HAVE KIDS, WILL TRAVEL
Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger
5 August 2015
This blogpost has been written as a brand driven entry to the Virgin Australia/Probloggerevents.com Competition July - August 2015
Part of the problem with my husband and myself being in the same profession in a semi-rural setting like Tasmania means that it is somewhat of a challenge for both of us to maintain our continuing professional development to keep our audiology certification. Enter frequent conferences, both interstate and international. Professional conferences, in our youth, used to be as much about keeping up with the latest developments in the hearing aid world as about the social gathering of colleagues and friends that we haven’t seen, well… since last year. Months of preplanning with my audiology BFFs go into wardrobe matching for the gala dinner and other social activities.
Enter young children, and the anticipation of conference travel now takes on a slightly more stressful tone designed to raise the blood pressure of any unsuspecting Mummy Dinosaur, no matter how much mileage she had under her belt from her previous high flying career. I don’t want to say I’m a pro when it comes to travelling with young children but my children are conference groupies who have been to more audiology conferences than some audiologists I know.
Here are some tips that I have as to how we keep our sanity during our travels, specifically air travel. There is nothing worse than forgetting blankie or a favourite drink bottle when you are aboard. Despite the anxiety, we are great advocates for travelling with kids, and travelling with them when they are really young as every time we have been on a trip, I see both of my girls have learnt new things about the world and progressed further in their development. The younger you start travelling with children means that it will be less of a shock when you do that big overseas trip. My four year old Bianca has travelled through every Australian state except for WA and NT and have been to Singapore, Vietnam, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, a few times. She is the first to strap her own seatbelt in on any flight and wait patiently til the seatbelt light is off before requesting to go to the toilet, because “that’s the rules”.
TIPS FOR TRAVELLING ON PLANES:
1. You need courage and a pretty “thick face” (as the Chinese say) cause you are going to get looks and passive aggressive behaviours from other passengers no better how well behaved your children are. Some see children and freak out. Who can blame them, I’m freaking out on the inside too despite the menacing protective expression on my tyrannosaurs rex face.
2. At the booking phase, if you can, try and book flights around your children’s napping schedules. I have found that booking flights early in the morning works for me, and sometimes just before their nap times also can work as they drift off during take off. For long haul flights, depending on the age of your children (mine are 4 and 2 years), I find nighttime flights the best as they just go to sleep. Long day flights are minor hell but can’t be avoided so make sure you have plenty of snacks and activities to keep them occupied and entertained. Try and think about what seat configuration works best for your family. It always pays to be prepared as it may be too late for the airline to give you preferred seating when you are checking in on busy flights. I start talking to my children about who is sitting with whom a day before we leave so they know what is coming.
3. Prior to boarding, make sure you get the toilet breaks in as 3 year olds tend to decide that the time they desperately need to go wee wee is when the seatbelt light comes on. For pre-schoolers, yet to be night toilet trained, it would be a good idea to change them into their night nappy before they settle down for a night flight. I also pack a spare set for clothes for the entire family in our hand luggage in case there is a missed connection. There is nothing worse then fishing around in your suitcase when you have to spend a night at an unplanned hotel with tired little dinosaurs in tow.
4. There are some great products to make your plane trip less painful. Let’s face it, it’s not going to be cheap to lug children everywhere you go, and sometimes you just have to invest in your own sanity. As an audiologist, I have to advocate that you purchase children’s headphones before you leave. These don’t have to be expensive and come in a great range of colours and sometimes even have characters on them. Make sure that the headphones you purchase have a loudness limit so the inflight announcements doesn’t blast their poor little eardrums. You will also need to make sure you have the headphone adaptors to plug into the inflight entertainment system. One note of advice, buy a few spare adaptors! During a 3 year old tantrum, headphones gets thrown around and adaptors tend to fall off to God only know where, just to have said tantrumer calm right down two seconds later and want to watch TV again… Pretty bad scenario if you have lost the adaptor somewhere in the dark between seats. It has happened to us at least a few times. Good thing is that it is not strange at all for a couple of audiologists to carry a whole bag of spare audio adaptors in their hand luggage!
5. Speaking of eardrums, pressure buildup during descent is unavoidable sometimes and I am blessed that my little ones don't really suffer from any major middle ear problems. It is a good idea to have lollypops with you so they have something to suck on to relieve the pressure buildup a little. You can actually buy herbal cough lollies from many chemists in lollypop shape so you don't have to deal with the sugar rush. I have recently started talking to my girls about the drum in their ears and trying to calm them down by explaining that when the man in their ears starts drumming, it just means that their ears are working properly. Totally medically incorrect I know, but my kids are not in the league of Doogie Houser... yet.
6. Another product that I’ve had great success with on longer flights is the Child Aviation Restraint System (CARES) which has been approved by all the airlines I’ve travelled on to provide a safe harness for young toddlers in their own seat. A word of warning though, a lot of flight attendants have not heard of them so please just be patient when explaining what it is when you get on board. I would suggest that for children under 3, depending on the airline, that you always request an infant belt whether they have their own seat or not as my two girls quite often want a cuddle during take off and landing so you want to have the infant belt at the ready to avoid unnecessary screaming cause once the cabin crew is seated, no one can get you that infant belt. Please be very patient when you are requesting anything on the flight. I always erred on the side of trying to be as self sufficient as possible cause, to be honest, when it comes to children on flights, flight staff are often the meat in the sandwich between your family and other less tolerant travellers. I generally just try to plaster a smile fixture on my face whenever I make eye contact with anyone. They do say you should move around a little to keep the blood flowing, and who would want DVT on their face? (again, with the medical inaccuracy!)
7. Another product that we don’t go on trips without is a little baby bottle/food warmer thermos. Having this means we can make up and warm up bottles on the plane and in our hotel room without the need for microwaves. The first thing we ask for once we’ve settled into our seats is to fill the little thermos up with hot water, and we are set for the whole flight. Self sufficiency is the key, as I've said before, so if you can anticipate what your children are going to need during the flight and gather all the things you need without having to keep asking the flight attendants, the less prolonged the screaming there will be. If you are really lucky, there may even be no screaming at all.
8. iPads, colouring books, games are great entertainers. I have found that my girls are usually entertained by the novelty of the in flight entertainment systems that we do not generally exhaust the entertainment that I pack. In the past six months, there has been a major change with most airlines where you can download their inflight entertainment app directly onto your own iPads beforehand so don't forget your headphones! We have also been really liking the fact that the girls can now use their iPads on flight mode during take off and landing now as in the past, it was a real challenge trying to keep them entertained during these time. My girls always have a game with me just before landing about whether it will be a smooth or bumpy landing. This just keeps them engaged with what is happening around them at the time.
8. Make sure you pack lots of snacks and ask whether there are options such as apples, and cheese and crackers available. We find the novelty of getting food on little trays have been keeping our kids happy. If you child is asleep when food is being served, don't forget to ask for a little something, even if it's just a bread roll or tub of yoghurt, to have on hand for later. My girls get really upset when they wake up having missed the meal service (even though I've brought a bag of food from home), and there may not be anyone around to give you food straight away. It makes sense to have ready novelty food there to keep them happy while you organise more food if needed. Remember, your mission is to keep them from screaming.
9. I always pre-arrange pick up transfers directly through the hotel. I have in the past just used any transfer company but I find if you arrange through your hotel, it is much more reliable. Private transfers, for our family, is just a necessary expense of travel, cause the thought of getting into a taxi without the proper child restraints is not enticing. Also, consider once you’ve survived your flight, to just have someone holding up a sign with your name on it, who then helps you gather your luggage while you wrangle your kids, and then drive you straight to where you are supposed to go. It’s worth the expense and makes travelling with kids just that much more enjoyable.
10. Just keep it light-hearted, and try to relax. Travelling with children is such a joy - they gain so much and learn so much. It is the perfect time to teach kids about respecting other people's space, not kicking the seat in front, not being too noisy for other travellers, following rules, and that's just on the flight. Imagine all the new experiences they will have once you get to your destination.
Travelling with children is the most rewarding thing. For our family as we run a business, it’s the only time when Mummy and Daddy Dinosaurs can actually really be present in the experiences we are sharing with our children without the constant phone calls and email interruptions. Children absorb so much when they are in different environments. I can’t recommend it enough. Life is meant to be an adventure.
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