“Earlier this year, I had the experience of my life. I took my three young kids on a flight from London to Singapore — alone.
My husband, Eugene, has a job in London, and we’d been living there as a family of five for the last three years. My youngest baby, Megan, who is 9 months old, was born there, and we wanted her to make her maiden trip to Singapore so we could introduce her to the family.
Years ago, Eugene and I decided that should an overseas stint come our way, we would give it a go. It would be something memorable for us to look back on when we were older. When the opportunity finally presented itself as a job in London, we’d jumped at it.
Since then, we had returned to Singapore for a visit every year-and-a-half. The previous flight we’d taken to Singapore was in 2014; Eugene and I had flown with our older two kids, Gillian, now 3, and Ryan, now 5. It wasn’t too difficult when the ratio of adults to kids was 1:1. If you ask me, that should be the “functional ratio” when it comes to travelling with children.
“I was more worried about the aspects that I could not control.”
Fast forward to 2016, and we now have three kids. As Eugene was unable to take that much time off work, I decided to make the trip with the children first, and he would join us later.
I opted for an evening flight that stretched through the night. I prayed really hard for safety. Sure, a solo flight with three kids was hard work, but that was something I could prepare myself for. But I was more worried about the aspects that I could not control, things like a terror attack at the airport or on the plane.
I had three large suitcases I needed to bring with us. Each weighed about 28kg. We also had a foldable stroller with us, and Gillian, Ryan and I carried a backpack each.
Click on to find out how the flight went!
We were prepping for a 12-hour flight, but truth be told, it wasn’t just 12 hours. There was an additional 1.5-hour journey to Heathrow Airport, plus two hours of checking-in — not to mention the long walk to our departure gate. And when we got to Singapore, there would still be the 45-minute wait for our baggage!
The flight was packed, so we couldn’t get seats altogether. The two older ones were seated an aisle away, but in the same row – that was acceptable to me.
There were several passengers giving me dirty looks. After all, they had paid good money to be on a flight, and no one would have wanted to be seated near babies or children who are usually associated with noise, whining, tears and vomit. Surprisingly, everyone was considerate and nice when they saw us! One air steward and at least two passengers approached us and asked me if I was travelling alone with three kids. From their expressions, they seemed more concerned than unhappy!
After boarding, the older children had problems putting on the children’s earpieces for the in-flight entertainment. They tried using the adult earpieces, but they were uncomfortable. They started whining, but thankfully stopped when they realised that not much could be done. At that point, I realised that I could not accede to all their requests as it would be too much for me.
On the second hour of the flight, Ryan asked, “Are we there yet?”
“No, Ryan,” I replied, “There’s another 11 hours to go.” Deep down, I know that it was the start of endless repetitions of “Are we there yet?”
“I tried to stay positive, but there were moments where I felt a tinge of regret travelling alone with the three of them.”
The next 10 hours went by in a blur. I made endless bathroom trips while carrying baby Megan. A stewardess offered help to carry her, but she only wanted me. I bent over countless times to select cartoons for the older ones. I ate my meals while carrying Megan with one arm. The children complained that they couldn’t sleep, or be comfortable in their seats. I tried to stay positive, but there were moments where I felt a tinge of regret travelling alone with the three of them.
As we approached our destination, I said a prayer of thanks. Initially, I had planned to wait for everyone to clear the plane before we got up. But after the combination of exhaustion, desperation, excitement and claustrophobia, we couldn’t wait to get off the plane. We were literally running towards baggage carousel.
Looking back, it was actually a successful plane ride with the kids. Megan was popular with the passengers, many of them saying what a cheerful baby she was. She cried, maybe, 5 or 10 minutes of the entire journey.
The older kids were pretty sensible and there were no tantrums. Gillian spilled one cup of water, and they ate most of the food served to them. All three managed to nap during the flight. I, too, managed to catch 40 winks, when two of the three of them were napping.
Would I travel with three kids again? Yes, if there was a need to. Besides, the next time, the kids will be older, and I imagine it would be easier, right?”
Lee shares her top tips for flying with kids. Read on!
If you want to fly with young kids, preparation is key.
1. Pack some toys
Ryan brought along two robots. Gillian brought her doll. For Megan, I bought a mix of teething toys, shakers, and an interactive light-up toy. I knew I wouldn’t have been able to help them with anything with small pieces and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t lose anything on the plane.
2. Talk it over with them
Give them an idea of how long the journey will be, prior to the flight. We have a book about taking a plane trip and we read it together, while discussing what appropriate behaviour is expected.
“If we are nervous or edgy, the kids can sense it and it may affect them negatively.”
3. Prepare for accidents
Kids under 5 can wear pull-up pants, even if they’ve been toilet-trained. They could go to the bathroom when they are awake, but I really wanted to avoid any pee or poop accidents!
4. Keep your emotions in check
Always keep calm and be patient. If we are nervous or edgy, the kids can sense it and it may affect them negatively.
5. Kids are resilient
I have heard of parents “drugging” their kids with cough mixture to let them sleep on the flight. My paediatrician discouraged this vehemently as he said the drugs may actually have the opposite effect on them! We often travel with the kids, even when they are wide awake — kids are far more resilient than we give them credit for.
May Lee, 32, a stay-at-home mum to Megan, 9 months, Gillian, 3 and Ryan, 5, lives in London with her husband Eugene Yap, 37, a business manager. She blogs at TrulyinLove.
Check these out too...