Yesterday I reposted an old SV Moms piece about traveling alone with the kids. I've flown alone with a 7-month old Pea, in a middle seat on the longest 6-hour flight in history. I've flown alone with an almost-3-year-old and 2-month-old twin infants on a trans-Pacific flight with a stopover. I've flown when the twins were in their Terrible Twos and when The Pea was 5. People always react in horror and admiration when they find this out: How do you do it? You're so brave! You super mom, you!
In truth, you just do what you have to do. In our case, our families live in the Philippines and the UK, so flying long distances is a must, and with all that jet lag, extended visits are only practical. Alfie could never stay as long as we wanted due to the #%&*# vacation policy that seems to be common in the US (compared to the 21 day standard in the UK and Europe), so it was up to me to go solo with the kids.
Back in those crazy days I had to plan each trip with the precision of a military campaign, but --at the risk of jinxing myself -- I have to say that now the kids are older, things are much easier. They can go to the bathroom by themselves, and they don't need me to cut up all the hotdogs and chicken pieces in their meals. They are content to sit quietly in their seats, taking turns playing on the PSP or drawing in their journals. When they do get too rambunctious and out-of-control, a sharp word (or the threat of some punishment) is all that's needed to get them back in line. I can actually read a magazine or sleep during the flight without worrying that they'll pour applesauce down some poor traveler's neck or throw up all over themselves. What bliss!
To all moms of preschoolers, toddlers and babies: if you're traveling alone with your kids and feel like you want to tear your eyeballs out with stress, trust me: This Too Shall Pass. In the meantime, here are some tips that have worked for me:
Preparing for your first plane ride with baby or toddler
* Take some new toys along on the plane ride so your baby/toddler has something new to play with.
* Play-Doh is a great toddler toy because it can stick to the the tray table. Do NOT take anything that can roll away and get lost in the seat cracks or under the seat because you will be contorting yourself to fetch it while your toddler wails and screams for his lost toy!
* Make sure baby is sucking on something during take-off and landing (i.e. pacifier, teething biscuit, nursing, etc..) to minimize discomfort in the ears
* Be prepared to take several walks up and down the aisle.
* Be nice to the flight attendant. She *may* offer to hold your child for a while. No one can resist a cute baby :)
Helping your kids deal with jet lag or wonky sleep schedules
* A couple of days before a trip that crosses multiple time zones, start moving your child's bedtime forward/backward to get closer to the local time zone. Even 30 minutes per day helps.
* Once you arrive at your destination, get out in the bright sunlight.
* Take it easy the first few days. In my experience, it will take approximately 1/2 - 1 day for kids to adjust for every hour difference between your home time zone and destination time zone (i.e. when we go to the UK, the time difference is 8 hrs so it takes at least 4 days, and as much as 8 days for my kids, to fully adjust).
Minimizing boredom during long car trips
* Play games like "I Spy" or "license plate bingo".
* Listen to books on cd.
* This is one time to let loose on the electronic entertainment! Videogames like the PSP (check out my PSP review on Bonggamom Finds) are great because you can preload content on the unit and you don't have to deal with packing lots of game cartridges that clutter up the car (the screen is also nice and big so they don't strain their eyes too much while the car is moving.)
Minimizing motion sickness during long car trips
* Have your child face straight ahead, not to the side and definitely not facing backwards
* Sometimes sucking on a boiled sweet can calm nauseous feelings.
* Open the window a bit so that fresh air can stream into the car.
* If all else fails, make sure your child has a bucket or plastic bag to throw up into.
Here's hoping that you and your family enjoy safe, entertaining, stress free -- and clean -- travels!