Piece of cake, traveling with kids!

Who said it was difficult and challenging to travel with kids, especially travelling with kids less than 2 years old – and two of them? … now we have three!

Well, we’ve been on several short and long haul flights with our kids across Europe and the Atlantic to visit the Caribbean.  They have behaved really well 99% of the time.  It’s the last 1% that can be tricky and that everybody is giving out about.  The moment when everything is completely out of control.

As a parent, you of course dread the moment you step onto the plane.  Deep inside you fear that something odd will happen that results in an outright and devastating disaster such as uncontrollable screaming and a fierce attack of smelly pooh.  The despair and fear is equally present in the faces of your fellow passengers.  Reading their mind would scare most kids, and some adults, into depression.

You have witnessed how some kids can behave on journeys, other kids of course.  But most of the time, their parents let them crawl on the seats, play with noisy toys or run around like small versions of William Wallace – screaming “Freeeeeedom!”  Other times, kids just want to make the most of the journey, testing their parents’ resolve and sanity, doing stuff they would never do at home.  But, the worst case scenario is something far more deadly and invisible – smelly pooh, vomit, sudden emotional outburst and high pitch screams.  Screams so loud that even the pilot appears, fearing that some electrical circuits will be damaged or windows pop.

The first thought you have when sitting down in you designated stamp sized seat, while trying to hold your child and luggage, is “Will the kids behave again?”

There’s always a doubt at the back in your mind, and even when you look at your offspring’s eyes and their excited smile, you know anything is possible with these tiny buggers.

The worst thing you can do is to make a fuss of it or remind them to behave, which I normally do, as this just triggers a natural defence mechanism, wanting them to revolt against orders.  If you start pushing them around, hassling them or anticipate trouble, then it will come – that’s the way it works with kids.  I was exactly like that as a kid.  Just ask my parents.

We had an incident flying home from the Dominican Republic.  These long haul flights are normally night flights and the plane takes off around 21.30 (ish).  There had been problems during check-in, which is another blog, and it made me very anxious.  Our kids were getting tired, which is good and bad.  We were the last people on the plane, ran to our seats and tried to smile calmly to the other passengers, assuring them that everything would be fine.

The first hour of the flight was the worst of my life.

  • Our son tired and hungry = not a great combination
  • Our daughter exhausted = less favourable, and not too violent outbursts

Within minutes of take-off, both kids were crying – no, let me rephrase – screaming their lungs out.  My left eyebrow started to twitch nervously and I wrongly attempted to force them to sit still in their seats during take-off.  I often use a trick taught to me by my father, which is speaking angrily through my teeth, only moving the lips, and having angry eyes.  My son was actually sitting in a cot bed attached to the wall and didn’t have any reason to complain – I thought.  They both wanted to be with mummy.

It took some excellent parenting skills from my wife to calm them down, and then they slept the rest of the flight.  Brilliant!  My wife has some amazing powers that only women possess.  They don’t care about the noise level or other people’s stares, and simply gets down to business of relaxing the kids.  This normally takes anywhere from 5 – 55 minutes.

Other locations for minor tantrums or scenes are:

  • By plane, train or bus; my greatest phobia is changing diapers in small confined spaces, e.g. airplane toilets.  The smell travels so damn fast, especially through air condition systems, and can trigger bio-hazard alarms to go off and they this is to the annoyance of fellow travellers.
  • By car; when you are the driver and you can do nothing about the noise level.  You can feel the blood pressure increase by the second.  The only option is to pull over and take a breather.  Read this blog for an example.
  • By car; a toilet is urgently needed, so you are forced to stop at the side of the road (doesn’t matter if this is the busiest motorway in Europe) and hold your child in an awkward position while they do their business.  You will with 99.99% certainty get pee on your shoes, pants, child’s pants + underwear and the car – probably all of them.
  • By bus; where your child needs to go to the toilet NOW and the toilet on the bus is either none existing or faulty.   Do you pee on the floor?
  • By boat; again, your daughter desperately has to pee.  The only option is to let her pee on the floor of the boat – it’s full of water anyway.

Travelling by train is actually easy.  You can quickly get to the toilet, plenty to see and you would have packed a survival lunch bag/box.  There’s no need for kids to be strapped in, so they can be entertained.

Something that has worked very well for my wife and I, is to bringing loads toys.  These could easily be toys bought in EuroSaver shops, as long as they have something new to play with.  It is only when the kids get older that they demand PS3/DS games or and iPod.

For long or short journeys by car, I can highly recommend a portable DVD player and a few hundred DVDs.

Bring plenty of snacks and drinks, and of course changing clothes if you should have a small accident.

Enjoy your next holiday – I know I will.

In fairness, our kids are actually very good travellers and rarely cause unnecessary trouble for us.  They read their books, play with toys or watch a movie.  Lately, my daughter has started to sing for us while we are driving, but I’m for some reason not allowed to join in or sing solo.  Imagine if somebody her me!

My wife is fantastic with the kids and really knows how to calm them.  One of her methods involves putting on loud music in the car, so nobody can hear anything or simply just listen to her iPod.  Seriously, she has some magic that only she knows and she refuses to teach me.  I’m sure she will teach our daughter the same magic one day.

Again, thanks to my wonderful wife, we can travel in total calmness.


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