One of the most frequent questions I get is how on earth I can possibly fathom flying with kids. The short answer is that in spite of the rising airplane costs, uncomfortable seats, flight attendants that make you clean up your child’s vomit (more on that in another post), and a sad food selection, I am going to travel with my children.
I need it.
They need it.
They just don’t know they need it. Yet.
Here’s the long answer.
OK, so maybe we are a little ambitious–a 25 hour travel day from San Francisco to Bangkok, not once, but twice, with our very active two year old–but how else were we supposed to get there? Well let me start by saying this: Toddlers and airplanes are a likely pair, you just have to be a little savvy. And patient.
Leading up to our trip, I stressed about how I could possibly keep Kai in his seat for that long, how he (or any of us for that matter) would be able to sleep; if we’d have enough food; and how Eddie and I would keep ourselves sane. It turns out that the excitement of the flight, coupled with an arsenal of tricks, are enough to entertain even the squirmiest two year old.
Here’s what I ended up bringing on that journey: a couple trains and cars, about twenty soft cover books (a few of them new), stickers, play doh, plastic animals, snacks, a portable DVD player with a variety of short movies, crayons, masking tape, and plenty of diapers. Though I was thankful to have that arsenal of toys (and I used them all–even for a minute), it turned out that Kai didn’t need that much.
He slept the majority of the red eye flights–both of them. Spent a good amount of time watching his DVDs, reading and eating. And aside from one impatient outburst on our first flight to Hong Kong, he was pretty content on the airplane.
So how do you get a toddler to be cool with an entire day of travel? Make it fun. Kai didn’t care if he was watching another airplane take off from Bangkok or riding the Skytrain in the Singapore airport–it all was an adventure. We laughed and sang songs; he was just happy to be in such close proximity to mommy and daddy for so long.
Plus, while normally we would have preferred to fly direct, we broke it up with two layovers, which worked out to our benefit. Kai had plenty of space to run and explore. In Hong Kong they have this giant toy airplane set up for kids to play on while mom and dad slurp giant bowls of noodle soup. And in Singapore, which wins for best airport. Ever. Besides having gardens galore, plenty of delicious Indian food and laksa, they also have free movies, free video games, free internet, free drawing stations, and a small hotel that costs next to nothing and you can either sleep there or merely take a shower!
OK, so it is not all fun and games. Trying to change a diaper in an airport bathroom is like sweaty-yoga; and the stink eye you get from the lady in front of you as your child repetitively kicks her seat makes you want to crawl under your seat and hide.
But the excitement of a young child seeing the airplane (your airplane! he’ll likely exclaim, thirty times.) is a life changing event for a young person. The joy of lift off, and landing, and seeing the tops of clouds, and then exiting in a new land with different air and accents and languages and cuisine and social norms and games and weather and sights is worth more an the inconvenience of being cooped up on an airplane with a squeamish toddler.
And if not, you can always wait until they are four.