We live far away from family. Like really far. If we want to visit family and friends, we must fly around the world (literally), which is at least a 24-hour journey filled with many meltdowns and many tired moments. Flying with kids is not for the faint of heart, but more often than not, I do it solo with my two kids.
People ask me all the time how I do it. I don’t really have the answer, but I do know any amount of grace and love someone can give me during the journey is more than welcome.
I used to be that person who loathed hearing a loud baby or a needy toddler on the plane. I would throw a dirty look, put on my earphones and judge away.
So I get it. But also, now that I have kids and have to frequently make this long journey alone with them, there are things I need you to know, fellow traveler.
So much time goes into me thinking of ways to make your journey more enjoyable.
I sneak away days before our trip to go to the dollar store to pick out toys that will keep them both busy for four hours in the air. I come home and individually wrap those presents, so it gives my youngest an extra two minutes of unwrapping fun.
I schedule flights around nap time or bedtime, to better my chances of them sleeping. I pack the melatonin to better help the chances of sleepy kids.
I think and rethink what their favorite snacks are at that moment, so they will have exactly what they want to eat when they want to eat it. Typically one of my carry-on bags is dedicated to snacks and food alone! I throw the “no sugar allowed” rule to the side and load up on jelly beans and Swedish Fish.
I pray that the episode I just downloaded of Fireman Sam is the exact one he wants to watch the day of the flight and that she is still obsessed with Beauty and the Beast.
Kids are unpredictable, and chances are that no matter how much I plan out the trip or pray for a successful journey, they will disturb you at some point. She won’t like the color of the markers that I bought from the store, or she will want the car set that I bought for her brother. He will say there is too much tape on the wrapping paper.
She will decide that she doesn’t need a nap on the day of the flight. His new favorite food that day is spaghetti, and guess what? I didn’t pack spaghetti and the meal provided by the airline is packed with kimchi, so they will have to live on the bread provided the entire 14-hour flight. She will eat all the sugar and all the candy and decide that she now wants to jump around the plane.
His new favorite show on the day of the flight is Star Wars, not Fireman Sam and now my daughter has decided she wants to watch Daniel Tiger instead of her favorite, Beauty and the Beast.
I’m a planner. It’s what I do. After logging many, many miles with the kids, I feel like I am a semi-pro at doing this dance.
So, I ask you, solo traveler, older gentleman, mom traveling without her kids, or young entrepreneur on his way to enjoy a much-needed vacation, give me and my loving kids a break.
They haven’t seen their Papa and Nonnie in a year. They are excited to be able to actually build Legos with their cousins instead of just showing them their newest creations on FaceTime. I am dragging my kids across the world to see my best friend marry the love her life, and I am so excited to be able to share that day with her. My kids are excited and they may be a bit moody because flying 30,000 feet above ground is not their daily routine, and they have no concept of the journey that we are on.
Understand that they may have three minutes of unhappiness, but also understand that my son LOVES planes and he would love for you to ask him about his airplane ride or let him know you think he is a great traveler. My daughter would love for you to play hide and seek with her while she giggles and pretends to be shy. They are just kids who are on a journey so big but also so normal for us.
At the end of the day, we paid for our tickets too, and we are just trying to make the best of a situation that is completely out of our hands.
And guess what, I, too, am annoyed by the tantrums, but I also know that they are kids, and they will get over it. When they finally fall asleep after seven hours of me entertaining them, look over and shoot me a smile and a thumbs up, or heck, buy me a glass of wine. Because I won’t sleep for the next 24 hours. I will be too busy making sure they are as comfortable as they can be.
I promise that I will do my best to make your journey enjoyable, but grace, kindness, and understanding go a long way. And besides, you don’t have many options for getting away from the ruckus, so you might as well make the most of it!