The dark side
When I write about travel with children I tend to highlight and photograph the high points.
I rarely mention the very difficult and very real aspects of travel with kids.
I start every journey with packing at the last minute and this means I'm often packing as the suitcases should be loaded into the car but aren't as they're not closed or full yet.
Obviously if I'm packing, I'm not giving my undivided attention to my children. I have often found that while I packed a suitcase in one room, children have unpacked or repacked other suitcases in another room. Sometimes they have include large objects and removed the necessary items. And there are the fights, negotiations, reasoning and tantrums regarding what items we really need to take. Large toy trucks don't make the list and this sets off my three year old.
After packing and actually getting into the car there is always a fight about who sits where.
This happens every time we get into the car for any reason.
Generally during any car ride someone is either; hungry, needs the bathroom, is crying, is mad at someone and the rule of "indoor voice" does not seem to come naturally during car rides.
Once we get to the airport we have the lovely job of getting five kids and between five and eight suitcases out of the car and into the airport. Again this involves arguing. The problem in this scenario is safety is at stake. Each child needs to be removed from the car individually and put onto the sidewalk or strapped into a stroller and told "don't move."
There is always a street to cross and there is always a huge trolley with suitcases and a stroller to push and little hands to hold. We have often used leashes (much to the horror of the people around us) to avoid anyone getting lost.
We then need to go through inspection and often one child will pass through at the wrong time and is left on the inspected side with the other family members taking off their shoes and emptying their pockets into trays on the other.
Liquids. Trying to get the liquids sorted into plastic containers while moving, while keeping everyone in the "line" requires the body of an octopus clad with the analytical and reasoning skills of someone less tired and with more memory then me.
Filling out customs forms and supervising five children in an airport is no easy task.
It is generally again at this point that someone either: announces they need to use the toilet immediately, has a tantrum and throws themselves on the floor, wanders off, instigates someone else or demands food.
Once through customs it's easier.
Once on the plane, well that's not always so easy.
First of all no one wants to sit anywhere near us and this is understandable. Second of all seating is always a problematic issue and a fight begins over who is sitting where. The fact that I'm claustrophobic and have issues boarding planes does not make any of this any easier.
I have learned some lessons that help.
Number one. NEVER give the option to a child of any age to walk them around the plane if they seem restless. Unless you want to pace about for the duration of every second of every flight you take from the moment you give in, don't do it.
Number two. NEVER bring objects to entertain children. They'll fall on the floor, take room in your carry on and the kids will get bored of them in no time anyway.
There is enough to entertain them ON the flight. Other then one crayon and one book per child, there is no reason to bring anything else.
Number three. I'm not a big fan of bringing screens as once they're on that flight, they're on your holiday. Did you bring your kids on holiday so they could play angry birds and fight over who gets to use the Ipad next? FAMILY HOLIDAY...get it? The time you've chosen to be together. You're not together if even one family member is on a screen.
With the exception of phone devices needed for work calls there should be no other media gadgets of any kind. If you feel the need to bring along video games, why not just stay at home and save yourself time and money. If you're so unable to connect with your family while on a holiday you should get yourself checked out.
Number four: Bring a change of clothes not only for kids who might have an accident but for yourself. After my son threw up all over himself and me I was glad I had brought him a change of clothing. Unfortunately I had not done the same for myself and while he was fresh I reeked of vomit for 18 hours.
Number five: The rule of "indoor voice" applies on planes or any vehicle of transportation. I find it is most often adults who don't abide by this rule.
Number six: Be sure to bring along some sort of snack that your child will eat as depending on the airline and destination the food provided may not be what they had in mind and hungry kids don't generally fall asleep.
Number Seven: When the flight attendants ask people to turn off their mobile devices, they mean YOU. My husband is a direct violator of this and often does not consider himself to have to immediately turn off his device. The staff clearly report that devices of any kind can disrupt the aircraft. Think about it for a minute. Do you WANT to crash or are you so self absorbed and narcissistic that you're not concerned not only about your own family but the entire plane. The time to turn it off is when the attendant requests it to be turned off.
Number Nine: People will help you if you ask and are willing to wait.
It is not fun or easy to remove sleeping children from an aircraft. I once had to remove three sleeping children at 3am while pregnant (first trimester). The good news is that people will help you. While not the best solution I was quite happy to stick two sleeping children into a wheelchair and was able to wake up the oldest child to help me carry the things I couldn't as both hands were pushing the wheelchair.
Most likely you will be handed a customs form during the flight. Unless you want the drama of filling out customs forms that I already described add jet lagged or sleeping children and a foreign place, be sure to complete documents while on the flight.
While travel with children is not easy it is amazing. I haven't even scratched the surface about the hardest bits. I promise you that regardless of how hard it can be at times, the benefits of how travel influences, enriches and broadens the minds of your children greatly outweighs the fleeting moments of discomfort or frustration.