Travelling With Kids: It’ll All Work Out in the Long-Haul

Daughter's idea of packing light for our holiday.

A good few years ago, going away was a doddle. Getting ready for work was a cinch. Meeting friends? We’d be more or less on time. And leaving the house for any duration of time? Well, according to Lionel Ritchie, that was easy like Sunday morning.

Then our son was born. We had to adjust. 

Soon we realised not only leaving the house became a mentally taxing endeavour in itself, but also when we finally managed to get out the door, we found we were carrying more bags than a scorned shopaholic. Only our bags were full of nappies, wipes and spare clothing instead of sparkling Prada and Gucci garments.

Travelling anywhere was not straightforward. 

So, recently my wife and I, now several years on, two further kids, greying and making that groaning exhalation noise from both sitting down in a chair and getting up from it (me, not my wife – should clarify that!), thought it’d be nice to have a little trip to see family over in the States. 

We knew it’d be great when we got there. There’s just the small matter of eight hours in a flying winged, steel tube with nothing to break our fall than thousands of miles of ocean. And we’d be travelling with three kids too. 

We don’t fly often. And each time there’s something that triggers that question of why are we doing this again? 

For instance, our last flight (four years ago) was a plain and simple case – we missed it. Despite giving ourselves plenty of time and running to the gate as though we were trying to re-enact the airport scene from Home Alone, horrible queues resulted in us doing the walk of shame back to collect our baggage. 

Ever done that? That lonely walk back to a carousel of bags and you’re the only sad sacks waiting to collect your sad sacks? It’s pretty demoralising stuff.  

And then the flight before that (to Texas, six years ago), my son in all his excitement was kicking his legs, and subsequently the chair in front, as he watched an inflight movie. I’d tell him to stop, he’d forget what I’d said, get excited, and start kicking his legs again. 

The angry looking, shaven headed man in front of us wasn’t too impressed with this. Nor could he see how a movie could be so exciting that it could justifiably be responsible for ruining his showing of Downton Abbey, or whatever he was watching. 

Anyway, looking to keep the peace and long story short, I ended up positioning my leg across my son’s feet, so every time Jerry would knock out Tom’s teeth with a mallet, my son would give the back of my leg a kick.

Ah, good times… deep breath in… deep breath out…

So, this time we were going to do it right! We were going to shove the sporty tube socks down our pants and overcompensate for our previous flights; and did so by arriving at the airport five hours early (which is too much, by the way) with hand luggage the size of hitchhiker backpacks, full of things to entertain the kids. 

On the plane we were prepared too. Dinner had been eaten a couple of hours earlier in the airport so if the kids didn’t like the in-flight meal they wouldn’t be going hungry. We’d booked the night flight so most of it would be had while sleeping. My son’s legs were now too long to be kicking the seat in front which was a bonus too. That or his film was tripe. 

All in all, with the trip to the airport and plane journey itself being under control this time, I have to say, it was a much better start to a family holiday.

I can’t claim everything went perfectly. We were still chucking things into our suitcases while the taxi driver was waiting outside to take us to the airport, and we forgot a couple of things like headphones for my son, for example.

But progress is progress. 

And when you can say you got off an eight hour flight at your destination feeling relatively fresh, bearing no bruises on your calves (thanks to a literal good kicking), that sounds like a win in my book.

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