Monday, April 13, 2009

The very very long journey continued..... How to survive on a plane with toddlers.

The first leg of our journey was from Heathrow to Los Angeles which would take 11 hours. Our flight left Heathrow at 3.35pm London time so we were going to fly through the night. Our hope was that the girls would fall asleep - this was not to be.

To be honest this part of the flight was not that bad as the whole thing was a novelty and the girls loved the TV screens and as we boarded they were handed an activity set, colouring book, stickers and pens (this kept them amused for about 10 minutes). The food delivered a few hours after we took off was great and the kids were very impressed with all the little packets and individual trays. All they ate mind you was the cakes and roll and butter but this kept them happy enough.

Trips to the loo were also greeted with great excitement by the girls as this involved walking past everyone else (who tended to say hello to them or were busy snoring) and the great big swishing noise as the loo flushed was apparently very amusing.

People in general were very patient with the children and luckily we didn't have any major tantrums or yelling. However dd2 was not very good at remaining quiet when everyone was trying to sleep and the only way we could get her to stay still was to plug her into the TV.

There were plenty of other people with children on the flight - some with very young babies and the airline had obviously grouped us together near the bulk head of the plane. The families developed a kind of camaraderie between us and we found ourselves chatting to one another and helping each other out with awkward kids. It was nice and made you feel less worried if your child decided to have a tantrum or scream continually for 45 minutes at a time. Or as this video illustrates your daughter decides to perform a duet with Fimble when everyone is trying to sleep.

We took pyjamas for the girls and got them changed and washed in the loo on the plane about 5 hours into the flight. This helped them get to sleep as they felt fresher and more comfortable. The chairs are not an ideal place for anyone to sleep but the blanket and cushion helped. I think sheer exhaustion got the youngest to sleep in the end.

I have never been to America so I was rather excited about stopping off in Los Angeles even if it was only for a couple of hours. In the end the only bit you actually see is the security area where they stamp your passports and ask you why you are passing through the US and a room where you sit and drink coffee until your plane is ready for re boarding.

This was a very difficult part of the journey as the girls had to be woken up and then you have to carry all your hand luggage through US customs and security. We had a lot of on board luggage and two very tired girls - it was not pleasant. I think the airport staff took pity on us when DD1 had a melt down whilst waiting in the queue to go through customs. We were immediately taken to the front. I guess having a tantruming 4 year old can come in useful occasionally.

It was quite amusing watching all the other passengers stretch and contort themselves before the next leg of journey. One man lay down on his back and stuck his legs up in the air against a wall whilst reading the Financial Times and one lady did some yoga in front of the coffee machine. To be honest all these exercises are probably a very good idea considering the length of the flight.

The second half of the plane ride was somewhat trying. However the kind airline staff had moved us directly in front of the bulk head which meant we had far more leg room and enough space for the girls to play on the floor in front of the seats. We managed to get through most of the toys, books and games we had brought with us in this stretch of the journey. Someone had told me that you needed enough toys to get out a new one every hour and this is true. Its amazing what short attention spans toddlers have.

We slept for quite a large proportion of the second flight and DD2 spent most of this curled up in my lap. This meant that I woke up at one point and found a strange extremely tall man asleep next to me in DD2s seat. My husband said he had asked if he could sit there for a bit as he was a bit cramped in his normal seat and he had then promptly fallen asleep. We left him there until he woke up a few hours later, he apologised profusely and then when back to his own seat.

Our first glimpse of New Zealand was as a line of clouds in the distance and then you could gradually see land underneath. I will never forget landing in Auckland and the tropical smell that hits you as you get off the plane. I thought that they might pump perfume into the airport but it appears to be the natural smell in the air. Its a mix of Herbal Essences shampoo and the sea. The other thing that struck me was the fact that the airport is carpeted. OK this may be an odd thing to notice but I am so used to the vast expanse of tiled Heathrow that arriving in Auckland is like coming into someones carpeted front room or office. Its very homey.

By the time we got to Auckland we were all exhausted so I am afraid that the first thing we had to eat in our new home country was a MacDonalds.

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