I figured today was as good a day as any to post a few tips on travelling with kids. First off there are some great websites out there that give informed, expert advice on this very subject and a simple “traveling with kids” search will take you right to them, I strongly suggest you do this because you really get a lot of useful information from them. I, on the other hand, will proceed in my usual fashion of giving you a few totally inane tips, gathered from nothing more than my own personal experience. So nothing expert about it at all. But, hey, someone, somewhere, may find them useful or interesting (ideally useful and interesting, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves) so here goes:
1. Be a pain in the patootie.
Whether you reserve your flight, train ticket, hotel or whatever, online or through a travel agent ask all and any questions you may have, even if the answer seems obvious. If it’s important to you, get the information, preferably in writing. Let me give you a practical example: say you’re flying with a child under 2 years of age and you don’t want to buy their ticket, since you may have the option to take them on as a “lap child” (more on why I think you shouldn’t later, but whatever, that’s just my opinion), and say you’re flying internationally or just on a really long flight where one would assume you get the little baby crib that they stick to the wall of the bulkhead seats so you don’t go crazy insane holding a kid in your arms for thirteen hours straight, well don’t assume.
Call the airline and double check that the crib is available. Get them to write you an email. Make sure you understand that you want it. Ask what the weight limit is, cause there is one, so don’t assume just because your kid is under two he’ll fit, more than likely if he’s over 6 months he won’t. Go figure. And when you get to the gate, repeat the above process. Trust me. This also applies if, for example you need to reserve a special meal, or need help with your luggage, have any sort of disability, are travelling with large or irregularly shaped luggage or (heaven forbid) pets.
Don’t take anything for granted, you’ll be happier when you know ahead of time how limited your options actually are.
2. Be blind, deaf and dumb
If you’re travelling with children your chances of encountering embarrassing situations is directly related to the number of children you are travelling with and rises exponentially depending on the time of day, size of airport (train station, bus depot, whatever) and period of the year that you’re travelling in. If you’re flying there are two sure-fire moments when you will want to shoot yourself in the head and die a bloody, dramatic death: airport security and boarding. These are the two moments that will open your eyes as to how many assholes there actually are in the world, because you will be wrestling your child from the stroller while simultaneously removing your shoes, belt, sunglasses (bra, iud and quite possibly your soul), and loading your purse, diaper bag, carry-on on the conveyor belt, closing the stroller and holding your pants up as you keep your toddler from running away and/or your baby in your arms, and nary a soul will lend you a hand. In fact, I’m willing to bet that everyone in line behind you is huffing, puffing and complaining that their flight is leaving whereas you, clearly, are just there for the fun. So I say, don’t get flustered. Be blind to their glares and do your thing calmly and methodically so you don’t end up with your pants round your ankles since you had to take your belt off, be deaf to their complaints, your kid’s screaming in your ear will help with that, and keep your passport and boarding pass between your teeth, your hands are busy anyway and this way you’ll avoid telling everyone around you to eff off. Also, wear flip flops, the indignity of going through security barefoot will be too much for you to bear.
3. Pretend you are a vending machine
Bring food, lots of it. Snacks for your kids. Snacks for you. And please don’t be ridiculous by trying to think of healthy snacks give your kids chips and yourself chocolate. They’ll find it highly entertaining and you will need the comfort. Also, who the hell has time to peel carrots before a long trip anyway? Remember a hungry kid is a grumpy kid and flights are always delayed! Also, you’ll rarely find milk on airplanes, keep that in mind if you’ve got a small child.
4. Bring toys, don’t buy out toys r us
You do need entertainment for your kids, but you also need to be able to carry it. Don’t bring anything that’s too small, like little cars, or legos, you’ll lose them. Stickers are great, crayons (not markers), and a magazine with lots of pictures. Remember most planes now have the little individual screens where they can watch cartoons and play games and stuff. (but confirm this before leaving, if they don’t, go out and buy yourself an ipad. You’ll thank me later.)
It may not sound like it from the previous points but the more relaxed you are about the whole experience, the happier everyone will be. And remember, the plane does indeed land after a relatively short span of time, so no matter how bad things get it’ll all be over soon. That’s your new mantra, by the way. Also, you’ll likely never see any of the people you’re traveling with again so who cares what they’re thinking, plus think of all the wrinkles they’ll get from giving you the evil eye.
6. Some things are very different
If the last time you travelled as a child was in the 80’s and 90’s let me point out a few things that are different: there no longer is enough room between the rows for a child to lie down on the floor and sleep; you are no longer allowed to see the cockpit (I know, this is incredibly sad, as this was the number one form of entertainment when we were little); kids rarely get those great fun packets to play with from the airline (you remember, with the colored pencils and the little stuffed airplane); this last one isn’t at all related, but an adult and a child are a really tight fit in an airplane bathroom, so make sure you have a plan as to what to do with your kid in the event that you have to pee if you’re travelling alone and/or with more than one child.
And lastly, as promised, why I think you shouldn’t fly with a lap child. Turbulence. Let’s say that 90 times out of 100 you only experience minor turbulence, there’s still that teeny, tiny ten percent chance that you may experience slightly more energetic turbulence. On a long haul flight I guarantee that you won’t have the presence of mind to be hanging on tightly enough to your kid throughout the whole flight. So your kid could get hurt. It’s a small chance, sure, though slightly higher if you’re crossing an ocean. But if you pay for a seat (usually you pay 50% of the ticket cost for a child under two) you can bring your carseat and strap the kid in. Your child will sleep more comfortably, you won’t have to hold him for the entire trip, and you may actually manage to get a sip of that inflight drink. Just ask yourself this, you’re probably spending a few grand for the trip anyway is a couple more hundred saved really worth your child banging his head on the overhead carryon bins if turbulence does hit?
Now, do you have any travel tips? Please share!!