Travelling With Kids
My mother used to tease us that she employed a gin-soaked rag to keep us quiet in the car on long trips.
That accounts for my sweet tooth. She could well have, but likely not, and it certainly would be frowned upon in this day and age. With more and more children taking to the skies, parents need all the tips they can get. Start with a few of these.
1. Choose a destination where the change in climate is not too drastic.
2. Make a very detailed packing list (even if you think you don’t need to), writing down everything from the basics to weather-appropriate clothes.
3. Resist the urge to pack the entire nursery. Resorts and hotels worth their salt will have larger items like high chairs, usually at no charge. Ask them before leaving home.
4. Pack more of things you won’t likely be able to buy.
5. Schedule your flight to coincide with nap time or fly overnight. If the airline offers it, book a bassinet.
6. Opt for a direct flight, and nothing that lands too late at night.
7. Give her a bottle or sippy cup for takeoff and landing, to help ease any ear trouble.
8. A small cooler can come in handy for milk and food. (Flight attendants won’t let you use the fridge.)
9. Bring compact, multi-faceted toys and games only, including your iPad.
10. Do you have a new toy to surprise him with halfway through the trip?
11. Beware: Children’s Gravol can sometimes have a reverse effect.
12. Relax. Your children can sense your stress.
Save Money at the Airport
Airports are notorious for prompting you to keep opening your wallet. Here’s how to avoid spending a ton of cash before your plane even leaves the tarmac:
1. Rather than shelling out for the taxi fare, persuade a friend or relative to drive you to the airport. Then return the favour another day, or another way.
2. Take a bus, train or the local transit to and from the airport, even if it means leaving home earlier—and packing lighter.
3. Take an empty water bottle through security, then fill it up on the other side. You don’t need to pay $4 for a bottle of water post security-check.
4. Coffee up at home.
5. If you’re not going through customs, bring foods that are easy to pack—sushi, burritos, sandwiches—and skip the (usually mediocre) departure lounge food.
6. Stay out of all the shops! Bring books, magazines and sundries like batteries and confections with you. Plan ahead.
7. Skip Duty Free completely. Always be suspicious of people who want to sell you something too hard.
The Middle Seat
Does it seem like you always get stuck with the middle seat? Take these tips to heart to avoid it all together – or at least make it more palatable. (Wouldn’t it be nice if they just made the middle seat a bit bigger?)
1. Check in online as early as possible to avoid the middle seat completely.
2. Once at the airport, ask at the check-in desk and even at the gate if any other seats have become available since you checked in.
3. Once you’ve accepted your middle-seat fate, pray that you get two slim Jims on either side of you.
4. Put most of your stuff in the overhead bin, so you can have maximum legroom. And don’t worry if you have to ask the aisle person to get up let you into your carryon.
5. Stake your claim on the most comfortable sections of both arm rests. (You’re entitled.)
6. Fall asleep. Maybe work in a bathroom break first.
7. Read, work, meditate, make to-do lists, watch a movie, pretend you’re on the subway. Just try to take your mind off everything and you’ll be home in a flash.
8. Shell out for the Premium Class upgrade and stop yer whining.
Best Seat on the Plane
Just a few things to think about, regarding the cabin being your oyster.
1. Never book the front row. Sure you’re in the front row and one of the first ones off, but you’re also really close to all the front-door activity and the galley, both noisy, which is especially bothersome if you want to sleep. Speaking of which, this is also where they often seat the parents, because the bassinets hook onto the wall in front of them.
2. Seriously, never book the front row. Seats directly behind Executive Class on some aircraft don’t have a partition, so your tray is in your armrest, my friend. And maybe also your video screen. (Plus, you have to smell their delicious food while you eat a cardboard wrap.)
3. Always check in 24 hours from flight time. Not right before you leave for the airport. There may be roomy seats in the emergency aisles not already booked by the seven-foot giants.
4. Try to seat yourself with another single. Doing this leaves the middle seat empty. Chances are good that if the flight isn’t full no one will sit there.
5. Don’t sit in the row directly in front of the emergency exit row. These seats may not recline.
6. Don’t sit too far back. These seats are louder because they’re behind the jet engines or (even louder) propellers. You also have to wait longer to both get on and off.
7. At all costs, don’t sit in the back row. Have pity on the people who are booked here that missed the Change Seat button at online checkin.
8. Visit seatguru.com to see where to sit on your particular aircraft. They will help you find the best seat, flagging problems with various areas of every aircraft currently in the sky.
Use Travel Time Wisely
Ever sit beside somebody who didn’t even bring a book? (Is there a WordPress emoticon for “moron”?) Here’s how to use your travel time in the best ways possible.
1. Use travel time to relax, not to work. Power-down and give your brain a break.
2. Load your iPad with that documentary you’ve been meaning to watch or that video tutorial you haven’t yet had time to wrap your head around.
3. Review a language app of the foreign country you’re heading to (quietly, of course). Even 10 simple words and phrases can go a long way—and two of them better be “please” and “thank you.”
4. Is the flight attendant/tour guide handing out local newspapers? Brush up on the news of the day at your destination, so you’ll have something to add to the local chit-chat. This is an especially good idea if you’re travelling on business and meeting up with foreign colleagues.
5. Never forget this all-important travel rule—plane, train or bus: Sleep when you can.
Ease Airport Stress
There is no reason to dread the airport. Here are some things to improve your experience.
1. Very oddly, many people don’t check in at home online. What on earth is wrong with them? You’re smarter than that.
2. Go easy on your blood pressure by leaving yourself lots of time to get to the airport. Do you really want to risk missing your flight for an extra half hour of sleep. Never trust the highway to be uncrowded (or even open).
3. Use a scale to weigh your luggage before you leave home. This let’s you avoid repacking at the check-in desk when they tell you you’re overweight. Realize that if you do have to do this, everyone will be watching you – and hating you.
4. Avoid wearing excessive jewellery or clothing with metal bits to the airport, so your security check will be a breeze. This is one of the leading causes of airport stress.
5. Pack a home-made snack in your carryon for the airport lounge, and select a seat away from the gate, away from the TV and clear of any loud people.
6. Earplugs are also not a bad idea.
Don’t Get Sick on the Plane
Try to be as rested and nourished as possible when you board. Then…
1. From the second you board the plane until you are at your destination, never touch your face. Eye and nose rubbing is taboo.
2. Wipe down arm rests and your tray table—especially the latch—with a Wet One. Ignore the looks you might get.
3. Only drink water you can see is coming from a bottle. (The ice is OK.) Never drink the coffee or tea. Airplane water holding tanks are seldom cleaned or replaced and are germy as hell.
4. In the lavatory, use the anti-bacterial gel instead of the soap and water. Bring a small bottle of your own to use once you’re back at your seat.
5. The seat pocket in front of you is a cesspool of germs. Never put anything in it. Avoid over-handling anything that is already in the seat pocket. Do not take the free magazine with you when you deplane.
6. Forego the dab of antibiotic ointment in the nostrils. It’s a myth.
Sleep Better on the Plane
Take the sting out of getting up at zero-dark-hundred or boarding at midnight. When you have to get up at zero dark hundred or board at midnight, here are a few tricks to help you sleep better on the plane.
1. Choose a window seat nowhere near the bathroom or the galley noise. Avoid the bulkheads where parents with infants tend to get seated.
2. The back row and the row in front of the exit door row may not recline.
3. Put all carryon luggage in the overhead bin, leaving the space under the seat in front of you for just your feet.
4. A neck pillow and ear plugs go without saying, but throw on an eye mask as well.
5. Take off your shoes, so your feet can swell freely.
6. Keep sleep aids simple: melatonin, Gravol.
7. Tell yourself, “It’s currently 4 a.m. where I’m landing.” The power of suggestion really works.