Flying with a toddler

Back in May I flew with my almost 15 month old from Taipei to London, via Hong Kong. I planned it so that he was awake for the first 5 hours of the longer flight and then slept for the rest. Although he was a proper walker by then, I was still able to keep him occupied enough to get through those 5 hours.

On Thursday this week, we took a day flight from Lagos to London which is 6 1/2 hours. Easy, right? Not with a 20 1/2 month old toddler. But I was prepared. I took into account that he probably wouldn’t nap as there would be too much going on around him and so not counting take off and landing, I had to keep him occupied for a little over 5 hours.

As soon as we took off I put him in his seat (we booked seat plus on Virgin, a god send) and let him entertain himself with the controls, the window shutter and the headphones. After about half an hour, I took out 6 plastic ikea bowls I’d taken on board and a mixture I’d put together. It contained raw rice, pasta, black lentils, yellow lentils and red maroon kidney beans (lots of colour). He absolutely loved this! It kept him entertained for almost an hour. He poured this mixture from one bowl to another, attempted to eat some (ofcourse!) and got lots of it all over the floor.


At this stage we were over 2 hours into the flight and it was his lunchtime so I took out his thermos of food (I don’t like plane food so can’t expect him to eat it) and started feeding him. After his lunch I gave him an apple which kept him busy for a while. He loves fruit and enjoys eating an apple whole rather than having it cut into pieces.

3 hours into the flight, we’d already had 3 nappy changes (something to do with the cabin pressure?!) and I’d attempted to put him down to nap twice but he made it very clear he had no intention to sleep. So we went for a walk and S charmed lots of ladies and became friends with the cabin crew.

4 1/2 hours into the flight, we’d had another nappy change, attempted to nap again (still didn’t happen although he looked extremely tired) and so I pulled out the big surprise…a brand new shiny train from the Thomas & Friends collection.


This kept him busy for another 45 minutes as he drove it all over his table, his seat and the floor below him, making a brum brum sound (how do they learn these sounds?).

We went for another walk, he played Candy Crush with my mom (who was flying with us) and listened to some music.

Before I knew it, the captain was announcing our descent and S was on my lap and strapped in, playing with the TV control. As “they” say…boys do not sit still!

The flight went by pretty quickly and we landed before I knew it. I much prefer night flights when S can sleep for the majority of it but day flights aren’t as daunting as I expected.

I’d love to hear your suggestions and fun activities to keep a toddler busy on a plane!

Virgin’s little secret

Before anyone starts getting too excited, this post is about Virgin Atlantic’s little secret and not anything else 😉

I’ve noticed on the HK mom forum I’m on, one of the most frequently asked questions is “Which is the best airline to fly with my baby/toddler?” The people of HK are lucky in that most UK based flights fly via HK to Australia and so they don’t just have to consider Cathay or Quantas but can also fly British Airways and Virgin from Hong Kong to Australia.

For the last five and a half years I have flown with Cathay Pacific and I have to say, they have been great. Their level of service, their offers and for the most part, their aircrafts, have been of a good standard. Then along came S. Cathay Pacific charge 10% of the highest fare in your class of travel for infants. Said infant does not even get a seat but rather a bassinet or your lap. They have no hand baggage allowance and only 10kg checked in luggage and you can either check in a stroller OR a car seat. Suddenly flying with an infant, Cathay doesn’t sound that appealing.


In come Virgin Atlantic. Last week S and I flew from London to Lagos (Nigeria) to visit my brother. It’s a relatively short flight (6 hours) and there is no time difference between London and Lagos so jetlag isn’t an issue. When we booked our seats, the lovely lady at Virgin let us onto a little secret…seat plus!! So what is seat plus you ask? Staring from only £60, you can essentially buy the seat beside you. Virgin guarantee it will be free, making your journey in economy a lot more comfortable.


Seat Plus was a lifesaver! The seat beside me was free so after take off I was able to lie S down and he could sleep comfortably for the duration of the flight. The second great thing about Virgin Atlantic is their baggage allowance. An infant gets 10kg hand baggage, a 23kg checked in bag and the option to check in a stroller AND a car seat. Also, you can buy up to 10 checked in bags for a fee on any route and an infants ticket is 10% of your ticket and not the full fare on that class.

The staff were pleasant and helpful and we enjoyed our journey with them. I’m still a Cathay fan but when travelling with an infant, Virgin gets my vote!


What airline do you usually travel with?

Being an expat doesn’t make you a brat

I was browsing the web last night when I came across this article.

As I went through the list of clues, many of them resonated with me. Especially considering myself a “third culture kid” and not really knowing what to say when I’m asked where I am from. But I definitely don’t think of myself as a brat. While I found the article interesting, I think brat was a wrongly used term.

I was born in Monrovia and lived there for 3.5 years. My family then moved to London. When I was 7, we moved to Nigeria. I went to school there for 4 years and at 11 went to boarding school in India and at 14, switched to boarding school in Dublin. I then ended my education studying for my degree in London. At 21 I lived between 3 different countries, working and volunteering with children and in early 2008 I moved to Hong Kong where I have lived for the last 5.5 years. I’d call myself an expat kid (or child of the world) but not really a brat. I was born in Africa, of Indian descent, with a British passport – confusing or what?!


But, like with most things, I think the way children perceive things is down to their parents. Growing up, for the most part, we had domestic help, drivers, club memberships and I flew before I could walk. But my parents raised me to say please and thank you, even to people working in our home. Our house help were always treated like a part of our family. And if my brother and I were out of line, we were definitely set straight. We were always told, God gave you two hands, use them.

Ofcourse, saying this, there are things that we took for granted. I remember going to the supermarket with a friend once and I started bagging things as I always did, putting all tins together, all fruit and veg together. He soon showed me the error of my ways. I’d always driven to the supermarket or had the shopping done for me. He pointed out that when you were walking home with your groceries, you had to balance the bags out so there was a mix of heavy and light items in each bag. You learn something new everyday, that lesson has stayed with me since.

In my opinion, her list were more “isms”. I would think of a brat as a child with lack of manners, lack of empathy and snobbishness. I don’t think you have to be an expat kid to be a brat and vice versa.

I personally think if you’re lucky enough to be an expat kid, it is a privilege. I have an accepting nature of all cultures, I love to travel and see new places, meet new people. I have friends in almost every part of the world, I can clean and manage my own home if I need to but also appreciate and value the help if it’s there. Given all that, I’d love to raise my son as an expat kid. He’s been to 10 different cities in 19 months, I guess we’re on our way 😉


What do you think? Were you an expat kid/third culture kid? Do you think it gives you a broader outlook on life and more accepting of different cultures?