How to fly with kids and stay sane Pt2

Being locked in a metal tube with your children and a bunch of strangers for hours on end is probably not on your bucket list. Lots of other things are, like going to Machu Picchu, visiting Cambodia or spending some time in Cape Town and going on Safari in South Africa, but maybe you’re in your late twenties or thirties, have children and have pretty much given up on achieving any of these travel-dreams until your kids grow up and move out. It doesn’t have to be this way.

In the first part of this mini-series on flying with kids I covered hand luggage, plane essentials and my view that flying with kids does not have to be a nightmare. Today I’m looking at drugs and unavoidables.

Drugs

My wife and I have friends who have had totally contrasting experiences. These instilled in us certain key principles for how to approach the issue of ethically medicating your kids for a flight so that they sleep for most of the time.

One friend of ours was flying to and from the UK alone with her full-of-beans 2 year-old and was understandably concerned by the prospect. She was told that antihistamines are an absolute winner; just dose up your kid at the start and they’ll fall asleep. So she got a prescription, got the meds and prepared for travel. When the time came for the flight, she dosed her kid as advised and… endured the worst flight of her life. The antihistamines had the complete opposite effect on her child than hoped. For 12 hours on a plane she had to contend with a completely hyper child who insisted on running around.

The second cautionary tale comes from someone who did test meds before flying. In this instance our friend had been advised to get child-friendly sleeping pills. So with due diligence she got the prescription and the drugs and proceeded to test them. She decided to see what effects a child’s does would have, so she took half a pill. Eight hours later she woke up feeling groggy and awful. This was after taking a child’s dose. She was so overwhelmed at the impact had on her, a fully-grown adult, that she ditched the sleeping pills idea entirely.

Through the experiences of our two friends we were able to distil a couple of key principles.

  1. Always test the meds in advance. What worked for another child may not work for your own. You do not want a hyper child on a plan or a child who is in a borderline drug-induced coma.
  2. Drugs can make it worse, so proceed with EXTREME caution, if at all.

 

The Unavoidables

Flying can be ok with kids, but it will never as peaceful as it was childless. Here are some unavoidable realities of flying.

  1. You cannot stick to a routine on a plane. It’s just not possible. The 11pm meal service (?!) and cabin lights means that you’re fighting an uphill battle to get your child to sleep on time. I’ve found it’s best to wait for the main cabin lights to be switched off (If it’s a night flight).
  2. Long-haul day flights are hard work. Your child is awake and wants to play, need I say more? Aim for night flights unless your kids are super well-behaved on a plane or easily engrossed in playing games on a tablet for 6+ hours.
  3. Your baby will cry. At least a little bit. Both of my boys were great flyers as babies – but they did cry from time to time. It’s not the end of the world.
  4. Meal service can be tricky. This is especially true if you’ve got a baby that one of you is holding. Also, tiny tables full of things in front of small humans usually ends in stuff getting knocked off.

Essentially, you need to change your expectations about what a pleasant flying experience will look like.

 

In conclusion, flying with kids doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Sure, a bit more thought and planning needs to go into it, but I think the same applies to every aspect of life when you become a parent.

So go on adventures, see the world, and take your kids!

 

Think I’m missing some key flying tips? Add them in the Comments below!

 

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Babies, Man-Pregnancy and Living Dangerously

Seven weeks ago today my wife gave birth to a small human that she had baked inside her own body. In my opinion, no other human achievement could come close, “Oh, so you found a cure for cancer?  That’s pathetic! My wife created a human and she doesn’t even have a science degree!” “You understand what happened in Interstellar?  That’s quite impressive! But my wife grew a baby with her body and now feeds that baby with her body. And she’s somehow still alive.”

Can you imagine what life would be like if Dads gave birth? I’m pretty sure that 20% of us would be dead by the end of the first trimester, 50% by the end of the second, 95% shortly after labour and 100% after the first breast feed (which happens shortly after labour). Humanity would be doomed. And can you imagine the moaning? It’d be a hundred times worse than Man-flu. Man-pregnancy. Yikes. It makes me feel relieved that my role in the growth period was short (in comparison to 9 months) and pleasurable.

Truth from the Flght of the Conchords

Truth from the Flight of the Conchords

Fortunately, I can be much more involved in my son’s post-uterine existence. Oh yes. He’s still at the age where he loves cuddles. And by that I mean he’s still at the age where he has no choice and cannot escape cuddles, unlike my eldest, who is surprisingly fast for a 2 year-old.

There’s a big difference between being a Dad for the second time as opposed to it happening the first. Mainly, your expectations are lower. You don’t expect to sleep for longer than one hour for the first month, so it’s a pleasant surprise when you hit the total of TWO hours over that same time period.

The big danger, though, is that you get complacent, “Oh, don’t worry about me. This is baby number two. I know exactly what I’m doing!” And this leads to being over-confident, taking unnecessary risks and getting embarassed. I realised this one day as I was changing my newborn’s nappy and had a hose-like stream of excrement flood onto my hand. This never happened with baby numero uno. You see, as a new Dad I was quite diligent and cautious about things, such as immediately replacing the old nappy with the new so as to contain the inevitable mess. This was because I was clueless and didn’t want anything to go wrong.

Then that child survived and I got cocky.  I started thinking, “It’s ok, I’ll just leave this puny human who is only good at eating, puking and crapping at surprisingly high velocity nappy-less for a dangerous length of time. I know what I’m doing now. That paranoid nappy technique is for noobs.” Or maybe I too like to live dangerously (I sometimes go two months without a hair cut).

Since that, and other, such incidents my confidence has dwindled with the result that I’ve been taking fewer risks and now have hands that don’t always smell of my baby’s nappy contents. Long live caution and clean hands!

Mr Poopy McPooperson himself. He's looking very please with himself in this one. He's probably reminiscing about pooping on my hand.

Mr Poopy McPooperson himself. He’s looking very pleased with himself in this one. He’s probably reminiscing about pooping on my hand.

Oh the places you’ll (not) go!

As most of us Dads already know, the arrival of children into our lives inevitably coincides with an increased frequency of embarrassing moments. Typically, in the BC (Before Children) days, you’re young, have some income that you can have fun with, and think of yourself as somewhere at the upper end of the cool scale, just above Poor But Hip Student but below Wealthy And Glamorous Bachelor. Let’s call it Hip Young Professional (or HYP from here on in). You are every advertiser’s dream demographic and all of the exciting new bars and restaurants with their expensive craft beers and ironically-dressed staff seem to have been created with you and your partner in mind.

Then you get pregnant, “Hurray!” you say to each other, “Now we have a wonderful baby who will fit seamlessly into our lifestyle and draw adoring glances from the hipster clientele at our favourite hang-outs!” Oh how wrong you were you deluded former-HYP, how wrong you were. Let me tell you a story that illustrates what you can expect from going out in public with a small human.

The incident

It was a Saturday afternoon and the forgettable early Premier League kickoff had just finished. Dream Wife said we needed some things from the shop so, as usual, I tried to persuade her that the bread, milk and eggs weren’t really as essential as society in general would have us believe. She then mentioned we were out of crisps and beer so I valiantly ventured forth with our first son, who I’ll refer to as CM (Cheeky Monkey), who was 1 at the time. I love my son to bits, and he was at the cute stage (aren’t all stages cute?) where he was learning some vital words. His chosen favourites were ‘goal’, ‘dad’, ‘more’ and an obscure variant of ‘popcorn’. I strapped him into the buggy and off we went. At the time we lived around the corner from a Super Spar so, after a brief walk in the sun (you can tell we weren’t living in the UK at the time), we arrived.

I’m not a fan of shops. My approach is one of a military-style extraction behind enemy lines: get in, get what you want and then get out as fast as possible. Spending any longer than absolutely necessary is both dangerous and a waste of time in my book. So within 5 minutes we had what we needed. As soon as I saw the eye-wateringly-long line to pay, inspiration struck; my son had been great so far but was showing the early signs of crankiness so I decided to keep him happy by getting him a little bag of popcorn. “Haha!” I foolishly thought, “This parenting stuff’s easy.”

I gave my son some popcorn and dutifully stationed myself in the queue. After a couple of minutes of him happily munching away, he had finished his meager portion and asked for some more. Now when I say “asked for more” I mean he shouted ‘more popcorn’ at the top of his little voice. It doesn’t sound so bad does it? That’s because you don’t know how he pronounced ‘popcorn’ at the time. His limited linguistic skills meant he didn’t say ‘popcorn’, he said ‘cock’. This wasn’t so bad in the comfort of our own home as my wife and I knew what he meant and thought it was cute. However, as CM was screaming “MORE COCK” in the middle of a crowded supermarket I thought that we should probably revisit that particular policy.

As any embarrassed parent does, I tried to nervously laugh it off as a funny incident with my toddler whilst cringing under the suspicious gaze of the many patrons, “Haha! Here’s you POPCORN, my boy. More POPCORN for you, haha…”

Mourn your loss

This is why ‘family’ restaurants exist. These are some of the only locations (along with parks, soft play and play groups) where you don’t get judgemental looks and disapproving glances during such moments. Instead, you get average service, average food, no craft beer and sympathetic looks from other former HYPs. They mourn the loss of your coolness with you and that solidarity feels damn good.

So does this mean that you can never be a HYP again? Yes. Mourn your loss. Hold a ceremony and say a few words for your shredded street cred. Welcome to a lower status on the scale. You are now a FHYP, a Former Hip Young Professional and yes, that is way below Poor But Hip Student.

But does this mean that you have say goodbye to those trendy destinations? No. Just save those places for a date with your partner. That way you won’t have to try and save face after your toddler has shouted ‘cock’ at the top of their voice.

I’d love to hear some of your embarrassing parenting stories, why not share them as a comment? We can mourn the death of your coolness together!