We had an amazing time in Georgia, but we had to get there first. The thought of 3 children aged 5 and under on the 8 hour flight to Atlanta – those are not numbers that go well with a good night’s sleep. The inspiration of my friend who had taken her 3, same ages, on the same flight, by herself, kept me going.
This is how we survived. Actually, I’ve no idea how we managed it (except by the grace of God), but this is what we did.
First of all, don’t panic. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll have a few rough hours on the plane, people might be a bit grumpy (I could just see the lady’s Why Me? expression as she sat down next to me and my 18 month old). It will almost certainly be better than that. And when you arrive at your destination it will be so great being on holiday that you won’t remember getting there. It will be fine.
Write lists, pack lots. Make the most of the baggage allowance for 4/5 people. I organised the carry on bags: one was for nappies and snacks, one was for things for the adults (tickets, passports, magazines. iPad – we should be so lucky), one was for the toys the children wanted to bring and one was for new toys and activities to keep them entertained on the flight.
Try to fly direct. My awesome friend who did this solo said go with BA – they’re more expensive but totally worth it for the flight experience and also for not having to transfer.
We didn’t drug our children. Not for want of trying, but the pharmacist wouldn’t give me drowsiness-inducing night time medication for children under 6. I know other people have used it though, I guess it’s whatever you feel comfortable with. If you do want to try it, make sure you do a test run first, as it can sometimes have the opposite effect.
Have new toys, just for the airport and flight. Wrap them up. I bought a huge amount, but tbh my 5 year old was mostly happy with the BA activity pack and the onboard entertainment (try starving them of telly for a week beforehand). My 3 year old liked her new Barbie doll and stories; she didn’t get on well with the headphones. The 18 month old sat on my lap, played with the iPhone and watched the same episode of Charlie and Lola about 50 times. She was quite happy. The good thing was the all the leftover wrapped toys we were able to give to the children of the friends we were staying with.
Food. Bring lots. We didn’t know this but we could have ordered children’s meals for the plane beforehand. They survived though. Remember that a child under 2 doesn’t get their own meal, but the cabin crew gave me extra food like rolls and yoghurts.
Try not to get too jealous of the other passengers drinking wine, managing to watch a whole film, reading their books and magazines, or sleeping (grits teeth). One of my ideas of luxury is now a long haul flight, even in cattle class, on my own.
Lastly, have Calpol sachets near to hand at all times. The children were all angels, and then my poor daughter’s ears went, or something happened, and she screamed for 40 minutes solid on the descent. It was ok as the end was in sight, everyone was very nice about it, and she was fine when we landed. But the Calpol, sweets, all the things that would have helped were in the overhead locker.
Customs was rubbish, Atlanta airport was rubbish, but then… wow. We discovered Chick-fil-A. But that’s another post.