Flying with children… when a bendy robot comes in handy
Well people, the holidays are nearly over, the little people go back to school next Weds and I am a little bit sad… but it does mean a respite from jetsetting for a while. Now, we love where we live, but it just so happens that our entire family lives in another country, so we have to frequently use buses in the sky to get to and fro.
Our children are amazing, they are outdoorsy, boisterous and energetic. However, this does not make them good at flying, or the whole process of flying… waiting in queues, doing what they are told by strange people in uniforms, waiting in queues… so, I thought I would share our tips on how to survive this ordeal without going completely lala.
1. Travel light and I mean light – this is no mean feat, but practice makes perfect (see 7 as a bad example) and we now carry as hand luggage: bendy toys, food & tablets (not valium). Bendy toys are a recent discovery, they came in a box of sensory stuff we got for one of the kids and they are a bit of a hit for all of us (not sure what that says?). Our favourites are the bendy robots: You can play games with them, use them as stress toys, chew them if you need to and they are virtually indestructible.
2. Carry snacks – yes I know it’s a really obvious one, but when you are in the mad last minute panic packing session at 2am the day of your flight, the last thing you think about is making sure you have all the kids’ favourite things to eat in bitesize form. Food is always the saviour with my kids – cold new potatoes; carrot sticks; ham and cheese slices; grapes etc etc
3. Be prepared to make an idiot of yourself entertaining them – singing, pretending to be a hot dog (I really cannot remember how that came about…), reciting silly poems, making faces. Other people will love it too, or they will move.
4. Have a beer at the airport, it really takes the edge off
5. Abandon all your principles and morals and buy them a tablet each, load it with all their favourite games/audiobooks etc and allow them to use it as much as they want, even if you know it will make their eyes go square – just make sure you buy headphones too to save all the other passengers having to put up with the mind numbing repetitiveness of the lego city theme tune for the entire duration of the flight.
6. Never, ever ever fly long haul with toddlers.
7. Make sure someone picks you up and drops you off at the airport, get a taxi if you can afford it. Door to door travel might sound like a luxury, but you need to be calm when you reach the airport – not like the time when I made my husband stop on the motorway as I could not find any of the passports and then we hit traffic and then had to run through Heathrow on the busiest day of the year… you have done your bit in the air, get someone to help you when you land.
We did once travel across Spain via public transport with 3 bags, the baby, a pushchair and a car seat. It was an amazing journey, Gibraltar – Malaga – Granada – Murcia – Alicante – but taking the car seat was the worst part – I remember Spanish taxi drivers looking at us like we were crazy as we wrestled with the car seats when they wanted to get going, come to think of it, I have never met a taxi driver of any nationality who thinks it is normal for people to turn up with their own car seats…
8. When the nice air steward is doing the emergency run through and telling you that you will need to put on your mask before your child’s do not panic. Do not allow worst case scenario visions to flash across your mind. Don’t get cross with your 7 year old when he wants to practice the brace position at take-off or makes loud hmmmmmmmmmmmm noises to block out the sound of the engine. Make sure you know how to meditate. I am not joking. It really helps. Give your fellow passengers lessons in meditation too.
9. Sit in the middle, nothing is worse than tired, grumpy, over-stimulated (who let them use the tablets for the last 2 hours?) small people (apart from the tired grumpy husband). They fight and are grouchy.
10. Make sure you press the button the minute the fasten seatbelt sign is switched off and order a gin.
We are about to book a holiday to Morocco with our best friend – having said all of the above, I am now wondering if 7 hours flying is the best idea… oh well…