Monday, July 16, 2012

Ten Very Random Thoughts On Traveling

It's no secret that we log A LOT of hours in airports and on airplanes.  This past weekend marked the 12th transatlantic flight Evans has completed in 22 months of life and the 18th for me in the past 36 months.  I can't even begin to calculate the numerous European and American domestic flights that have occurred in between.  Needless to say, I know how to do it.  I'm lucky enough to have a very laid back traveler in Evans but I can't help but think that SOME of this success comes from insider knowledge and perfected practices.

Flying for ten hours anywhere is a daunting thought.  Add a child to the mix and it can feel like it will never end.  Your child can be perfectly behaved for 5 hours straight and just as you are about to start patting yourself on the back for your superb parenting skills they can morph into the devil.  And guess what?  You still have five more hours to go!  On this last vacation I had PLENTY of time to really mull over what works and what doesn't and had several situations thrown in my face that made me realize a few things that you should NEVER do while flying with or without children.

1.  If you have a cough, please take some cough medicine BEFORE getting on the plane.  And then again during the flight.  As much as you can possibly take without overdosing.  If your child has a cough, please give them cough medicine BEFORE getting on the plane.  And again during the flight.  It is very simple.  I am certain I have been guilty of this before and I understand that sometimes it is impossible not to cough but we had coughers on both legs of this trip and I can't tell y'all how it makes my skin crawl.  Some things are impossible to avoid but at least pretend like you are trying to control your disgusting hacking cough so I don't feel like you are actively trying to give me the plague.

2.  If you are traveling with a child on a flight longer than 4 hours, buy an iPad.  Think it is ridiculous to spend $500 on a device for a 2 year old?  Get on a plane with one for 10 hours and then email me to thank me.  I used to find it absurd that little kids had their own gadgets.  Then I gave Deaner's iPad to Evans and he played with it for ten hours straight without saying boo and the battery was still at 54% upon arrival.  Now it is referred to as Evans' iPad and if he broke it tomorrow I would get him another one immediately.  Sorry Daddy, you lose.  Maybe you can get a new one but kiss this one goodbye.
3.  If your child is acting out on the plane, it really and truly doesn't help to scream or yell at them.  Let me make myself clear in case this point is hazy.  If your child is fussing over something, that is annoying enough to other passengers without hearing your obnoxious voice added into the mix.  Distract them.  Get out a new toy to play with.  Bribe them.  Threaten to cut them out of your will (quietly).  Refer to tip #2 and pull out your iPad with new apps freshly downloaded.  Anything without making the situation worse.  Do not scream at them telling them not to get out of their seats again unless they have diarrhea.  Not acceptable.

4.  On the same sort of note, I understand you can't jump at every demand a child makes on an airplane.  However, if you at least ACT like you are trying to entertain and keep your child quiet, other passengers will be much more tolerant.  Ever sat next to someone who ignores their child's fits for hours and lets their child whine or cry loudly while they do something self serving?  I'm much more likely to cast death daggers at those parents than the ones that I see trying to help the solution.  (all parents get bonus points for pulling out an iPad because it shows TRUE commitment to keeping your child quiet).

5.  Scissors are not a great toy to let your child pack for the plane.  Frankly, I don't know how you got them past security but it was a stupid idea.  No one wants to sit next to someone chopping up spiral notebook paper and dipping it in water.  Enough said.

6.  God forbid your child is sitting in a middle seat but if they are, YOU get up and let them out to the bathroom.  Do not expect that the person on the other side be your child's exit row.  While you are standing to let them out it's probably best to just accompany them to the bathroom.  Those doors are tricky even for people like me.

7.  Snacks snacks and more snacks.  Did y'all miss that?  Bring as many different types of snacks that you can possibly fit.  Have you ever tasted airline food?  Your child probably won't taste it either.  Be prepared.  (please feel free to include snacks like Benedryl or Nighttime Delsyium.  I'm just saying).  Some of our favorites are Go-Go Squeeze applesauce, goldfish and Pringles.  Sound healthy?  It's not, but it's a novelty and novelties work.

8.  Let your toddler run around in the terminal before boarding the plane so that they don't want to run up and down the aisles during the flight.  Deaner and I take turns following Evans around while he pushes the stroller himself.  It wears him out before a very long period of sitting down.  On our Frankfurt to Atlanta leg Deaner worked up quite a sweat running after Evans, who kept trying to exit the secure area over and over.  An even better idea?  Get a Crown Room/Sky Club pass and enjoy several drinks while watching your child push the stroller around.

9.  While on the plane, do not encourage your child to walk up and down the aisles.  Thankfully Evans was a late walker so I have only had a handful of flights where walking was actually his preferred mode of transportation however, I also don't let him think walking around is an option.  When we head to the bathroom for a diaper change I always carry him because once he figures out he can walk himself, it would be all over.  I put his carry-on toy bag and my own carry-one under his feet so he can't slide out of his seat.  I always sit in the row of two seats so I can block him in against the window.  Long gone are the days of sitting in the bulkhead because there is way too much escaping room in those rows.  If all else failed, I would consider binding his feet.  :)

10.  Lastly, be prepared for the jet lag.  Nothing is worse than dealing with a toddler who is completely off kilter.  Luckily for the way our flights normally work out Evans is ready for a long hard nap as soon as we walk in the door where ever we are.  If you are tired in the least, you better take that opportunity to sleep as well.  Two year olds won't stay in their cribs quietly just to let you catch up on sleep later!  Unpacking can wait.  Specifically it can wait until 2am when you are up playing trains and entertaining a wide awake child.  I allow Evans 2-3 nights of waking up for a midnight play and after that it's tough love and he has to cry it out.  I make sure to wake him up in the mornings at a reasonable early hour, limit nap time to 2 hours, and then extend bedtime by 1 hour.  By night #3, you should be getting somewhat back to normal and seeing more of this.
Traveling with a small child is what it is.  Living overseas the way that we do it is just a part of our way of life that we cannot avoid.  I'd rather spend 10 hours on a plane with a crying child than not get to watch all the Grandparents dote on him for weeks.  December will be here before we know it and it will be time again to face the long flight.  Until then, we are gladly accepting visitors who want to make the long trek to see us!

3 comments:

Meghan Murphy said...

What apps do you recommend??!!

HeidiG. said...

Rule #9, totally didn't think of. Thanks for the advice!!!

B. Wilson said...

Thank you. We're going to attempt a flight to Germany with a 7-month old soon. While not the same as we 2-year old, you've been there and I appreciate these anecdotes.