A Day Trip To London With A Baby and Dino-Mad Toddler

On December 14th 2018 we braved the transatlantic red eye with the girls to go and visit my family and friends back in the UK. It was Aria’s first flight and to say we were a little nervous was an understatement. Back in October in the deep trenches of her colic when we booked the flight I wasn’t feeling overly confident in our chances of her NOT screaming bloody murder for the entirety on the 6+ hour flight. But it was Christmas, I needed my Britain fix and we were going. So off we went to Toronto Pearson airport in the midst of the Christmas travel rush with our arsenal of luggage and we began our journey to Wales.

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Get that bassinet seat whatever it takes

Surprisingly, the flight itself went really well. When we first got on board and the temperature in the cabin soared to what can only be described as Sahara level, Aria started to cry and would only stop when someone stood up with her (not idea when you have to be sat down to take off). But then, something magic happened, she fell asleep. I couldn’t believe my luck as I gingerly sat down (why is it that children know when you switch from standing to sitting?) and attempted to buckle my seat belt without waking her. Emmy was set up with her Ipad and neck pillow and happy as a clam. This wasn’t her first rodeo so I knew she would be a pro. Before I knew it we were up in the sky hurtling in a tiny tin can across the Atlantic to the motherland. The flight passed quickly (thank you flight attendant for the extra bottle of red wine) and I really believe that upgrading to the bassinet seats was a lifesaver. If you didn’t already know, parents with infants (under 25 lbs) can opt to sit in the bulkhead and get a little bassinet that clips onto the wall. One parent gets to sit in the extra legroom seat free of charge with Air Canada and we paid to upgrade Emmy and my husband. Not only could Aria sleep in the bassinet, but Emmy could play on the floor. Travel hack – put your paraphernalia on the floor so people don’t use your legroom as a walk way. It also seemed that the bassinet metered people from walking in front of us which was great as we were right behind the toilets and people seem to think that pacing between them makes the occupant move faster (side note, what the heck are people doing in there??).

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Reading For The Night

We arrived in Heathrow with red eyes and some what muzzy heads to crisp air and glorious sunshine. My parents came to pick us up and took us to Reading where we would spend the weekend before heading onto Wales. I love Reading, it’s a beautiful city with lots of history, great restaurants and bars. We took a much needed restorative nap and then headed out for some drinks to get the Christmas period started. We found The Fisherman’s Cottage pub on the river a short walk from my family’s flat.

The next morning we got up bright and early and headed into London. I know, it was a bold move the day after a transatlantic flight with two jet lagged children but with a packed Christmas schedule we had to get it done. My daughter is OBSESSED with dinosaurs and I knew that she would just love the exhibit at the Natural history museum so off we went on the train to London (somewhat) bright eyed and bushy tailed.

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Navigating the Tube with an infant and toddler

Before we left for London I umm’d and ahhh’d about taking the pushchair for Aria.

Pros – I could put my crap in the basket at the bottom and not have to strap 15lbs of baby onto my body for the day.

Cons – I’d have to push a pretty bulky travel system around central London and the Tube for the day.

Something else to consider is that we’d have to carry Emmy a lot as she doesn’t “do” walking and has been spoiled with a double pushchair. Times are a changing toots.

You’re going to want a great carrier

My pushchair is not made for the city, it is made for the snow and massive North American cars so I decided to whip out the Lillebaby and wear Aria. I got the Lillebaby complete all seasons as the big ticket item for our second baby. Emmy categorically refused to be worn so I never really splurged on a carrier for her. I had a couple of cheap soft carriers that I got on sale at Winners but neither were comfortable and honestly trying to put her in there was akin to putting a cat into a bathtub. Also I got hot, real hot wearing my little furnace. I knew that with baby number 2 having my hands free to wrestle baby number 1 would be clutch so after much research I landed on the Lillebaby Complete All Seasons. I could not be happier with my purchase! It is so comfortable and you can adjust it pretty much everywhere. You don’t need an infant insert and it’s good from birth so you just plop babe in and go. There’s a zipper panel on the front that exposes mesh so you can get some air into that sucker and keep somewhat cool. It is also ADORABLE and I don’t feel all crunchy and granola eating wearing it. I got mine in black and white stripe which is just about masculine enough for my husband to wear but the gold details are pretty enough for me. If you need a baby carrier I honestly cannot recommend it enough. The Lillebaby is hands down the best thing I’ve bought for my kids.

I get that it is a bit spendy but I cannot rave about this carrier enough. If you want to baby wear you’re going to want comfort and you’re going to want your baby to be comfortable too. Aria was in the carrier pretty much all day (apart from lunch and coffee breaks for a stretch) and she was so happy and comfortable. She falls asleep almost instantly in it. It is MAGIC.

The Natural History Museum – Nirvana For The Little Paleontologist

We arrived at the Natural History Museum by tube at around 11 am. It was super busy outside because of Winter Wonderland. We picked up some mulled wine from the little van selling drinks and cakes and walked up the museum (they even let us bring it in which was brill seeing as it was scalding and I didn’t feel much like chugging a big cup mulled wine, not very responsible). As always, admission was free which was great as we only intended on staying an hour or so to see the dinosaurs. Britain is awesome for free things. We headed to the dino exhibit straight away and it took about 45 minutes to walk around it with a very slow and very easily distracted toddler. She LOVED the massive robotic T-Rex. It was really well done and for a little paleontologist it was just the best thing ever. All good adventures end in a gift shop as we all know and I was dreading it but we escaped the gift shop with one dinosaur egg toy which was nothing short of a miracle. After we sat in the cafe for a drink and a potty break (well coercing Emmy to go but that child’s bladder is a vault in public places. That’s a whole other blog post). It was really busy and I’d say avoid it if you can on a weekend but it was good to sit down and get a snack into the dino lover.

Zizzis for lunch

We got the tube to Covent Garden which is my least favourite stop. It is so busy and there are loads of steps to climb if you can’t get into the lift. I was a little salty that we had to stop there but I was pretty surprised that we got straight into the lift and up to street level. It was packed so I was glad I wore Aria in the Lillebaby. She was still asleep at this point and had been for the whole day. Her first trip to London and she slept the whole time! I know people can be a bit reluctant to go to a chain when London has so many fabulous eateries to offer but we had 2 kids with us and I don’t know how well we would have fared at a white table place. Emmy would have definitely been crawling between chairs and you can guarantee that is the time Aria would decide to scream her bonce off. So we booked a table ahead of time in Zizzis to save walking around trying to get a seat somewhere the week before Christmas. We sat in the window which was perfect for distracting the toddler and Aria could lie down on the bench seat. The meal was delicious and the service was awesome. Definitely the fuel we needed after a morning full of exploring.

Covent Garden and 7 dials for a stroll

We decided to take a walk after lunch to Covent Garden to see the tree and the lights. It was absolute magic. I don’t think there is anything more gorgeous than London at Christmas and it did not disappoint. I managed to get lots of Instagramable shots which my husband absolutely hates loves me doing . We walked up to 7 dials and it was chocolate box beautiful with the twinkling lights and people bundled up with their Christmas shopping. I actually felt like I was in a Hollywood christmas movie that I always scoff at as “unrealistic”. I mean honestly where does Kate Winslet live in The Holiday to have a cottage like that outside of London? and how did Cameron Diaz’s character fit all those coats into that tiny case? I call B.S. Anyway I seem to have gone off on a “The Holiday” tangent again.  We got some nice pics and then dropped back down to Covent Garden to get the tube to Paddington. I let my brother wear Aria at this point and he looked like quite the modern dad about town.

Pro Parent tip – make sure the baby and the nappy bag aren’t in different carriages on the train.

When we arrived at Paddington I was bursting for a pee. However the train was on the platform and if we had any hope of getting a seat we had to hustle and get on board. Not being a hardened commuter I jumped on the first carriage I came across with the nappy bag attached to my back and told my brother that I would run down the train once I’d gone to the toilet to give him the baby supplies. So I jumped on with my Mum and husband and off went everyone else towards the end of the train. We got a table seat which was a bit of a unicorn moment and I went off to the toilet. I got back to my seat and told my mum I would run a bottle down to my brother for Aria in case she was hungry. I pushed my way down the rapidly filling train through endless carriages. As I entered first and jogged to the end I realized the door would not open to the next carriage. Perplexed, I looked out of the window and saw the nose of another train facing me. Oh. No. We were on one of those massive trains that are two smaller trains stuck together. I was standing there with a bottle in hand staring helplessly at the other train that held my brother and my probably screaming 3 month old. I didn’t have my purse or wallet on me so I figured if I jumped off and ran up the platform I would risk being left behind with no way back to Reading so I went back to my seat and frantically messaged the rest of our party. When I heard nothing back I assumed Aria was all good and would be fine until we got to Reading in half hour or so.

I was wrong…

Upon disembarking the train at Reading station we were greeted by a very red faced, sweaty and frazzled bunch. The resembled the scene in Twister when they strap themselves onto those posts and survive the F5 “hand of God”. As my brother thrust the sweaty carrier, straps loosened haphazardly into my hands it became clear a struggle had ensued. Apparently Aria decided she wanted out of the carrier shortly after leaving London and broke out her best screams until her wish was granted. My brother had no idea how to release her from her canvas prison carrier and the buckles and adjustable straps that make the Lillebaby so great also make it a bit tricky for novices or people who have never strapped a baby to themselves. A struggle ensued to get Aria off his increasingly overheating body (if only he knew about the handy dandy front mesh panel) quickly. Thankfully, between the three of them they finally liberated her before my brother passed out. Once free the challenge of removing her coat began. My brother, his girlfriend and my stepfather wrestled her tiny, yet surprisingly rigid, arms out of the coat to the increasingly curious passengers on carriage B. Aria was in a right mood now and refused to settle unless being walked around the train. A problem on the evening Sunday service from Paddington to Swansea as anyone who has been on it will tell you. You are like sardines. If you enjoy getting up close and personal with random people who usually have eaten a tuna sandwich or garlic then this is the train for you. My Stepfather had to kind of waddle within a 1 foot radius to maintain some movement to appease my darling daughter. What people must have thought on that carriage? A young couple and middle aged man with a baby with absolutely NO supplies. Reckless! Stolen baby! Thoughtless! I feel bad that I was sat scrolling Instagram in carriage N without a care in the world.

So that was our day in London. My little dino lover had the time of her life, we got to experience the magic of Covent Garden at Christmas and we learned the hard way that the baby should never be separated from the nappy bag no matter how perilously full your bladder is. Parenting is an adventure.

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Have you got any tips for navigating London with two kids in tow or any recommendations for cool dinosaur attractions?

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Little frequent flyers. Activities and advice for surviving long haul flights with toddlers.

There is nothing more humbling than a screaming child at 37,000 feet. As you “shh” them desperately through gritted teeth and offer them everything from stickers to your kidney if they just cooperate all you can think of is “why the fresh heck did I put myself through this?” Pretty much anyone who has ever flown with a child has been through this and if they say that they haven’t then they are either lying or actually have an angel for a child.

Flying Alone With A Baby

I remember going on my first flight with a baby ALONE. That’s right, in the throws of postpartum fog (not to mention the postpartum anxiety I was feeling) I thought it would be a great idea to head back home to the UK. Honestly, I was so homesick after having a baby I didn’t care. I needed to get out of Canada and to my parents’ house to lounge around in my tracksuit bottoms and be fed wine. So armed with a 4 month old baby and an arsenal of things I was told by numerous online resources that I MUST have, I started the 7 + hour journey to Cardiff. Oh did I mention I threw a stop over in there? Lay overs are not ideal with kids. However we made it and so began a lifetime of flying with kids.

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This is HONEST TO GOD what I thought I needed for a flight with a baby. This is what Pinterest tips tell you to pack when you are flying with a baby. Life hack – you definitely do NOT need all these things. Why did I think I’d need 5000 breast milk storage bags?

Navigating the airport with a million different things and a baby

Getting through security was my first challenge of flying with a baby alone. I had so much stuff, a baby and just two hands. It is unreal how unhelpful people actually are when you’re flying alone. I definitely made a mental note to offer my assistance to others more readily at the airport in the future as a business man pushed past me and dumped his crap into the tray I had put out for myself (I made some other mental notes but I wont go into that). As I struggled to collapse my stroller and get it onto the x-ray machine all while holding my baby I was slowly regretting what I had gotten myself into. We made it to departures, Mummy had a nice BIG glass of wine and snapped the obligatory “we’re going on holidays” passport Instagram photo. Next thing I know we’re walking down the walkway to the plane and I take up my residence in the tiny seat that would be my prison home for the next several hours. Emerson was asleep pretty much as soon as I sat down and I optimistically got out my headphones and book and settled down to smugly spend the flight with a sleeping baby. That lasted until the cabin pressurized and her eyes popped open and she screamed until we were up in the sky and there was no escape. I frantically apologized to all those around me “she’s usually so good”, “she wont scream long” as beads of sweat appeared on my brow. Finally she did stop screaming after what seemed like hours but was in actuality about 15 minutes and she did indeed sleep all the way home.

What I wish I knew before heading on a long haul flight with kids solo

  1. Peeing with a baby in a plane toilet involves Gwyneth Paltrow yogi level flexibility. You have to hold your demon you don’t want to wake sweet sleeping child while pulling down your pants, doing your business, flushing that crazy loud flush that makes you feel like you’ll get sucked out, wash up and leave the bathroom. Trust me, this is no easy feat.
  2. You can’t wear your baby for the whole flight. For take off and landing they must be out of the carrier and on your lap. Fun times if you just got your child to sleep.
  3. If you lucked out and got a bassinet seat, you can’t use this during turbulence. I guarantee this will happen several times when crossing the Atlantic. Cue screaming baby who has been woken up.
  4. If you are in these bassinet seats that you upgraded to people will use your extra leg room to walk through, stand in, do stretches in, .
  5. Collapsing your stroller and car seat combo will be the hardest thing you have ever done when you have a line on antsy people behind you and a baby in your arms. Start practicing now if your flight is in a year.
  6. Your stroller and car seat will likely get lost/broken/look like it survived a tornado.

There’s a lot to learn and I’m sure I haven’t mastered it all but I do have some tips to help you get through what will feel like the longest flight of your life

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Emmy is a little frequent flyer. This Christmas will be her 8th flight at 3.5 years old. Better get her an Airmiles card.

Advice for getting through a long haul flight with kids

  1. Don’t pay attention to all those packing lists, they are totally crazy. For a baby you literally need milk, bottles (pack 2/3 so you don’t have to wash on the plane), a change of clothes, diapers, wipes, antibac wipes, a blanket, a dummy, one toy.
  2. Make a busy bag for your toddler (blog post to follow) with colouring books, stickers (PACK LOTS OF THESE), a small toy, water painting books.
  3. Get to the airport EARLY. I used to stroll through security without a care in the world 90 minutes before my flight but that’s not going to fly with kids (get it?!) You’ll need a lot of time for diaper changes, bathroom breaks etc. Rushing will not help your stress levels which are probably a little higher than usual. Sit and have a beer before the flight and relax!
  4. Take the stroller and check it at the gate. It is a great way to lug all of your duty free items baby crap around the airport.
  5. You will want to get a stroller bag and car seat bag if you value these items at all NO offence to ground staff at the airport but sometimes it looks like they’re practicing for log throwing when they load your items on to the plane. I saw my car seat sitting in the pouring rain on the tarmac at Cardiff and I was really happy I had it in a bag to keep the water off it. I got mine off Amazon and they survived loads of flights. I actually just got new ones for this flight and this time they’re a pretty grey colour! They actually seem a little sturdier than the last bright red ones I had. If you click on the picture it will take you straight to Amazon.
  6. Take advantage of priority boarding. I know it seems crazy to sit on the plane longer but this way you guarantee that you can put your diaper bag or purse above where you are sitting rather than having to fight with the people in row 43 who have thoughtfully filled your overhead bin space with their full sized case.
  7. Your technology rules are going to have to go out of the window here. Take an iPad if you have one for the love of God, it will save you. My husband actually forgot to pack ours last time we flew and I think we set a new world record for how long you can be salty.
  8. Do not pack toys that are loud, roll, bounce, rattle, squeak, are valuable. It’s not fair to those around you if your child is playing with something that is bleating in the middle of the overnight red eye flight. Also planes are black holes and I guarantee you that you will lose something. Honestly my kids played with plastic cups and the headphone wires last time we flew.
  9. Those pacifier clips make great toy clips and stop your child lobbing Sophie at unsuspecting passengers’ heads.
  10. Get some nice big headphones for your kid so they can easily listen to the TV. Earbuds are not nice for littles.
  11. If you’re alone then take your carrier so you can wear your baby as you board the plane and you can strap them to you when they fall asleep. I have also gone to the bathroom with a baby strapped on me but that wasn’t easy or sanitary.
  12. Wear leggings or sweatpants. Yeah like I need to tell you twice. If you are alone with a baby you will probably only have one hand and buttons aren’t your friend in this scenario.
  13. Pack ALL THE SNACKS. Whatever your kid likes, pack it. Favourites are Goldfish, gummies, chips, crackers and granola bars.
  14. Lollipops are your friend. They’re great to pop ears and I am yet to meet a kid that wont step into line at the promise of a lollipop.
  15. Take water or juice for your kids so they don’t have to wait for the drinks cart to come around.
  16. If you have room, pack an extra blanket. Planes are cold overnight and those static polyblend monstrosities the airline provides have the tog factor of toilet paper.
  17. Accept the help of strangers. You will be so surprised with how many people are happy to lend a hand if you just ask. You will also be surprised at how clueless other people can be but focus on the positives!
  18. Know that you might not get a lot of sleep so try to have someone pick you up at the airport if possible or arrange to stay over night at an airport hotel.

Flying with kids can be done!

I’m not going to lie and say that it’s easy but for lots of us travelling with kids is a fact of life. Don’t ever apologize for taking your child on a plane. I’ve yet to experience a flight with a kid (mine or someone else’s) screaming the entire time and honestly people aren’t as bothered by a kid on board as you might think. Even if they are, you bought a ticket just like them and you’re entitled to travel.

Do you have any amazing tips or tricks for surviving a long haul flight with kids?

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