Travel tips for long journeys with young kids

I know that most of my readers get to this blog because they are looking for information about living in Ethiopia with young families. So I want to give my base what they really need. In this blog post, I shall give you all sorts of helpful tips for surviving long flights with young children. Having just survived such a trip last week (without Dan), I am now an expert on the subject.

So here’s how to do it:

1. Survive.

2. Repeat.

I know, I know, I said there would be “tips” and that they would be “helpful.” But the truth is that there is no great way to do it, unless you have perfect angel children who you have no doubt perfectly parented. You can try to be really well-prepared for all the little problems that may arise; for example, I travel with far more diapers than any 2-year-old could possibly need over the course of a 28-hour trip, and I charge iPads and iPhones and travel travel chargers ahead of time in case the airline only offers about 3 total hours of kids’ programming (thanks a LOT, Korean Airlines!). But that does not mean I was prepared for the Kindle to die or for Willa to throw up all over her seat after choking on a piece of pasta. You can request special meals, but that doesn’t always work out, so why set yourself up for disappointment? You can save up hundreds of thousands of frequent flier miles over several years, planning to use them for upgrades on just such an occasion, and then find your dates are all blacked out.

Just face the fact that it’s going to royally suck.

After my trip with the girls, I wanted to be able to say “oh, it wasn’t that bad!” or “they were SOOOOO good on the trip!!” but I could not say those things. No, they were not good. They did not take it easy on poor old mom. Willa refused to wear a seat belt the entire trip. I had to hold her arms down so she couldn’t unbuckle herself during takeoff and landing, despite her very loud protests, or else the flight attendants would not leave us alone. During the flights, Charley insisted on going to the bathroom alone, and ran back there before I had a chance to get up, so I was scolded (it is airline policy not to allow kids to go to the bathroom alone). Charley ran straight past immigration and baggage claim and through customs to find Dan. When the friendly airport helpers approached me to take all my bags and help me with my “child” (because in Myanmar, they do things like this for poor suffering parents in airports) I said, “thanks so much–but actually, I had TWO children, and it would be great if you could make sure the other one is okay instead of worrying about my bags.” The looks on their faces were priceless!

If you’re lucky, like me, your mind and body will somehow get you through the entire experience before having a panic attack back at home a few days later.

On the bright side, I am happy to report that my kids were generally pretty quiet (except for Willa’s yelling “NO I DON’T WANT THE SEAT BELT!” during takeoff/landing), especially compared with all of the other children on the flights. On the 15-hour one to Seoul, our cabin was loud the entire way thanks to the constant whining and crying of our fellow passengers under 5. It’s always more pleasant to fly when you can be smug about how much better your kids are than the others. So, if you can, always try to be seated near other obnoxious children.

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