Early flights and toddlers – don’t do it!
I know, I know… what was I thinking? A 7am flight on a Thursday morning sounded doable back at the optimistic start of January. I was trying to find cheap flights to accompany my husband for part of his work trip to Lisbon. Obviously cheap flights = Ryanair. Which means unpleasant flight times. I thought “Sure the Rascal doesn’t sleep well anyway, and he’s going through an endless cantankerous phase… it won’t make much difference”. So OF COURSE HE SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER on the Sunday. A fluke you say? Well, obviously. Except he did it again on Tuesday night (ignoring a brief 10pm request for a drink of water). I was almost considering cancelling the entire trip in favour of a few nights sleep alone in a double bed at that point. But I didn’t. Because that’s the kind of thing a crazy sleep-deprived parent that hasn’t had 4 uninterrupted hours of sleep for over two years might do.
The other half departed early on Wednesday morning and the Rascal was not impressed at being left behind. Shortly after, the snow started falling heavily in the mountains where we live. OH COME ON! We like snow. But not when we’re due to cross the entire city in the wee dark hours of the night. And for a flight to somewhere that’s actually warmer than Ireland in January. We watched out the window (him excitedly hoping for a snowman, me anxiously hoping for a holiday) and thankfully it didn’t stick. I rewarded myself with an internet break before starting our travelling preparations. Noticed my blog was broken. Badly broken. Now that I knew, I just couldn’t ignore it. Several hours later I had a partially-functioning blog, and absolutely no travel preparations done. Plus a tired toddler. Priorities, right?
By midnight the Rascal was sleeping soundly. I had packed and repacked our handluggage, accepting that I was only going to fit a fraction of what we might need. I settled down for a 4 hour nap. The Rascal spent the next hour randomly wailing in his sleep. Then woke up demanding attention. Then I couldn’t get to sleep knowing that my alarm clock was due to go off in 2 hours. I think I fell asleep 30 minutes before it did. So, so tired… A short while later I was dressed, the car was running, luggage in the back, and granny had arrived. The Rascal was hoofed out of his comfortable warm bed and straight into the car. “Granny. It’s Granny!”, he squawked. So much for him sleeping on the way to the airport. Instead he enjoyed a fascinating journey along an M50 populated with lonely trucks, and a boring wait going through security queues full of other Ryanair
victims passengers. We stopped off in Butlers for caffeine (me) and cookies (him) before approaching the flight gate, both high on sugar buzzes.
It was a pretty good flight over. For the first hour the Rascal and I discussed the finer details of flying an airplane, and what was going on outside the window at any given time. He soon gave up on engaging the Portugese granny in the window seat in conversation, as all she would say was “No English!”. For another hour he played peekaboo with the lady behind us and commented loudly on all the people sleeping nearby. I filled him up with water and rice cakes, we read some books, then I masterfully lulled him to sleep with an endless lullabye of Elbow’s ‘One Day Like This’. I wriggled and jigged both of us into our seatbelts, to approving glances from other passengers. Two minutes later the pilot announced that we were about to land. A whole hour earlier than advertised, because Ryanair like to guarantee that their flights arrive on time by giving an extremely
unrealistic generous travel estimate.
You know exactly what flight regulation the cabin crew promptly hit us with. “You’ll have to put the arm rest down on that seat for landing”, said the unapologetic air stewardess. “Sure”, I said, with a “it’s your funeral if he wakes up” kind of shrug. The other passengers glared at her, trying to think of one good reason why a raised arm rest was going to make a significant difference should we crash land. Luckily for all concerned, the Rascal managed to snore his way through the landing whilst I awkwardly held him upright in his seat. Once we were down, I maneuvered him so that he could stretch out comfortably on our seats. Other passengers spent an eternity taking down their bags and shuffling off the plane. The granny helpfully insisted on standing up the entire time, with all her massive bags dangling precariously just above the Rascal’s little nose. He snuffled on, unaware of his danger.
Seeing as the staff had relocated our one bag halfway down the plane and I had a sleeping toddler to transport, we were the very very last to disembark. As I was buckling up my sling the unapologetic stewardess was shrieking “Does madame need some assistance GETTING OFF THE PLANE?”. “No, I just need to put the SLEEPING CHILD in a sling”, I responded, quite politely, I thought. So she retaliated by stalking off with my hand luggage whilst I jammed the Rascal into the sling. I took off after her to see where she was going to discard the bag. She helpfully left it for me to carry down the wobbly steps where another woman and her child were forlornly standing. There was no room left on either bus for us . So there was a lengthy standoff as the buses were held waiting beside the plane. We stood on the tarmac in the chilly air until the Rascal shivered awake. Officials tutted and shook their heads as they examined their clipboards for the umpteenth time and peered dubiously into the buses. Eventually the passengers capitulated and moved the few millimetres required to make enough space at the back of one bus for us all to get on and continue our respective journeys.
We got through Lisbon airport quickly, and located a bus heading for the city centre. This is when the lack of trip preparations began to really bite me. I had a sketchy email stating that the hotel was 500m away from a bus stop on the Avenida da Liberdade. There was more than one bus stop on that very long road. The advertised bus wifi did not want to cooperate with my phone. The lady beside me didn’t know where she was going either. Then the Rascal piped up “Water. Want water. Want water now!”. I rummaged in our bag. Oh god. No water bottle. I immediately visualised the bottle (your standard enclosed toddler no-spill bottle with a straw) on the floor of the plane as the Rascal had drifted off to sleep. Under the pressure of being harried off the plane, I had neglected to crouch down and do the usual check under our seats before leaving. The Rascal does not take kindly at all to being denied water. I find it extremely hard to complete any kind of logical thought whilst he
whines makes requests. Which he was now doing, non-stop, with no water or hotel in sight to appease him.
We jumped off the bus as soon as we got to the city centre, while the Rascal’s complaints were still at a reasonable noise level. Then spent a totally unnecessary extra 30 minutes walking up and down hills searching first for a map of the area, and then some friendly passersby to point us in the right direction. There were magazines and cigarettes being flogged everywhere I looked. No water. Nothing but hill after hill. More on this later, but the most defining feature of Lisbon is the hills. They’re unavoidable. They are long and steep. A five minute stroll can easily exhaust you. And that’s without carrying a toddler plus baggage. We finally arrived at our hotel – sweaty, dehydrated and not very cheerful. It turned out that Daddy was conveniently on a coffee break from meetings. So we went to the coffee room and obtained water for the Rascal. Also most of the fruit bowl decoration that the hotel staff had put beside the pastries. We quietly snuck back into the lift, the Rascal still clutching a handful of large grapes and squirting juice over his top. As soon as we reached our room, everything was thrown in a corner and the important business of getting the Rascal to sleep before he exploded began. Then, some deep breaths.
Perhaps we should avoid these early flights in future I thought, as he finally succumbed to tiredness. Two extremely cranky days later, I revised that opinion to we are DEFINITELY not doing early flights again. Apparently the Rascal does not bounce back quickly after a subsequent night of sleep. Thus, nor do his parents. Even the one that didn’t actually take the problematic flight with the Rascal in the first place. Other than the expense, that’s the biggest problem with visiting other countries. You have to actually travel there. And most of us are travelling economy all the way. I suspect that Daddy will be going solo on future work trips abroad.