Keys to surviving the plane ride home
Maybe your kids are really good travelers: They don’t whine, don’t get sick or kick the seat in front of them. If so, go ahead and skip this article.
For the rest of us, however, the time is here. That’s right – the dreaded summer travel season. And though you’ve been dreaming of family reunions, poolside barbeques and trips to your favorite restaurants back home, there’s still one major obstacle between you and your dreams: the plane ride home.
We all have horror stories about unsympathetic fellow travelers. Deborah Vaughan of Seattle recalls a recent flight with her 3-year-old, when she slept fitfully through the flight, vaguely aware that a child nearby was crying, only to be suddenly shaken awake by another passenger demanding to know why she wasn’t giving her daughter a pacifier. Apparently, the other passenger thought Vaughan’s daughter was the source of the noise, even though she wasn’t.
But when it isn’t the other passengers who are misbehaving, it’s sometimes (and probably more often) your own little angel acting up. What do you do when your bundle of joy sets up shop in the terminal and proceeds to throw a good old-fashioned temper tantrum?
For starters, you need to have what former Beijing resident Kim MacOmber calls simply “The Bag.” This bag should be stuffed full of surprises, games and treats. “It’s best,” notes MacOmber, “if this bag is in your possession, not theirs, so you can control how long it lasts.” Use the bag to stash small toys, like cars, paper dolls, magnetized games and sticker or stencil books. Wrap them in fancy paper – mark the outside so you know who gets what if you’re traveling with more than one child. Lollipops are highly recommended by lots of moms: Kids can’t screech with lollipops in their mouths. Again, presentation is key – consider wrapping a few of them as “ghosts” by using a piece of tissue, some yarn and a marker. This briefly entertains the kids and slows them down, buying you a precious minute or two. Other snacks can be simultaneously healthy and fun – think raisin boxes, bags of goldfish or peanut butter crackers, fig bars, grapes, bananas or mandarin oranges.
For babies, pre-measure dry formula and carry it on along with empty bottles. Plan to buy bottled water once you pass through security. Teething biscuits make a mess, but they keep babies happy for quite a while. Your jars of baby food may or may not make it through security, but if you have a long flight ahead, it might be wise to take a chance and bring a couple along. Bring all the diapers and wipes that you could possibly carry, in case you’re stranded at the airport. And don’t forget extra pacifiers.
Even if your child has their own small carry-on (and it is highly recommended that they do), you may still find that your own carry-on is stuffed to the brim with things for the kids. Take time to organize your things into Ziploc bags, with separate bags for food, diapers and wipes, changes of clothing, board books, etc. This will make it easier to find them later on, when the bag is wedged at your feet or your 2-year-old is using it for a pillow. It also reduces the risk of a spilled juice destroying the contents. Plan on spending lots of uninterrupted quality time with the kiddies – don’t bother trying to fit much for yourself into your carry-on, as it’s highly unlikely you’ll find time to relax.
Considering everything that can possibly go wrong, is it even worth attempting to travel? Absolutely, says veteran traveler MacOmber. “I hate to think of everything we would have missed if we had waited until our kids grew up. Once, on a short trip to England when [my husband]was in meetings, I wasn’t sure if I dared venture out with a 1, 6, 9 and 10-year-old without him. My eldest son Cory said, ‘Mom, you just have to do this, or we will miss everything!’”