In case you didn’t know, we are back in the US. By we I mean Rachel and the girls (Ivan will be following soon). We’ll be here until February (Ivan will only be here until January 8th or so I think). We got back about two weeks ago and between jetlag, Thanksgiving and just relaxing a little bit, this is the first time I’ve gotten to the blog.
I have to say, transatlantic flights with two little kids aren’t a picnic, but really, it could have gone much worse. The horror details would be that Evelyn threw up on the first flight (but only a little, and really, she throws up all the time) and Avery peed her pants during her nap on the second flight, but the flight attendants were really nice about it and it was much less traumatic than it could have been. We were headed into the descent at that point and I knew I only had a half an hour left anyway, and I was pretty exhausted and didn’t really have the energy to get too worked up about anything at that point. So we changed her pants, put an extra shirt between her and the seat and exited the plane a half an hour later.
The flight from Budapest to New York was about 9 and a half hours if I remember right. From New York to Dallas was another four. We were lucky to get it in two flights instead of three. We flew American Airlines. If I may at this point, I would say American is NOT my favorite airline. They weren’t awful, but not great either. They were on time though. If you’re curious, so far KLM is my favorite airline. I wouldn’t recommend LOT polish either.
Anyway, the kids were good on the first flight. We broke out the snacks and lunch and that took a half an hour. We colored, we read a book, each kid took a nap. Not at the same time, but it was the middle of the day for me so I wasn’t too tired anyway. Evelyn isn’t as good a traveller as Avery was and she fussed for ten minutes or so before falling asleep, but she did fall asleep, which is somethign Avery didn’t really do at this age.
The transfer in New York was fine too, except that I had to get all our luggage through customs all by myself with two kids. One of which doesn’t really walk very well on her own yet. So I found one of those luggage carts and put my five dollars in the stinking machine (5 dollars! for 20 minutes of use! In Europe they’re free) and just barely got all 3 suitcases, 2 carseats, one carry on and a stroller piled on it. Then I made Avery hold onto the cart and I pushed it one handed with Evelyn on my hip to the customs line.
After all that they made me actually go through customs because there were three of us and because I had brought apples for the kids to snack on. Luckily the apples were in my carry on so I grabbed them pretty quickly and we were on our way to the luggage drop off area so our bags could continue on to Dallas. While waiting in line for security I made Avery chug down the last of the water in the sippy cup we’d gotten on the last flight so they wouldn’t take the cup from us (this might have had something to do with the peeing the seat incident) and got through with plenty of time to hit the bathroom and the drinking fountain (hurray for free water!) before we had to board our next flight.
The domestic flight wasn’t quite as smooth. It was 10 at night Budapest time when that flight took off and both kids and I were pretty exhausted. We’d gotten up at 6 and naps had been short. Evelyn fussed quite a bit, but not in the full on fit way that I always dread. She wasn’t very well behaved, but it was early evening for the people on the plane, so hopefully none of them were missing their nights’ sleep. About two hours in both kids were asleep and I managed to doze a little. Avery didn’t sleep well because she was scrunched up in the seat, and about the time they announced the descent she woke up whining and said “Mommy, it’s all wetty.” So we ran to the bathroom for a change of clothes. They didn’t have an extra seat cushion so I stuck an extra shirt under her for the descent. It was about 2 in the morning 0ur time when we got in, but we could have been much worse off.
So I have tips for flying with toddlers if anyone is interested.
1. Always pack a change of clothes for each kid and some basics for you. This helps if they lose your luggage too.
2. A nine hour flight seems really daunting, but you don’t actually have to pack nine hours of entertainment. Sometimes there are kid movies available, but even if not this kids can do fine. They can entertain themselves for about two thirds of the time, but they need something to engage their minds every hour or two for about a half an hour. After that they have had their entertainment fix and they go back to being fascinated by the meal tray. (Disclaimer: this is true for my kids. Obviously all kids are different)
3. Snacks golden (My kids were hungry at all the times they weren’t feeding us on the plane.)
4. Stickers are almost as golden. Cut them into smaller sheets 2 or 3 inches square so they’re more managable in a tight place.
5. If you have a picky eater, bring a meal for them. Evelyn would only eat the bread from the meal trays.
6. If at all possible, only bring one carry on and pack the food and toys on top.
7. Consider bringing an empty bag in your carry on. I used mine to keep our coats together while we were on the plane and transferring, but it can be used as a trash or an extra storage bag for keeping things organized too.
8. Tylenol can be useful. We seem to get sick on flights a lot and this time the little one was teething.
9. Bring an empty sippy cup. Make sure it’s empty when you go through security and then ask a flight attendant to fill it before you take off.
10. Toys: playdough (sometime security takes it), colored pencils, etch a sketch, magnetic drawing boards, ipod touch (or smart phone with kid apps), stickers, nonadhesive window stickers (the kind you stick on the windows at Christmas and things like that), magnetic or nonmagnetic ball mazes. Most of these I’ve used, but a couple are suggestions from friends that travel a lot with toddlers.
11. Strollers can be handy, but if you’re having to do customs by yourself they can end up being an extra and bulky bag. Baby carriers can be a good alternative, but they’re awkward to put on in an airplane. The buckle kind might be better, I have a mai-tai.