Thursday, July 17, 2014

How I Survived a Cross-Country Flight with Two Kids and No Dad

Yes, I really did just that.

You see, several years ago when CJ, my first baby, was just born, I spouted to anyone who would listen that MY kids would learn to enjoy travel.  Specifically, air travel.  They would not be THOSE kids on the plane. No. They would be quiet, self-entertained, well-behaved, and all around enjoyable.  Are you laughing yet?

But really, I had no choice but to make this my mission that my children to fly well- because they really do have no choice.  We are a family that travels.  We travel because our entire family lives on the opposite coast that we do.  We travel because we like to vacation away from the city we live.

And, for the most part, we have had fairly good experiences travelling.  Adding our second baby, EM, created a little more complexity to making this work however. 

I should probably mention that I have already flown solo with just one kid at least five times.  CJ has amassed well over a dozen flights in his three years of life. Before the kid turned one he had already set foot in seven states.  EM is lagging a bit behind her brother with just five flights under her belt.

So, if I was going to be able to visit our families across the country this summer, the only option was sans husband. You see, we live on the west coast and both my family and my husband's are way over there in the northeast.  So I booked the flights and decided to figure out how to make this work.  Because it had to work. Not visiting family because we live so far away is just not an option. 

The flight required about 4 hours in the air, a semi-brief layover, and another 90 minute flight.  I knew I would need to ensure the kids had a nap, snack, dinner, and plenty of activities to fill up the time.

What does this look like? 

A backpack with enough (healthy, satisfying, not messy) food to satisfy both kids and myself for dinner. (I knew I wouldn't have time on the layover to find the gate, go potty, and get dinner. We ate on the plane.)  I packed: cheese sticks, squeeze yogurt, homemade vegan banana muffins, blueberries, grapes, and homemade chicken nuggets plus some food options for myself.  A boatload of snacks - both healthy and complete junk.  A few snacks/candy they have never had before as a special treat. Water.  Basically, enough food to survive for at least two days, not 8 hours.  Throw in airplane drinks and snacks. (Props to Southwest for having full-size snacks and cups with lids and straws. Major bonus.)

In the entertainment department were 5 books, coloring book/crayons, travel size play dough, squishy puzzles that can be used as blocks, ABC and 123 flashcards, and of course, the holy grail - the IPad (and some kid-friendly headphones).  On the way back home, Grammy gave the kids each a new toy which were huge hits and occupied a lot of time on the flight.

We also brought change of clothes, diapers (and put pull-ups on the potty trained kid- you can't be too proactive here-who wants to have to stress about a kid who needs the potty when the plane is taking off!), wipes (think hands and face) and kid-size travel neck pillows.  I also brought some children's Tylenol - this is basically my parachute if all else fails and major meltdowns ensue.  

Clearly, I don't travel light.  But, I really don't think you can afford to when it comes to this age group.  And, having so many options for food and entertainment, in my opinion, is the formula for success.

It also helped that I flew in the late evening which resulted in pretty tired kids who were more likely to pass out.  Maybe that is the real road to success?  

If only Mommy could have napped along with them.

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