Friday, September 25, 2009

The key to flying with small children

If you've never flown with small children, it can be very intimidating. You can find all sorts of practical advice online, and if you'd like specific advice about the things that work for us, just ask.

But to me, the biggest key is my attitude. Sure, flying with a 3 1/2-year-old and an 18-month-old, without Daddy to help, can be tough. But here are some things I know to be true.
  • It's not that big of a deal. (Really, it's not, even though it's very possible as a parent to make it into a huge, stressful deal.)
  • Even if the kids are fussy, the fussiness will end.
  • Even a long day eventually comes to an end. Time doesn't stop or slow down just because we're traveling. A day of travel is just as long or short as any other day.
  • If other people on the plane are annoyed that I have kids with me, I can't do anything about that. And most people are okay with it anyway.
We've been on six flight segments over the last two weeks. On all but one, there were two seats to a row, which meant the kids and I got a row to ourselves (with Zoodle on my lap.) On one plane, there were three seats in each row. A lady found her seat next to us, and before takeoff, she quietly spoke to a flight attendant, and then got up to move to a different seat. As she left, she said, "I'll give you guys a little more room." Well, we all knew the truth--she was moving because she didn't want to be stuck in a crowded row with two small children! And, you know, that's okay. Just as we do what we have to, to make our travel work, travelers around us should politely do what's necessary to cut down on their own stress.

In the end, I may not be able to make a long travel day into a fantastic experience. But by choosing to look at logically and choosing not to blow it out of proportion, the day usually goes okay. It helps knowing that the travelers around us have the same choices, and I hope most of them decide to go with the flow...even if that "flow" includes my children who occasionally cry loudly, poop stinkily, and giggle enthusiastically.


Call Me Cate said...

I think attitude is key in most situations. I've never traveled with small children but dealing with my anxiety, I find how I approach things makes a big difference about how the experience goes and how I feel after.

And I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that while your kids are still going to be kids, they're probably still better behaved than a lot of adults I've encountered on flights - and smell better! :)

Mellodee said...

Hey Beth, I'm reminded of a similar experience I had some years ago. I should preface this with the fact that I am the original "white knuckle" airline passenger. Turbulance nearly sends me into cardiac arrest! Anyway, I was flying from San Francisco to Chicago. It was a pretty good flight, clear day, no bumps, things going fine. About 2 hours into the flight the captain announced that they had discovered a small problem with the plane (I can't recall what specifically.) He then said that as long as they were close to the Ames, Iowa airport, we were going to land so they could get a better look at it, get it fixed and be on our way. No angst, no use of the word "emergency". very laid back and nonchalant. I didn't sound like anything, but an small delay. Nobody seem worried, even the flight attendants were cool. My blood pressure didn't even blip. We made an unremarable landing...until we, too, saw the fire trucks lined up along the runway. They must have called out the troops because there were about 8 of them lined up, plus a couple of ambulances. Hmmm, interesting. There must be a plane in serious trouble coming in behind us! As we pulled up to the terminal (a very small building), we realized that all those fire trucks were following US!! Oh wow! To sum it up we had to get new connections because our plane couldn't be fixed!! After a couple of hours, dealing with one very harried, called-in-from-her-day-off ticket agent, some irate passengers, an extra leg to the trip (Ames to Minneapolis to Chicago), a free meal and some other perks, courtesy of Amer. Airlines, I reached my destination safe and sound.

Now the reason I share this, is to commend the pilot and crew. They MUST have known we were in some serious danger from whatever it was, yet they were cool, matter-of-fact, and so reassuring that the passengers never had a clue until we were on the ground. I can't begin to imagine the control, confidence, know-how, training, and common sense that they showed in handling us. No panic, no sense of impending doom, no crying or gnashing of teeth!

I'm still a fearful flyer but my admiration and confidence in pilots and flight crews is nearly unsurpassed! How amazing they are. Miracles every day!

Amy said...

What a great post. I'll have to remember it the next time I travel with my kids - either by car or plane.
:) Amy

2cats said...

I love to fly. However, I really don't like to be on a plane when small children are also there. If I don't know they are there I don't mind. But every flight I have ever been on the children became cranky and the parent(s) didn't do anything to relieve the situation. Makes for a long flight for everyone.
The last flight I was on the children were older. They were young tweens. But I wanted a quiet flight to unwind. The girls were my seat companions. Their mothers were in the seats behind us. Forget about unwinding during that flight.
I guess I just deal well with children of any age.

beckiwithani said...

I take public transportation with a 2-year old every day. Planes are public transportation too. And I think the most important thing to remember is this: we are all paying far less for public transportation than we would for private transportation. And you get what you pay for. You are paying a low amount (and yes, airline fares are low compared to charter planes), with the knowledge that any and all forms of humanity will be joining you.

It helps me to remember this when the 2-year-old is having a meltdown and, I suspect, other subway patrons think I am not doing enough to relieve the situation - even though 2-year-old meltdowns aren't always possible to relieve, and sometimes just have to play out. We're all getting what we pay for...