"How long is our flight?" "11 hours!" "What can we do on the plane?" "Eat, sleep, play quietly with toys, use the bathroom, color or draw, watch movies, and play on the DS." "What can we NOT do on the plane?" "CRY!"
This was the conversation I repeated with my kids in the weeks leading up to our flight at random times. Setting expectations is always important, but you have heard that before, regardless of what the circumstances are... "how much will the vaccine shot hurt?", "how long will we stay at a friends party?", "what will the dentist do?". Kids do really well in handling situations when you set their expectations. With that said, however, my one and only advice is not about setting expectations (though you would be doing yourself a favor if you oblige). To find out what my advice is, keep on reading!
Our Flight(s) to Vietnam
Our first flight was a piece of cake. Only an hour and half on Air France from Madrid to Paris. We were served drinks and chocolate croissants! Not something we were used to after flying with Ryanair, where even the flight attendants joke about charging for ice cubes in water. We told the kids that all the gadgets and toys would not make an appearance on this flight, that the point was to just relax. The time went by very quickly, with no incidents whatsoever.
Once we arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, we were ushered to the front of the immigration line, thanks to our 2 kids (love this perk about traveling with kids), and the officer stamped us out of Europe! The 4 hour layover also went by quickly, as I mostly worked on a blog post while the kids played.
Alas, it was time to board the dreaded 11 hour flight with two young kids. I am not afraid of flying. In fact I am one of those people who doesn't even mind a bit of turbulence, I find the slight rocking to be soothing and it always makes me very sleepy. Yes, I know I am very strange. But, 11 hours stuck in an aluminum flying tube with 2 little kids was slightly terrifying, especially because the gigantic Boeing 777 was full of grown ups. Older grown ups, many of whom were likely retired or almost retired and were part of tour groups. It doesn't matter how nice someone is and how many kids and grandkids they have, when you are on an 11 hour flight, you don't want to hear a baby or kid cry, scream, or be too loud (even if it's happy loud).
I told my husband a few days prior that we (as a good mom and dad) should have nothing planned to accomplish on the plane. No coding for him, no writing for me, no reading books for either of us, and no planning on getting any sleep. If we board the plane with the mentality that we must be available to the kids the entire time, then there should be a lot less frustration all around.
Mentalities and expectations set! Let the 11 hour flight begin!
Waiting for Take off
We started off with me reading The Little Mermaid to Hannah on the iPad while Kian and daddy played Zelda on the DS.
The 11 Hours of Flying
Hannah was very excited to use her stickers and draw as soon as the plane was up in the air and we could use the tables again. She went through the entire sheet of princess and Dora stickers in less than 30 mins!! My reaction? Yikes! We still have another 10+ hours of flying!!!! Thankfully, shortly thereafter there were some gorgeous views of the Alps from above to look at which helped distract her for a while.
The next few hours were spent playing with mermaids, eating the food we were served (they Vietnam Airlines crew was great!), and playing with princesses.
Since Kian and Daddy-O were sitting behind us, I didn't take as many pictures of them. They were very content beating bad creatures in their games, eating food, and chatting here and there. About half way into the flight, I asked Hannah to close her eyes and go to sleep, and was presented with a resounding NO! "I am not tired", she said. I knew she was, but to prevent her from making a scene and waking up the lady next to me, I asked her if I could just hold her for a bit. She agreed, but instead of resting, she started to sing a song, "soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur....happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr purr purr..." (you are welcome Big Bang Theory Fans) followed by "go to sleep mommy"!!
She ended up watching some Looney Tunes instead, because that's what Kian was doing. Then finally around the 6th hour I used whatever tricks I had up my sleeve to win the sleep game! Of course with Kian, all we had to say was, "put away what you are doing and close your eyes to sleep for a bit", and he obliged.
While Hannah slept, I got to watch a whole movie, and thought to myself, this isn't too bad. Honestly, flying with preschoolers is much easier than flying with babies. I had this whole perfect picture in my mind that for the rest of the flight the kids would sleep. 5 hours of sleep would be perfect prior to arrival, and I could get some sleep too.
HA! Foolish me! As these wonderful thoughts crossed my mind and my eye lids started to get heavy. Hannah started to roll around and slowly woke up! "I closed my eyes! Let's play mommy", she said very matter of fact.
Deep breaths and remembering the mentality I had boarded the plane with helped me out. That plus the breakfast that was served and the fact that most people were starting to "wake up" and review their paperwork, etc. So Hannah and I kept on playing because that made her happy and despite her delirious state, she played on.
The entire time we were in the air, we only experienced turbulence a few times, and I swear I could have just gone to sleep while it was happening. The kids were completely unfazed by the rattling plane.
Prior to landing, a few people around us commented on how good Hannah was during the entire flight. They asked how old she is and said that she was so great. I gave both kids lollipops as we started our descent, but thankfully neither of them had any issues with their ears and neither of them finished their lollipop! Ha!
Finally, after almost 11 hours of flying, the plane landed in Hanoi. We got out of the plane completely exhausted and drained physically, but mentally we were all in good spirits. Since I've crossed over into "tomorrow", you'll just have to stay tuned to see what things were like after arriving in Hanoi!
So there you have it, my one and only piece of advice to parents of young kids on long flights is to have an abundance of patience. Patience, Patience, Patience...and okay, one and a half things, don't plan on getting anything done. The time spent in the air does not equal your relaxing/getting work done time. At least not as long as you fly with young kids :) If your kids are happy and quiet during the flight, you will be a happy parent. I know it!
What do you think? Will this work for you and your kids? What do you do on flights with little kids?