We’ve all seen the beyond exhausted mum at check-in juggling bags, a buggy and trying to calm that toddler throwing a tantrum.
Just the thought of setting off on a flight with kids is enough to bring any parent out in a cold sweat.
Despite the stress, more parents are braving flights with little ones in tow.
To meet the demand there’s a new support service at Edinburgh Airport providing dedicated help after a rise last year in parents travelling solo with their kids. It’s believed to be the first service of it’s kind in the UK.
I spoke to two high-flying blogger mums about how they cope on journeys with little ones.
When Sandy Bennett Haber became a mum she needed a break. “It’s easy to become strung out and feel isolated. I love being a mum but I don’t know if I would have survived without a change of scene!”
Most people thought Sandy and her husband Jon were mad they took off travelling with Raphael (Rafa) when he was 12 weeks old.
“We went on a five-month trip round the world – and didn’t know where we would live at the end of it.”
The adventurous couple took Rafa to Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand and the US followed by a three-week road trip to Canada, back to the US then back to England and finally settled in Edinburgh.
Sandy recently took her sons Rafa, now three, and his brother Finn, 19 months on long haul to Australia to visit family and vowed never to do it again. “It was such a struggle doing it by myself. 30 hours of flying! Rafa ran off at one point. I think not having his dad there was a stress for him and affected his behaviour.”
“The last leg to Melbourne I had no bassinet for Fin, so I let him sleep on me while I used my spare arm to stop Rafa falling off the seat as he slept. I didn’t get a minute until they were strapped into car seats leaving the airport.”
When Sandy was in her 20s she got a mystery flight from her mum and gave it back to her. It took ten years before she caught the bug. “I blogged my way round the world at 30. Now with family I am like, yeah let’s go!”
Intrepid Sandy travelled with Rafa in the terrible twos – while pregnant with Finn. “We got lost trying to find a hotel in Yorkshire. I ended up crying in the gutter, saying what a terrible parent I am. We’ve all ended up in tears at bedtime but there can be tears at home too.”
“When we had the terrible twos and a new baby, I survived by sticking to routine.
“Some days getting down to the garden with the laundry and kids was a win. On those days, it’s important to remember to throw routine out the window!”
After writing a travel story and editing her son out Sandy decided to put him back in. Then she published a book featuring the mad endeavours of other parents travel stories – You Won’t Remember This: Travel With Babies. “All the adventures of other parents in the book inspire me to get out the front door.”
The best thing for Sandy is seeing how travel has been so positive for her sons. “They’re used to interacting with new people and places. When I’m relaxed and buzzed about travelling, my sons are too. And back home when we get guests in for Air b’n’b they are like, let me show you round!”
Start flying when they are little!
When Anne packed the bag for her first flight alone with her newborn son Simon she was terrified.
“I had to do it – I’m a single parent. My family live down south and Simon’s dad and grandparents live in the US so he was on his first flight at five weeks old and transatlantic at 12 weeks.
“From the start, it was just the two of us. Parenting was brand new. I had no experience. It was the same when it came to travel. I never relied on anyone else.”
Anne was crippled with fear before boarding that first flight. “I remember getting up early, putting him in his sleepsuit and thinking, ‘How am I going to do this?’ I was worried every second. What would happen when I had to do several nappy changes in one flight or I forgot something? When I got up to disembark, people said, ‘Oh I didn’t even notice there was a baby on the flight’.
“I think I would have been too scared to do it if I had a choice. I am the most anxiety-ridden and nervous person ever. But I got over it. I had to be practical or I would just go to pieces.”
Travel is second nature to Simon, now six. “Going while he was little and mostly just ate and slept was the best time to do it. Starting young was great as he can easily cope with a long flight and I think that’s down to it being a way of life for us.”
Anne collects air miles and sometimes flies business class. She is always aware of the reaction of fellow passengers. “Sometimes I notice faces drop when I come into the cabin with a child!”Most people are friendly and understanding.”
Anne’s friends thought she was mad to take him on long flights so young.
They waited until their kids were older – they have all had many problems.
“I think If I can do it anyone can. What I do is keep to a bedtime routine when we travel, so there’s a familiarity and the one constant. Go when they are little, take a sling and pack light. I used to only pack one change of clothes for myself.
“Watching Simon now, and how confident he is in other places, he gets so much out of it. He wakes up happy anywhere. That’s important.”
“I am so glad I overcame that part of me that was scared and just wanted to keep him at home.”
Thanks to the Daily Record for publishing my feature!
Go here to sign up for support travelling solo with kids from Edinburgh Airport.
Go to Sandy’s travel blog
Go to Anne’s website