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Urgent Request - long haul with an 18 month old

(42 Posts)
slug Mon 02-Jun-03 15:06:07

I have to fly to NZ in the next couple of days with the sluglet. As it is a bit of a family emergency (sister with terminal cancer, weeks left to live) it's going to be a stressful time at the best. Does anyone have recommednations about the best airline? Whether non stop or a stopover would be best? How to keep a VERY active 18 month old within the bounds of socially acceptable behaviour. Night flight or day?

Possibly more importantly, I have a different surname from the sluglet, she has a British passport and mine is NZ and dh isn't coming with us. Will this be a problem?

Any advice within the next 2 days will be gratefully received.

outofpractice Mon 02-Jun-03 15:19:56

Very sorry to hear about your sister, slug. In those circumstances, I would recommend that you just get a direct flight, any scheduled airline. Otherwise, I would have highly recommended a stopover in Singapore or Bangkok, at an airport hotel where you could just have a shower and rest. As the flight will be so long, it does not matter whether it is day or night. Your sluglet will get exhausted and sleep if you supply plenty of non sugary snacks and drinks. Also take non-messy toys eg sticker books, plastic toys, cuddly animals. I had a terrible time with immigration because of the NZ de facto relationship laws, as they refused to accept the law is different here, and made a huge hoo haa about child abduction, later apologising for being wrong after causing me acute stress and misery. To save hassle, I would get a typewritten letter signed by your dh stating that he gives his consent for you to take sluglet to NZ for any length of time. Also take sluglet's birth certificate stating dh's name, and a photocopy of dh's passport, or something with his signature on it. Also, when you get on the plane, tell your cabin steward that you are flying alone with baby and it is because of a sister terminally ill, and you are a bit upset, and then they will have a more sympathetic attitude if sluglet plays up.

wiltshirelass Mon 02-Jun-03 15:30:31

oh god slug, I'm so sorry about your sister. I can't imagine.
I have done a LOT of longhaul with small children (9 - 14 hours) but never to aus or nz so others will have better advice than me on airlines, stopovers etc. 18 months is about the worst stage as they are completely mobile but short concentration span and can't really be reasoned with. which is why I'm going to suggest drugs! no, I don't suggest you keep her doped up for the whole journey, but think you should seriously consider giving her a couple of spoons of vallergan or phenergan so that she sleeps when she should, because otherwise they get so overexcited on the plane it can be a nightmare. and the KEY thing about this is to test drive your drug of choice BEFORE you get on the plane. for example, phenergan knocks out about 70% of children, and sends the other 30% hyperactive. and you don't want to discover your child is in the 30% once you are on the plane. If I was doing it I would try and do nightflight, day stopover to run around and burn off energy, followed by nightflight, and dose with vallergan during both night flights.
I'd also recommend, for an 18 month old -
crayons and paper
books
small packets of raisins
various stuffed animals that can be used to put on variety performances and silly voices
trucks/cars
several changes of clothes including pyjamas to change him/herinto before you try and get her to sleep so s/he knows it is night
5 more nappies than you think you may possibly need
some sweets that you normally would never give him/herfor moments of extreme desperation.

Also insist that you get a bulkhead seat, swallow your natural reluctance and tell them your sad family situation and request very politely if they could try and keep the seat next to you empty (so you get one for sluglet too). You could get your dp to do this for you over the phone in advance if you can't face doing it yourself. airlines are normally pretty good about this.
Advantage of bulkhead is that you can use the space on the floor as a bit of a confined play area for her. put down an airline blanket before you do and then it is easier to scoop up the toys.

Finally, pack a food bag with sandwiches, babybels, juice box, banana, biscuits etc as the childrens food on airplanes is usually terrible, full of sugar and colourings that will send them nuts, and more importantly it is never ready when you need it. there are times when your child is starving and misbehaving and you'd kill for a banana to give them and it is useless to be told the food service is in 20 minutes.

Also, obviously, if you can possibly go club, don't hesitate. To be honest you are more likely to get a spare seat beside you because no one will want to sit next to you and sluglet!!
And don't worry about other passengers, there are always billions of children on NZ flights, it goes with the territory.

Finally don't worry about passports but a good tip is to take a photocopy of your marriage certificate with you and book your ticket in your married name so you can both have the same names on the ticket. I've been doing that and travelling with children solo for 5 years and never had a problem. They have different nationality to me and my passport is in my maiden name as well.
Once again really sorry to hear about your sister, best of luck with everything and I'll be thinking of you.

lou33 Mon 02-Jun-03 15:33:39

Slug no advice to give, just very best wishes to everyone.

wiltshirelass Mon 02-Jun-03 15:34:38

sticker books! of course, millions of those.

elliott Mon 02-Jun-03 15:40:48

wiltshirelass - I thought airlines these days were pretty fussy about making sure that the name on the ticket is the same as the name on the passport? I've previously had hassle from simply using a different initial (I go by my second christian name normally but obviously my passport has my full name).

wiltshirelass Mon 02-Jun-03 15:45:38

no, not if you have a photocopy of your marriage certificate. I keep mine in my passport (been there 6 years and looks very grotty, ripped etc!) and you do need to show it when you check in, at passport control, and at the gate, but no-one has ever questioned it...

SoupDragon Mon 02-Jun-03 15:46:07

I'm with you, Elliot. The ticket name must match the passport. I also use my middle name but have to book tickets with my first name.

No real suggestions or tips but lots of hugs and sympathy, Slug. The real life saver on a flight to Florida with 18mth DS2 was a complete set of Toy Story 2 toys from McDonald's happy meals. Kept DS2 and DS1 entertained for hours. I bought them from Ebay! If you're not buying a seat for the Sluglet, ask on check in if the flight is full and whether they can keep the seat next to you free.

Good luck.

slug Mon 02-Jun-03 15:59:30

Wow, that was fast, thanks everyone. I've just checked with the sluglet's godfather who is a family lawyer and he suggested that it's the luck of the draw which immigration official you get and how stroppy they're feeling that day. So it's a case of take photocopies of everything and produce them as requested.

Wiltshirelass, can I get those drugs at my local pharmacy or will I need a prescription?

wiltshirelass Mon 02-Jun-03 16:02:21

phenergan you can just pick up. vallergan? can't remember actually. was prescribed it for dd's excema (had to knock her out at night for a week to stop her scratching when it was really bad) but that was together with a load of other things so don't know if the prescription was necessary. ask the pharmacist, as it is very good and effective stuff (really an antihistamine)

janinlondon Mon 02-Jun-03 16:02:42

Sorry about the situation for you Slug. Have a few suggestions as a regular London-Australia traveller with a now three year old. 1. You don't have time to try the phenergen test. You need to watch them over 24 hours or longer to see what the effects will be, so forget that (though the tip is good for anyone with longer lead time to play with). 2. Malaysian and Air NZ have more leg room than the other airlines on the route. They may or may not allow you the bulkhead seats but I have seen people who thought they had booked these months ahead beign told that they are strictly allocated at check in so I wouldn't pin my hopes on it. Also, most of the airlines flying over the Asian countries (turbulence very common)will not be pleased about babies playing on the floor and will tell you to pick the baby up. 3. Stopover of no use to you if you are travelling alone as the baby may have slept a lot of the way from Heathrow (probably will if you get one of the night flights that are most popular to Oz and NZ) and you will not get a wink in the airport hotel if they are awake. On the other hand if you really do feel you need to take a break, only Singapore and Kuala Lumpur have hotels actually inside the airport so don't choose any airline that doesn't go through these hubs. If you go JAL for example, you have to exit through customs/immigration etc and then queue back up to go airside. 4. You will have to stop for an hour or so at an airport regardless of which airline you choose. For an active 18 month old Singapore is the best for this as they have a play area. Also a pool if you really want to go for it. Or you could just use the transit hotel for a shower. You can do this in KL too. 5. If you can, pay for a seat for your little one. At 18 months they will be really hard to handle if you don't have one, and I've never yet had an empty seat next to me on a flight so its a real risk to take to hope that you'll get one without paying. 6. Singapore and Malaysian have seat back tv which can be a godsend for an hour or so if your little one likes Bob the builder or Postman Pat and you desperately need to close your eyes. 7. Wrap up some cheap presents - see posts below for suggestions. Unwrapping them often makes them seem more exciting. 8. Change sluglet (presuming still in nappies?) just before going through to the last lounge - at 18 months changing a kid in the aircraft toilets is a nightmare - legs up the wall job. Minimise the number of changes as far as you can.

All the other tips on here are good too. I hope some of these might be helpful and that you can get through the next few days okay.

meanmum Mon 02-Jun-03 16:31:43

Before posting I have to admit to being lazy and not reading the responses given so apologies if I am repeating something.

My advice is to fly via the US which is very easy to do or else take an airline which skirts around Asia. Even though SARS isn't in the news much at the moment it still is in Asia and the Pacific which seems to indicate that you are best to continue avoiding these zones. I'm generally very lax in terms of health but I would probably advise you take a couple of face masks although I'm sure the sluglet won't want to wear it, as well.

I'm sure you have been given advice in terms of what to do to amuse the sluglet but I found for ds who was only a little younger than her when we flew home to Australia this year that all he really wanted to do was laps around the aircraft. He wasn't noisy or irritating to the passengers but just went around and around and around. I took a load of toys wrapped in cheap crepe paper and some some being brand new too but he was more interested in the kitchen area than anything else.

I also took loads of snack type food such as cooked pasta (coloured variety), strawberries, grapes and other bits and bobs. He was quite happy with this as well as the airline food.

I have found whenever I travel alone with ds we are treated extremely well by the airline and given a spare seat wherever possible. I've even had the hostess move people who were placed next to us. HOwever, I also suggest you put one of the travel blankets they provide on the seat of the chair and over the floor. This way her toys won't escape behind you and annoy whoever is sitting there and I asked if I could take ours with us at the end which they said we could so I just pulled the corners together, tied it in a knot with all the toys in it and got off the plane very easy.

One last thing, even though ds is too big for the travel cots I still ordered one as he loved sitting in it and looking over the seats at everyone. They all loved looking at him too.

Sorry to hear about your sister. Very sad news and I hope everything goes well on the flight and while you are at home. Let us know when you get back.

meanmum Mon 02-Jun-03 16:32:35

I forgot to say I use a travel agent called Travelmood based on Edgeware Road. I find their service excellent and would recommend you give them a call if you haven't organised your tickets yet.

tilba Mon 02-Jun-03 17:52:27

I fly long haul all the time with the kids.

Cathay Pacific is fantastic with babies and children and the planes are very very empty at the moment so you are sure to get a row of seat to yourself. The flight attendants have always gone out of their way to help me with my two babies, even walking and playing with them for an hour so I could sleep.

I wouldn't worry about SARS transiting Hong Kong or even overnighting.You couldn't find a cleaner airport or aeroplanes at the moment. If you just transit the airport has play area for kids, showers etc.

GRMUM Mon 02-Jun-03 17:57:41

No advice slug.Just wanted to say that i was sorry to read this sad news about your sister.Hope the journey goes well,that you get to spend as much time as possible with your sister.I'm sure the sluglet will bring a twinkle to your sisters eye. Many cyber hugs grmum

SoupDragon Mon 02-Jun-03 18:17:16

Try pullups/Pampers easy up pants for the journey - they're easier to get on in the airplane toilets!

Someone somewhere else recommended tying toys to string and then to the seat to avoid having to keep picking them up from under your seat.

Medised, Dozol and Piriton syrup are available from a pharmacy and all cause drowsiness. Give them at a usual nap time for the best effect. I'm not actually sure that Medised is made for the under 2s any more though.

eidsvold Mon 02-Jun-03 18:22:07

Can say Singapore airlines was brilliant - we flew long haul to Aus in April. We were able to check in the first class check in rather than having to wait for a long economy queue . On board they were very helpful and while dd was wonderful and slept all the way and was no problem, the staff on the plane were cuddling and carrying someone else's baby for a while as they were worn out from having to try and entertain him. They were willing to help in terms of getting you sorted for nappy changes. Each time we were seated close to a toilet with nappy table.

We flew to Singapore - out of heathrow late about 10/10.30. Had people on the flight who were then catching the connection to NZ while others caught other connections. The next leg was a night flight too. Think that helped dd too - she just slept again. Three hour stopover in Singapore airport - nursery, travel hotel for showering and freshening up, play are and so much to see for little ones.

There were a number of children on all our flights and most people were fine with them - other passengers talking too or playing with the children. They were more than happy to let another passenger who was annoyed at being seated next to us ( 3 across seating) move elsewhere.

I would suggest you stress the situation particularly travelling alone when you book the flight and ask for assistance along the way eg. at heathrow/at the stopover. I know of others who have been assisted and escorted to the plane and so on - just helps simply having another set of hands.

I kept calling and told them that we had confirmed on our tickets since Jan that we had a skycot ( imp to us ) and sure enough - no hassle on check in ... I also checked that it was definite we would have it rather than have it assigned on check in and they said definitely we would have that seat.... so again - tell them of your unfortunate situation and that you need help.

We flew when SARS was very prominent in the news and we discovered that it was an infintessimal chance of catching it in transit. We did not use masks although a number of other people did. We tended to avoid more crowded areas although Singapore airport seemed almost deserted in comparison to Heathrow.

Singapore also have one of the largest seat pitches(?) I think they call it.

Sorry that you have to go back to NZ under such circumstances.

suedonim Mon 02-Jun-03 18:29:20

Nothing to add, Slug, but I just wanted to say I'm thinking of you and your sister.

SueW Mon 02-Jun-03 18:43:55

Sorry to hear your bad news slug.

I've had a few immigration problems with DD and our having different passports. We have the same surname but she has an NZ passport and I have a UK one.

First hassle was bringing her into the UK when she was 10mo and second was taking her into Canada when she was three.

Bringing into the UK was only sorted by my having marriage certs, birth certs, etc. and producing them at immigration.

The Canada thing was more scary as I had no proof that my husband was allowing me to take ou daughter out of the UK to visit family in Canada. The immigration officer there was pretty insistent on my producing permission to travel signed by a notary public. Finally DD agreed to tell him that yes, dad had waved us off at the airport and was joining us in a couple of weeks.....

I've since found out that if both parents have parental reposnsibility, both parents must agree to a child being taken overseas and to cover yourself it's best to have something from your DH. There's more on the UK passport website.

As for flying - I've only ever done via Asia to NZ/Oz and personally I like to get it over with in one fell swoop.

If you get a long stopover (4+ hours) at Singapore, you can go through imiigration and have a swim on the rooftop swimming pool. Take cossies for you and DD. Otherwise I suggest a shower in the transit hotel on a short stop.

I liked using Emirates to Melbourne as there was the extra chance to stretch legs at Dubai.

Hope all goes as well as can be expected with your sister. We went through the same thing with my MIL in 2000 - had to fly at short notice. We thought we would only be gone for 2 weeks and stayed two months. She died 10 days after we left.

Batters Mon 02-Jun-03 21:39:58

Slug, very sorry to hear about your sister. Wishing you and your family all the best.

Ghosty Mon 02-Jun-03 21:54:07

Dear Slug ... so sorry to hear about your sister {{{}}}
I personally find Air NZ a total nightmare .... I try to avoid flying with them if at all possible. It is true that they have more legroom but that is the only advantage!
Singapore Air and Malaysia Air are the best IMO ... great with kids and really helpful cabin crew ... Also they have the seat back telly screens with cartoons etc so that is always handy with a small child.
I have done both stopover and straight through... to be honest I prefer straight through as it is over quicker and it can be really boring kicking your heels with a toddler in a hotel for 24 hours ... too tired to explore ... etc.
Entertainment on plane ... as others have suggested have some things in your bag that you can take out at intervals ... sticker books are great!
Food ... remember that you cannot take food into NZ (baby milk is fine ... and you can bring in chocolate) but things like biscuits and fruit are a no no ... so remember to leave them on the plane when you land....
Also ... they xray your bags and suitcases on arrival so if you bring wellies make sure you wash them (I mean scrub them) and tell them that you did as they are obsessed about people from England bringing in Foot and Mouth ...
In terms of Passports ... as you have an NZ one you can skip the long queues ... but agree with everyone about birth certificates and letter from DH ... it does depend on who you 'get' ...
You can also get a cup of tea when waiting for your bags at Auckland Airport (the only airport in the world that has this service)
Are you going to Auckland or on further? If you need somewhere to stay in Aucland let me know ... we have room for you ....
HTH ... thinking of you .....

Ghosty Mon 02-Jun-03 21:57:58

Also ... since 9/11 things have changed in LA so if you go that route ... you don't just get out and wait for the plane to refuel ... you have to go through immigration and out of the aiport and go back in again ... big pain in bottom!
The sars thing is not a problem if you are stopping over for a short while ... my best friend recently took her daughter to Singapore for 2 weeks to see her father and it wasn't a problem ....
If you are worried use the masks.

Twink Mon 02-Jun-03 22:11:24

Oh Slug, how awful for you all.

Agree with lots of the advice already re sticker books etc but maybe limited value for an 18 month sluglet. We've found Mothercare brand play dough great on planes as it comes in tiny tubs and doesn't dry out as badly as ELC stuff.
If she likes songs a cheap kids personal stereo might buy you some time, our dd would do half an hour at that age (ok clutching at straws here)

There is quite a lot of stuff on another thread too, I'll do a search in a minute.

Cathay & Sing have good reps for kids, and if you do decide to break your journey, we had great service from Thai Airways and would definitely use them again.

Twink Mon 02-Jun-03 22:55:41

Have a look here for some more stuff.

Good luck, remember though however awful it may be:

a) you're unlikely to ever meet any fellow passengers again
b) most people have nightmare child moments and will understand
c) it's a very, very small proportion of your life


AND most importantly, you have no choice, it's your sister and you and sluglet need to be there. &*%%^£$ to anyone who objects to her behaviour

SofiaAmes Mon 02-Jun-03 23:10:04

I found that at that age taking my ds's car seat along was really handy as I could strap him into it and he couldn't get out. Also, if you get a window seat it makes them high enough to be able to see out while sitting. Once, someone dared to complain about ds kicking the back of their seat and I quickly explained to the flight attendant that if I was sitting in the bulkhead that they had promised me, there wouldn't be anyone in front of ds for him to kick and perhaps they might suggest how I explain to an 18 mo. old that he had to stop kicking. Anyway, Twink said it all very well.
I have travelled quite a bit to the usa and italy with my ds without my dh. My ds does not have the same last name as me. When travelling to the usa we both used our us passports, but when travelling back into the uk or to italy, I used my italian passport and ds used his uk one. We never had any trouble at immigration.

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