Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I Survived a Plane Trip with Kids

traveling with toddlers
Takeoff... six hours into our epic trip
Remember how I said that I wasn't going to travel with my kids until they were old enough to fly as unaccompanied minors?  I lied.

In my defense, I had every intention of staying at home until my kids were 18, but an unexpected trip to Hawaii to visit my parents presented itself, and who am I to turn up my nose at the prospect of Mai Tais and tropical breezes?

Well.  After the experience I just had flying the anything-but-friendly-skies, there is no amount of Pina Coladas will cure me of the PTSD from which I'm currently suffering.  I never seriously considered trying to drown myself in a public restroom until last Saturday, when I traveled alone with my two children.  Six hour, trans-Pacific flights are bad enough without an additional four hour flight delay thrown in for good measure.  Thank goodness LAX has self-flushing toilets, or I really might have met my early demise in the Women's restroom at Gate 72 in Terminal 7.

As I was pacing the aisle of a cramped airplane, feeling like a total zombie after being awake for 15 hours, and attempting to get my overtired toddler to stop screaming and fall asleep, my mind drifted to the days of travel before kids.  When a long flight meant nothing more than a chance to nap, read without interruption, and enjoy a cocktail (or three).

Travel, Before Kids:
You start packing sometime around 10pm the night before your flight.  You put careful thought into what items to pack to ensure that you have appropriate clothing for any situation that might arise, and you make certain to pack your birth control for all that hot vacation sex you're definitely going to have.

You show up on time for your flight, with a chic personal item and a carry-on bag that's perfectly sized to fit in the overhead compartment.  You're wearing a gorgeous cashmere scarf which doubles as a blanket in case the plane is cold, because you would never be caught dead using one of the germ-filled ones the plane provides.  

When the flight delay is announced, you get annoyed, but a later arrival doesn't mean too much other than a missed dinner reservation.  You head to the bar to enjoy a rare mid-afternoon cocktail and an entertaining conversation with your spouse.

You finally board the plane a little bit tipsy but you know you can sleep it off while you're being whisked into the sky to your vacation destination.  You'll wake up slightly dehydrated, but the only thing on your calendar for the next week is uninterrupted time to lounge poolside, drink adult beverages, and enjoy a good book.

You arrive at your destination refreshed and exhilarated.  You shower, change into one of the cute dresses you packed, and head out for drinks and a late dinner.  You're not worried about jet lag or exhaustion because you don't have to get up tomorrow and you have an entire week to relax and recharge.   Taking a vacation was the best idea EVER!

Travel, With Kids:
You start packing several weeks in advance, because you never once have a long, uninterrupted stretch of time to focus on the task at hand.  Your children "help" you pack by pulling out two pieces of clothing for every three that you put in, which means that your entire family will arrive at your destination without a single matching outfit.  By the time you get a chance to pack your own bag, you're so exhausted that you almost forget to pack underwear and you totally forget to pack clothing appropriate for any activity other than panhandling.  You will regret this when you are forced to purchase an overpriced muumuu at the hotel gift shop, an item of clothing that makes you look pregnant, leading everyone to comment on your Instagram posts asking when you're baby is due.  You don't bother to pack birth control because the only thing you and your spouse are interested in doing on vacation is sleeping.

You show up at least half an hour behind schedule for your flight, with overstuffed suitcases, a stroller, a baby carrier, and a giant bag full of snacks for your children.  You will absolutely be using the disgusting blankets provided by the airline, because you forgot to bring sweatshirts. 

When the flight delay is announced, your children are running around the airport like banshees.  The news that you will have to continue to chase after your kids and entertain them for an additional three to four hours leaves you close to tears and wishing that you had remembered to call your Doctor with a request for a Xanax refill.

When you and your children finally board the plane you look as though you are refugees from a war ravaged country.  You are covered in spilled food, your children are filthy and exhausted, and all three of you are crying.  Thanks to the flight delay, your kids have completely missed their nap window and will now be awake for the entire six hour flight, which means you will not be resting or drinking or reading a good book, but will, instead, be begging your offspring to stop kicking the seat in front of them, stop running down the aisle, and just stay in their seats.  You curse yourself for being too much of a goddamn hippie to drug them with Benadryl.

You arrive at your destination completely exhausted, as you have now been awake for close to 20 hours.  Your children have finally stopped screaming, mainly because they are so tired that they no longer have the energy to voice their disapproval.  You feed your children some sort of horrifying fast food, change them into their pajamas without even bothering to wash the plane filth off of them, and put them to bed, praying that they sleep through the night and don't wake up before sunrise. You collapse into bed, swearing that if you survive this "vacation" you will never ever EVER travel with your children again.

At least not until they're 18.

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