Living the life of an expat means one thing for me. Travel. Travel to see your family, travel to explore your new country or region. When we lived in the Caribbean in our pre kiddo existence we would head off every 6 weeks or so. New York. Los Angeles. Toronto. London. Cuba. Jamaica. Sydney. The flights were sometimes long, sometimes delayed. I once booked a connecting flight and mixed my ams and pms up and spent a night at the Miami airport. I read a lot of books. Watched a lot of movies. Drank.
Life travelling with kids is so different. Delayed flights go from being a mild irritation to a quick calculation of adjusted sleep times. Snack, nappy and toy inventory. I no longer saunter around the airport buying duty free makeup, stocking up on magazines and sneak in a cheeky vino prior to the flight. I no longer wear a cute outfit and bring all my toiletries for a quick re do of my makeup before landing.
Having said that it’s not all bad. The upside constantly taking the kids on flights (Marcel had his first international flight at 12 days old!), is that you and they are well trained on the drill. You know what to expect. You know what to do to keep them happy on a plane. You know exactly what and what not to bring. And you also lose the anxiety of what will happen on the plane. Because you know after a few short hours it’s all over. You have arrived.
Xavier, at 3, absolutely loves flying. He knows the drill. He insists on bringing “Dog” his favourite toy who has been on every flight with him. As soon as he is seated he will pop his headphones on and watch a movie or kids programme. He has a drink and snack. Sometimes a nap. Does his colouring. Plays with his dinosaurs. Really, he is a dream. Marcel is at the age where his attention will only be on one thing for a maximum of a couple minutes before he is onto his next. He needs lots of toys, snacks, attention. My husband and I will take turns occupying him and given Xavier can amuse himself for a period of time, with any luck we can both can now (almost!) fit in a movie and eat our meal on the plane.
I have learnt to always bring more rather than less. Don’t just bring a bottle of milk and a toy. I have a Mary Poppins bag of epic proportions, crammed with toys, extra clothes, snacks, treats, IPad, books, colouring books, crayons, wet wipes. And always a change of clothes for Mum and Dad (I learnt that the hard way!).
I also learnt that the timing of the flight is critical. For us, night flights are avoided like the plague. The kids will sleep ok, but you never do. Arriving at your destination with two tired kids and two sleep deprived parents does not a fun holiday make. We love morning flights. Earlier the better. Waking the kids up for a flight usually means by the time you board, they are close to needing a nap. With any luck we can have both boys sleeping at the same time. Heaven.
I am still conscious that our boys can disturb fellow passengers on planes. I really try to keep them 100% happy to minimise the irritation to others (I have been on flights where I have received the eye roll when a single guy is seated next to us). I take great satisfaction when someone comments on how well they have behaved when we are disembarking. But you know what I have learned? If we do have a meltdown, if we do have a nappy disaster, if our flights are crazy delayed. We will still make it. We will still enjoy our holiday. And the people on our flight may be bothered by our crying babies, but they will still get wherever they need to. To their holiday, their business meeting, their home. And you are very likely to never see them again.
In three short weeks we are off to Tasmania for a friend’s wedding. We have a few days in Sydney to break up the flight and see family and friends on the way. My Mary Poppins bag will be at the ready.
My Neo Life