We are now reaching the end of the American school schedule, which means that, in the next few weeks, hundreds of expat families will pack up their toddlers and board planes bound for summer vacation destinations. They will also carry with them enough gear to open a daycare center, in the hope that something, anything, will stave off the misery that comes with flying with children.
If you’re reading this and hoping for wisdom from me, I have to warn you. I have only 4 words for you, and I’m not sure they are particularly wise.
It’s going to suck.
Forget all of those articles that you’ve read by someone in the States who was gearing up for their six-hour flight to Grandma’s house. I’m sure that the goodies in their bag of tricks actually will get them to their destination without a minimum of trauma. It’s about hour seven that things start to get ugly.
Think of it this way. Imagine that you’re a child with minimal comprehension of what people are saying to you and even less ability to express yourself. What makes sense about being strapped to a chair for the equivalent of an entire day? Even adults hate it, and they understand why they have to sit there and hold their pee until a little light gives them permission to stand up and take care of their needs. However, adults have enough awareness of the people around them to not sit in their seats screaming at the top of their lungs for 12 hours.
The best defense is to remember every in-flight horror story you’ve ever heard. Everyone has one. I have friends whose kids have projectile vomited all over not only them, but the people sitting behind them. My own daughter has screamed for the better part of a ten-hour flight from Seattle to Tokyo. Take all of those visual images of in-flight nightmares, roll them into one, and expect your next flight to be worse. That way, if it’s even a tiny bit better, you’ll be relieved.
Just for the sake of not being completely useless, here are my limited suggestions.
Dramamine. I’m always surprised by how many people don’t know about Dramamine. I guess it either doesn’t exist outside the U.S. or has different names in other countries. The air pressure on the plane can make little ears hurt, which makes any bad situation worse. Dramamine is an antihistamine that helps alleviate air sickness, opens kids’ little ears a bit, and also makes some kids sleepy. You have to give it a test run at home, though, because it makes some children hyper, which is something you and your fellow passengers definitely don’t want. It can be ordered through Expat Express.
Overnight diapers. Something about sitting upright causes regular diapers to spring leaks like crazy. The seat will get soaked, and the only thing worse than being a spectacle is being a spectacle that reeks of urine.
At about 3 years of age, kids are old enough to use a special harness that’s sold by KidCares. Instead of lugging a car seat on board, you can use this little set of straps that goes over the back of the seat and has a 5-point harness. It is FAA approved, but some flight attendants don’t know about it yet and get snarky when they see it, so carry the literature that proves that it’s FAA approved. The harness can be ordered online.
That’s all I’ve got.
So, in less than two weeks, I’ll pack up my two sweeties and a bag of toys and stickers that they can reject for 12 hours. I’ll bring snacks that will end up as crumbs all over our seats and the floor. My daughter will refuse to sleep until the last 2 hours. She might scream the entire flight.
It’s going to suck.
But, I will still love my kids when we get off the plane, and every year will get easier. We chose this lifestyle, and along with the considerable perks come the approximately 24 hours per year of in-flight madness. I’ll take that deal.© Japan Today