Before I became a parent, I hated babies on planes. Actually, now I’m a parent, I still hate babies on planes. Who doesn’t? The never-ending roars, the seat thumping, little fingers popping over the tops of seats and pulling hair … it’s a nightmare for everyone involved.
During my six years in Australia, I flew home on average every year – at one rather nightmarish point it was every nine months or so. Between weddings, new babies and family celebrations, there was always an important reason to get home. It meant we often didn’t get to travel to other destinations.
Instead of exotic, adventure-filled holidays, we more often than not ended up in rainy Dublin at a dubious time of year, eating into our annual leave and paying an exorbitant price for the pleasure. Thanks to the high cost, my husband and I would often go home separately to attend our family functions. It meant we at least had some time and money left over for a ‘real’ holiday.
The journey from Australia to Ireland has got to be one of the worst in the world – even with just one stopover in Abu Dhabi or Dubai and the shortest possible journey length of about 24 hours. Doing it on my own was even worse. All I wanted to do on those flights was drink as much free wine as possible, watch a rubbish movie and try to sleep. But what if the person next to me was a talker? Or worse, what if there was a screaming baby next to me the whole time?
Each time I got on a plane, I was afraid one of the several babies I had spotted at check-in would be beside me. But in the end, it was never as bad as I feared it would be. Of course there was always a baby within earshot. But mostly they seemed to quieten down after take-off. And yes, there was one flight which started off with my seat being kicked incessantly by a squirming two-year-old. But within an hour, he was conked out.
I was five months pregnant when we flew home from Australia for the final time, so I never had to experience that flight with a baby in tow. But now that I have one, I have a new-found respect for parents who do it. Because I’ve no idea how they manage.
I’ve only had two short flights with my little lad. The first was when he was four months old and we went to Spain for a week. He was roaring like a train when we walked on to the plane and I could see the other passengers visibly shrinking in their seats, fearful that they had drawn the short straw of being our neighbours. Just like I used to do. Thankfully he had a feed and conked out for the flight.
This year, we figured it would be a little harder keeping a 16-month-old happy on the flight to Portugal but we reasoned that if we timed it to coincide with his nap, then he would surely sleep like the last time. Big mistake. Spending an extra €150 on baby-friendly flight schedules was a waste of money. That child was never going to sleep.
It only takes two-and-a-half hours to get from Dublin to Faro but it felt like forever. Under twos are supposed to sit on your lap for the flight, but the little lad roared and squirmed the entire time. When he wasn’t trying to pull the hair of the poor woman in front of us, he was trying to crawl under the seats. He kept trying to leap between us, flapping his arms around, peering at the people behind us and roaring “HIYA” at them until they responded.
We were in a three seater and the poor sucker stuck beside us was ordering G&Ts before the plane had taken off. I’d have had one too if I hadn’t known it would end up all over me. It was like grappling with an overtired octopus and the flight home was just as bad. I’m now in awe of our friends who have travelled home from Australia with toddlers. The next time we leave the country for a holiday, it’ll be by ferry.