This post is dedicated to everyone who has ever traveled with kids or sat next to anyone traveling with kids.
It’s no secret that I’ve been traveling with the kids to NY every summer for the past 8 years (with one exception, when Mordecai brought them and I came later). I tell people that the kids are world travelers, because over time we’ve had layovers in Switzerland, Spain, England, Turkey, Germany and Italy. And we do this on purpose, because in addition to the cheaper price of tickets with a stopover, I have come to appreciate the layover as a way to let the kids shake out some of the energy that is contained in a tiny airplane seat.
This year we expected a 6 hour layover in Madrid, a route we’ve taken before successfully. But when we checked in at the airport, they offered us a change to a direct flight to NY that left a bit later, but would allow us to arrive in NY 4 hours ahead of schedule. The adventurous spirit in me thought that maybe now would be a good time to test the kids to see if they can handle being contained in an oversized metal canister (ie, an airplane), for 12 hours straight.
Well…we made it, which means I guess they can handle it. And this was after spending 8 hours in the airport, and another 1.5 on the runway before we departed for the 11+ hour flight. But I’d like to give you a glimpse of how it goes with young children on a long flight – so you’ll have something to consider next time you are buying your tickets.
Here’s how it goes:
- Board the plane. (time remaining: 12 hours and 5 minutes, including passenger loading time)
- Debate about who sits where. Of course, I refuse to sit in a middle seat, which means that only 1 kid can sit next to mommy. And of course, there weren’t 5 seats available in a row, which meant that one lucky child got to sit alone in a neighboring row. (time remaining: 11 hours and 55 minutes)
- Look out the window and marvel at the other planes leaving until the kids get bored. (time remaining: 11 hours and 45 minutes)
- Fasten buckles as requested by the flight crew. Listen to the announcements, only to hear that we’ll be sitting on the runway for an hour before takeoff. (time remaining: 12 hours and 30 minutes)
- Takeoff. (time remaining: 11 hours and 10 minutes)
- Flip through all the movies that are offered. Notice that one of our tv screens doesn’t work and that 2 different audio systems don’t work. (time remaining: 10 hours and 30 minutes)
- Pick through the meat meal that is served slightly before noon local time. (time remaining: 9 hours and 45 minutes)
- Intermittent napping. Usually no more than 2 kids at a time. (time remaining: 8 hours and 30 minutes)
- Coloring, art projects, eating all of the best snacks. (time remaining: 7 hours)
- Second flip through the in-flight entertainment. (time remaining: 6 hours and 30 minutes)
- All that’s left then for the last 6 and a half hours is to repeatedly ask how much longer and what there is to eat, knowing full well that we’re not there yet and that the only snacks left are the healthy ones. Which is exactly what we did for hours on end. The kids were fantastic. I can honestly say that there wasn’t a single fight between them, and the only crankiness came from a sporadic boo-boo or Azi’s need to run around a bit.
But although it was tolerable, this flight wasn’t nearly as fun or adventuresome as it was in the past when we got to a stop in a foreign airport to run around, have balloon volleyball contests in large open spaces and have races on moving walkways for hours so that the kids are thoroughly exhausted and ready to sleep for the second half of the trip.
I took a vote, and the kids voted unequivocally to take two shorter flights than one longer one. So next time we’ll be taking a longer route, to be sure. But I don’t mind – after all, good things come to those who wait.
Next challenge? Jet lag.