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Flightmares: planes and babies

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KIRAN CHUG
LONG HAUL: Long distance flights with a baby are enough to give you nightmares.

With four more sleeps until our big move to England, the flightmares have started. I lie awake at night worrying about the three airplane rides it will take to get our little family from Wellington to London. When I do get to sleep, it's not long before I wake in a sweat, imagining we've been turned away at the gate of the next leg. "Sorry," the flight attendants tell me in my dream, "We can't let you guys continue, you're causing too much of a disturbance."

You see, me, Tony, and 12-month-old Milin are almost packed up and ready to swap our life in Wellington for a life in London. We've just got to get there. Perhaps I'm being unfair on Milin by expecting the worst. Generally, he's placid, sleeps well these days, and takes new experiences in his stride. But then, we've never asked him to stay in a confined space for hours on end at the same time as curtailing his inquisitiveness and constant desire to explore.

We've done a couple of flights to Auckland, one to Christchurch, and one to Brisbane, but nothing long haul before. And it seems that the younger he was, the easier Milin was to fly with. At four months on the flight to Auckland, he drank and slept. Any hint of a grizzle, and he got fed. It was easy. He weighed little and slept in my arms. The difficulties started when he started moving.

I think it's a good thing that Milin isn't walking yet. If his faster-than-lightning crawling is anything to go by, he might skip walking and go straight to running. So I'm crossing my fingers he doesn't get brave enough to do that until after we arrive in London. Crawling and cruising round furniture is one thing, running up and down the aisles of a Qantas jet is another.

We will start with an early morning flight to Sydney and then a seven-hour wait at the airport before our connection to Bangkok. Then, we're going to recover, I mean, stay with family for a week in Thailand before getting the next flight to London. If we are allowed on.

The seven-hour stopover initially filled me with dread. But then I started doing some research and discovered that Sydney International Airport has children's play areas. That's right, places where they can crawl around and around, and climb up and down, and generally tire themselves out before the flight. Or that is the hope.

Another hope I'm harbouring is that the week-long break in Thailand allows Milin's body clock to adjust slightly before we arrive in London. But really, who knows how a one-year-old will deal with jet lag? If he's up at 3am each day, I guess I will be too. Perhaps I should worry about that after the flight - where he might not sleep at all. He's quite partial to his cot and pre-bedtime routine.

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We've requested a basinette, so fingers crossed we are allocated one. We won't know until we arrive to check in. Not getting one is perhaps my biggest fear, as it's not likely my little wriggly boy will want to sleep on my lap, let alone sit there and play with his toys for 13 hours.

I've been trying to gather as much advice as I can from other mummies, and so far I've been told to take lots and lots of snacks. This makes sense, because food does seem to keep the little boy still and distracted, and the messier the better. I'll also be taking a big carry-on bag of new books and toys, which might help distract him for about an hour. That big bag is also going to have clothing changes in it for Milin, and also a change for me. Travelling long haul covered in baby sick doesn't sound all that appealing. Or maybe I'll be past the point of caring.

I know we've just got to do it, and the journey last forever, but I can't stop the flightmares. I'd love to hear your advice for travelling with a little one. What worked and what didn't? And how, please tell me, did you get them to sleep on the plane?

Follow Kiran Chug and her family's journey on twitter @kiranchug

- © Fairfax NZ News

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