You want to talk about plane travel? With kids? Talk to me. I’m the motherfucking expert on plane travel with kids. Over the course of the last three weeks I’ve travelled 28,000km on a plane. With kids. Three of the them! Two pre-schoolers and one 10-year-old non-sleeping oddity, plus my husband, who saved my sanity on more than one occasion (by pressing the bell and asking for MORE VODKA. More!). So yeah, I know a thing or two about long-haul, international plane travel with children, which is why you should listen to what I’ve got to say about it, as below:
1. Stay at home.
Ha! Not really. It’s not that bad, honestly, and the reward for surviving an international long-haul flight with your bitch kids is that you get to be in a different country, with different telly, and excellent foodstuffs, for a holiday. You get to make memories or, failing that bullshit, acquire heaps more material for your underrated blog. So, follow my tips, and you’ll be FINE, just fine:
1. Don’t pack all the shit. You don’t need all the shit. On the outward journey, I packed my kids’ Trunkies (invaluable) with SO. MUCH. SHIT. Tiny Teddies and Arnotts Shapes and some weird kangaroo crisps that I found on special in Big W. Apples and oranges and grapes. Juice boxes and water and emergency Milo. I packed colouring pens and cheapo K-Mart Magnadoodles (x 2, to avoid arguments) and activity books and even Lego, for I am a fool. Of everything I packed, what do you think we needed? Nothing. Maybe the Arnotts Shapes, at a push, and that was just on the two-hour stopover in Abu Dhabi, in attempt to distract the kids from trying to stab each other with blunt plastic knives stolen from the plane. But seriously, we needed nothing except for babywipes and Phenergan, of which more later.
2. Sit your children separately. At opposite ends of the plane, ideally.
3. Be nice to the air hostesses. Ridiculously nice. Curl your children’s hair and teach them how to look cute, if only while embarking the plane. Say please and thank you, and you will be rewarded with kind smiles and extra biscuits.
4. Select your travel times wisely. Early morning flights suck balls. We thought we’d be smart this time, and stay in a hotel close to the airport on the night before our return flight to Perth. Ha! Ha and ha! The hotel was a pile of shit, in terms of customer service, leaving us to manoeuvre 16 suitcases and three children from the taxi through the foyer and up to floor five. And back down again a few hours later, while they stood behind the reception desk and chuckled at our idiocy. We thought the hotel stay would score us a few extra hours sleep. Ha! Ha and ha! What we failed to take into account was that two out of our three children would refuse to sleep, such was the excitement of being in a hotel room with an empty (empty!) mini bar. This was New Year’s Eve, by the way, and marked our only domestic of the holiday. Paul tried to walk out, but couldn’t find his clothes, and stood at the door in a heady mix of pyjamas and running shoes, while Ben sobbed and begged us not to get divorced. We’re fine now, don’t worry. We only have one fight every five years, and it only lasts four minutes, on average.
5. Expect the unexpected. The kid you expect to be the hardest work on the flight will be a dream, while your usual favourite will be an absolute pain in the arse, deciding that a stopover in Abu Dhabi is the ideal moment to practise his entire swearing vocabulary. Loudly.
6. Don’t worry about other people. Other people are arseholes. I lost count of the times I muttered: “Haven’t you ever seen a KID before?” (albeit a kid trapped under the wheels of your luggage trolley, telling his brother to fuck his fucking face off).
7. The plane journey is the easy bit. It’s the check-ins, transfers and luggage collections that drive you to the point of wild-eyed insanity. My advice to you in these situations is to slow down, take your time and ignore the looks of disdain and contempt coming your way. So what if you’re the last people to collect your luggage? It’s better than being in such a rush that you knock a small child off her Trunki (invaluable) with your massive handbag stuffed with babywipes and Phenergan. Not that I’ve ever done that, ahem.
8. Pack extra clothes! For everyone! We hadn’t even CHECKED IN before Frankie had thrown a bottle of apple juice at me, and then pissed himself.
9. Drug those bitches. Phenergan is your friend. Unless it’s not, and has the reverse effect, in which case you never heard it from me.
10. You won’t sleep. You won’t die, but you won’t sleep either. Your kids will, eventually, but not before they’ve subjected the entire plane to half-an-hour of pre-sleep hysteria, screaming “I WANT A STRAW” or “I WANT SOPHIA THE FIRST” until they pass out in an unusual position, after which point you daren’t sleep because you’re so terrified of them rolling off the seat and – god forbid – waking up again.
11. Remember that all things must end. Eventually, after many, many miles, and many, many hours, you will find yourself on dry land, surrounded by home comforts. You may not have slept in 43 hours, and you may have developed an eye twitch, and your marriage may be on shaky ground, and you may have lost a child en route (hey, two out of three’s not bad), but you will have made it. Well done you.
Next week! Let’s talk about jetlag. And children. And children with jetlag. ‘Cos that’s fun.
PS. People who recline their seats way, way back are MOTHERFUCKING ARSEHOLES. On both legs of our return journey I had a (different) man’s bald spot eyeballing me for hours on end. The temptation to draw a massive knob on his shiny bonce was WAY too tempting. To the seat recliners of the world, in the words of my three year old: FUCK YOUR FUCKING FACE OFF.