Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Flying with kids: always a learning experience

My kids and I just got back from our summer trip to visit family in Sweden. Just like last year, we travelled there with Iceland Air from Seattle, meaning about a 3 hour flight to Keflavik airport in Iceland, about a 7-7 1/2 hour flight to Stockholm, and then a 1 hour flight to northern Sweden where my parents live. All in all about 20 hours of travel time: the usual for us on this route.

Something I was reminded of on this trip is that being a parent is always a learning experience, and so is traveling with kids. And as with most things related to kids, it seems that once you figure something out, things change: just to keep you on your toes!

My kids are 9 and 5 years old. In years past, I've dealt with my son's sometimes severe anxiety when flying. I've dealt with tantrums and learned how to travel with a baby. This year I realized that these things are really not problems anymore. My son's anxiety is still there to some degree, but he is able to handle it better. He also knows what to expect when we're at the airport and on the plane, which makes things easier.

Though the kids do occasionally get upset, especially towards the end of a long travel-haul when they're tired, I'm not really dealing with tantrums or meltdowns the same way I did in the past. And neither of my kids is anywhere near being a baby!

Instead, I learned some new things on our latest trip:

Out with the old, in with the new
While some of my earlier travel-challenges have faded, there are new ones to deal with instead. The top one this year: sibling annoyance. My kids seem to have decided that when you're tired and cranky, bugging your sibling until you get a reaction is a great activity.

This behavior was not a major issue (the kids behaved wonderfully for most of the trip), but it was definitely an occasional annoyance. The shoving, poking and teasing mainly happened when we were waiting at airports, not on the plane (a saving grace). Next time we fly I'll try to be more preemptive and try to circumvent the bugging and the shoving by stepping in with some suggested activities or crafts before the kids really get into it.

Find a cooler to bring on board
Iceland Air is a great airline, and Keflavik airport is a great airport to catch a connecting flight: the airport's small size makes for quick transfer times between gates. Kids under 12 get free meals on the flights, but as I learned last time we flew with this airline and realized even more this time: those meals do not usually appeal to my daughter at all.

Next time we travel I am going to bring a small, soft-sided cooler and figure out something to use instead of ice-packs in it (small bags or containers of frozen food of some kind perhaps?). That way, I could bring a better selection of food and snacks.

Don't forget that plastic bag!
I don't know how many times I've mentioned on this blog that it's a great idea to bring an empty plastic bag in your hand luggage for any soiled or wet clothes you might have to deal with. Still I managed to forget precisely that item on our return flight. Which of course turned out to be when I really, really needed it.

My daughter felt queasy at the end of our flight, probably because of the altitude and air pressure, and because she'd slept for a few hours in a rather awkward, curled up position in her seat. She ended up throwing up on herself and needed to change clothes. I had brought a full set of clean clothes for her, but I had to ask the stewardess for a plastic bag to put the dirty laundry in. Lesson learned: I'm not forgetting that item again (it'll be something else I'm sure). 

Even though you didn't need it before, you might need it this time
I've brought a bottle of children's Gravol on every flight we've ever been on. I have never needed it. On one flight a couple of years ago, I ended up offering it to the family across the aisle when their girl threw up, and was glad I'd brought it for that reason. When packing for this trip, I almost didn't bring the Gravol, but I was glad I did. My daughter's stomach seemed to settle a bit after she took some of it, and I know I'll definitely bring it next time too!

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