How NOT to travel with a bunch of kids: all taken from one 11,000-mile journey, where we made every rookie mistake possible.
DO NOT attempt an 11,000-mile journey with four kids aged five and under, without having an hotel stopover halfway. You will find that this is a big mistake. Huge. Your kids will all sleep on the first flight, and be wide awake for the next 20 hours, while you and your partner will not sleep for two days straight. You will not cope well.
DO NOT book the bassinet row for you and your nursing new born. Bad move. I am being a little sarcastic here, because of course you should be entitled to a bassinet with a new born baby. However, it is more likely that you will be separated from your husband and the rest of your kids, and sat in between two burly football player types, who booked those seats for the extra legroom. They will be the type who say, “Ugh, babies,” as they sit next to you, and their faces will be about 18 inches away from your exposed breast every time you need to feed your baby.
DO NOT ask to change seats if you are put in between said football players. You will then be moved to another bassinet seat, 15 rows further in front, and will not be able to help your stressed husband with the other three kids. You won’t be able to leave your seat to help him get the other kids to the potty, or to help them with their food, because it will mean disturbing the people you are squished in between. You will either have to wake your new born and bring her with you, or leave her in the care of the strange person next to you while you squeeze by her, knocking her drink into her lap, as you run to help.
DO NOT order a special meal. If you order vegetarian, or gluten-free, or any of the other special meals, you’ll be in for a real treat. They are generally far worse than normal airplane food. And to add to that, they will arrive at your tray table at least an hour before the normal meals get dished out, but only collected at the same time. This means that you’ll have trays of food stacked in front of your littlies for at least three hours. For added excitement, your children will inadvertently send them flying every time they try and get comfortable in their seats. There will be food everywhere, especially as they probably haven’t eaten even one mouthful.
DO NOT decide to wait until you disembark at the end of your flight before you complete the landing cards. You will be too stressed and too tired, and if you’re anything like me, your eyes won’t work properly after such a long trip and you won’t even be able to read the darn things by then, anyway.
DO NOT decide that it’s only one landing card per family, when as a family, you are entering the country on a total of six separate passports. You will stand in line for hours to get through immigration, only to be sent back to the desk for incompetent people, where you will have to fill in the required one card per person.
This brings me back to my previous point:
DO NOT decide to wait until you disembark at the end of your flight before you complete the landing cards. Because IT’S ONE CARD PER PERSON! And that equals six cards. With lots of details on each. And you will be stressed and snapping at your partner; probably one of you will threaten to get on the next plane to where you just came from. Because at that point in time, another 24-hour journey seems a lot less complicated than trying to fill in a zillion things on a card, multiplied by six. Oh, and by now, your kids will be so bored, tired, hungry and exhausted, that they will be roaring and wailing, and rolling all over the airport floor, because it’s just too much, and they can’t take anymore. One of the immigration officers might be kind enough to come and offer to help you, but only after you have been struggling for half an hour, and are halfway through the last card. It will be a very nice gesture though.
DO NOT book a rental car which says it’s a seven-seater, but really isn’t. Instead, it’s a five-seater, with two fold out seats that open in the trunk. If you hire that baby, you’ll have no room for your luggage. Your tired children will end up with suitcases piled on top of them, under their feet, and you’ll end up sandwiched into your seat so tightly that you won’t be able to move again until you reach your destination, and your legs will have gone to sleep by the time you do. H ire a bus. Even if it costs the earth, it’ll be worth it. There is such a thing as false economy, and I reckon this would fit into that category.
DO NOT let the kids drag you out to the pool or the beach, when you arrive at your destination. And don’t try and stay awake for as long as possible. Just sleep, and make your kids lie down until they fall asleep. You’ll probably all be comatose for the next eight hours, but when you wake up, you’ll all be happy again; even if it is in the middle of the night.
Avoid all of these pitfalls, and it’ll be a piece of cake.
We’ve got it down to a fine art now, and I’ve even taken it upon myself to fill in the landing cards at the beginning of each flight. Then I get to sit back and bask in the glow of my own smug competence for the rest of the journey. Well maybe not, but at least I don’t have wailing, rolling kids at our destination airport anymore.