Having a family abroad requires a certain amount of commitment to flying home. Regularly.
Princess M’s first transatlantic flight was when she was 13 weeks old.
The Prince flew even sooner than that.
We are incredibly lucky (and perhaps a bit broke) that at least some of us have been able to fly to the US nearly twice a year. Our kids are great flyers- practice does make perfect. .
In all honesty they are probably better flyers than me. I like to think my husband and I had some role in this since you know we are AMAZING parents who get EVERYTHING right.
Anyway we have a few tricks we rely on:
- Booking early, or beg at check-in: I won’t lie, when it comes to traveling with a family of 5 we try to do it as cheap as possible. Who doesn’t. We hold no allegiances to any particular airline. While there are a few things I won’t do (like sit in JFK for 8 hours when I could drive to Syracuse in less than 6), for the most part we try to get the cheapest tickets available. Sometimes this means booking way early and sometimes it actually has meant grabbing last-minute deals. If you can book early book online and then CALL the airline and explain to them you are travelling with young children….especially if you need the bassinet seat. Even if you don’t need a bassinet try to get that seat. There is a bit more leg room. There is also bound to be other young families near by. Misery does love company. For times we can’t book early we try to check in as early as possible and beg for any better seats or more space if possible. For the most part airlines are happy to accommodate when they can but you need to get their early. For the times when it has just been myself and the kids I can’t say enough how helpful people have been but you need to ask.
- Cuteness Counts: Let’s be honest we all know people are far more tolerant of a crying baby/toddler when they are cute. So try to keep this in mind when choosing your child’s travel clothes. However, cuteness should not trump comfort, or functionality…especailly when travelling with a newly toilet trained child. A word of caution: be prepared to possibly toss an outfit…we had the worst blow out of our life while waiting in the security line at Dulles Airport. By the time we made it to a bathroom outfit number 1 went straight into the bin. Some outfits, no matter how cute, just aren’t worth saving.
- Liquids & Gels: Put EVERYONE’S liquids/gels in 1-2 bags. Consider stashing another bag inside the liquids to hold all your passports and boarding cards. At security you’re only whipping out 1-2 bags and have everything you need leaving more time to struggle with collapsing the buggy/stroller while holding a baby and/or cornering a toddler.
- More Ziplocs!!!!: I might be obsessed with these. Of course we all have to have them these days but there use goes way beyond liquids and gels. Pack complete spare outfits in their own individual Ziploc bags to minimize rummaging through your bags to find spare socks and onesies when a dreaded blow out occurs. Conveniently store dirty clothes in the now empty Ziploc.
- Find grandparents: You know the ones…white hair, smiling at you from afar even though the rest of the gate may be looking at you as though you were travelling with Satan himself. Find them. Sit next to them. Indulge them in listening to the stories of their own grandchildren and then…sit back and let them go all goo-goo-gaa-gaa over your kid. Kids are drawn to grandparents and you need to catch our breath for just a minute before you board.
- “Repack” before boarding: Take 5 minutes to restructure your bags so that everything you will for sure need in flight is in one bag if possible at your feet. Surely you won’t need ALL the extra bottles or sets of clothes so throw them above you and just be sure everything you are 100% likely to need is at your feet. There is nothing worse than needing a bottle or your toddler crying for that one toy that is in the bag above you and you have to wait for the bloody fasten seat-belt sign to go off
- Bottle Feeding: If you are currently bottle feeding and plan on flying with bottles already filled with water (in Ziplocs of course) over fill the bottles and expect an ounce or two of spillage. We learned this the hard way when we opened bottles mid-flight to find out every single one spilled under the cabin pressure. Since then we’ve stuck to bringing bottled water (be careful of the sodium content) and filling as needed. Also plan ahead for delays or cancellations and make sure you have enough.
- Arm yourself with snacks: Forget trying to be “parent of the year” and just plan on surviving. Miss M ate 4 boxes of raisins during one 6 hour flight just because it kept her happy. I don’t remember her having anything that resembled a meal that whole day. She was fine. Of course I had healthy choices to hand but I won’t lie she pretty much existed on raisins and chocolate buttons while in transit.
- The power of “presents” When they are old enough to need entertaining the fun really starts. Hit up a pound shop or dollar store and find little toys and wrap them!!!! Or even consider withholding a few small toys from them in the weeks to the trip and wrap those…they’ll be like new treasures to them. The second it’s wrapped it makes it a present and what kid doesn’t love birthdays and Christmas. We’ve done, mini magnadoodles, crayons, stickers and paper, books, magic paint books etc. Plan out your trip and try not to offer all the presents in the first hour. Also look for the fun in any thing…Mr. R once spent a solid 30 minutes learning to master pulling open and closing the sports top on my water bottle.
- Expect blood, sweat and tears: Well hopefully not blood. But sweat and tears definitely. You will sweat and the kid will cry…you might cry too. That’s ok. Dress in layers yourself. Before I was a parent flying made me cold, now I’m constantly too warm and sweating. And yes, your kids will cry. They’re kids they do that. Just be prepared for it and do whatever it takes to get through it. (Unless that’s inadvertently walking past the no re-entry beyond this point with screaming child and without passports and boarding cards). Now isn’t the time to be using text-book parenting techniques to curb future tantrums. Kids get overstimulated, jet lagged, tired and uncomfortable…seriously just get everyone through every bout of crying whatever it takes. Be sure not to get so consumed with your screaming child & people staring at you that you forget your whereabouts or miss important flight information!!
And lastly, be prepared that kids aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. I shamefully will admit my husband and (pre-baby) I sitting on more than one flight holding our breaths as a screaming infant headed our way only to let out a sigh of relief as they went past.
Shameful I know. There must be some bad travel karma heading our way for this terrible behaviour.
As much as possible ignore these people. You will never see them again.
Do you have any tried and true tips for travelling with kids?