Monday, 1 June 2009

flying with children, flying without them

We're back. 5 weeks break in the UK has whizzed by, but it was time to go home. So we packed up the most enormous number of bags and boxes and got ourselves in Heathrow to catch a flight to Budapest, another to Sarajevo and then drove a further 3 hours to get back to Tuzla.

So much travelling in the last couple of weeks, both with and without the kids, was a stark reminder of how different the whole flight experience is when you are in charge of small children.

1. Inflight Entertainment

Without children - it may have been cramped and crowded mayhem on the flight to New York, but we could read and watch movies (and I did watch quite a few). Bliss. Total, unadultered bliss. I may have been a bit overexcited about the whole experience.

With children - walking up and down the aisles endlessly desperately scanning the faces for sympathetic passengers or anyone who might also have a child. Trying to keep them out of the galley area. A lot of Room on the Broom and Sir. Charlie Stinky Socks stories (with appropriate soundtrack at high volume).

2. Conversations

Without Children - would you prefer the beef or the chicken darling? Which film are you going to watch? Please pass me the second half of the newspaper. Shall we go to MOMA on Friday? Do you think we'll have time to go to the theatre?

With Children - It would be a good idea if you went to the loo now before we got on the plane. Please stop kicking the seat of the woman in front. Don't stand up on you chair. Keep your seat belt done up - and the table up too! Shhhh. Look at all the tiny cars and houses down there. I don't think sweetle beatles live in the airplane wings. Stop hitting your brother. You can't need to go to the loo again. Don't press the alarm button in the loo. I don't know what that button does. Sit still. I know we've been flying for a long time, but we still have quite a long time to go. What about some drawing? I've got some stickers for you. I don't think they want you to put stickers on there.

Then with David, conveniently seated away from the mayhem as the airlines couldn't seat us all together - We are swapping seats. It is your turn right now! No you can't finish the article you are reading.

3. Going to the loo

Without children - whenever I wanted. On my own. In under 10 minutes.

With children - always with at least one, occasionally two in tow. Not to mention any bags which also need to be shoved into the cramped cubicle. Any event accompanied by a commentary informing the whole of the ladies that Mummy has just done a wee. Inevitably an attempt is made to open the door, leaving Mummy exposed with trousers around her ankles. Once or twice they have a success. Inevitably there is some water spraying around the sinks, soap splashed all over the place and then a fight over who is going to put their hands in the dryer first.

4. Waiting at the terminal

Without children - time for an elegant, relaxed coffee. Possibly with paper. Able to move fast when the flight is called. Even if we are still horrendously late for the flight, we can still peg it to get there on time.

With children - impromptu wrestling match and lots of running around as I try to exhaust the activity impulses for a few hours. Rolling around on the floor always attracts disapproving looks from other adults, although those with children often join us. Have to move as soon as the flight is called and we will still be the last there as Luke will inevitably be drawn to some rubbish bin and have to be prized away screaming. If they make us take our shoes off, at least one shoe will disappear for some time and at least one child will make a break for it whilst I am trying to put my shoes back on.

5. Food

Without children - it arrives, we eat it with a glass of wine or so, have a coffee afterwards. Not the greatest meal I've ever had but not the worst either. All is well.

With children - it arrives. They take one bite and hate it. I don't blame them for this, airlines do insist on providing absurdly strongly flavoured cheese and onion sandwiches which kids are never going to go for. They do eat the chocolate thing provided though and then go a bit nuts. I try to cram some apples into them, or maybe a prepacked sandwich but they don't go for this. It leads to a day of appalling eating and stomach aches later.

6. On arrival

Without children - thanking everyone that we don't have kids with us, we wait patiently in the immigration queue. Once through, pick up luggage and decide to catch the subway into the city as there is horrendous traffic. Proceed smoothly with no problems.

With children - children, released from sitting down quietly, race around like demons, respecting no queue or the immigration desks. Just as we get to the front, one will need a wee really desperately and we will have to negotiate vaguely keeping our place. Contemplate getting the bus back home to Tuzla. This will mean getting taxis (notice the plural, we were never going to be able to get all our stuff into one taxi) to the bus station and then a 3 hour bus ride. Abandon idea rapidly and rent a car instead.

We're pleased to be back home, and actually the journey back wasn't as bad as it could have been. However, we're not about to repeat the experience anytime soon and I need a holiday to recover.


Mummy said...

Hilarious, one of the best posts ever for any frequent flying Mummy.

The first time I flew on my own without Eve I was scared with how much time I seemed to have on my hands. I have been a bit of a business class bunny in the last few years because the bank used to pay for it, and it was my first flight alone since they made all travel economy.

It felt like first class. I watched a movie, a whole one (albeit half in french and half in english because the entertainment system was broken), a whole meal, had a glass of wine AND read the newspaper.

Laura McIntyre said...

Welcome back.

And for all those reasons you gave that is why we choose to remain in the UK for holidays rather than travel overseas. Just now worth the hassle

Kat said...

I hate flying with my kids and seriously I think you just listed EVERY. SINGLE. REASON. Including being exposed with my trousers around my ankles in the plane loo.

Kathryn said...

There are many times when I feel nostalgia about when my boys were little - when we are travelling is not one of them! (but having to hang around until midnight, like last night, to go and lpick one of them up definately is!!)

TeacherMommy said...

I've never braved such a thing and may never do so now. A six-hour car ride is trauma enough.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Mummy - we were firmly economy and I was the most excited person there. I might have passed out in anything more luxurious!

LM - if we didn't have to use a plane to get home and see family, I wouldn't step near one either.

Kat - tragically the exposure of trousers round ankles has not been limited to plane loos. I have a veritable collection of places that have seen more of me than they would wish...

Kathryn - I'm blanking the teenage years that are coming out of my mind!

TM - I'd keep it that way! 6 hours in a car is also torture though.

I probably ought to say as well - they were actually pretty well behaved! I mean, I know how bad they can be and this didn't even really get close to full on. Bless them. It was still purgatory for us though.

clareybabble said...

Ha ha! You've just completely put me off ever flying with my children! Really funny post :D

Rebel Mother said...

Oh that did make me laugh! We try to travel a fair amount - my Hubby works for that airline!!!

I know exactly what you go through. Unfortunately I always have my kids with me - but there getting older so they can queue for the loo by themselves.

Olly does try to climb over the passengers to get around to the other loo instead of going round the back. He is 5ft 5", aged 11 with a size 8 shoe! Not a mean feat!


ck said...

You are pretty amazing. I think I'd rather walk to Bosnia than to take my kids there by plane...

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

CB - it isn't that bad. Actually it is that bad - but at least it is limited in time. We could have been going to Asia or Australia!

RM - going to the loo on their own. That would make a huge difference. And I guess they can talk to the passengers as they clamber?

ck - to be honest, it is not that much worse than a long car journey. At least they can run around in the airport!

Anonymous said...

Hilarious post! For all the reasons you've listed, we've not taken them further than France to date. Our funniest/worst moment on a plane was when the two older children were air sick at the same time, both trying hard to get it in their sick bags. The third, who was about 18 months didn't want to miss out on the action so got his sick bag and started to make retching noises! Ah, how we laughed...

The wife of bold said...

Very funny post, brought back lots of traumatic memories, we were so put off by flying from last years trip to spain we decided to drive to france in febuary - BIG mistake! Flying with four in tow now seems like a doddle in comparison.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Hee hee that was brilliant. I'll never forget flying to Corfu with Miss E aged 15 moths and her screaming all the way. On the return when we got hit by lightening she slept like a baby.