Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Le Voyage Avec L'Enfant

I half-heartedly tried to use my French language skills while briefly visiting Paris on our way home from India. Le Parisien way of speaking is a little intimidating, I have to admit. It's much more refined and pretty sounding than the French-Canadien version of the language I am used to speaking and hearing. But, Mom and I managed to strike up a lively (and, as it turned out, slightly creepy) conversation with a French market merchant while shopping for vintage wares. Those French men love to love, I suppose. Mom scored a "caresse gratuit" (free hug). Whoever says that nothing in this world is free is clearly giving dignity too much credit.

After heading over to India last year with both kids in tow, I'll admit that I was dreading the flight portion this time around with my two-year-old. From Canada, we headed to Germany, then on to India. That's 20+ hours of actual confinement in an aircraft with a bunch of strangers and a small person who likes to spit and poop his pants. Go ahead - I'll let you think about that for a minute.

The iPad was charged. The snacks were packed. I had a book, headphones, and some crayons on board. There was also Ativan in my bag and I knew damn well that wine would be served with dinner. I'm not an animal - I made sure to apologize to my surrounding passengers before takeoff and constantly told my son not to "be that baby on the plane". Luckily for us, he likes to eat and sleep. And poop his pants, but there's nothing we could change about that at the time. On the way home, I thought he kept filling his diaper, but I eventually learned that it was the stinky cheese from Paris that Mom had in her duty free bag.

So, my advice to parents who are flying with children. Here it is. Little nuggets of wisdom that will get you through tiny domestic flights or mind-numbing long international hauls ...

First, you need to come to terms with the idea of confinement. You can't leave, so suck it up and deal with the fact you've made the decision to fly with children. You're that person and you're going to get stink eye from time to time.

Here's a list of things I highly recommend that you bring with you. You'll want to make adjustments to this list, depending on the number and ages of children you are travelling with.

Multi-sided crayon.
  • Headphones that fit the child properly. We had good luck with Sony's padded travel headset. Most earbuds are way too big for children and probably uncomfortable for you, too, after a while anyway.
  • A multi-sided crayon. What the hell is that?, you ask. Instead of having a load of tiny wax projectiles getting lost in your bag, try to get your hands on one of two of these (see image). You can easily make a similar one yourself. I'd show you how right now, but I'm pretty tired and don't feel like it.
  • iPad. I know that's a pretty pricey thing to "need" to keep a kid entertained, but man ... you won't regret it. Just make sure that any Apps that you download (for free, obviously) can be used without an internet connection. Always keep the iPad on airplane mode when you're in the air.
  • Snacks. I know they serve food on flights, but most kids end up being hungry when no snack cart is in sight. Personally, we love Buddy Fruits or similar products. They are simply pureed fruits, veggies, and sometimes grains, packed in a recyclable pouch. No preservatives, added sugar, or salt. They also don't need to be refrigerated until they are opened (they don't last very long once opened - they're really delicious).  
Healthy and convenient snack option.
  • Wet wipes & hand sanitizer. If you have a baby, you know how baby wipes can save your sanity in a ton of situations. Even if you aren't travelling with kids, I highly recommend bringing wipes & sanitizer with you. The world is a filthy place. And you never know when a jam packet will explode in your bag.
With any luck, you'll manage to actually get seats together and you can let your little monsters stretch out and annoy no one but yourself. If you're flying with Lufthansa, you might end up on the other end of the plane, faaaar away from them, and that's ok, too. (Sorry about the jab, Lufthansa, but you made me stabby and I had to be sane or you might consider me some sort of irate passenger and kick me off the flight). 

All in all, it was a great trip. So great that I've already decided that the next one will be an adult-only all-inclusive one.

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