Like most, holidaying is one of my greatest joys. But now that I’m travelling with a toddler in tow it’s a different story and, quite frankly, I’d rather go through my drug-free labour again.
I used to think that nothing beats the planning, the weeks of excited anticipation before a trip, the actual journey, and then the outrageous “you won’t believe what happened to me!” travel stories you get to tell at dinner parties in years to come. But how times have changed.
To be fair, it’s not the actual destination that is the problem. It’s the getting there. You don’t have to be Einstein to know that planes and children don’t mix; it’s a well-known fact that for the majority of long-haul travellers, children are less desirable passengers than plump people, snorers and those who forgot deodorant. I became that person nobody wants to sit beside.
Each year we travel to Chicago to spend time with my sister-in-law. After the trip last year I felt compelled to share my new ‘travel with baby knowledge’ in this very column. Valuable tips like: hand your adorable giggling eight-month-old to the steward for a walk if you need a break; allow strangers to pull faces at her to make her laugh; and not to worry about a little cry here or there because you are never going to see these people ever again.
Oh how you seasoned owner-operators of older children must have smirked as you read and thought “just you wait Emily Jade”.
I know now that travelling with a baby is a breeze, with their sloth-like appetite for sleep and the luxury of the wall-mounted bassinet. Last year I was ordering wines for pleasure as she napped. This year I was ordering wine for self-medication to get me through the nightmare of the terrible-nearly-two-year-old-in-transit.
Our 20 hours of traversing included: dealing with a power vomit that Tiddalick the Frog would be proud of; sitting in a glass of spilt red wine that had barely touched my lips; changing four #2 nappy’s during turbulence; bumping both our heads in the confined changing space; urging her not to touch the toilet seat with her tongue; her sudden disdain for any food I had packed, and every other food item offered from cabin crew, and the meltdown when the food she wanted wasn’t magically produced mid-air; walking as many kilometres as the Bridge to Brisbane while I did laps of the aisle where I witnessed a variety of disdain, sympathetic and humorous looks as we bumped our way down, stopping to stare at interesting people (ones covered in tattoos or piercing) while I was covered in stickers and sticky tape (a time wasting suggestion I took on board).
And finally, acquiring zero sleep because she insisted no other human touch her other than mummy. Suddenly incapable daddy blissfully headed to snoozy town beside me while I shushed her more times than I swallowed, for the sake of the entire cabin.
On arrival I was a broken woman; my parenting prowess had been pushed to the limit. My only consolation at the end of that flight was that I survived, she survived and we had a glorious month of new memories to make together. So this year, no naive travel tips from this weary travel warrior. Only know this, the drugs don’t work. Phenergan can bite me.