Flying to Singapore with an infant in lap…

The facts, as I see them….

  • We live on the East Coast of the US.
  • Singapore is approximately 9,500 miles (15,000 kilometers) from home.
  • There is no choice but to fly to get from one to other.
  • While there are different routes you can take, in the end you are looking at 20-25 hours in the air plus layovers, and waiting in the airport pre- and post-flight.
  • Doing this with a 15 month old is madness.
  • We are mad.


The story….

Before the flight….

Ravi has been offered a job in Singapore, and they generously agreed to fly us out for a week to see what was what.  While we pushed our luck and asked for 3 seats, we were given 2, which meant Elanor would be in lap (airline policy is that a child under 2 may fly in lap either for free or for a discounted price…from the US to an international destination, that discounted price is generally 10% of the adult fare).  Because of some factors beyond our control (the date of Chinese New Year, etc), we ended up with tickets to leave for Singapore approximately 48 hours after it was decided that the company would fly us out.

There was a snowstorm of epic proportions exaggerated predicted by forecasters.  So the day before the flight, Ravi was on the phone with the company asking if our first leg (which was intra-US) could be moved up so that we’d have a longer layover before leaving on the international flight.  This would allow for delays/cancellations/rebooking to happen without missing the international leg(s) of the flight.  I’m told explaining to someone in an equatorial location that you need your flight moved up because of a snow prediction is an entertaining conversation…if you’re not the one having it.

Let me repeat…we leave on the East Coast of the US.  The Northeast, to be specific.  The average daily temp around her is something like 32-36 degrees Farenheit (or about zero Celsius).  The average daily temp in Singapore is 90 degrees Farenheit (32 degrees Celsius).  As you can imagine, our wardrobes do not currently reflect Singapore-esque weather.

Therefore I spent 48 hours in a shopping and packing frenzy.  While I can affirmatively say that there is some summer wear out there in Elanor’s size, there is nothing out in mine.  Why not just buy some stuff in Singapore for myself?  Singapore clothing stops at about a size 10.  For a ridiculous markup you can buy UK size 18/20 at a Marks and Spencer.  I am an American size 24.  I am unable to go into any store in Singapore and buy clothing of any kind, unless I wish to sheathe myself in the oh-s0-stylish camping tent look that’s going to be the hit of Fashion Week this year.  There’s also the fact that even if I were a size 10, I have hips and an ass, and have been warned away from buying clothing there.  There were also a few power converters to buy, duct tape to purchase so that I could do a ghetto fix on the stroller bag, and a billion other details to see to.

I made lists.  I harassed everyone with my lists.

I enlisted help for babysitting the day before and night before our departure so that I could pack without help.  I finished packing somewhere around 6 hours before our flight left.

I do not advise going to a foreign country experiencing opposite weather from your own with only a 48 hour warning.  It will bring on fits of tears, cursing, and ben & jerry’s.

But we managed with 3 suitcases plus the stroller in its bag, 2 carry-on suitcases, and 3 personal items (the diaper bag, my backpack with computer slot and Ravi’s briefcase monstrosity).  By the way…this is traveling light in our book.

Flight 1…

This was the leg we were worried about as Snomaggeddon was predicted for the East Coast.  While that may have been a true prediction for the southern part of the Eastern Seaboard, the snow pretty much by-passed the Northeast.  Therefore our fuck-all early flight (so that when we were delayed/canceled we’d still have enough time to get to NYC and get out of  NYC on the our correct flight) actually took off and arrived more or less on time.

Not to complain, but this was a major miscalculation on our part.  The Singapore Airlines desk and check-in didn’t open until 5pm.  As our intra-US flight was on Delta, this meant we had to exit security in the domestic terminal and check in with Singapore Airlines and go back through security to get to the lounge, the gate, and the majority of food and shopping.

Interlude #1-New York

It was 11am…maybe noon.  We were stuck on the wrong side of security with no way in for 5/6 hours.  Our flight was in 9/10 hours.  We had the 15 month old.  Anyone else see how this might not be ideal?

Luckily our luggage was theoretically checked through so we only had the babe and the carry-ons to contend with.  I had theoretically (foreshadowing!!!) checked the stroller through as luggage, rather than gate check it as it’s a colossal pain in the ass to deal with in airports, especially with the security checkpoint as we have a Bugaboo Stroller and its monstrous travel bag and are ALWAYS stopped and told the bag is too big to bring through security/we explain it’s the travel bag/ sometimes have to demonstrate it’s the damn travel bag/ argue with security dance.  So yes, far easier to theoretically check it through as luggage and theoretically pick it up in Singapore.

We called various friends and family and made plans to meet up with a friend of mine at a silly restaurant in midtown.  For the non-locals, the airports in “New York City” are actually in Queens (a borough of NYC) and a good 45-60 minute cab ride away from midtown Manhattan (or what you really think of as NYC).  We had a pleasant lunch and got back in a cab to go back to the airport around 4/4:30.  We checked in and found the lounge.

In the end, you kill time in a lounge by plugging in the laptop and pacifying the toddler with Elmo.  After you’ve sung the itsy bitsy spider and read the books, there’s only so much you can do to keep her from running up and down the aisles and swiping soda and beer and food off people’s temptingly low tables.  (No she didn’t actually do that, but she did run up and down the very wide (think almost a yard) heating duct by the window for about 10 seconds before I grabbed her).  You also put her on the leash and take her up and down the shopping area, but don’t actually enter stores because of the heretofore mentioned knocking stuff down.

When she gets tired, you have her straddle your carry-on like a pony and hold onto the handle extenders like they were reins.  This is entertaining until she almost falls off.

You give great thanks when they finally board your flight, but are quickly annoyed when, walking down the jetway, your (brown-skinned) husband (with long curly hair) is pulled out of line for a “random” bag check.  You spin around when you hear your child say “dada” and see him being patted down.  You walk back and make a point of saying “it’s okay, the police are just checking Daddy,” while keeping a neutral face.  You see the cops make a connection and the racial profiling fall apart as they realize that no, the brown guy with the long hair isn’t a terrorist, but rather a dude with his (white) wife and baby.  You remind yourself that these are the geniuses who also did a “random” check on your best friend’s 90 year old grandmother in a wheelchair…because there are so many 90 year old jewish grandma terrorists running around.  (sorry, pet peeve)

The whole family finally gets on the plane.

Flight 2

We had asked for the bulkhead row as that’s the only place you can get the travel bassinets.  Depending on the airline, these are baskets that either attach near the floor or halfway up the wall in the bulkhead row.  They plug into the wall and have some sort of device that covers some portion of the top of the basket.  United has netting that snaps over and the Singapore Air flight we were on has a cloth strap that zips.  They’ll usually install it once the flight hits a cruising altitude and take it down about a half hour before landing.

While we had avoided delays and such into and out of New York, and missed most of the snow, we did still have to deal with a lot of turbulence between New York and Frankfurt.  This made the usual conveinence of the bassinet pointless, as for their safety you have to keep taking the child in and out of the bassinet every time there’s rough turbulence.  This tends to wake up the sleeping baby and make them cranky.  Cranky babies tend to be frustrating to deal with.  So for everyone’s sanity, I mostly just kept my seat reclined and let E sleep on my chest.

There were a few times this arrangement was less than ideal.  When it was time to eat, for example.  One small moment to stop and thank Singapore Air for giving us real metal utensils in Business Class.  I really hate being given a plastic spork when I’m flying as if I’m at Kentucky Fried Chicken and see it as just another stupid pointless “safety” measure that makes life more irritating, not safe.  When eating Ravi and I had to switch off who had the baby, which occasionally works but usually means I eat fast while Ravi holds an angry squirming bundle of Elanor who is twisting her body and howling for me as if I’ve deserted her in the middle of a forest with the evil witch instead of with her beloved father and am less than a foot away.

It was a 6/7 hour flight to Frankfurt.  While Elanor did sleep a fair chunk (having not napped was useful in this context), she was awake quite a bit too.  We were lucky that business was fairly empty on the first leg, and that we had no neighbor.  So there were points when we belted Elanor into the middle seat, each taking an aisle seat next to her (the config was 2-3-2 across).  This allowed her to play with toys, smack the tray, open and close the arm rest where the remote for the in-flight entertainment was stored, and flirt her way into multiple “Singapore Airlines” bears (seriously, we came home with like 7 of the damn things).  There were also many verses of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” sung.

But eventually we got to Frankfurt and de-planed, even though we were getting back onto the same aircraft into the same seats in two hours because it’s the rules.

Interlude #2-Frankfurt

As it was a short (relatively speaking) layover of 60-90 minutes before re-boarding the plane, we decided to hit the lounge.  The business class lounge was too far away, but luckily due to frequent flier status, Ravi was able to get us into the Star Alliance “Senator’s” Lounge.  It was your typical lounge–comfier seats than the gate, free soda (and alcohol, although we didn’t partake because we’re idiots), some free snacks, bathroom, and because it’s an international lounge, a free set of showers you can use.  The line for the showers was long and I didn’t want to deal with the hassle, so we didn’t bother.

We ended up talking with a woman who has dual German/American citizenship about the recent election in Massachusetts.  As we were on the “losing” side, we were more than a little bitter about the results.

Elanor was fairly well-behaved except for the usual “no don’t touch that.”  I’m happy to say Elmo was not broken out.

But eventually it was time to get back on the plane.

Flight 3

Business class was a little more full but we either lucked out without a person in the third seat in our row or the person asked to be moved (which, for the record I found generous, not rude…who’d WANT to sit next to a couple with a toddler when there are other free seats?).

There was more sleeping.

There was at least another Singapore Airlines Bear.

There was more heart-broken sobbing when I dared go to the bathroom.

And I finally broke out the Elmo.  Keep in mind I had brought the laptop onto the plane for my own use.  I had even, in a moment of exceptional delusion, brought movies for myself to watch and downloaded some stuff from iTunes to watch.  After all, she’d slept really well on the flight to the UK, right?  It wasn’t like she was almost 6 months younger….I mean, kids don’t change much in 6 months, right?  But when you still have another 7 hours to go and you’ve sung yourself hoarse and she’s throwing the books onto the floor….it’s time to bring out the heavy artillery….Elmo.

So she happily watched Elmo for at least 2 hours, allowing me to eat again and watch some in-flight stuff while keeping an eye on her out of the corner of my eye.

And then we broke out the Benadryl.  Oh yes, we did.

I had approached our pediatrician much like I assume a user approaches someone they think might be a drug dealer.  I mumbled something about over 20 hours in the air, and how it’s unethical, but….

“Please, I have two kids and I never fly without Benadryl.  Let me look up the dosage,” she said, cutting to the chase.

Ladies and gentlemen–why I love my pediatrician, reason #539.

It didn’t work as well as I had hoped, but she did fall asleep eventually.  There was less turbulence on this flight, so I put her in the bassinet.  I napped myself, and through some magic mother’s instinct or just plain dumb luck…woke up just in time to see her stand up in the bassinet and grab her.

More Elmo, more singing, more throwing of books.

Like giving birth…the pain is fading into a haze and I have only vague memories of what seemed like a never ending rotation of Elmo, toys, books, singing, and sleeping.

FINALLY…we land………..


….only to find out that our stroller is still in New York.

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2 Responses to Flying to Singapore with an infant in lap…

  1. saffy says:

    You always manage to make me smile 🙂 No stroller in Singapore huh? Bet you were thrilled. Can I put a small plug in here for the teeny tiny Maclarens? God bless them for their ease of travel.

    32c must’ve thrown you ‘for a six’ – esp after coming out of zero degrees – crikey – it’d throw us and we’re currently in the mid 20s.

    I haven’t tried clothes shopping in Singapore – I learned my lesson in Bangkok. 5ft9 size 18, size 10 shoes and made the fatal error of walking into a clothing store hoping to shop. I was politely removed from the store. I think I could’ve been the size of a stick insect and still not fitted anything.

    Nice that they flew you business class. Imagine if you’d done that in cattle class? Shudder. Tell me – how does it feel singing incy wincy in public? I haven’t had the pleasure as yet.

    Airport security sucks doesn’t it? I know why it’s there, but PLEASE… to the point now that for our next trip to the Northern Hemisphere we’re going to avoid the States altogether – we don’t want to go thru that indiginity, and certainly won’t get it to the same extent elsewhere.

    Here’s hoping you get your answer soon! 🙂

  2. Taking a Chance on Baby says:

    I’ve heard lots of good things about the Maclarens, but I’ve hesitated because we keep Elanor facing us (although we’re starting to turn her around). I’ve also gotten really use to adjustable handles so I don’t have to bend over and strain my back while pushing. Do you have a specific model you recommend?

    Having said that, I’m not necessarily against getting a cheaper/smaller travel stroller now that she’s getting older. Of course, hope also springs eternal that soon we’ll soon be able ditch the stroller (for her) altogether as she walks more and more. I know it’s a pipe dream, but let me keep my small illusions.

    It was nice to fly business. We used frequent flier miles on our honeymoon to do first to and from Europe, and we did business when we flew to India for our receptions there, but we’ve mostly done economy. We have enough status that we usually get economy “plus” which has a bit more leg room, but it’s no fun.

    Having said that, I made a point of telling Ravi to tell his employer that I’d be happy to trade my business seat for two economy seats on the way there (if it happens) so that she can be in her carseat and I can have my lap.

    I hope so too…limbo sucks and we’re moving in 5/6 weeks regardless. It would be nice to know where to so I can actually start doing something about it.

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