In the past few months I have had the unique pleasure of air travel, both with and without my children. It has been an eye opening experience. Before having my own, I fell into the category of people who thought toddlers should only be allowed on planes destined for Disney World (Euro Disney NOT included). Didn’t parents understand that forcing me to sit in front of their little snot-dripping, chair-kicking, whining little rug rat was getting in the way of my vacation? Now, of course, I feel differently. I have that same sense of entitlement that all parents have; just because I have snot-dripping, chair kicking, whining little rug rats it does not mean I can’t jet off with them to faraway lands, or at least to tropical beaches within a two to three hour flying range.
For some reason, we feel possessed by this idea that we must travel with our little ones while they are still really little. I think if I told my husband one more time that we were “going to make great memories” he might have ripped the tickets up right then and there. However, air travel with toddlers comes with pitfalls and hazards—you wouldn’t want to be on The Today Show because your kid caused the flight to have to make an emergency landing. Tear-stained toddler cheeks might get you a 30 second spot with Matt Lauer, but really, most people will be thinking how much it must have sucked for the other 300 passengers on that plane.
So, while performing the hours and hours… and hours of packing and preparation needed to go on this “vacation” (I could go off right now about the packing but I think I’ll save that for another blog), and your mind is wandering, picturing your happy family frolicking on white sand beaches, snap out of it and remember the following tips:
First and foremost, give up the fantasy that this is actually a vacation. It is not. It is entertaining your children in a place other than the town in which they live. That is all.
You will make memories; not all of them will be good. The only memories your toddlers will have is a brief flash of the painfully long family photo shoot when they pass the Griswoldesque photo mounted in your entryway.
Do not over pack your carry-on. It’s almost best if you think of each individual child as one actual carry-on item, and remember you’ll be hauling these little ones around a crowded airport with millions of distractions. God forbid the special Hello Kitty airplane pillow, or, gasp, the extra, extra, extra close up lens for the camera gets lost because you’re running after little Timmy, who’s running after someone who he thinks is a pilot but is really just TSA on break.
Be prepared to lose at least one precious item, be prepared for the devastation and screaming that will follow, and finally be prepared for the financial hit caused by buying a replacement item from the resort gift shop.
Stop thinking that a vacation is about catching up on sleep. Despite staying up partying with mom and dad until the wee hour of 9PM, your toddlers will wake up at 4:59AM every morning of that vacation.
Pray to god that one or more of your children does not need to poop on the plane.
God then commanded that on travel days, candy and television are your best friends! Lollipops and Man don’t mix well and I don’t love when he watches too much television; but I’ll tell you, when I handed him that Tootsie Pop at 8:15AM and hit play on his portable DVD player it was almost as if he had found a Zen like state. Seriously, snacks and entertainment are key!
Get on that plane with an understanding that no one wants to sit near your toddlers. It’s best to just start apologizing for their behavior from the second you cross over onto airport property. It’s okay if they act out—it happens. It’s not okay if you ignore it. This very blog was inspired by a family who just did not seem to respect the other passengers around them. Dad was sitting four rows behind mom and “Tommy” and they all found it acceptable to call back and forth to one another, consequently waking many passengers on more than one occasion. Who does that!!?? If Man called to me from across the plane, my immediate response would be to tell him never to do that again, stuff some sort of food item in his mouth to keep him quiet, and then mouth sorry to anyone who is watching this awful encounter. I might even offer to share Man’s candy with them… or buy them one of those mini bottles of vodka the next time the drink cart came around.
Ok ok, so enough of the hate. When you’re done with the airplane ride and your little ones are making those first delicious footprints in the sand, stop and take a sip of that Mimosa they handed you when you walked in, feel the ocean breeze in your hair, and realize that it doesn’t get much better. Maybe all of the crap it took to get there is worth it!