Flying with kids

1) We forgot our babies would at some point grow up and celebrate their second birthday.

The moment they hit this age, you will have to pay adult’s fare for a seat. A seat is a seat and does not take up less space, even when there is only a small toddler sitting on it. For a child on your lap, only international taxes and a small percentage of adult’s fare may apply. We will never forget that time we took a 12 hrs flight to Bangkok, Thailand just before our eldest turned two years, to benefit from his cheaper air fare for the last time. Rakesh held Eashan on his lap, while Anjali took care of Shail, back then a 3 months old baby. After the flight , Rakesh’ legs were so painful, he did not mind paying for a the next time !

2) We thought it would be easy to make a passport photo of a new born baby.

When our youngest baby was born, she was always awake, day and night. Until she was three days old and we took her to the photographer. She fell asleep like sleeping beauty in the car. Nothing, truly nothing in the world could wake her up and it is obligatory to have the eyes open on a passport photo. We touched her hair, her face, tickled her feet. After half an hour, the photographer gave up. Slowly a feeling of despair overwhelmed Rakesh as he pictured us not going to Bali anymore in one month’s time. He started with wet wipes on Ishita’s face and continued after a while with water drops. Anjali could not bear to watch it anymore and told Rakesh to stop. She had just given birth, all maternal hormones and feelings still coursing through her body. At this point, she even accepted cancellation of the flights.

Later that day, Rakesh tried to make a decent photo of Ishita at home with the instructions given by the photographer. It took him all day, but he managed eventually. Do not underestimate the power of babies!

3) We forgot to check our carry-on luggage before departure. Always check your carry-on luggage before you leave! Not doing this caused us the most stressful moment ever. At home, we have boxes stuffed with diverse items for holidays, among which was a Swiss army knife. Rakesh tucked the knife away from the kids and placed it on a shelf above our writing desk. Our youngest son decided dad had probably forgotten to pack the knife and he climbed on our writing desk, grabbed the knife and did his share by packing the knife in dad’s backpack. Somehow we passed Dutch security with the knife?! Upon arrival at Los Angeles’ security , we were asked to stop and the officer showed us the knife in Rakesh’ backpack. We were flabbergasted and could not even find the words to explain this properly. We were so afraid we wouldn’t be allowed to continue our journey! Luckily the security officer accepted our explanation and let us go through.

4) Always pack more than you need and have your necessities accessible.

Once you are in the air, you can not get out to buy some extra diapers. You can not purchase more baby food. You can not dive in the back of your car when your child throws up to grab some extra clothes. It is very important to take necessary items along in your carry-on luggage and have those easily ready and accessible.
Make sure you have enough clothes, sweaters (it might get chilly), diapers, wet wipes, baby bottles and baby food in your carry-on luggage. It is highly recommended to carry a small bag along (maybe even stowed in the larger carry-on bag) with the items you will need for sure and chuck this in the small compartment in front of your feet. You will need to stow your bulky carry-on luggage in the overhead compartment during your flight. I remember I had just packed everything in one big bag and I had to open the overhead compartment countless times to search diapers, wipes and bibs.
Extra clothing for parents might be advisable. It can get pretty cold when your jeans is soaked with a glass of cola after some uncontrolled toddler movements and your long-haul flight just started. This happened to Rakesh years ago. Accidents happen, so be prepared.

5) We, actually Anjali, packed too much per suitcase.

Nothing is more annoying than opening your suitcase in front of the check-in desk to see how you can re-organize or pack differently, while your kids run away in all directions possible. It happened to us and to be honest, several times. When you weigh your luggage at home, be sure to keep the weight 0.5 to 1 kilogram below the allowed weight. Your scale at home might be less accurate than the scales at the airport.

6) We trusted our kids with carrying our luggage.
It is good to involve your kids and encourage them to help, but always supervise what they do. The time we did not, we had an unpleasant encounter with the Military Police at Schiphol Airport Amsterdam. We had already checked in and we were looking for something to eat. The moment we spotted pizza, every member of our family hurried to the restaurant. One of our eldest sons forgot his suitcase at a square in front of several other restaurants. While we were busy choosing our pizza slices, the police was notified of a bomb threat. We were enjoying our pizza a few moments later, when we suddenly noticed fully armoured Military Police gathering around our unsupervised suitcase! Well, I can tell you we hurried back as quickly as we had arrived. The MP’s were not amused at all. This was serious stuff, no smiles, no friendly nods. They noted our passport details and told us, if this would happen again we would receive a maximum fine of 435 euro’s!

7) We forgot the time on the airport.
This sounds obvious, but it occurred to us several times already that we had to run to the gate to catch our flight. Somehow we relax after we passed security. Keep in mind, getting there can be exhausting and stressful. Organizing everything at home and work before you leave and having the kids taken care of, is a lot to achieve. So at the airport we finally relax. Wander around, relax, eat and talk about our upcoming journey. There, at the restaurant, it happens; we forget the time. When we finally remember we have to catch our flight, everyone needs a toilet visit first and the smallest kids need a new diaper. Before you know it, time is getting tight and we are running to the gate. Two parents running and carrying one or two kids, dragging along one or two kids and calling to the other kids to hurry up? Must be us.

8) We assumed we could fly in style and comfort.
Seriously, it is not stylish nor comfortable to fly with kids. There is nothing classy about puke on your shirt and changing diapers. We remember the time before kids, Rakesh preferred plenty of leg space and we actually paid for it. A few years later we flew with kids sleeping all over us, crumpled up, no space left and slowly getting into serious muscle cramps, but just too afraid to move and wake them up. You really do not want to wake up kids who have finally fallen asleep during your flight! We know sometimes we just don’t get to sleep at all. When we flew to Hawaii with 6 kids, we had to take two flights with a duration of 23 hrs in total. Our youngest, still a baby, only slept 4 hours in the baby bassinet. During this time, our toddler decided to be awake, so either Rakesh or Anjali had to watch him. It is better to expect you will not sleep beforehand, than getting frustrated about your probable lack of sleep.

9) We thought you need to sit down to feed your kids and baby.
Not true. Anjali has been breastfeeding countless times while walking to a gate or just around the airport. You can feed your children while waiting in line. We waited with 6 kids after a long flight, two exhausting hours for Customs and Borders Protection in the USA. It was so difficult to keep the kids in line and occupied. It is a huge outcome to have some snacks in your bags. We usually fill our bags with leftover snacks from our in-flight meals, since we are not allowed to take food along from home.

10) We cared too much about what others might think.
When you fly with your children, this means a different routine and a different environment. You have to realize kids have a different schedule when you are flying and they probably act differently as well.
There might be a disruption in the sleep routine and jet-lag to cope with. Maybe you all have been sleepwalking at 3 am to a connecting flight.
All you can do is trying to prepare our kids and make them feel comfortable, but it will definitely happen at some stage your children show unpleasant behaviour. You cannot expect a toddler to sit on a seat for hours, this simply goes against everything a toddler stands for. You cannot expect a baby not to cry and even maybe to scream during an exhausting flight. Just try to make them feel at ease and comfortable. If other flyers are not tolerant, focus on your children and do anything to make them stop, distract them, play with them, feed them. Your family has every right to be there! Do not stress, since this will impact your children even more.

We hope you enjoyed reading this blog and more importantly, we hope you will not make the same mistakes!
Enjoy flying with your children!