You’d think that with six kids, we’d just avoid going anywhere. Overseas travel sounds out of the question, right? This is not the case for my clan. My in-laws live overseas and we have committed to visiting them every second holiday season.
This is where the fun begins – the sad reality is that they are not just on the other side of the province or even the country. It takes 20 hours of air time to get to these people. Let’s not even think about the years that get taken off your life from hanging around in airports.
It finally got easy for us when my sixth and youngest child had turned 5-years-old. Being able to travel without diapers and strollers is liberating. Big kids can pack their own carry-on luggage and actually carry it themselves. I no longer look like a mule, lugging around bags and babies.
There are still some strategies that I like to implement to make for easier travel. Some are hang-overs from the old days and some are new. Here are 6 of them.
1. Take away all of their electronics for a week before the trip. As you board the plane, return them to your tech-starved offspring and let them know they can play until such a time that they bother you. Then put on your noise-cancelling headphones or pick a movie to watch.
2. Pre-order the kids meals. Airplane food is not fabulous whether you’re a kid or adult. The kids are more likely to get chicken fingers, and less likely to get mystery meat with gravy if you get them the kids meal.
3. Speaking of food, each kid should have a bag of snacks in their own carry-on bags. This will prevent them from nagging you for snacks and constantly repeating “I’m hungry”. Instead, they can help themselves (without interrupting your movie).
4. Seat them strategically. If there is a row of three seats, book the window and aisle for two of your kids. The middle seats book last so they might just have an empty seat between them. If the plane is full, the person stuck between them will happily trade with one of them. Also if you have two kids that bicker a lot, don’t sit them near each other. You don’t want to have to pause your movie to mediate sibling squabbles.
5. Steal barf bags. With all the car travel we do, airplane barf bags come in handy regularly. A prepared parent always has one of those on hand. You can find barf bags in my car, my laptop bag, my coat pocket and just about anywhere else.
6. Find some great travel products that will make life easier. When you’re loaded down with gear, even small children need to be independent little travellers. Right now I love the Trunki, which gives them access to all of their “things” on the plane while allowing them to ride their suitcases throughout the airport as we transfer flights and change terminals. And, for obvious reasons, I’m a big fan of labeling your luggage and gear - anything to make it easier to spot in the carousel (and to keep kids from squabbling over whose devices are whose).
Have you packed up your peeps lately? What survival strategies have helped your family arrive in tact and still liking each other?