Wednesday, February 13, 2013

traveling with young kids: the good, the bad, and the ugly

So we took a bunch of flights recently to Spain. With three kids. For the first time. 
It was...interesting.

Our flight path:
Entebbe, Uganda to Cairo, Egypt. 1ish hour layover.
Cairo, Egypt to Barcelona, Spain. Arrive around midday. Take a {very expensive} taxi to our apartment hotel for the night. Get up early to be at the airport for around 7am.
Barcelona, Spain to Malaga, Spain. Kick around at the airport for 2ish hours to wait for our shuttle bus to Nerja. Spend a week in Nerja for our work conference.
Then Malaga, Spain to Barcelona for 6 days of vacation. Take public transit to our rented apartment for the week. No more expensive taxis for us. After 6 days it's back to the airport in Barcelona.
Barcelona, Spain to Cairo, Egpyt. 1.5 hours layover. Eat Burger King and Haagen Dazs ice cream {banoffee flavour in case you were wondering. Pure heaven.}
Cairo, Egpyt back to Entebbe, Uganda. Arrive at 3am.

The Good

I made surprise packages for the boys and put them in their carry on suitcases including some candy, crackers, and a few other snacks as well as stickers, crayons and colouring books. I also snuck in a new book into each of their suitcases which they actually didn't discover until we arrived at our final destination. They were also allowed to pick 5 toys to include and were looking forward to playing with the various dinosaurs they chose {they're both in a dino phase these days}. They were really looking forward to these packages and it kept them occupied for all of 7 minutes. Just kidding. They were occupied for at least a third of the first flight.

Jamie charged up his iPad and computer and the boys watched movies and played games on the various "screens". This probably kept them occupied for at least half of the flight times. 

Blaise happily slept for a good chunk of the flights. 

I had an empty row to myself with Blaise for four out of six flights. It was almost for three flights, but my hero {my hubs} got me a row to myself for our final flight instead of sitting beside two men again. One of which had a decent case of BO.

The Bad

Our flight from Cairo to Barcelona was filled with high school students who happily {and loudly} hung over the backs of seats, walked up and down the aisles as I tried to rock Blaise to sleep. I felt like I was on a high school bus trip. 
This was one of the flights that I did not have the row to myself. Luckily I was seated next to a really nice university-aged couple who were utterly charmed by Blaise.

Our flight from Malaga to Barcelona was full. And I was in between two business men. It was not pleasant although both men were as accommodating as you can be to someone who doesn't speak your language and is breastfeeding their 4 month old baby right beside you.

Jude was his usual 3.5 yr old self. Provoking Noah, getting up and down, and waking up extremely cranky and loud in his lamentations about how rough his life is. And just generally complaining whenever he didn't get exactly what he wanted.

The Ugly

Trying to rock Blaise when it seemed every.single.person wanted to walk up and down the aisle.

The flight attendants on Egypt Air were generally unhelpful and disinterested in what would appear to be their jobs. They closed off the back so I had nowhere to stand with Blaise other than in the aisle that everyone wanted to walk up and down.

Egypt Air {at least the four flights we were on} don't have tv's on the backs of the seats. This was a bit disappointing for the boys, but thankfully Jamie's iPad and computer lasted the flights. I probably couldn't have watched anything if I wanted to.

Our flight from Malaga to Barcelona {the same one where I was stuck in between two business men} was ROUGH. Blaise was fussy. As I was nursing him on the way up, I felt/heard him fill his diaper. So after he was done and the seat belt sign went off, I got up to change him in the bathroom. But as I got there, but flight attendant said someone was in there and I had to wait. Behind the curtain. Unfortunately I was carrying Blaise in a way that he was looking over my shoulder. And he totally spit up on the man sitting in the first row. I was utterly humiliated. Thankfully he {the man, not Blaise. Blaise was oblivious to it all.} was really good about it. And then Jude screamed the whole descent into Barcelona. And peed his pants. Oh yes. That was not a very good flight.

On the flight with all the highschoolers I had to put my finished tray of food on the ground because there were no flight attendants nearby. One of the Egyptian students came by and step on/kicked the tray and leftover food went everywhere. She got a pissed off look on her face and loudly said something to me in Arabic. I was livid, but politely said I was sorry. I think she was surprised that I either wasn't Egyptian or didn't get all up in arms at her. Either way, she backed off, but I was almost at my wits' end by that point.

Losing Bunny somewhere along the leg of Cairo to Barcelona. {He's doing a lot better, by the way. Last night Noah gave him his Pooh bear to sleep with and that worked wonders in settling Jude to sleep right away. When I found out, my heart melted to hear of Noah's compassion. My sweet boy.}

Because our flight from Barcelona to Cairo got changed twice {once because it got cancelled and then another time due to the unrest in Egypt and our layover was 24 hours. So we extended our stay in Barcelona so that we'd only have 2 hours in the airport in Cairo} our tickets were a bit bonkers in the system and it took forever to check in. We were literally "those people" who hold up the plane and are the last to rush in and haphazardly get settled. The boys were exhausted and bored and antsy waiting to check in. Great start to 12 hours of travelling ahead.

I guess in the end we survived. And overall we did okay. But it goes without saying that I'm not so much a fan of traveling with little kids. It's not for the faint of heart, that's for sure. And it certainly makes coming back home extremely appealing. Even if it's stinkin' hot out. 

Some "take home points":

- if you are taking two long flights somewhere, it makes things easier to stay at least one overnight in the country you're flying through to break things up.
- if your kids have trouble keeping underpants dry or use a diaper at night and you're crossing time zones, PUT THEM IN A PULL-UP. I cannot stress this one. The only flight I didn't put Jude in a pull-up for, he peed his pants. And of course, they always have to go when the seat belt sign is on. Of course.
- for me, it's worth it to fly with a more expensive airline that has more kid-friendly food {the boys at nothing by snacks I brought and the buns that came with the meals} and tv's on the back of the seats. 
- I'd personally prefer not to have to get up in the middle of the night or too early to make a flight. Evening flights or daytime flights are best. No rush. And everyone's less cranky.
- snacks and special treats on the flight are not to be underestimated. It's fun for everyone and makes things more enjoyable.

What are your tricks, tips and experience with flying with young kids?


  1. Thank you for writing this, Vanessa! You're a trooper. :) We're planning our first long-haul flight this summer with Allie, who will be 1.5 yrs old by then and your tips are gold.

    1. In the end, it was TOTALLY worth it. We loved Spain last year and we loved it again this year.
      Where are you guys going?

  2. Hmm, by word count, the Bad and Ugly seem to out weigh the Good, but I guess that is life when traveling overseas with a large family. Glad you survived to write about it.



    1. It's true. When I re-read it, it did sound a bit complainy, but...I'll make up for it with a glowing report on our actual time IN Spain. :)

  3. did you ever know that you're my hero?????

    mom wants to hug you, and then share her own "my kids drove me nuts on flights" story with you. she says you'll look back and laugh, many years down the road. also, kudos for doing this with THREE kids!

    again. hero.


    1. I bet your Mom has tons of hilarious stories. Can't wait to sit down with you two and chat and hear all about it.
      And...I'm already laughing about it. Especially the puking/peeing/stuck in between 2 men flight. That's just a total gong-show.
      love you friend. :)

  4. I've heard your own Granny share many stories of her travels alone across europe with 3 boys under 3!! cloth diapers, last one filled, gentlemen childminding so she could have tea alone....glorious, but totally unsafe these days!! you are very brave daughter mine!
    xo Mom

  5. Wow. You've convinced me to subscribe to your blog based on this post alone. You guys rock!! xoxo P

  6. Love these tips and oh man what a travel adventure for you all!

  7. You guys have the most fun! Thus far, flights have been ok, it is always bus trips that are gong shows. Sebby usually pukes on Darren & in Spain he puked on aunty Joyce but never on a stranger, although once a stranger stepped in his puke.

  8. Hi Vanessa! Would you mind if I shared this post with a friend who just started a blog on travelling with babies and young children? I enjoyed reading your advice - and wow! I'm impressed you all made it through in good spirits! I don't know how public your blog is and if you'd prefer I don't share it, that's no problem at all. Good luck with the move and travel back to Canada!

    1. Of course you may share this post, Lisa! It's a completely public blog so anyone can read it and share it. :)
      Hopefully it may help your friend or at least inspire a laugh or two. :)

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