Sunday, August 19, 2007

Traveling with Two Small Children

So we're home, safe and sound. Our return trip was, thankfully, relatively uneventful. I don't know which frightened me more-- the thought of being on an airplane with two small children who I would need to confine to their seats for the sanity of all the passengers or the thought of having a three hour layover in the Atlanta airport.

Once we got settled in near the gate in Charlotte, the kids were pretty rambunctious. For them, it was typical kid energy, but I could tell the other passengers in the waiting area didn't think they were so cute. I even commented to one older woman that I was letting them get all the energy out now so they'd be calm on the plane. She coldly replied, "I should hope so." All I could think is "What a bitch!" I mean, it's not like I want my kids to cry loudly or scream at me or refuse to buckle in on the flight either. I know small children can be irritating to other travelers, but imagine the anxiety any normal parent feels traveling with them knowing that!

Anyway, the kids were wonderful on the flight. But the airline made a big mistake. They let me put the car seat in our seats, which were immediately in front of an exit row. Apparently an FAA no-no. I don't mind shuffling seats with the kids, mind you. But the flight attendant (kindly) carried the car seat to our row and set it in for me. Then the flight attendant announced that they wanted to push back in 6 minutes, they were closing the doors, and would everyone please hurry up and take their seats. My kids were already seated, happily munching on the last of the popcorn I'd brought and guzzling their apple juice boxes.

Then a different flight attendant noticed us. And all hell broke loose. They wanted us to switch seats with the people in front of us. Again, no big deal if they'd given me time to do it. Instead they wanted to give me help. Which, again, is a nice idea. But not so much when your toddler is terrified of the male flight attendant who wants to help you by unbuckling her or even just picking up the car seat (she was really mad when she thought he was taking away her car seat). She began screeching. Then Casey began whining, "What's happening, Mommy?" Of course, now everyone on the airplane is looking at us wondering the same thing Casey is, and I'm trying to calmly tell the kids to "hurry, hurry," so the airplane can push back. All the while, throwing our stuff from our well-settled location into the row in front of us.

That wasn't the end of the world, of course. Once Marcie was settled into her new location, she was fine. Until the pilot came to a screeching (and I'm not exaggerating) halt just as we'd begun to power up and pick up speed. He came over the PA and told us everyone needed to stay seated during take-off, and I wondered how he could tell from the cockpit that someone at the back of the plane had stood up (if that's why he stopped at all). But the thing was that when he brought the plane to a stop, it shuddered. Forcefully. And that freaked out the kids, causing Marcie to begin crying. At the moment, Casey was sitting in the middle seat because I'd chosen to strategically place myself on the aisle to prevent Casey from springing himself loose in-flight. I was able to shift Casey over the top of me into my seat and buckle him while sliding myself next to Marcie. Both kids were (understandably) concerned by the shuddering brakes, but once we actually took off, they were fine. Marcie slept through the second half of the flight, and Casey played with a new frog my mom had purchased for him the day before. I spent the first half of the flight trying to reattach the band-aid on my left arm/elbow. It somehow got attached to my sweater, and then I had to pull it off, but I didn't want to leave the skin exposed. I had a travel box of band-aids and neosporin with me, and I applied the neosporin to my arm. But it got too spread out and then the band-aids wouldn't fit. So I had to use the antiseptic wipes to clean the area around the wound so that I could get band-aids to stick. I'd say all in all, the process took me 5 band-aids and 30 minutes. I think it entertained Marcie. The flight was only about an hour long, and when it landed, we waited for everyone else to disembark before we unloaded ourselves.

The nice flight attendant again carried the car seat through the aircraft for me, and the double stroller was waiting for me on the jetway. Marcie clung to my pant leg for dear life while I opened the stroller and placed her in her seat, but she was fine once Casey was seated next to her. If you're wondering, Casey had his own Thomas backpack filled with toys, which he wore to get on and off the plane. Then I hung it by a strap on the stroller. Marcie's car seat when on the other stroller arm, and the kids balanced the weight by sitting in their seats. I traveled with a single backpack, in which I'd stuffed changes of clothes for the kids, the changing pad, diapers, diaper cream, PB&J sandwiches, Special K bars, granola bars, popcorn, peanut butter crackers, gold fish, graham crackers, the DVD player, the DVDs, extra wipes, ear phones, Benedryl, Motrin, a thermometer, the pack of band aids, the neosporin, and a book for me. I'd also stashed a couple toys that Casey had never seen to take out when he got bored. All that in a regular old Jansport backpack!

Once we got into terminal A, we located our final flight home-- which was going to be leaving from terminal E. So the kids and I trekked through the airport to the underground tram. On our way, I noted that there was a pretty big play area for toddlers, and I hoped there would be one in the terminal we were departing from, too. No such luck, of course. But after riding the tram and walking the entire length of the E terminal to discover this, Casey had fallen asleep.

Marcie and I ate some dinner at the food court, where I bought Casey some piping hot pizza, then we went over to our gate. I let Casey sleep for about 45 minutes, and then I woke him up because it was way past his nap time and I really wanted him to sleep on the flight home, especially since he was going to be flying during bed time. He wasn't so happy I woke him up, but after about 30 minutes and some pizza and chocolate milk, he was a little less cranky. I found a nice spot outside the window where we could see our plane. We watched them load refreshments and food, we played in the semi-enclosed area. We went to the bathroom to let Casey go, and then we returned a while later to change Marcie's diaper. And the next thing I knew, three hours had passed, and they were boarding our flight.

We boarded early again. Marcie still didn't like being removed from her stroller and cried as she clung to my pant leg. This time I carried the car seat myself (though the flight attendant did offer). And we settled into our row-- nowhere near the emergency exit. It was a 767, which meant a configuration of 2 seats, then 3 seats, then 2 seats, and we were in the 3 middle seats. Marcie took one aisle seat and Casey took the other. I sat in the middle. As the aircraft boarded, I pulled out one of the new toys Casey had not seen before-- a tube of air crafts (balloons, fighter jets, bi-planes, water-planes, a blimp, and a hang-glider). That occupied him for about 30 minutes. Then, as we were taking off, I pulled out his Jay-Jay airplanes and the two model 767s we'd bought on the trip, and we played like we were flying our airplanes. Marcie played, too.

By the time we got up into the air, Marcie had fallen asleep, and Casey was ready to watch The Little Mermaid. Which he did. Followed by a Thomas DVD. And the machine was still working halfway through his second Thomas DVD when Casey told me he was ready to go to sleep. Marcie had just woken up, and she was not interested in the DVD player, so she and I played with some other toys while Casey slept.

Marcie was pretty upset as we began our final descent into San Diego because I took away her apple juice (because she was going to spill it all over herself!). She cried so loudly, I finally took her out of her car seat for a few minutes, explaining that she had to sit back down when they told us we had to put up our tray tables. She wasn't happy when that time finally came, but she didn't squawk loudly enough to disturb anyone, either.

When we arrived in San Diego and got off the final elevator, the kids were thrilled to see their grandmother waiting to give them plenty of hugs and kisses. You'd think we'd been gone for weeks they way they ran to her, screaming, "GRANDMA!" Yeah, I know, we were gone for weeks. But just 2 of them! Still, I'm glad they were happy to be home.

After I gathered up the bags, and the kids had given Jason kisses, I pulled out the last toy I had stashed away. I carried it with me from San Diego to Ohio to North Carolina and back home again and never needed to give it to Casey. I told Casey how proud I was of him for being such a good boy during our long, long day of travel. I told him I was giving him a brand new Snuffy (a character from Jay Jay the Jet plane) because he was so good and listened so well.

He's been carrying Snuffy around ever since.

So here's my advice on traveling with small kids:
  1. If you can afford it, buy the kids a seat. If they are in a car seat, use it. They know their car seat and are comfortable in it. It will give them a sense of security during the flights.
  2. Don't be afraid of layovers. Even though trekking through an airport with so much stuff is a hassle, the layovers break up really long flights.
  3. Pack lots and lots of their favorite snacks and as much of their drinks as you can. Comfort food is, well, comforting.
  4. Have a small stash of secret toys to introduce at various points during the trip, especially for a preschool aged child. This will help pass the time.
  5. Bring one of those DVD players (or a laptop) if your kids like movies.
  6. Explain to your kids everything that's going to happen in advance. Repeatedly. And again while it's happening.

So there you have it. How I survived my summer travel!

1 comment:

Glen and Andrea said...

Hi, I've been following your blog for several months and really enjoy your writing. I just had to comment on this post and tell you how much I enjoyed reading it. You did SO well on the trip - I don't know how I will handle such things!