Getting through airport security with a stroller, a car seat, a diaper bag, my own gear and a squirmy toddler may be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. The second hardest thing is taking that toddler onto an airplane for several hours where both passengers and airline employees act like my kid is ruining their lives.
After more trial and error than one woman and her therapist should ever have to bear, I’ve learned that flying with a young family is like a team sport- winning is all about the preplan! Don’t spend hours worrying about how you will manage it. Instead, spend hours buying, borrowing and then packing the following:
Even if you have to call every mother you have ever met and offer to clean their houses for loaning you theirs – do it. And make sure you bring a tablet for each kid. Flight-time is not share-time. You can practice those skills at home where only you will judge your children for their tantrums.
Load up your iPad with TV or movies and you’re pretty much set for 2-5 hours. If your kids are restricted from watching media, maybe you want to consider the idea that “what happens in the air stays in the air.”
If you still feel strongly about those studies on the detriment of TV on toddlers (presumably done by males, who don’t have children, and have never had to fill a Tuesday afternoon when it was hailing outside) fear not, you can load your iPad up with books. There are also a bevy of games and educational tools available in the app store.
An art project
Never underestimate the power of a brand new coloring book with new markers that your kid can write in, scribble across, rip up, and otherwise destroy all by themselves during flight time.
Don’t ever let yourself entirely depend on something that needs a charged battery. If it fails– you have no way out. During the times when the computer must be turned off (like take-off and landing), you need a good old-fashioned art project. An empty coloring book is to kids what a drink ticket on a delayed flight is to adults: it doesn’t make up for the fact that you are in a bad situation, but it certainly makes it better.
Also, try giving each kid their own roll of tin foil (see above comment on sharing) and they can use the whole darn thing to make any shape, animal or wanna-be sword. It’s astonishing that the aluminum foil industry doesn’t advertise this, as my kids once used a single roll of foil for a full two hours each. However, this is a one trick pony that will not work twice.
It’s my best-kept secret. Don’t ever forget that too much sugar can destroy all other preplanning, your day, and possibly even a small portion of your life.
I feed my children protein when they are confined to a seat for multiple hours. That means no fruit and no carbs. Here’s what I brought on my last five hour flight to keep them “even” during the eight hour trip: Hard boiled eggs, beef jerky, cheese sticks, sunflower seeds, roasted and seasoned tofu squares, chicken roll ups (a slice of chicken meat rolled into a cigar shape), turkey bacon, individual lamb chops (we call them dinosaur legs), cashews and almond crackers.
I start with the hardboiled eggs right when I am getting the boarding passes. The activity of peeling the eggs and putting the shells into their own ziplock bag keeps the wee-ones busy while I check-in. From there, I feed them every 45 minutes until we arrive at our destination.
My kids were so self-contained and quiet on our last flight that I actually got a full round of applause from the rows of people around me. No one cried, not even once, not even me. I completely forgot about the full prescription of Xanax in the front pocket of my personal carry-on. Just in case all this planning went belly-up.