Thursday, June 28, 2012

Traveling with Children

OK, so the good news is that we seem to have recovered from our bout of all-family diarrhea!!

The bad news is that we have recovered just in time to take our first airplane trip with all three kids on board. 

Yes, tomorrow we catch a plane for Texas with our entire brood of travelers. I've written before about traveling with my kids and I find that one of the things people ask me the most about is tips for air travel with young ones, so perhaps this would be a good time to review a couple of the things I've figured out over the years.

Let the Snacks Flow!

Whatever your rules on the ground I say at 35,000 feet anything goes when it comes to treats and foodstuffs. We have cheerios, sandwiches, and tasty treats of all sorts at the ready when we fly which we serve in small increments over the course of the trip. You might want to go light on the super sugary stuff, but otherwise I say create an all-you-can-eat air bound buffet of the skies! One IMPORTANT caveat - - you MUST NOT let your children see your stash in advance! We made this mistake once. I carelessly left the treats bag open as I settled into my seat, rendering the Snood instantly snack insane and causing him to loudly demand all of its contents, of which he managed to devour nearly all before takeoff.

That was bad.

But a judicious doling out of epic snack amounts has really helped us manage flying with the kids.  

Just pick up your strewn Cheerios when you go or the flight attendants will be rightfully enraged with you.

But Maybe a Little Easy on the Juice

However, as an exception to the above rule, we have found that over-consumption of juice tends to result in projectile vomiting during turbulence and upon landing. Which makes your plane mates deeply unhappy.

Speaking of Puking

Bring a change of clothes for all your children AND YOURSELF. You never know who is going to lose it or from which end and finding yourself halfway through a long flight covered in gross is not fun. Be prepared.

Remember the Kindness of Strangers

The people around you on a plane are fully contained and have been checked for weapons, which means you may hand your children to them free form concern. Give your kids to anyone who seems willing to take them while you rummage through your bags, change diapers or go to the restroom.

Just remember to take them back prior to landing.

Go Hog-Wild on the Electronics

Here again, there are different rules for home and the air. Usually, we try to limit our children to about an hour of screen time a day.  But if it keeps our kids quiet on a plane we're pretty much on an "All Dora all the time" system while flying. We have the iPad, the DVD players on two computers, and two phones at the ready to allow our boys to stare slack jawed at media sources for as long as humanly possible. It definitely answers the question, "Do they ever get bored of TV?" They do, but that's OK - because when they do you go back to your no-fail backup plan - the snacking.

Some New Books/Toys

I find that when you pull out a familiar toy on an airplane you provide an opportunity for your, I don't know, let's say two-year-old, to scream loudly,

"I don't like it that Buzz Lightyear phone!!!"

This is why I prefer to have a few never-before-seen items in my bag of tricks. In my experience every kid will spend at least sometime exploring a book or toy they have not seen before. We've had good luck with sticker activity books, vtech electronic books and picture-filled board books for the littlest ones.

This is a Vtech book, for the record. And no, they are not paying me to tell you about them.

They may not eat up hours at a time but they do provide a nice respite from all that media-watching and maw stuffing.

The Baby is the Same as on the Ground

When it comes to flying with little ones, babies can be the hardest or the easiest. I bring a Boppy pillow

No, they're not paying me either

make a little baby nest and basically proceed with the snuggling, napping, nursing, and funny face making that we would be engaging in if we were back on Earth, and that has always worked really well.

I'm told that nursing or using a pacifier on takeoff and landing can help with babies who have problems with their ears. I've never had a problem with any of my kids having ear aches on planes so I don't have that much to say about that. I have had the experience of having a baby who screams bloody murder for no apparent reason for long stretches in-flight. 

And it is really terrible. 

And there are people who will give you dirty looks even though they can clearly see that you are trying to do what you can to soothe your little one. Which is awful. But there's not much you can do about it but wait for the baby to calm down or fall asleep, which he or she eventually will. I promise. 

And hopefully someone will steal the bag of the people who glared at you.

All this being said I can only hope our own travels in the morning will prove drama free. As my husband and I always remind each other as we step onto the flight, whatever happens after we get into our seats, in three-and-a-half hours we'll be there.

The state in which we and our fellow passengers arrive is yet to be determined. But we put our faith in years of travel experience....

...and a well-packed bag of snacks.