How do you manage the long-haul flights with children?
How do you take three kids under the age of 7 and make them sit nicely and sleep?
As I discussed in Travelling With Your Tribe (Part 1) it’s all about managing your expectations. Or, in essence, setting them aside.
They might scream. They might get fed up. They might wake you up multiple times to take them to the toilet. They might fight and push themselves up against the poor guy that got the window seat next to a seven year old and a four year old.
It’s all ok. You’ll get through it.
Even if your two year old poos as the plane lands. Even if you have to stand in line with people waiting to get off the plane, with a stinky baby. Even if the toilets before customs do not have a baby change area and you have to wait in line, in extremely close proximity, to many, many people with a stink emanating off your two year old that is hard to ignore. Even if when you get outside to wait for your baggage there is still no baby change so you have to change his nappy on the floor of the airport.
Even then you will get through it. I promise.
But it’s best to plan ahead. I would recommend giving the kids a back pack each filled with an exciting new colouring book or activity book and fresh pens or textas, some favourite snacks (keep some aside in your bag for emergencies), and something they choose that they think would be fun to have on the plane. My oldest brought a reading book, my four year old a spiderman toy and I packed my two year old’s favourite teddy.
We had the ipads ready for emergencies but didn’t bring them out until after they had all had a good sleep. They have movies, games and shows on the plane as well, all ready to entertain your child. Most flights will give your kids a kid pack full of things to do as well.
I brought my carry on filled with a spare clothes set for me and the kids – in case of spills or any other incident plus extra nappies. It’s also good to have a spare set of clothes handy to feel “freshened” up half way through if you need it or it’s especially handy if your luggage gets lost.
I had to wait five days once for a suitcase when we landed in Botswana, not a place I could easily restock my wardrobe! Twice on this trip we had to wait for a piece of luggage so it’s always good to be aware that these things happen.
Our secret weapon though – for all tough situations – was a lollipop. My kids don’t get lollipops so this was an absolute delight for them. It would stop screaming, crying, over-exuberance in the wrong places and just about anything you could think of. It was like magic.
You might ask – why would you do this to yourself? Go through all this hassle and potential extra-suffering in parenting.
Because travel changes you.
It changes your kids.
They might be too young to remember where they went, what they ate or who they spoke to but they retain feelings. The feeling of awe, the feeling that the world is a bigger place than they thought, the realisation of why it is good to know another language and a really, really important one, spending excellent quality time with both parents who are (relatively) relaxed.
For me, this trip, which was nearly four weeks was the longest I had been on holiday since having kids. Despite the mishaps, the whining, the plane trips, the road trips, flight delays, meltdowns and my two year old’s habit of colouring in bed sheets and carpets…. I feel as if two years of stress has been lifted.
Everything seems simpler when you get a birds eye view of your life – when you are not bogged down in the everyday of it all.
I didn’t even have to give it any thought. It just happens.
Travel has a wonderful way of taking you out of yourself and giving you a replenishment of joy, laughter, love and wonderment.
The memories of everything that went wrong fade and you remember the amazing parts.
Holding little hands. The excitement of being at Disneyland for the first time. The chats around the tables for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sleeping in late with the whole family. Seeing the first glimpse of the Eiffel tower. The refreshing pool water on a hot day.
The whole holiday is wrapped up in a little heart-shaped memory cloud for me and it’s full to the brim with laughter, friends, family, coffee, wine, kisses, hand-holding, sunshine, awe, wonder, new experiences and love.