Sydney to South Africa Alone with Two Children
We’re alive. All three of us.
I’m sorry it’s taken so long to write this, it’s not that the flight was awful, it’s that I’ve just woken up – I got here two weeks ago and handed both kids to my parents and went to bed. I feel like sleeping beauty – just a little less attractive and more exhausted.
THE FLIGHT …
To give you context – there is a single flight from Sydney to South Africa each day. It is 14 hours long, leaves at 11:30ish and arrives in Johannesburg the same day at 4:30pm.
With most other international flights we’ve been on there has been some point at which it is “nighttime” and “daytime” whether the sun actually goes down or its constructed by the airline crew to help you acclimate with the time at your destination – there is dinner and lights out.
For the 2 days I let myself think about the flight one of my main concerns was how to get the kids to adjust to the time differences given the time zones we were traveling through. When I asked my husband whether he thought it would start out as “nighttime” on the plane or “daytime” and whether they would serve “dinner” at first his very helpful response was “its a lunch time flight – they’ll just serve lunch the whole flight”.
“ITS A LUNCH TIME FLIGHT”
As the flight leaves at 11:30 and you have to be there 3 hours prior with the Sydney traffic into the City from the Northern Beaches (or the North Shore) being horrific we had to leave at 7 which meant waking the kids up at 6:30am. This is something I did not take into account.
Just to make life a little easier the plane also spent an hour on the tarmac with no aircon on… CRISIS!! When we finally took off the littlest was exhausted and overtired and my son wanted to know how long until we got to South Africa.
1 tired child + 1 inquisitive child = stressed out mom.
There was nearly a homicide on the plane when I got the little one down for ten minutes and an air host woke her up to offer her food…. Are you kidding me!!! After that she was up for another 9.5 hours until I managed to get her to sleep.
I can’t lie the kids weren’t awful – they ate (my food not theirs), they drank (and poured water all over me), the used the bathroom (400 times) and they slept (10 hours into the flight after the hour on the tarmac and the five hours driving to and waiting at the airport).
Despite how well behaved they were, I was counting down the hours. I found myself watching my watch like a teenager at school. I just wanted it to end. I took the liberty of jotting down my feelings every hour and here they are, I’m laughing out loud as I read them myself, they sound like they were written by a sleep deprived lunatic.
1st hour: Why are we still on the tarmac. Why have we not taken off.
2nd hour: I can’t believe she’s sleeping and I even got to change her in the bathroom while asleep. This is awesome. This flight may be good.
3rd hour: Why did that flight attendant wake her up for food. Why. Why. Why.
4th hour: How did I rip off the top half of my nail? Must have been when I ripped the Transformer out of its “deacon 5” packaging.
5th hour: I’m so tired why won’t they calm down. It’s only 6pm in Sydney, what is wrong with me?
6th hour: We’ve only been been flying for 6 hours!?
7th hour: Okay we’re half way there.
8th hour: So my 20 month old is petrified of face masks. Good to know. Why was that woman hiding in the dark near the loos wearing a face mask???
9th hour: Chocolate mouse. Amazing. I just need to somehow get it away from my 4 year old. He’ll never sleep if he eats this whole tub.
10th hour: Oh my gosh both kids are asleep, may this last more then 10 minutes.
11th hour: 2 more hours to go. Oh no it’s 3 more hours to go.
12th hour: Okay, now it’s only 2 more hours to go. They’re still sleeping.
13th hour: I think we’re over African soil. Maybe they can just drop us out the plane. I’m not sure I can do this much longer without falling asleep.
14th hour: Bottles, bottles. Why haven’t I prepared bottles for when they wake up? I must be nuts. Too late now. We’re coming in to land. Oh thank goodness it’s nearly over.
It isn’t the easiest thing flying with kids when you’re alone, but it is just like everyday life – you just get on with it and do the best you can.
Yes people may look at you funny or make a snide remark (thankfully no one did this to me) but they too were children once – they did not just arrive on the planet as fully functional and grumpy adults.
I’m really glad I’ve done it now because I know I can do it and it won’t kill me. It makes the thought of traveling back to South Africa a lot less daunting.
What has killed us on this side is the jet lag – the kids just haven’t handled it well.
Having flown with the kids I know about jet lag – I know what to do. I plan the eating and sleeping on the plane so that they are accustomed to the times on the other side, I get the kids out in the sun as soon as it’s daytime where we arrive because the sun increases the melatonin and the melatonin makes them sleep, I don’t let them oversleep and I wear them out but despite all this the jet lag hit us badly this time.
From night one the kids were both awake at 2am despite being exhausted they were up and wanting to play, they eventually went down at 5am and slept for an hour before being up and raring to go. This ensued for the first three nights we were in South Africa. For nights 3 to 7 they woke up at 4am but I managed to get them down pretty quickly. What they have done is completely forgot how to sleep through the night so they have regressed and with the change of scenery it’s going to probably take getting back to Sydney to get us back into a routine.
Key to the jet lag is just being patient and tolerant and not expecting too much from them but it really doesn’t help when you’re dealing with it too. I just hate when I’m not able to control what’s going on so I guess its a lesson in patience for me too!
As with most times in parenting: when they finally fall asleep and you see them lying peacefully you realize whatever it is you’re dealing with is completely manageable.
But despite my positive attitude I have no idea how the return trip is going to play out! 🙂 No trip is ever the same – the kids are different ages or going through some new phase, the distance or the time to travel is different (going to South Africa is 14 hours but coming back is shorter or longer by a few hours – so weird), the departure time is different. Who knows what is going to happen when we have to come back. But as I love complicating things, the kids go to their new school for a play date the very first day we’re back…No comment 🙂
TIPS FOR MOMS DOING THE SYDNEY – JOHANNESBURG FLIGHT
- There isn’t much at the gate toy or book wise so don’t promise your kids anything that you are hoping to buy at the airport. Rather put it in your bag and bring it out as a surprise on the flight.
- If it’s one adult flying with two kids (one on lap – you know the lingo) book the aisle seat and the window seat and you may get lucky with the airline blocking out the middle seat.
- Pre-book kids meals.
- Kids under 3 are allowed to have milk and juices taken through with you (I had pre-packed all their favourite things).
- I didn’t need it this time, but I had a letter from my husband saying that he gave permission for me to fly alone with the kids.
- Unabridged birth certificates. Although you know South Africa may change its laws without you knowing so check everything or ask the travel agent to do it on your behalf.
- Have some South African money with you so you can pay a porter to help you with all the bags on the other side because it is a lot to handle by yourself when both you and the kids are tired. At the time of writing this R20 is enough to tip the porters.