While we want to be optimistic and encourage plane travel with children, there are a few realities we have to acknowledge. It’s hard, sometimes it’s frustrating, and (quite often) it doesn’t always go according to plan. Kelvin Ang of Cheekiemonkies gives suitcases&strollers an analysis of the trials, tribulations (and joys) of flying with his three kids Ashton (8), Ayden, (7) Alethea (2).
The school holidays are always the perfect time to bring the entire family on a getaway. And if your getaway involves getting yourselves stuck on an airplane together with one or more baby/toddler/child, I feel your anguish. Because let's face it – at some point in time we have all been on a plane empathising, then sympathising and finally ready to strike down the parents of a screaming baby.
So in honour of these brave souls, I have come up with 5 stages that frustrated parents go through when lugging kids aboard a flight.
Catchphrase: "Everything's OK, dear."
Parents with children have priority boarding and you chirpily ask the kids to help locate the seats. As they squirm into them, you hurry to unload the full flight inventory – snacks, drinks, toys, books, gadgets, bolsters – on to your own seat so as not to hold up the tsunami of travellers behind you. The kids are fascinated with all the buttons that come with the seat and, quite frankly, you are contented just to let them be.
Catchphrase: "I told you to stop it."
Everybody is seated and your eldest is acting like the youngest, while the youngest begins asking if they are there yet. You tell them to buckle up, and they retort that they are bored. You tell them to look out the window in anticipation of take-off, but they begin to kick the seats in front of them.
Catchphrase: "If I have to repeat myself again..."
As the plane climbs a few thousand feet, your kids' ears begin to pop. Shrieks and wails soon follow as you rush to comfort them. You quickly say a prayer and wonder if you will need to check yourself into a hospital at your holiday destination. You now address your kids by their full names and your mental state betrays your fake smile to onlookers as you realise your kids are already on to their last toy/book.
Catchphrase: "That's it, you'll get it when we land!"
Boredom has come and gone. The last book or DVD has been finished and you have been to the toilet five times, four of which were false alarms. The people either in front or behind your seat are sick and tired of picking up that toy/book that has dropped on to the floor for the umpteenth time. All smiles (real and fake) have now been replaced with heartfelt apologies to all those around you.
JUST STOP IT! The tantrums have no end in sight, and the screaming – my word – is unprecedented. People around you are no longer angry at you, they are now angry for you. The suggestion box is full, the air stewardesses have run out of ideas and you regret not bringing along the cough syrup. As the plane approaches landing, the wait is unbearable, the restlessness is maddening and you just wish the plane was headed towards to the moon on a one way trip instead. (Because it would save you from being arrested on arrival.) That is, if you don't get set upon by your fellow passengers first.
We’ve all gone through some of the above stages, if not all. For us, the worst in-flight experience was with my second son when we travelled to Taiwan in 2008. During the return leg he was crying non-stop for more than 50 percent of the journey. He eventually cried himself to sleep and, since then, we have gained a few inches of skin.
Of course, please don't let this put you off travelling on a plane with your kids. Nobody said it was going to be easy. And it sure hasn’t stopped us from lugging our entire village together on our travels, because it is all worth it in the end.
To read more about the adventures of Kelvin Ang and his family, see the suitcases&strollers story The Gold Coast
By Kelvin Ang of Cheekiemonkies