If you are adventurous and have more vacation time than your spouse, you probably travel solo with children, and often. I have flown solo with a baby, with two babies, and cross-Atlantic thrice with a 3 year old and 1 year old, most recently this past weekend.
Admit it: commercial flying with children isn’t pretty. Travel tips are literary Valium, allowing you to temporarily forget that flying with children carries a small but non-zero risk of death by frustration.
Why? Not necessarily because of the planes, although it is certainly a riot trying to simultaneously wipe a poopie off one child and dissuade your toddler from eating a Cheerio off the plane bathroom floor. Unless you fly private, international travel requires arriving at the airport least 2 hours before checkin. Airports require security checks, and those ridiculous clear baggies. You will probably get stopped and frisked by security. During our recent long haul trip to the States, both our 18 month old and I were selected for a full pat down. She was clean, in case you were wondering.
At Heathrow last week, because of a particularly cruel delay, the girls and I spent four hours comparing M&M packages, rearranging Harrods gift items and exploring every single bathroom stall. Then our little one lost her stuffed bunny, which required retracing every step we had taken in the past 90 minutes. Sensing my physical desperation during our second bathroom break with 22 pounds of baby in the Ergo carrier, 20 pounds of Apple electronics / plane entertainment in my backpack and 5 pounds of food slung across my shoulder, the most amazing woman picked up our older daughter to help her wash her hands. God bless her.
When I fly with the girls, anything goes. Seriously, anything. I cary a holster full of raisins, Cheerios, almonds and blueberries to dish out on demand. If my daughters asked for a shot of whiskey, I would seriously weigh the potential damage (probably small, for just a sip . . . right?) against the elusive promise of quiet.
The only advice that has worked consistently for me is to (1) dress your kids cute; and (2) ask nicely for help. This weekend, the nicest gentleman at the Virgin checkin at JFK ushered the girls and I, plus two massive check-in bags, straight through to the front of the line, even though we weren’t in the upper classes. It pays to ask, and probably to look a little tired. No one dislikes a beautiful child, and most people sympathise with an outnumbered, exhausted looking parent.
Oh, sorry, wine. Whatever the mischief, however sticky and sprawling the mess, a glass of wine is sure to remind you of home, and of the fact that whatever the travails of travel, one way or another, you will get wherever it is that you are going. Godspeed.