyed the weather and the company.
Long haul travel
Traveling to the UK from Costa Rica though, is as you can guess, a bit of a haul. 23 hours door to door to be exact. Traveling that length of time in general is pretty hectic, now let’s add two small kids to the mix. Are you ready…….? Let’s go!!!
Doing the trip by myself with the two munchkins is certainly a challenge but not as bad as you may think. I have done it now a couple of times, and I would like to say I now know what to expect, but with the additional Covid-restrictions in place, face masks, paperwork etc you need to be prepared. So, in response to the many “how did you manage?” comments i thought I would post my tips to long haul traveling with kids and Covid. I hope it is helpful. Many of these tips I had taken from previous brave travelers and then adapted them to my pair of little monsters.
Don’t overload yourself
Okay, so when you start planning for the mountain you are going to climb, think about how you are going to be able to walk around and get between gates, terminals and wherever else you may need to get to. If you have a buggy, that’s all well and good, but with a lot of international flights and connection they won’t give it back to you between flights. So, how many bags do you have and can you handle them all, if you have to carry a tired kid?
I like my backpack with everything accessible, one hand luggage and thats it. Madrid airport, is a pretty fair walk between gates or if you have to change terminals and I know many of the others are like that too. Also, whilst some of the bigger airports offer free rental of kids pushchairs, that may not be happening now due to Covid so don’t rely on that. If they have them great, but be prepared to not have access to that. Make sure whatever dolls, toys etc the kids want to travel with can be stuffed in a bag quickly. You will inevitably end up carrying what they brought so if you are overloaded with toys and bags, something will be lost.
Have all of your passports, Covid tests and immigration documents handy. As in, with hands full, you can reach in and grab them without having to empty your bag. And put them bag in the SAME place each time. Seems simple, but with all of the additional times you are asked for documents, it can save you a lot of stress. I’ll give you an example; at the airport in the Madrid, before I got on the plane, I had to show boarding passes, passport and Covid documents 4 times. Yes, 4 times. By the fourth, I was going slightly bonkers but everything was still handy. After traveling for so many hours, hitting immigration when you land, And please do check, what your requirements are, (especially if you have to have a certain type of test within a certain time!) there they are again in the same spot.
Have a bag of tricks
This is the MOST important thing. The magical bag of tricks. How do you entertain your kids, especially on a long haul flight? First up, you will be given wipes for the area, but you can always bring your own additional to wipe it all down when you take your seat.
I had a 2 ½ flight followed by a 11 hour flight. Lots of tricks are needed. So, I have a book bag with lots of compartments and separate everything in there. There is a section for my 4 year old and a section for my almost 2 year old. In each of those sections there is a selection of entertainment. For my 4 year old, this is coloring books, pads of paper, stickers and her tablet. Yes, a lot of the long hauls have tv screens, but most smaller kids won’t watch for long so don’t burn that out at the beginning. spread it out. Also, it’s not good to have them on the screen for so long, they get grouchy, or at least mine does.
My 2 year old, doesn’t do the screen so it’s lots of fiddly things for him. Do you know what saved me on this recent flight? Padlocks. A selection of padlocks and keys. Not kids ones, actual padlocks and keys. Hours of entertainment.
One of my best buys was by far a travel busy board. It is a little board, about A4 size covered in clips and zips, ties etc. This came in and out of his seat pocket on numerous occasions so he could fiddle with something new. We were also entertained with inserting headphones into a jack for about an hour intermittently and eating obviously. A few books thrown in and we were away.
Stickers are a good by, especially the bigger foamy ones that you can actually remove later please. So, they both decorated their seat area with big felt flower stickers that they could remove and restick. Killed a good hour of time and could easily be taken off at the end.
What you have to remember here is to not pull out everything at once and have some patience. I remember on one of my first long haul flights with the LO and I even timed it. Something new every hour – hour and a half. If you pull everything out at once then you will be done for later on.
Feed them well and properly
With the wonder that is Covid, the once heavenly airplane food has stooped to an even greater low. Everything is packed in its little lunch box and is was little sealed salads and sandwiches. No kids meals anymore. Not so great for a long haul but we make do. With the second snack on the 11hour flight being meat spread on solid breadsticks I was glad I was prepped with food. Add in the fact that there was NO food for kinds under 2 provided, my bag was pretty full.
With such a long flight, if all you are doing is feeding them little snacks and sweets, they will constantly be hungry. Again, spread it out and plan. Sandwiches, cold pasta, crisps, fruit plus treats was our menu for the 24 hours and take extra. With so many restrictions in restaurants and at airports etc you need to be ready to add an extra meal in. You cannot have too much food is what I have found, to keeps the LOs happy.
Bag it up
I hate using plastic bags, so when I do use them, I make sure they get as much use as possible. For traveling with kids though I find them extremely useful. My bags are sectioned with various smaller baggies. Each containing sets of clothes, back up clothes, back up back up clothes for if you get stranded. This goes for you as well. If you get a spilt drink or food on you don’t want to be stuck in it for hours. Comfy clothes are key here. For everyone. Also, I have a bag with a diaper kit in. And a back up diaper kit. Extra baggies for dirty clothes, and if they really get THAT dirty ( do I need to say it? ) then be prepared to throw them away during your trip.
Will you have stressful moments? Absolutely! A glass of wine certainly helps you take a deep breathe to regain control. Was there some swearing, you betcha! But they are moments and we are all human. You are doing great, time will pass, enjoy what you can, shower the kids with praise when you can, don’t forget it’s a long day for them too. Keep them engaged as much as possible and don’t be hard on yourself. I used to worry about what other people would think but, now, I don’t care. Yes, you will probably get a rolled eye or two even before you sit down, but you know what…%^&* them.
Do your best and that’s all you can do. Here is a last bit of advice that was passed to me and is a benefit to everyone. Do not let your kids run in the aisle. Two fold here. If they think it’s okay, that is all they are going to want to do for most of the flight. That means that you are chasing them, up and down like a yo yo. And second, that means they are up and down next to everyone else on the flight. Don’t do it. It’s not good for anyone and especially your sanity.
So, have we survived?
As you start the day, the end will seem so far away, I assure you it will pass. Traveling is fun and with less people doing so, and fewer people in the airports, I found it pretty hassle free. I hope this tips will assist you with your journeys and all I can say is Safe travels!!