Getting There is Half the Fun

Here we are in Arizona!

We took a late afternoon flight from our hometown of [Undisclosed], carrying only a diaper bag, laptop satchel, kid’s backpack, double stroller, three carseats, and five suitcases. MeToo was the only one who needed a carseat on the plane as RU is big enough to do without and Z is lap-baby-size. Her enormous Britax doesn’t fit on any aircraft smaller than the Spruce Goose, but we’d long ago found a terrific deal on a smaller seat that we use for this sort of thing. Even so, the only way it fits down the aisle is if I lift it up above the level of the seats. Of course, there’s not enough headroom for me to hold it any higher than directly in front of my face, so I can’t see if the person boarding ahead of me has stopped. Since our boarding method is for the Wife to manage the kids (and maybe one small bag), that leaves me to have all our carry-ons strapped to my body while I wrestle the carseat all the way to the first completely empty row.

This means that if you are sitting in an aisle seat, you will get clocked in the head as I go by. It’s just a question of whether you get the soft leather of the laptop bag or the hard plastic edge of a carseat coming in at about the level of your eye. Sorry. Kids, you know. No help for it.

At least we’ve solved getting it through the airport. In addition to the travel carseat, we’d found a wheeled folding/telescoping frame that a seat with latch mechanisms can “install” onto so you can pull it around like a bag of luggage. As a bonus, you can then use the seat to transport a bag or — if you’re a real daredevil — a child. (I will note that you can usually pile more luggage on top of a stroller if you have your kid somewhere else.)

It’s important to have something for your kids to do on a flight of any duration. Normally, I do not feel that my children constantly need to be distracted. I don’t give them my cell phone to play a game on while waiting at a restaurant or let them watch videos on car trips. Mostly, this is because the more you do that the more they’ll need it. I’d rather my kids’ default state not require them to be totally absorbed in an electronic device. But something about being on an airplane is inherently boring. It’s true for everyone. Ever notice how many people on an airplane are reading something? Have you ever looked around anywhere else and seen that many open books?

If they can’t read yet, the in-flight magazine and safety information card will keep a kid occupied until just after take-off (or about twice as long as they interest someone who is literate). This means that in addition to all the other extra necessities you have to bring along because you are traveling with children you must also pack toys and, probably, a picnic. There’s no book or toy that will hold their attention for the entire flight. Bringing more won’t help; knowing there’s something else to move on to just makes them discard their current bauble that much faster. A truly inspired selection of just a few favorite toys and books can add several minutes to the total amount of time they can be occupied. Maybe enough for a short trip, once you add in snacks.

Really, the only thing that can provide degree and variety of entertainment in a single, compact package is an electronic device. Man, I hate to resort to that. We only have about five toys in the house that take batteries – and only two actually have the batteries in them. Fortunately, we have some decent educational apps on the iPad. One of these days, I’ll probably write a review of some of them. For now, the Montessori apps that RU uses to “do school work” in these situations — and MeToo uses to pretend to do school work — seem pretty good but we haven’t used them enough for me to give you a proper evaluation yet. For the sake of everyone around you, make sure whatever game/app/device you’ll use can be entertaining with the volume off. (There were a couple of adults with a laptop behind us who apparently failed to understand that the rest of us in the plane didn’t want to hear what they were watching; I resisted the temptation to turn MeToo’s alphabet game up to drown them out. Hey, I’m always happy to have someone on board who is more annoying than my own children. It just usually isn’t a pair of grown women.)

Obviously, if you’ll be using a tablet or other such device, you’ll need to make sure you charge it up the night before so it won’t crap out on you 35 minutes into a four-hour experience. Like mine did.