Sunday, November 6, 2011

Flying with kids, US vs. international

The New York Times recommended the article "Are we there yet" as top of my reading list. No surprise there. What did surprise me were all the bad experiences people reported when flying with children. I have always been able to board fairly early, although I have rarely taken advantage of that, since a bouncy toddler needs as little time as possible stuck on my lap. And I have only once been seated away from Mark, but it turned out that it was the back row on a tiny Embraer with a 2+1 configuration and it was done to give me an extra seat for Zoe. People have always been friendly and Zoe always managed to charm some flight attendant into favors like the ride on the drinks cart, or should I say the five rides back and forth through the cabin which finally lead to her having an overtired melt down.

But then I realized that firstly, I have only one child to travel with (so far). Traveling with two is surely much more taxing than with one little (mostly) well-behaved Zoe and I have nothing to say about traveling where adults are outnumbered by the children. Just hearing bits about my two friends traveling with 4 month old twins tires me out (did you for example know that two lap infants cannot travel in the same row? There is only one extra oxygen mask per row of 3 seats so twin parents are most often seated at the two aisle seats across from each other. Often well-meaning fellow passengers will offer to change seats, but no, the twin parents will have to swap babies across the aisle all trip long). I hope to convince my friend to write a guest post about plane travel with twins.

Secondly, the difference between me and the parents quoted in the article is that I have probably traveled more hours internationally than internally within the US. My all time favorite airline is Air New Zealand but I also love Scandinavian because they always give Zoe a book and a little stuffed animal. In fact most of the flights she ends up getting a series of stuffed animals because all the stewardesses want to make sure she got one. As I have pointed out in a previous post I tend to bring bottles of milk on the plane even though I breastfeed Zoe (well, actually this is not necessary anymore, Zoe cut the bottles 1-2 weeks ago) and I have never run out of milk. In fact, well-knowing that they were probably only stocking coffee creamers in coach, I have once sent Mark over to Starbucks to get milk, approximately 3 minutes before the gate closed. He ran so fast back that the milk spilled out the top of the paper cup they had had to pour it into, since they didn't have actual cartons of milk for sale. Onboard I managed to pour most of it into the bottle but at take-off we were then stuck at a bulkhead seat with half of cup of milk. I would have loved to donate it to the family cited who needed it. I am very aware of the differences though, between international and US domestic air travel. The worst travel experiences with Zoe has been the long flights, in domestic coach.

Zoe, not entirely sure that she likes the food
in 1st class, on our way to China at 10 months

I must admit that a lot of the casualness I have with flying with Zoe, alone or not, comes from a lot of experience with flying in itself. I pay attention to details and imagine scenarios before they happen. When I was pregnant I started imagining every situation with the addition of a baby. I also mentally go through my whole journey before leaving for a trip and this is actually one of my best pieces of advice. If you are worried about something, face it in your head first, put all the bad scenarios into it and you will feel more in control when you know you are able to deal with it (of course, if you are a worrier who would just be even more worried, don't). It is not easy to travel with children but it is also not that difficult if you prepare well.

One day though, I would love to get into the cockpit and see all the instruments and meet the pilots, so I hope they introduce that again before Zoe gets to old to be an excuse for that.

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