The duration of a one-way trip from Washington DC (IAD) to Kuala Lumpur (KLIA) on Emirates Airlines is approximately 23 hours in total. This does not include checking in of luggage or security clearance or baggage claim. The duration of flying halfway across the world is tiring; the first flight takes up about 13 hours while the second flight is about 7 hours. On top of that, the layover at Dubai International Airport is about 3.5 hours.
Due to the long hours of traveling to Malaysia, I have been religiously flying with highly recommended Emirates Airlines ever since I moved to America. Emirates is one of the top airlines in the world and I only need to pay 3-star price to get a 5-star treatment. I applaud Emirates for the big space in the cabin and the individual inflight entertainment for each passenger. Needless to say, the cabin crew are well-trained and helpful to those who need special assistance.
However, the most recent trip to Malaysia became more complicated because I was traveling solo with a 18-month old toddler. If I could turn back time, I honestly would not do this again. It was really challenging and I thought I would not be able to make it. But hey, I survived the flight with my baby girl.
If any of you plan to travel on such a long journey solo with a toddler, I have a few good tips for you that have worked for me.
1. Think Ahead of Each Process
I have to think of each step ahead. At the security clearance, I placed my belongings onto the conveyor belt and dealt with the stroller last. And I carry her across the metal detector. However, TSA officer may help at times. Once I have cleared security, I got her to stay close by my side and picked up the stroller first so that I could buckle her in immediately (before I picked up other belongings).
Most airlines would get us to gate check the stroller. Bear in mind that your stroller may not be accessible at gate check upon arrival. So I was prepared to walk with her to the next gate or baggage claim. As a matter of fact, I even got her a harness to allow her to walk at times without her running away from me. Thankfully, when I got to Dubai airport, strollers were available and it was a saving grace for the 3.5 hour layover.
Unfortunately upon arrival at KLIA (Malaysia), I didn’t get to pick up the stroller upon arrival at the disembarking gate. Without the stroller, I had to carry her and immigration clearance was 10 minutes walk away. Now with the harness, I got to rest my arms and back until we got cleared at the immigration. Furthermore, there were some people who were kind enough to pick up the suitcases from the conveyor belt into our luggage cart.
2. Travel Light into the Cabin
I strongly recommend to only bring the necessities into the cabin. What I did was I had a bagpack which contained most of my toddler’s things and a sling bag which holds the travel documents, wallet and my toiletries. I do not recommend those 20-22″ suitcase because it will be impossible to push a stroller and drag a carry-on suitcase simultaneously. Do not forget to pack enough diapers or pull-ups and at least 2 sets of clothes in any case of accidents.
3. Ask For Help from the Cabin Crew
Yes, do not be afraid to seek help from the cabin crew. If you can, pick a window aisle when you purchase your tickets. An active toddler like mine will appreciate the window aisle and my daughter was jumping up and down. Most cabin crew will arrange the next passenger to swap to another seat in order to give you an extra seat for the toddler.
4. How to Entertain Your Toddler
Entertaining my toddler in a long haul flight was really challenging. Thankfully, I got a toddler headphone that allowed her to watch some inflight movies peacefully and comfortably. The remote control of the individual inflight entertainment was definitely entertaining to her because she loves to push buttons. When my girl got bored with everything else available, I whipped out the iPad filled with Magic English, ABC songs, and Silly songs by Veggie Tales. I also downloaded some baby friendly apps for her to play with. Don’t forget to utilize the parental control on the iPad.
5. Keep Calm and Stay Positive
In anything, I just had to keep calm and pray. I don’t think I could endure another long haul flight with a child by myself again. If you had to do so, just stay positive and pray. Pray for strength, pray for comfort, pray for peace. At one point, I thought I was going to die when I had to sit next to a rather big woman and she had her child sitting on her lap too. I just had to keep praying and sleep off the anguish I had to go through.
With all said and done, enjoy your flight and enjoy your little one. I promise, I will not do this again!