Traveling – pre-kids – used to be a traumatic and harrowing experience, stretching every fibre of my being and leaving me a broken man at the end of it. Now that I have travelled with two kids under 4 (on my own) I now realise that travelling can be much likened to teetering on the top rung of Jacob’s Ladder as you watch with horror the rungs falling away into the fiery depths of hell itself…alright, it’s not that bad, but I’m trying to put a bit of drama into it.
Back-in-the-day I remember adjusting my headphones as I watched a third film in a row, glancing at parents with children thinking: they shouldn’t be allowed on planes…it just spoils it for the rest of us…they’re so selfish. I now realise that my younger self was a cock of biblical proportions and if I could go back in time I’d twat myself with a soiled nappy and enjoy the look on his face…my face…your face (I dunno, this kind of thing seemed much clearer in Back to the Future…)
Before I ever got on a plane I sought the advice of other parents and even visited the clique-ridden, self righteous, smug-fest that is Mumsnet. The advice I got from friends was great: it’s just bloody horrific and if you start off with that attitude then things can only get easier. Just buy loads of sweets and hope you don’t lose a kid. Mumsnet advice was along the lines of: dress them in adorable outfits and the attendants fawn over them, then wrap lots of little presents like crochet kits, stamp collecting annuals and peruvian monocles and your children will play for hours while you tweet smug platitudes at 37,000ft – naughty!
Having now now travelled with both children on my own I can now collate the advice and my experience into bite-sized burgers of reality:
- Travel Light It is hard with kids to travel light, but I did try…and failed. The initial problem was that I was warned that the UK was going to be very cold and if I didn’t bring enough warm clothes I might have to resort to killing stray cats and using their pelts to keep my family alive. This forecasting turned out to be a bit Michael Fish: i.e it was a succession of perfect, sunny, spring days. Also, I just brought too many clothes and had a suitcase the size of a fridgefreezer to pull around. Added to a pushchair and the 3 arctic coats I also brought, I felt like Tenzing Norgay. Finally, I listened to too much crappy advice and packed books, toys and a whole raft of other paraphernalia into my rucksack to keep the kids entertained when all I should have brought was a:
- A Portable DVD Player Whoever invented these devices should be given a nobel prize. I would still like it explained to me, though, in two sentences or less how watching Ice Age 3 can affect the systems on an airplane. How do they fly it? With remote controls? A couple of zappers and a cup of tea? C’mon, even I’m not that gullible. So, between the funny boing! noise after we take off and the funny boing! noise before we landed my kids were content and quiet.
- Snacks Before flying I would naturally choose carrot sticks, nuts and dried fruit as appropriate snacks for my children to imbibe during flight. But when I am holding my Darling Daughter, who is the toddler equivilent of BA Baracas (I ain’t getting on no plane, sucker!), and is thrashing like I just juiced her with a car battery and is screaming – like, proper screaming; like I am pulling her toenails out with pliers screaming – then all my nutritional guilt goes out the window. Lollipops, chocolate, cake – I don’t care. I would be prepared to spit roast a wild boar – using Bic lighters – if it came down to it.
- Sit next to other kids If you can make it in front of the wheelie-suitcase wielding hoard that is English people without allocated seats, then you should opt to sit next to other children of a similar age to yours. This works on two levels. Firstly, if your kids start going bananas then the other children rubber-neck like crazy – they like a human train wreck better than anyone – and this sometimes diverts your children from going totally feral. Secondly, if their kids play up you get to feel like a smug git and your kids get distracted by the human train wreck happening in the next seat. Everybody wins!
- Be Calm It’s way easier said than done, I know, but it does affect your children. If you can’t be calm then I’m told a mixture of whiskey, Benylin and Medised creates a simulated affect…and after that lot you might not care if your kids storm the cockpit with a couple of Pret-a-manger forks and some silly string.
You know what? I have a couple of ideas about plane travel, so I am going to pull them up the old flagpole and see if they ripple with a fart or a breeze:
- Parent and Children only flights I’m thinking: strip the interior out completely, pad it and fill the whole bloody plane with balls and let the kids go hog wild – but, they must take their shoes off; after all, we don’t want anyone to get hurt, do we? Have both ends of the plane equipped with HUGE plasma screens playing a rolling footage of Pingu, Bob The Builder and Shrek and then have a seating area for the parents that serves coffees / booze in sippy cups so that they don’t get spilt by our over enthusiastic children.
- Capsule Hotels in the Sky You know those hotels they have in Japan, where you just slide into a tube and sleep? I want that, but on a plane, especially long haul. Let’s face it, air travel is shit. Shit interiors, shit food, shit service, shit carpets, shit music, shit wine, shit seats, shit storage – it’s just shit. What I want is a shot that zonks me out for twelve hours, slot me into a capsule and then I wake up hungry in Thailand, refreshed. I’d be willing to sign a disclaimer and everything
Well, I survived, that’s the main thing…