Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

In a few short weeks the whole family will be jetting off to see the natural splendor of Yellowstone National Park.  While I have no doubt that the scenery will take my breath away and the activities will be great fun, I find myself dreading the flights. 

It is not just that flying economy involves squeezing my 6’2″ “big-boned” body into a seat designed for a midget.  History has taught me that flying with children is an experience that teaches you about yourself – mostly how much patience you need! 

Family flying is something that always generates such “fond” memories.  Such as the time I found myself trapped in my seat with my cupped hands full of child vomit, no free hand to undo my seatbelt, and desperately trying to get Joanne’s attention by waving my foot at her across the aisle while she was blissfully absorbed in the obligatory romantic comedy.

Or the time we flew to England and I found myself behind a person who smashed his seat painfully into my knees within seconds of takeoff.  When I politely asked if he could move it forward just a tad, he complied – but clearly we were not off to a good start.  He quickly fell asleep, only to be awoken when our 10-year old, Daniel, absent-mindedly played his hands across the headrests of the seats in front on his way to the bathroom.  This resulted in Daniel dragging his whole hand clear across the face of our sleeping friend, causing the man to wake up with such a start that I believe the only way he could have been more startled would have been if Daniel had thrust his fingers up his nose in the process.  If looks could kill, Daniel would have dropped dead – but this is Daniel we are talking about and the daggers merely bounced off of his shield of oblivion. 

In my travels I have been witness to fellow passengers whose behaviour was so obnoxious that, had I finally lost control and murdered them, I believe the other travelers would have provided an alibi.  And I also observed one young fellow who displayed astonishing grace and charm even after having a 1/2 litre bottle of water emptied into his lap by Gregory, followed by being repeatedly kicked by Sarah as she screamed and insisted that she would NOT put her seatbelt on.  Our “hero” even sat for hours with the sleeping (at long last!) Sarah’s feet draped across his lap.  (I wonder if this young man has been put off kids for life…) 

Things would probably go better if Joanne and I had similar views on travel, but my laissez-faire approach does not fit well with her ideals of everything being well planned and organized. 

One thing Joanne always tries to do during long journeys is find interesting activities to occupy the kids.  While well-intentioned, and sometimes successful, there have been a few misfires.  My favorite was on a drive to Florida, when she handed each of the kids sheets of silver foil.  The intent was to craft little silver works of art – a nice crown or swan perhaps?  What actually happened was that about 2 minutes after handing out the materials, a large silver ball came flying from the back of the car and crashed into the back of Joanne’s head…a lesson in humility for sure. 

So, keeping in mind the hours of flights and car journeys ahead of us, I’d love to hear your suggestions for keeping kids happy and quiet on a long trip – other than the obvious “Oh, you look like you have allergies, drink this cup of Benadryl.”  The life you save might be your own.


Filed under Children, Life - or something like it, Travel

8 responses to “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

  1. Joanne

    Yes….such fond memories!!! Bring on the suggestions, please!

  2. Duggie

    This is cool, something those of us with miniature versions of ourselves to can all relate to. Pre-children travel was a relative joy, post children the whole idea of air travel requires the fore thought of a dunkirkesque landing.

    My best experience to date (ie. the one the inevitably comes out once you get drunk at a party or pub) takes me back to a flight a few years back. Actually the root cause for me was my beautiful wife Lousie, who in turn was being traumatised by our two daughters. This resulted in me getting an ear full of complaints about the guy sitting in the chair opposite mine across the aisle. He was constantly chatting and complaining and generally disturbing everyone within earshot. The situation finally climaxed when he started to complain about not having a pair of headphones provided for the return trip resulting in me throwing my pair at him, leaping from my chair and towering all of my 5ft 8inches over him began to incoherently scream at him explaining how much of a f**king tw*t he was. I had to be physically restrained by the hostess whilst Louise was in fits of laughter (having never witnessed me react like that) and being told that ‘yes he was annoying’ but ‘no I should not have my face 3inches from his’, virtually showering the guy with vehement spittle (nice!). Suffice to say he never spoke again for the rest of the journey. When we began to depart the plane a number of my fellow passengers (sufferers) actually thanked me for my outburst.

    The moral here of course is never, ever sit next to your wife on a long flight with the kids!

  3. Karin

    I’m afraid I don’t have a single suggestion for keeping the kids happy while flying. When my kids were young we did precious little flying with them – mostly car trips. The children actually flew more than I did – starting the year they were 14, 8 and 5, the girls would fly each summer to visit Grandma in Florida. This was in the halcyon days when you could walk to the gate without a boarding pass and actually walk onto the plane and seat your own children. I would take the eldest by the hand, assist her in counting the number of seats to the exit in front of them and behind them, make sure they had their seat belts on and their bags of toys and goodies, give them a kiss and walk off the plane. As far as I know, they were good as gold all through the flight – but then, I wasn’t there to witness, or handle things, or cringe. It turns out that this was actually wonderful practice for Alyssa, the eldest, who now has two kids of her own, lives in Rome, and flies with her children all over the world several times a year. Now she’s the one who’d probably have suggestions!

    It sounds like you and Joanne are actually pretty good at this – aluminum foil aside. Have a wonderful vacation!

  4. John

    Dude thats why you need to fly business and put the kids in coach.

  5. Duggo

    Well blogged Sir!

  6. PC

    No, the best way is thatyou fly on the the first flight and the kids fly on the next flihgt as unaccompanied minors.

    The biggest secret is to have them fully fed and hydrated before they get on the plane. They will dehydrade on the flight and not notice it. That on top of barely edible inflight food can turn a nice kid cranky in short order.

    On our last flight we got caught out. There were delays taking off, by the time we got on the plane, sat on the runway and to a point were we coud actually feed the kid, the baby was overtired, overhungry and her crying was stripping the paint from the wings.

    Once on the plane the kids should get whatever they want wthin reason. They can watch movies, play video games, color, read. They get candy at take off and landing and in moderation through the flight.

    Even wthout kids I have told other passengers to go forth and multiply themselves when I have seen thm give a parent a hard time. Welcome to coach, if you don’t like it, stick your hand in your pocket and upgrade. I was sitting beside a nice old lady, while two little kids are kicking the back of our seats. She looks at me, smiles and says, “I love it, it brings back all the fun memories I have of my kids and grandkids and reminds me, I’m still alive”.

  7. Birte

    Since I don’t have kids and thus have little experince in the travel with kids area, iIdont have any suggestions, but I do travel quite a bit and have seen a few people go wrong.. One incident I’ll never forget was when I flew with my sister and my 3 year old nephew last summer. When in the line for the toilet my nephew commented on another boy his age using a pacifier.. The father of this boy heard the comment and for some reason felt it was a good time to get the kid to quit using them.. While on a 5 hour planeride?!?!? The kid of course cried his heart out, and the father, sick of the crying, (as we all were) shook(!!) the kid trying to get him to shut up.. Eh, no, didn’t work.. duh.. This lovely family had the entire plane ‘entertained’ for a long time..
    It was so bad with the crying and yelling for the kid to shut up.. I’ll never forget, but hopefully the kid does..

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