Memorable Journeys #7: First Journey of a Tiny Expat

Journeys can be memorable for many reasons. Previously I have written about a journey that was memorable because I spent 12 hours at Moscow airport – with a sulky brother who wouldn’t speak to me. And another journey that led to us spending the day in a hotel in Dubai – when we weren’t ever meant to be anywhere near that country! And guest poster Pheobe from Lou Messugo wrote about her very memorable journey in Mongolia – on a very dodgy airline. But they can also be memorable because it’s the first time you have ever done something, too. Here, in the latest in my Memorable Journey series, Yuliya of the Tiny Expats blog describes what it was like to take their eldest daughter on a plane for the first time.

For Clara’s Memorable Journey series, I decided to tell you about our older daughter’s first experience of relocation. We were moving from Hamburg, Germany, to Shanghai, China, and had to change flights in Dubai.


This was the first flight for our daughter and it was also the first flight for us, as parents, with a small child (she was 1 year and 4 months old), so we had absolutely no idea what to expect! Hamburg-Dubai flight lasts approximately 6 hours and we hoped that our daughter’s day nap could supply us with at least an hour or two of free time to sit back and relax a little. In my experience, plans that include small kids don’t usually work out the way you want them to. A trip to the airport, all the security checks and detailed investigation of all corners of a a waiting lounge proved to be quite exhausting, so our daughter fell asleep in my arms in the airport and decided to wake up, when we were invited to board our plane. “Would you like any newspapers or magazines for your entertainment during the flight?” asked the flight attendant. “We believe, we will have more than enough entertainment on our hands as it is..” came our gloomy answer.

One thing I can say for sure – I was very happy that I still breastfed at that time. You just can’t beat the benefits of breastfeeding during long journeys! I didn’t have to worry whether she would like the food we could get in the airports and on the flights – she could always top up with milk. And, of course, it’s the direct route to tranquility, albeit a temporary one.

The 6 hours went past surprisingly quickly. Although, our daughter already had a nap, there was so much to discover – buttons, screens, weird chairs, strange windows. Being in a business class didn’t hurt as well. When we landed in Dubai, we could exhale in relief – now just a few hours of wait in a lounge and a night flight to Shanghai.

Our wait in Dubai was not bad at all. There was a play room, where either my husband or I babysat our toddler. It got more difficult as it started to get closer to bed time. Our flight to Shanghai was scheduled to depart around midnight and we hoped to be able to entertain our kid until we boarded the plane, so she could fall asleep for the night. She was excited in the new surroundings and stayed up longer than usual in any case, but she still was a one and a half year old, who could switch off anywhere if she needed to.

Like a professional baby carrier that I was, I took her cuddled up in my arms all through the long walkways and check in. My husband went with a stroller and carry on. I would’ve preferred our daughter to be in the stroller, but she was too tired/stressed out and in a serious need of a cuddle, so the stroller was just an unacceptable option.

As soon as we sat down and I buckled her in together with me, she just switched off in an instant. In about 9 hours, I actually had to wake her up, as the plane was about to land in Shanghai. The night went by quickly, only interrupted by some milk top ups (I think, more for comfort than for food), but she didn’t even fully wake up for those.

It was a morning in Shanghai, as bright as it could get, with a yellowish disk in the sky trying to shine through the grey smog. That was going to be the next chapter in our expat lives, totally different to Hamburg.

P.S. If I could give you an advice for taking small kids on a plane, it would pretty much come down to these points:
– continue breastfeeding at least until after the relocation – it’s just such a great help!
– night flights are the best
– if possible, don’t do it without your partner; you would, of course, survive, doing it alone, but at a greater cost

Thank you Yuliya for sharing your Memorable Journey with us, and some great tips there. I would particularly agree with the point about continuing to breastfeed if you possibly can – it is hugely reassuring to know you will always be able to feed your baby, whatever the circumstances. If anyone else suddenly remembers a journey they have taken that might make a good yarn, please do get in touch. It doesn’t have to be a flight or even a long journey – a train or bus ride, a walk, a horse or donkey ride……

4 thoughts on “Memorable Journeys #7: First Journey of a Tiny Expat

  1. Pingback: First Journey of a Tiny Expat | Tiny Expats

  2. I flew with my daughter at ten months old and the night flight was the best decision we could have made. Our return flight was during the day and my goodness those were the LONGEST 12 hours of our lives! We are planning a trip to Italy next year when she’s 2.5 and I can’t imagine how she’ll handle that trip 😦

    Liked by 1 person

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