Picasso’s Guernica aka what it’s like to fly with children
It’s that time of year again when a bunch of the Expaterati are pootling off, hitherly and thitherly, on glamorous holidays or paying the piper back home. For many of us fab folk, this brings up the inevitable question of whether perhaps the children are now old enough to fly unaccompanied, or even stay behind for the summer with the help. The latter creates its own ramificatory problemations (because the people at home want to see the kids and the kids want to see the people at home), but all options suddenly become viable when faced with the hideous reality of flying for ten+ hours with our irritants.
Under these potentially traumatic circumstances, we could be forgiven for looking back longingly at our younger, child-free days, when flying was basically an airborne bar/ cinema (though even then some of us complained about how exhausting long-haul flights were), after which we would arrive at our gorgeous destination, and do exactly whatever TF we pleased. No whining, no incessant chatter. Just lovely lovely niceness. Mmmmmmmmmm.
So as much as I am loathe, dear readers, to pull you from that reverie, I am afraid that I have a duty to tell you:
THOSE DAYS ARE OVAAAAH.
(Unless they aren’t for you, in which case whatevs and all, because oh kids are so cool and great, and stuff.)
Having been quite harsh with my insistence upon reinforcing realitification (cousin Clara the psychologist says true friends discourage self-delusion in one another, and I consider my readers to be nothing less than true friends), I can at the very least hereby thusly provide you with my tried and tested expert advice on the best ways to approach these dreadful issues.
Option 1: Fly Separately
a) Unaccompanied minors are still able to fly, as they were in the Glory Days of expat history. I believe there are now more restrictions, but cannot advise further as I do not work for an airline (I’d be awesome at that though). So you just get a different flight and meet them somewhere at the other end, or send a driver to pick them up from the airport.
b) Have your spouse fly with them. This is an excellent route, provided your spouse has no qualms about it, and will not use it in future as a source of poisonous resentment. Before pursuing this approach, I strongly suggest that you read my post on expat marital bliss and how to achieve it.
c) Have your helper do it. This is way better than 1.b) as you will be able to travel with your spouse, thereby strengthening the marital bondage, free of irritants, and you will not have to endure the hell at all. I do not personally know the practical ins and outs of this. I am not an immigration service. They have a very clear websites and you should look at them yourself.
Option 2: Sit Separately
Kids in Econ, you in Business or preferably First because it’s further away and therefore so worth the extra moolah. Sitting separately can be achieved by:
a) Bringing the help. Again, it’s not my place to advise on this or any other legal matters. I’m so over all that law stuff.
b) As once happened to moi, an airline which shall remain unnamed took Don aside during check-in and offered him, but not his family, an up-grade. Do not dismiss this offer. After an hour in the air, no jobsworth steward will dispute switching seats between spouses for touch-tag childcare. If they do, I have it on good authority that a few notes changing hands will remedy the situation (but this is, I stress, entirely hearsay).
c) Bite the bullet, buy one seat in the highest class you can afford, and apply the parental turn-taking strategy as per above.
Option 3: Fly and Sit Together, argh!!!
This is the most horrific option, but for many, the most difficult to avoid. If you want to arrive at your destination with your sanity intact and without the burden of a criminal record, I will now give you – entirely free of charge – the means to do so. You’re welcome, babeses.
a) Phene… phen… something, I’m not sure what it’s called, but it’s an anti-allergy med that causes drowsiness in some children. I reiterate some because it can also have the opposite effect (as it does on Max and the Millster : ( hashtag bummer), and so must be tested in advance. Clara says we should never ever medicate our children to meet our own needs, nor to placate our anxieties or guilt as parents (and that American psychiatrists and drug companies are doing a number on young people today by over-prescribing bla bla yada yada… Clara should really chill out and have more fun, away from her job; she should totes become an expat and realise that there’s more to life than facing grim reality all the damn time). But Clara hasn’t been on a plane – five hours in, eight to go – with two wired irritants, and a hangover. So she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
b) As close as possible to the time of your flight (and overnights are best), take the kids to a crazy-making place like Universal Studios. Put them on every ride they’re tall enough to go on, regardless of protestation. Multiple times, if nec. Give them ice cream and highly-coloured frozen beverages. When they say they’re all funned out, keep sending them on the rides. Then go catch your flight. Once up in the air, feed them carbs and watch them fade. At most, it’ll be four nightmarish hours before you can switch to me time, for a few Veuve Clicks, and a couple movies that you’ve been meaning to see for ages.
c) The draining path of actually engaging with the irritants and “journeying with them”. Oh yawn. I got the text below from Doom and Gloom Expat Wifey’s blog (sheesh EVERY f***er has a blog these days!), and I can’t find the link right now, but it’s really not my job to promote other bloggers, right babeses??
So here are her recommendations. I can’t recall the name of her blog. Expat something-ish, I guess. Ok, I’ve sort of stolen it, but no one is going to enforce copyright law for blogs anyways. Ridic.
I have done many long-haul flights with our children from when they were tiny babies until now that they’re four and eight. Most of those flights, I’ve done alone because my husband is so busy with his work. I am definitely not an expert, but I’ve found things that worked for me, so I want to share them and hopefully hear from other people how they handle flying with kids. It’s hard, right? There’s no one single answer.
[Sheesh again, it’s so nauseating that she does that blogger thing of pretending to be all sweet and sharey, when actually she just wants to go viral with a popular topic, and get a publishing deal. Vom!!]
The easiest time to travel was the early months. My babies just slept and ate throughout flights, and I know it’s a bit scary for new parents, but honestly, while they’re infants, it’s fine. Hold them as much as they need, and feed them on take-off and landing if they’re awake. If they’re really upset and you feel ok about administering a painkiller, that might be the best thing to do because their ears could be hurting.
Once they can walk and are within the toddler bracket, it’s much tougher for parents. Take them for walks in the aisle and remember that, although some passengers might prefer not to be disturbed, many love young children and will welcome the opportunity of engagement that your toddler is seeking.
For the toddler years, the key to success is preparation and breaking the time down into manageable, repeatable sections, so that you feel in control. It’s about being fully aware of your own time-frame and the children’s routines, so that you can minimise their excitement of being in a different environment.
For kids that age, one important component is to bring with you a “Magic Bag of Fun”. I like to think of this as a little like a Christmas stocking, full of fun, interesting objects they haven’t seen before. Gradually offer items from this magic bag throughout the flight – interspersed with aisle walks – and eventually the toddler will shift from exploration to relaxation, and then to sleep.
Once your kids are around the age of three or four, they’ll begin to enjoy the flight experience of watching TV and see that as a treat, in addition to time on devices, should you choose to offer that.
From there on out, it’s plain sailing, or plain flying tee hee. As they get older, they are able to stay in their seats and entertain themselves. My kids are still young, but what I hear from parents of teenagers is that it’s not about the flight anymore (that part is easy), but what it represents, be it a happy or a sad departure. I can’t speak to that, personally.
That’s what’s worked for me. Happy flying, and above all, enjoy!!
So that’s her advice and it sounds pretty reasonable (albeit incrediblé dull), if there is truly no alternative to flying with your offspring. Based on my personal expertise, I would summatively conclude that parents encountering the troublesome trouble of travelling with their irritants employ any means necessary to ease their immense burden.
I hope that I have provided effective solutions, and in exchange for my outstanding assistance, it is surely no biggie to request your ongoing support with my campaign to get a second helper by clicking here. Come on, I gave you all that for nuthin!!