There’s really nothing like air travel. The ability to leave one edge of the country in the morning and be all the way on the other side by afternoon is nothing short of amazing. And traveling with kids is even more wonderful. My darling children live across the continent from their grandparents and yet they get to see each other fairly because of the incredible opportunities afforded to us by low airfares and so many flight options to choose from. There are, however, just a few challenges when it comes to flying with kids. They pale, of course, in comparison to the many benefits but they are worth noting all the same. As someone who has taken quite a few flights with young children, I want to share some wisdom with you so that you’ll know what to expect. The first issue you’ll encounter has to do with to do with packing. Please know that no matter how many children’s headphones you have purchased for this exact purpose, they will be missing when it’s time to pack them. This is why you can always buy another set of $50 headphones at the airport. No one can find the headphones when it’s time to go. Even if you had them yesterday, they will be gone when it’s time to leave. Trust me on this one and just be glad you found their shoes.
Yoga can really help to prepare for traveling with kids. The breathing and focus of yoga will certainly come in handy when you find yourself trapped in a metal tube 3000 feet in the air with a toddler who has decided to use her head as a weapon or a preschooler who is flinging yogurt onto your shirt and screaming because he can’t connect to WiFi. But yoga is also a wonderful way to increase strength and balance, which will come in handy when you stop at the door of the plane to fold up your stroller with one hand while holding the kid who was in the stroller and as well all the bags that were hanging from the stroller with your other hand. Just use your core and remember to breathe.
Then there’s the issue of small feet and seat backs. Children are biologically wired to kick the back of the seat in front of them. When a child sits in a seat on an airplane that child will, with one hundred percent certainty, kick the back of the seat in front of them. Don’t fight it. Just make sure your kids know they are going to take the hit when the pissed off passenger in front of them wants you to make them stop.
If you are traveling with three or more kids, there will be an issue with bodily fluids during the course of the flight. I can tell you this, not because I’m psychic, but because of the law of averages. The chances are just extremely high that someone’s clothes will be contaminated with pee, poop or vomit by the end of the flight. At least one child’s, and probably yours as well, who are we kidding? I took a flight one time where two of my kids puked all over themselves, my husband and me. Since we were traveling with our five kids, there were still three not puking. However, one puke-free kid was holding our 2 month old baby and the other puke-free kid was holding a barfbag for his sister. Yeah that was a bad one… oh the memories. But I digress. The point remains, someone will probably puke so just know that going in.
Be careful about flying on airlines that offer live TV. Make this decision very, very carefully because you will never, I repeat never, be able to undo this one important decision. Once you have taken your kids on a flight with live TV they will be psychologically unable to handle the in-flight entertainment options available on other airlines. I know you don’t believe me. You’re probably planning to just download some shows before you leave home. You should try that. I admire your intentions. And I wish you luck.
Children’s bladders have a way of predicting air turbulence, so you should assume that you’ll hit bumpy air right when you’re walking your kid to the bathroom. And on that subject, I suppose we should talk about airplane bathrooms and children. It’s just not pretty. Fitting yourself and one child into an airplane bathroom is tricky. With two kids you’ve gotta be a friggin’ contortionist to fit. But you’ll be able to do it. Your body has abilities beyond your wildest imagination. You may need some Advil to help your neck and back recover from this one trip to the bathroom, but you’ll be glad you did it when your kid sprays pee all over this one tiny room and not all over the passengers sitting next to you. It’s the little things, right?
Your child will sleep on the plan but only during the last thirty minutes of the flight. No matter how long the flight is. Kids are just weird like that. The only exception is if you’re taking a red-eye. On a red-eye they’ll sleep but you won’t.
Please know that by the end of the flight your entire area will be covered with trash and crumbs and God knows what else. You’ll lose toys, especially anything with wheels, and when the flight is over you’ll look like you’ve been attacked by a wild cat. Your children will cry and scream and disrupt other passengers and you’ll also want to curse and yell and throw things. But you won’t. You’ll only curse under your breath as you dream about a getting a really amazing shower and a cocktail when this current hell is over. In any fleeting moments of peace you’ll put on your headphones and try to find something, anything, downloaded onto your phone that you can listen to for one blessed minute. And somewhere, deep, very deep in the recesses of your soul, a tiny awareness will flicker. Awareness of the fact that your life would be sad and empty without these amazing little hellions. Calmer and cleaner, but lacking something precious. That awareness looks a lot like gratitude and it’s the only thing that is going to get you through. So take a deep breath and enjoy the ride, turbulence and all.