In it for the long haul

You may be beginning to wonder if this is a travel blog rather than a baby blog, but maternity leave is too good an opportunity to go travelling (limited funds allowing) since when else can you travel for weeks on end without worrying about whether you’ll have enough annual leave left to cover Christmas? So when Fred declared that he wanted to visit his clients in Rio de Janeiro and asked if we wanted to tag along and extend the trip to have a few days holiday, there didn’t seem much sense in declining.

Brazil would give Elphie a third continent before her first birthday. It would also continue to provide material, to traumatise her with in later life, of photos of her living it up in exotic locations that she can’t remember while staycationing in Bognor for the rest of her childhood to avoid paying full price airfares once she hits two. So Fred booked the flights and hotel on Tuesday night and we were on the aeroplane by midday on Thursday.

It was only once on the aeroplane that it really hit me what we’d signed up for – the flight direct to Rio was 11.5 hours and we were doing it in the middle of the day with little miss never-nap. This could be a long flight.

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And predictably she didn’t sleep. She had a half hour nap at the beginning of the flight and another one of maybe 45 minutes somewhere in the middle, but the rest of the time she was wired.

She loved the plane – the only child as far as we could work out on the entire vessel (weird huh?), she had a huge audience to admire her and play peekaboo with – she was in her element. The gangway was her idea of heaven – she could crawl between the seats gazing up at her adoring audience, pulling herself up on their seats and smiling her way into their affections. Everyone loved her from the Japanese lady who spoke no English to the hipster businessman to the cooing middle aged Brit to the guy who looked like a bouncer, she got smiles and games and a helping hand and huge amounts of protection from hard surfaces (much more than I would do!). When she tired of that we went to the galley and found a drunk Dutch contingent to coo over her. With all this love and attention, who could sleep?

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The rest of the time she spent closeted in our lovely two seater bulkhead area by the window with a baby seat to pop her into at dinner time and for the brief time she napped. Below the seats, she had a little play area all to herself which she used to ignore her normal toys (far too boring) and play with half empty water bottles and the free airline toothbrush as well as throwing around the cucumber stick snacks we gave her. I managed to watch The Wolf of Wall Street, an extremely entertaining but three hour film, as well as some TV while she played happily below.

I have to give props to British Airways for their seamless baby-friendly service when travelling long haul – I had been allocated a bulkhead seat automatically; we got priority boarding; and the service on board was lovely – asking regularly whether we needed anything, nicely telling me off for sitting on the floor (apparently health and safety dictates this is a no no as the oxygen masks won’t reach that far) and giving Elphie endless high fives. I would definitely aim to travel with them again. (I am rather more apprehensive about my American Airlines flight due in a few weeks whose call centre numpty seemed to believe it would be completely normal for me to wish to spend a 10 hour flight by myself with Elphie actually in my lap in a normal seat – I do expect something for the extra 10% you charge for infants on long haul AA!).

So the downsides: occasionally she grizzled and as it hit her UK bedtime she became more fractious (refusing to actually sleep of course) but was generally soothable with a walk along the gangway or some boob. She needed a reasonable amount of entertainment – my hopes of watching Saving Mr. Banks were dashed as it became obvious that the water bottles had provided all the entertainment they could. But overall it was all good.

It just goes to show that there is no point worrying that a flight with a baby will be a nightmare because maybe it will and you’ll deal with it or maybe it won’t and either way it might be worth it for the destination. (Well no point worrying unless you are travelling AA and likely to be put in the cargo hold with a family of goats).

And for those wondering what happened next, after being ushered very kindly to the front of the queue at passport control, our dreams of a swift exit were thwarted by waiting for our luggage for ages and then the longest taxi queue in the world (almost the length of the terminal). But Elphie remained relatively upbeat through all of this and then she feel asleep in the taxi. Unfortunately she then woke up as we entered the hotel room. One might expect she would quickly go back to sleep, it being effectively 2am and all, but no – she had had her nap and it was time to party again. She finally went back to sleep at midnight (4am UK time) and woke at 6.40am to start her day.

Maybe her timezone has overshot and is somewhere in the mid Pacific, as the next day she spent most of the day napping including two and a half hours at lunchtime. I had to keep reminding myself that two hour naps are what “normal” babies do every day – instead I sat on Ipanema beach writing this blog post every so often checking that she’s still breathing.

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