Sunday, August 02, 2009

How To Travel With Small Children

It could have been much worse.

Granted, it didn't start well. On our first leg of a mammoth 8 flights, I was asked to sit with both girls on one side of the plane while LK sat across the aisle a few rows up. It was a smaller plane and apparently only the right hand row of seats had sufficient oxygen masks.

Oh please, statistically - what was the greater danger - emergency loss of cabin pressure or small children-outnumber-parent-time-bomb? I resolved to let Anna play with the overhead lights and 'call steward' button as many times as she wanted. Take that United! LK gave me a supportive but secretly relieved smile, opened his book, ordered a hugely expensive beer and settled in. I set to work getting both girls preoccupied with boobs and/or sticker books.

Fortunately Lucy adores Anna. Even when Anna hits her over the head repeatedly with a pink My Little Pony. You could see Lucy's face going 'I love you! Ow! I love you! Ow!' Eventually, to save Lucy a future of pain = pleasure masochistic personality disorder, I confiscated 'Princess' the pony. There was the briefest of pauses.

Then Anna bawled.

One of Lucy's most endearing characteristics is that she's a sympathetic cryer. Endearing, but not exactly helpful. Anna was crying, Lucy was winding up for that big wail, her face scrunched up in readiness, and LK, several rows away took a hefty sip of beer. 'What can I do?' he seemed to say. 'The seatbelt sign is on! You can't fight the seatbelt sign!'

I went in to emergency placate mode, ie hissing "Anna, shut up! Please, stop crying now, Lucy's crying because you're crying. For the love of God, shut up and I will give. you. candy".

Anna gulped back her sobs, gave me a devilish grin, and the nuclear meltdown Defcom Delta situation diffused.

Unbelievably that was the only issue we had. Well that and a truly massive poop that Lucy dealt us while flying from Frankfurt to Boston - in turbulence. Damn you seatbelt sign! Twenty minutes later I was behind two men also queueing for the only toilet with baby changing facilities on the plane. My happiness at seeing two blokes stepping up to the plate with their progeny instead of sending their wives, was short-lived because they took FOR-EVER. I felt like knocking on the door and asking if I could help. Honestly how long does it take to Hazmat a child and have a quick wee? I was not happy about waiting while they paraded their incompetence. Two minutes into our session I had Lucy scrubbed clean and returned to her usual pink and peachy self, despite a poop with the consistency and staying power of molasses. How she does that to my breastmilk is beyond me.

The more astute of you are probably thinking - wait, 8 flights? Where did you go Kamchatka? But no, not Kamchatka, the north of England, which is close but with fewer bears and more Jaffa cakes. We took 8 flights because we used air miles and stopped off in Boston to visit LK's family in Maine. If my camera battery charger wasn't still lying on my parents' kitchen worktop in England I would now post bucolic pictures of lakes and canoes and cherry red lobsters (OK so perhaps bucolic was the wrong word).

Anyhoo, the travel. It was smooth. When possible we checked in online, paid for our bags online (saving $4 by doing so was a poor anesthetic for having to pay to check chuffing bags. Seeth) and we always seemed to arrive about an hour before our flight left, which was perfection. Long enough for LK to have a beer and me not to twist a gut with anxiety. Plus, traveling with the midgets is a joy when it comes to the security checkpoint as they whisk you straight through. A little too hastily as it happens, because twice we found large quantities of liquids stowed in our hand luggage that had already cleared security. A bottle of 'Revive' (ha!) Vitamin Water tucked in to a stroller and a large bottle of Daisy perfume that I had forgotten to put in the suitcases. Perhaps we just don't look that menacing.

Another great thing about traveling with tiny ones is that you get to board first, which technically means you get to spend even more time on the plane, but does give you the opportunity to have first pick of the magazines and newspapers in the gangway. We picked Elle and Vogue, only to realize they were in German. Scheiße! Then LK said - on second thoughts - European nudity!! Only to discover it was male nudity! Doppelte Scheiße! In the end Lucy grabbed them both and pronounced them very tasty. Especially the naked male flanks.

Both girls slept very well on most of the flights. A sleeping child on a plane is your ideal (although I've never resorted to Benadryl just in case they go bonkers). However, it's pretty hard to do anything other than sit while you're pinned under a leggy 4 year old. Anything other than drink of course. They also slept all the way to Maine, where we arrived at 4am. Many thanks to LK's sister who picked us up in Boston at 2:15am. What a trooper. The girls were oblivious to our journey so when Anna woke up bright and early the next morning, she cast her eyes around LK's sister's bedroom and said "Why did you guys think you should redecorate?".

So in conclusion, the trick to traveling with small children is: portable DVD player, a New Native sling for the infant (I could have sold mine 50 times over in each airport we passed through), sticker books, baby toys that entertain quietly and lots of booze. And yes, that means if you've paid for that 3rd plane ticket for your 4 year old then she will be having the Cabernet with her meal thank you very much. Don't look at me like that Fraulein, just keep pouring.


Almost American said...

Ah yes, the sling was a lifesaver when we travelled to the UK when DS was little. We drew a lot of curious looks when our return trip, not only did I have a sling, but so did 3 year-old DD with her almost life-size baby doll in it!

Next time we're taking the portable DVD player. Last time we flew Iceland Air via Reykjavik - a 'short-haul' flight from Boston with no seat-back TVs, and therefore no kids' videos. Aargh!

Did you have to pay to check the bags for the international legs of the trip?

Fishsticks and Fireflies said...

What is it with air travel and massive poops?! Who knew the change in cabin pressure could squeeze so much out of them.

So glad to hear that it went (relatively) well and that you made it to and from in one piece.

Sugarplum's Mom said...

Brilliant post! It sounds like overall the trip went well.. travelling with little ones seems so daunting.

Hyphen Mama said...

HILARIOUS! How lucky you are that it was relatively smooth! So glad you got home for a bit.