Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ever flown with kids?

Before I delve into my posted topic of choice, I just wanted to say that I missed you. I missed my blog, and my readers. And I have really missed writing. I can't say the frequency with which I may be posting again, but I can say that I am here, for now.

So, flying, yeah. Traveling is one thing, but flying with children is an entirely different thing. I'm not talking about hopping on a plane from Ft. Lauderdale to Tampa, as that hardly qualifies as actual flight time. But I'm talking good solid air time of 4 hours or more. Switching planes? Yeah, those are good times. More than two planes? Ah, the fun never ends!

How would you enjoy flying with 2 small children, without the help of a spouse, friend or anyone traveling with you. Doesn't sound too appealing? No? Aww... come on! It's not so bad.

First of all, you want to make sure that you travel with underwear in your purse. (that is, if you are a woman. Otherwise, carry them in a backpack, dad.) They will come in handy. And it matters not that your child is potty trained. You will still need them. Accidents happen, especially when you aren't prepared, or are traveling without underwear on your person for the little people.

You will need to have an arsenal of doo-dads to entertain the kids. Markers, writing pads, crayons, play-doh, stickers, gum, gummy bears, crackers, and thumb-tacks. Whatever keeps them happy, and focused on not screaming, or kicking the man or woman in the seat directly in front of theirs. (I was totally kidding about the thumb-tacks.) Really.

I also like to take along a goody bag of snacks for the plane. Most flights don't offer food, and kids inevitably want to eat. You can purchase a cheese tray on the plane for $4.00 (and they only take credit cards) but little Susy and Michael would surely fight over the one piece of cheese that comes on the said cheese tray. (weird.) But oh well. So I bring my own munchies. If the kids haven't eaten everything entirely in the time that they have been sitting and waiting to board the plane, once you get into the air, they will surely be begging for something.

And if you are thinking or wondering why I would allow them to eat their "plane snacks" before actually being on the plane, then maybe you haven't yet flown with children. Maybe I used them to entice the children off of the furniture that they were leaping off of. Perhaps I used the snacks to keep their mouths otherwise engaged instead of screaming about each and every plane that they saw. I also might have been trying to get through the first of 3 legs of flight and 22 hours until our final destination. So a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do.

Oh yeah, and I also recommend that if you have a long flight, or even two or more flights, that your little plane snack goody bag, be big and fat. So that when your kids are behaving like maniacs before even setting foot onto the first plane, it won't really matter if they dig into the bag.

Oh and carry a big purse (or backpack) and make sure it's one you don't mind getting dirty. Now is not the time to bust out your Louis Vuitton, or your brand new Coach. When you jam it under the seat, you will feel bad after the kids start jumping on it, kicking it, or if you spill something on it. So go with something that you wouldn't mind if it took a beating. OK, so snacks and entertainment items are covered. Good. Don't forget the headphones. On longer flights, they do tend to play movies, and the kids can have fun listening to the music or watching the show. If you have a portable dvd player, all the better. Also make sure that your headphones are either childproof, or are ridiculously cheap, so that when your son takes them apart piece by piece, it won't really matter. It only cost you $2 bucks to begin with.

Once the plane is in the air, this is the time that your children will tell you that they both need to use the restroom. So as a rule of thumb, make them go before you board the plane. Now, having said that, and even after I made mine both go, they both still said that they needed to use the restroom. Fun times. Now on one of our last flights, I did have an incident with a flight attendant yelling in my face that I could not take both my children into the bathroom. I won't go into that here. In fact, I did earn a bottle of red wine out of that ordeal from first class, and apologies from the rest of the flight crew.

I have since trained my small kids, that they will be left alone, and not to be scared. They have to buck up, and deal. Whatever that means. But they get it. And they didn't get kidnapped on the plane and taken underneath like that one Jodie Foster movie. (weird) They were both OK. Since I didn't mention it before, anti-bacterial wipes come in handy at this point. Airplane bathrooms are gross, germ infested flying porta potties of doom. Use the wipes for everything and get out as quickly as possible. Sanitize your hands once you reach your seats with your germy stuff that you carry in your purse/backpack.

So, things are progressing smoothly, and you realize that you are only 40 minutes into your 2 hour and 10 minute flight. Lovely. But time does pass, and you ensure your son that you won't fall out of the sky. Because you are optimistic and do believe it's true.

You manage one leg. Arrive safely at the next airport. But not before praying and thanking God for your safe arrival. You must, and I repeat must look around you for ALL of your belongings. As you know, your children don't care about throwing things on the floor. They do it at home, so why should a plane be any different? It's not. check for the books, markers, earphones, your wallet, credit cards, and cell phone. While you were with one of the kids in the bathroom, it is a very good time to snoop through mom's purse (or dad's backpack). Because after all, all the cool stuff is in there. You might be surprised to find something under the seat that you never took out. Trust me on this.

After deboarding the plane with your little ones, and their little drag along suitcases and cutesy teddy bears attached, you will need to find your next flight. Find the bathrooms, and then agree on food. And you never want to stray too far from what your children normally eat, as this could affect their delicate digestive systems, and thus cause you to need those underwear I told you about earlier. I'm just sayin'.

Now, if you can make it through one flight, I'm sure you can get through the rest of them. It gets easier, I promise. I've done this now many times. And I think I'm becoming a pro. You suck it up. You go with it. Kids are not the best little travelers. They have accidents, they drag little bags, and they walk slower than everyone else. They get tired and cranky and they want to whine. They do whine. Other people look at you like you are the devil because your kids are kicking their seat. They shoot you nasty looks in the terminal too because your kids had just been sitting still for nearly 3 hours. But you let them act a little wild, because after all, they didn't throw up on anyone and they didn't scream their bloody heads off. They made it, and they didn't hurt themselves or anyone else. So you can count it a success.

By the time you make it to your 3rd flight, you feel like crap. You are eyeing down the bar with such a strong intense eye, that the bartender starts to pour you a double. And you aren't even inside the doorway, you are just out of reach. The people that give you dirty looks, now become frightened because the look on your face is actually way scarier than theirs. Your children are now climbing the zoo display in Miami international, and the security guard, who thought of approaching you, felt a little intimidated, and turned the other cheek.

You are able to clear a path to the bathroom quickly with a single growl. Children in towe, and swifter than you imagine possible, you are able to strip down a potty trained child, and redress in a moment. Like I said, accidents happen. You praise yourself for being prepared. You scoff, to yourself, how you liked those underwear, as you trash them. (sigh)

For all that you've been through, you still haven't had the most fun yet. Your two previous flights of the day were only a warm up for traveling overseas. Luckily, we weren't headed to Paris. Had we been, I think I would have definitely hit the bar.

Now comes the fun of an overnight flight. Sleeping on a plane with children is very uncomfortable. Long. And well, uncomfortable. That's the best I can say about it. They play a movie in flight. Though the kids won't remain awake for it, it's there if you want to watch. Of course you will need new headphones. If you remember correctly, your son (or daughter) had dismantled the last pair. Or maybe left them under the seat on the last plane. But still. If you can manage to sleep a little on this plane, you are golden. And if your children can sleep, all the better.

What you don't want to hear, as we did on our first flight over, is "code blue, code blue". If you are unfamiliar, a code blue is pretty universal for cardiac arrest. Flight attendants went running, they called for a physician, and I'm thinking, great, emergency landing. But alas, the physician had determined it was not in fact an actual code blue. Had it been one, I'm certain, we would have made that landing.

Anyway, by the time the sun rises, you are ready to die eat. And thankfully, two bonuses on this flight are dinner and breakfast. Though small enough not to qualify, you are thankful that there is anything at all to scarf down. Your kids may have had the best overnight flight to date, and may be louder than entirely necessary for anyone on board at that early of an hour, but again, you stopped caring about 9 and 1/2 hours ago. Not to mention, that as you boarded, the friendly pilot came on the loud speaker to announce that a slight volcanic eruption in SW Colombia has caused them to change your route due to the heavy ash in the air, and has thus added 40 minutes to your flight time. Lovely.

So children, loud? Perky? Happy? Thrilled to have jugo de naranja?? (orange juice) No biggie. And the only ones who really need to adjust, are the single people who have no children, and are annoyed. So at this point, you are again, thrilled to have made it this far. Thrilled to have been tossed a croissant. And grateful that you finally landed at your destination. After praying through the descent and landing, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Can't wait to do it all again. Bring it baby, I'm getting good at this. Maybe next time I will have the wine on board.