I used to be one of those women, who before I had children of my own, would look at the stressed parents of children running around the airport with disdain for their inability to keep their wards in check, at a public facility. While airborne, I’d plug my ears, roll my eyes at the fact that they couldn’t keep their children quiet and were disturbing the peace of other passengers.
Fast forward to the present, time and chance has happened to me and I am now in those uncomfortable shoes. I have come to the awful realization that flying with little kids is an extreme sport.
I am now the one struggling to keep my children in check at the airport, frantically petting the one that is crying at the top of her voice due to some injustice her older sibling has meted out.
I am now the one begging/ threatening one child to come out from playing hide and seek or hurdles over the queue ropes while trying not to lose sight of the other. Pleading with both to stay with me while their father sorts out documents and I keep my eye on luggage.
Life comes at us fast.
Oh, I forgot, I am also now the one apologizing to other passengers on the queue who are looking at me with the same disdain I used to look at such disheveled parents then. Flying with more than one child under the age of 5 can be quite traumatic.
I did cope, however, and here are some of the tips you could use for some sanity while flying with kids.
Feed them well before the trip
Let them eat a heavy meal before they leave home. Sorry, I just remembered that didn’t quite work the way I planned. Instead, it gave rise to us seeking the use of public lavatories at the airport and on the plane. Still, when flying with children, a good meal before the trip is advised.
Empty their bowels before they leave home
A bit of a paradox abi? Feed them, then empty them? It’s not failsafe, but it’s still better than them wanting to ‘wee-wee or poo-poo nowwwwwww’ while you are at passport control.
Another toilet trip before you board and before landing
I cannot emphasize this toilet thing enough. These children choose the most inopportune time to get pressed. Also, airplane toilets get yucky very fast, so remember to carry your antibacterial wipes.
Electronic gadgets for the win
Download lots of movies, Youtube videos, games etc- one gadget per child if possible. I’ve decided to repair my old smartphones because of this. If you do not have a solid way of entertaining them especially for long-haul trips you are in for it. There will be fights and there will be screaming and you will be stressed. International flights have movies and cartoons for kids but sometimes, the screen height isn’t convenient, and in my case, the headset kept falling off their little heads. Don’t forget to pack USB chargers and earphones for the gadgets.
Back up the electronic gadgets with good old fashioned coloring books, crayons, pencils, and plasticine. Children get bored so fast, you have to stay one step ahead.
Prep them beforehand
Tell them about the trip, where they are going, what they are going to do. Although with mine, this only gives rise to even more questions which end up stressing me out the more.
Limit Sugar and Salt
No fizzy drinks before or during flight, they are going to need to burn it out and God help you if it’s a long-haul flight. Highly salted crisps etc lead to them wanting to use the toilet more often to pee. There is probably a scientific reason for this. If you can, I highly recommend you pack some proper food, mine are picky eaters and airplane food was ‘yucky’. Jollof rice for the win! Pack some cereal for snacking, cornflakes, plantain chips and chin-chin make good substitutes for Pringles and really sweet biscuits and chocolates. Oh and politely refuse the offer of chocolates and can drinks for ‘good behavior’ by the really nice cabin crew. But, pack a lollipop or two, I’ll tell you why in a bit.
Choose Night Flights
Whenever you can, choose to fly at night. By the time you finish stressing at the airport, their little beady eyes will start to close and your little angels will be tired and sleep through the night, simply following the rhythm of their regular bedtime. By morning you should have arrived at your destination or close. If your flight isn’t available at night, look for a way to tire them out before the flight. Brutal but simple.
Plan for the ears
An increase in air pressure is sometimes why you hear a lot of kids crying on the plane at the same time. They don’t understand it but their little ears hurt. So bring out the lollipops I mentioned ( for toddlers) and a dummy for babies, encourage them to yawn and swallow a lot if they are awake and old enough to do this by themselves.
Above all dear parent, remember that this vacation is not about you, it’s about them. Don’t get too cross or short with your children, address every situation with patience and deep breaths.
Relax and forget about other passengers staring at you. They don’t know you and you don’t know them.
Happy ‘long’ holidays!
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