Tuesday, August 18, 2015

International Flights with Kids

I just booked our plane tickets to head back to America for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas...
I know, I know. We just got back from America. (Like two weeks ago.)

I wanted to get a jump start on it all since flights have a higher tendency to book up around the holidays. Plus, I wanted to have a chance to choose my seats before everyone else did. I have realized that my life becomes much less stressful when I have everything organized and ready to go as far in advance as possible.

Because I am a mother traveling with two four-year-olds.

 My little angel children. All prepared to behave perfectly for the next 16 hours. Ha.

Flying filled me with anxiety and dread before I had kids. Now that I'm traveling with kids... It's a whole new ballgame, people. Especially when you are traveling out of the country.

Here are a few things that I have learned since flying internationally with the kids has become more common than ordering pizza delivery.

1. Pack light.
 No joke, last trip I packed one suitcase to check.

One... For a six week trip.

The idea of making my way through the airport, through customs, with two kids and a ridiculous amount of stuff seemed daunting. In reality, we didn't use as much as I had packed anyway. By the time it came for us to return home, I was really wishing that I had left even more back in Australia because I needed room for all of the important things that I had purchased in America...
Like Twizzlers.

2. iPads... They are a godsend.
Okay, so when Blake told me that he got an offer for the job in Australia, I started planning our move in my head. When I took my first flight with Blake to Australia for our orientation trip, I crossed out most of what I had thought about flying that distance with the twins and focused on one thing and one thing only, iPads. 

They have kept the kids entertained and happy for longer amounts of time than any other invention in this world.
Except for maybe a puppy. 
Since puppies are a little difficult to smuggle onto a plane to a foreign country, we'll stick with the iPad.

Even if you have to beg, borrow, and steal (Maybe not steal.)... Get your hands on an iPad or tablet of some sort. Load it up with new, unfamiliar apps and games for kids, download a couple of their favorite movies and enjoy. You are about to witness the miracle of quiet entertainment.

I try to forgive myself for allowing them to partake in such lengthy amounts of screen time by finding some quality, educational apps that might actually be beneficial. (I'll share some of my favorites another time.) 

3. Bring your own headphones. (And get an adapter.)
This especially applies to the kids. On the way over I kept having to untangle the wires of the headphones that they had for their iPad and the headphones that the airline passed out. It was a pain, especially after having to do it for the 40th time with little to no sleep in a 24 hour time span. 

On the way back I was more prepared. I purchased headphones for myself and for them, and it was much easier to simply unplug the headphones and plug them into the device as opposed to completely switching headphones out. 

Trust me... This will help save your sanity. 

4. Pack a little backpack for each kid. 
I found the backpack idea to be the easiest because Samantha and Easton were able to carry their own stuff through the airport, through customs, onto the plane, etc. Plus, I didn't pack an overwhelming amount of stuff since I wanted it to be manageable for them both in the sense of weight and in finding what they needed. 
Here's what I packed in each of their bags:
-A change of clothes (Just in case)
-A Pull-Up (Even though they are both potty trained, I was afraid of them really needing to go at an   inopportune time. I figured I could let them wiggle into the Pull-Up under a blanket and go in the Pull-Up if it was an emergency.)
-Their iPad and headphones
-An activity book and some crayons/markers
-One or two small toys
-Snacks, lots of snacks (There hasn't been a single airplane meal that Samantha and Easton have liked.)
-Lollipops (For takeoff and landing, although the pressure doesn't seem to bother their ears much.)
-Lovie (When they get sleepy, they get pitiful. They always want their special stuffed animal to snuggle.)

This goes into my next suggestion...

5. Don't pack "surprises".
There are a few moms out there who swear on pulling out a little surprise for their kiddo every hour or so to keep them happy and entertained. I did that on the first flight the kids ever took, but I didn't really pull anything out. (They were too into their new iPads on that trip.)
I made the decision that for us, extrinsic rewards just weren't going to work. I didn't want to set that precedent. We take long car rides and long airplane rides far too often for me to keep up with that. It would be too much. 

The kids don't expect it, and therefore, I don't do it. 

6. Don't worry too much about the people sitting around you. 
My kids are just that... kids. They are still trying to figure out everything in the world and acting appropriately on an airplane is one of those things. 
(I am also trying to help them figure out that when they have their headphones on, they don't have to yell to be heard. 
Just because it is harder for you to hear yourself, doesn't mean it is harder for me to hear you. 
That's been fun.)

Anyway... Just as I disagree with giving my kids little surprises throughout a flight, I feel the same way with the fad of giving the other passengers goodie bags just because there are two little kids sitting next to them.

I'm not going to do it. 

I'm also not going to let my kids kick the back of your seat, run up and down the aisles, scream at the top of their lungs for fun, and constantly adjust the back of their chair in an obnoxious manner. With that in mind, I just hope that people forgive us of any little "learning opportunities"... If not, sounds like a personal problem to me. 

7. Take a pen. 
Make sure that you bring a pen with you so that you can fill out any forms that you'll need to complete for entry into a country. 

I know that with Qantas, they pass those forms out to you early into the flight to allow you the opportunity to fill them out at your convenience. Since everyone, including children, needs to complete certain forms, that means that I have at least three forms that need to be completed. Since the Ebola outbreak, I have had a minimum of six forms that have to be finished before I can enter into Australia. These things actually take a little time and thought. 
Avoid the hassle of borrowing a pen or filling out the forms after you've gotten off the aircraft. Bring your own pen and fill everything out before you land. Trust me.

8. Pack toothbrushes. 
Everyone feels a bit more human after a 15+ hour flight if they have a chance to brush their teeth... Including my kids.
Just a personal preference. 

I don't want to sugarcoat it... These flights aren't easy. Unless you're flying in business class, it has been my experience that you aren't going to get much (if any) sleep. Not to worry, though. Things will hopefully be uneventful, and you'll only need to combat the boredom that goes hand-in-hand with flights of this length. (iPads!) 

Hopefully, a little insight into how our flights have been and what I do to make our flights as easy as possible will encourage you to not dread an upcoming international flight as much... 

Like maybe an international flight to Australia? 

To visit your good buddy Kim and her adorable four-year-old twins? 
Oh, and Blake too... He's pretty great, I guess. 

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