We’ll bring the kids! Those words used to make me break out in hives and run for the Piriton (and glass of red wine) whenever the Irishman suggested yet another plane trip with the wee sprogs.
Now I’m not by nature, a patient person. Especially with kids. And double-especially with my own kids! The Lim family has a genetic allergy to screeching children and confined spaces, (my two brothers and I recently concluded that in our childhood, our parents started approximately 85% of family conversations by hollering “SHARRUP!!!! ALL OF YOU KIDS!” )
So when I travel, which is often, I need a strategy, a cast-iron control-freak approved battle-plan. The hall marks of this are:
1.) Divide and Conquer
– My preferred configuration is always Parents in front of the plane, Kids in Economy with Nanny/Maid. Over the years I have convinced my wide-eyed children that if they are extra-extra specially good, they can sit in the back of the plane with the special kid-sized chairs, little TV screens and (drumroll)…. bento box meals! Otherwise they have to sit in front in the too-big seats where everyone reads NEWSPAPERS and eats on boring normal china plates.
– When we were enjoying “retirement”, we decided to economise and sticking to the same principle, we bought 1 Business seat and the rest in Economy so that at least one of us parents would get to relax and enjoy a meal and the other would do time in the sticky pit between the two horrors and swap over.
– We’ve tried Everyone in Economy (Kids too happy, parents too sad) and Everyone in Business (wasted on the little ones and taxing on the wallet) and anyway, what’s the point of a vacation unless it’s RELAXING!
2.) Advance preparation
– Excel spreadsheets of packing lists by theme (Beach, Countryside, City) reside on the computer. No point reinventing the wheel. This also means that they can be emailed to nanny or husband so that everyone knows the drill.
– If you’re going somewhere where you’re dubious about supplies, things can be mailed ahead or ordered online and delivered ahead of time to the hotel. E.g. nappies, milk powder, toys etc. Don’t be like my idiotic Swedish friend who lugged 3 suitcases of mineral water, milk powder and baby food to Bali. And if you’re staying somewhere for longer than 2 weeks, you can send out a facebook request for friends living in that country to lend you toys.
– Load up the iPad with new movies/videos and games that the kids haven’t seen, keep it in your handbag then whip it out to entertain the sprogs at opportune moments. In HK airport we were stuck in a 45 minute long immigration queue and the kids were quite happy to watch 2 episodes of Tom & Jerry while waiting. Apparently, so was the rest of the queue and we ended up with a merry little throng of kids and Mainland Chinese uncles chortling at the iPad.
3.) Economies of scale and production-line efficiency
– On holiday, the kids have a uniform. Dylan gets all dresses (no matching and easy to pack) and all the kids have only one style of socks in multiple pairs. Mama has no time to sort frigging Princess socks from Thomas the Tank Engine ones.
– And this is kinda gross, but from young I’ve always encouraged sharing (within the kids) of water bottles, lunchboxes and stuff so that I don’t have to pack duplicates of the same thing. In fact, the kids were given ONE lollipop today by someone and managed to swap the lollipop between the two of them for a good half an hour. I figure the germs are bound to make them more resilient.
4.) Good equipment
– I have a Carseat-cum-stroller thing called the Sit and Stroll (http://www.lillygold.com/products/sit-n-stroll.html) which is honestly worth its weight in gold. Even the husband raves about it to every parent he meets. It is basically a car seat with retractable wheels and a long handle that pops out of it so that you can strap the baby in it, load the whole thing in the taxi, then pop the wheels down at the airport, roll the whole thing onboard, retract the wheels and pop it into the airplane seat so the baby is contained for the whole flight. We’ve had ours for 5 years now and 4 year old Finn still fits in it.
– A fold up umbrella stroller like the Maclaren Volo is another good thing to bring (and check-in). It’s lightweight & hardy and with the addition of a Boogie Board at the back, u can wheel along 2 toddlers for the price of one….
5.) Access to pharmaceuticals
– In case you haven’t figured out yet, this is definitely not a PC organic earth mother approved blog! And I have no qualms in saying that I always travel with a bottle of Choralhydrate or drowsy cough medicine. My dad’s an anesthetist whose entire life’s work consists of knocking people out in various ways and he always gets me a bottle of the good stuff which he says is super safe and a highly effective treatment for those two year old over-tired temper tantrums on the plane. And everyone in the plane wants to know where you can get it. The funniest thing is watching their drunk little happy faces 2 minutes before they drift into a sedated slumber. “Goodnight mama, you’re the bestest ever in the whole world!”, they slur dribbling away.
And always, always test the sleepy stuff first on dry ground because underdosing makes them hyper and there is nothing worse than a rabid 2 year old shouting “Yoghurt Poo POO!!!!” while flinging custard at the stewardess. Not that this would EVER have happened to the hyper-efficient, organised me of course!