As soon as we boarded, I knew this wouldn't be like other flights. We were flying to Dubai on the Emirates A380, one of the new double-decker jets with the first class private suites and showers.
I admit it, though excited about our Mom and son adventure, I was a bit nervous about flying solo with B for the 14 hour flight from Toronto to Dubai. Would he sleep? Would he get really unruly being cooped up in an airline seat for so long?
Though we've flown together many times, this was going to be our longest flight, so I made sure to set B's expectations well in advance. Though it is not always possible to choose, our flight thankfully began at B's regular bedtime. On previous overnight flights, I've found it helpful to keep with our regular bedtime routine as much as possible, and we talked about what to expect many times leading up to our flight: "Once the airplane has taken off, we will read stories and then it is bedtime. After bedtime, we can do crafts and watch lots of movies together."
Prior to boarding, B got into his pyjamas, and once on board, we read all of his favorite bedtime stories (or at least the compact ones that fit into my backpack). All the preparation worked like a charm, because as soon as I closed the last book, B declared it to be 'nap time' and went off to sleep.
After a good sleep, B was up again so we kept with his normal morning routine - potty time, getting changed out of his pyjamas, and breakfast. With all the sounds and activity in the airplane, neither of us got the same amount of sleep as we would in our own beds; but this slight fatigue, temporarily counteracted by the excitement of travel, made it is easier for us both to fall asleep at our destination even when bed-time came 8 hours earlier than normal with the time change.
It would be untruthful to say B did not have his 'moments', but all in all, both our outgoing and return flights went really well. I came armed with lots of toys, books and stickers, and taking in naps, meals and the wide range of family movies, there was lots to keep B occupied for the long flights.
Here are some features of the Emirates A380 (and Emirates Airlines) that I really appreciated, particularly when flying with a toddler:
- With the steadily decreasing weight limits for luggage these days, I often find it hard to keep even my small suitcase under the limit. On both our outbound and inbound flights, my suitcase was slightly over the limit - but rather than making me pay a hefty fee, the check-in agent let it go since B and I had only one small suitcase between us. Not sure if this happens in all cases, but I really appreciated it!
- Economy seating on the A380 is surprisingly roomy, and there was lots of space under the seats ahead of us for all of our belongings, meaning no jockeying for overhead bin space and our things were accessible at all times. On our outbound flight, we were fortunate to have all three seats to ourselves so we had lots of space to spread out, but even on our return flight (and with a pleasant gentleman in the third seat, hurray!), I found we had plenty of space to be comfortable.
- The A380's entertainment system works even during take-off and landing - the system is paused during announcements and safety videos, but otherwise is available from the moment you board to the moment you get off the plane. You can also forward through the commercials that appear before the start of movies. If you've ever had to sit through 10 minutes of ads with a toddler before 'Toy Story' begins, you will know why this is a blessing.
- There are a couple of washrooms tucked a few steps up next to the cockpit - because they were less obvious to other passengers, there were minimally used and stayed quite clean even after many hours in flight. This is glorious, particularly when traveling with a potty-training toddler!
- Even in economy, passengers have the ability to help themselves to water, juice, chocolate bars and (gasp!) fresh fruit in the galleys throughout the flight.