If you want to feel good about your travel experiences with your little one, You have come to the right place. My 3 year old son Liam is very active to say the least and on many occasions that makes our life pretty adventurous, specially on travel days.
So here are few of my stories flying with two little children alone and it just might make your experience a little better by either managing your expectations about how it could be, being able to relate to the situation or just breath with ease as these things have not happened with you (just yet).
We all know that travelling and flying on its own can sometimes be a bit of a hassle and tiring but having small children with you just adds quite a bit to it. I won't even get into the logistics of hundred bags and strollers and car seats etc and just cut to the chase.
Liam is now 3 years old and we have been on at least 30 flights so far and to some extent he has gotten used to it, he knows how it works and what to expect, yet it is always so much fun for him to explore the airports' restricted areas and all the "toys" around there. For example when I was 7,5 months pregnant with Luca (my youngest) I flew alone with Liam and as my mobility was somewhat slower than usual, I had few occasions I simply could not get to him fast enough and the airport security brought him back to me.
It tends to begin with security check point entering the airport - I need to put the bags on the belt and take out my laptop and liquids.. which gives Liam plenty of time to run through the X-ray machine and enter the duty free shop without looking back. And when I say run, I absolutely mean run, as walking is not something that Liam does - walking is for slow and boring people :) So the security usually gives me a look that I should be able to keep him in line and brings him back to me.
So we continue inside and look for our gate, as we do so, Liam usually finds many that are not ours or even open to the public just yet and he loves checking them out by running under the blocking belt saying not to enter and goes all the way to the end of the tunnel. As I am not allowed to go there and with a big baby bump it is kind of hard to bend under and run after, the security team usually brings him back to me :) Also one closed gate is usually not enough to know what it is like, so he checks out few more before ours.
In addition to the gates, there are other very interesting things laying around the airport, like carry-on luggage measuring metal frames, to him these are climbing constructions and he will certainly climb inside. Funny story, he once got stuck in it and could not get out. For a moment there I chose to ignore him asking for help to get out as it turned out to be the perfect toddler prison for a minute or two to just give me enough time to catch my breath :)
Liam is also very helpful in mopping the airport floors, specially under the chairs where he usually hides and climbs while playing unannounced hide and seek with me, but at least there I do not need the assistance of the airport security and can get to him on my own :) Unlike the waiting area for entering the country and passport control, as this is another chance for him to prove how fast and small he is by running between people and under the separator belts away from me - luckily other parents in the line have proven to be pretty helpful there by sending him back my way.
Now that I have two little children to travel with, some occasions have become even more eventful, like changing the baby's diaper (halfway through the process) while your toddler has learnt to unlock the bathroom door from the inside and escapes as soon as he possibly can towards the escalator going down - you might have to grab your half naked baby boy in your arms and bolt after your toddler just like I did... I guess I should be grateful that it was my baby that was half naked this time, as I have in the past, ran after him topless with Luca on my boob to a hotel lobby before, because my little resourceful boy also knows how to unlock and open hotel room doors from the inside :)
The least I can say, travels with my little ones are eventful from the beginning to the end. While the waiting game until the flight takes off is fun on the ground, the joys of keeping your kids in their seats during the flight is yet another test of your and co-travellers' patience. But to be honest, my kids are not that bad at that - even though Liam opens and closes the window shutters 150x and the tray table another 150, I expect him to do so, so it does not bother me that much :) Luckily they usually don't cry either, the only thing that can be a bit annoying is Liam constantly kicking the seat in front of him and I can usually tell that the person sitting on that seat is not the happiest.
In case you were wondering why don't I put my kid(s) in a stroller going through the airport - the answer is simple - I want him to tire himself off before we get on a plane so I do not have to chase him there. Eventually pulling the shutter down and opening/closing the tray table gets old for him too and cartoons and ipad become super helpful grounding him - therefore the flying time itself is not as bad :)
But with a child like Liam, nothing is over unless it is really over, so before we exit the airport to drive home, he knows there is at least one more chance to take the most of the venue and what it has to offer, like an unconventional slide - what for most people is the luggage belt shaft coming from the ground to the ceiling.
So it just happened that I finally made it to my home airport in Tallinn and my best friend was greeting me on the other side of the glass wall looking into the baggage claim area, I had my smallest in a stroller and Liam next to me, started taking the luggage off the belt and while I managed to take my bag and put it down I see my bestie pointing with her finger behind me, telling me to look back, so I did.. just to find that Liam had climbed over the luggage belt and on top of the shaft touching the ceiling and sliding down from there with the biggest smile on his face. At that time the cabin crew had made it there as well and all looked amused. It took me just a few seconds to lift my luggage off that belt and it sure was enough for him to go for the fun ride :) What can I say, he is an adventurous child and sees fun in everything and while it can at times be difficult to digest, I actually find it quite amusing myself.
What I have found helpful during my travel days is to manage my expectations before flying. It will not be anything like travelling before kids, it will contain carrying way too many bags, running after kids, entertaining and taking care of them, a possible encounter with security etc. I may not be able to use the restroom during the flight and sleep, watch a movie or do anything for me really, but I also have to understand that they are little and for them it is exciting to go to a new place, get on a plane and see everything in it. So I try my best to take it easy and find joy in the excitement they are feeling and let them have their fun as long as it is acceptable.
Life gets pretty serious pretty fast anyways and it is refreshing to see regular things through the eyes of a 2-3 year old. The way Liam sees the world is full of fun, opportunities and joy and I don't ever want him to change in that sense - I hope he will always see the fun side of things and knows how to enjoy life.
As we will be flying again in few days, I do not know what's in the store for me on that trip just yet but the chances are it will be a smoother experience as I have learned a trick or two while travelling with little ones - one of them being booking a night flight (so the kids will sleep through it) when possible, which I have done for this trip, plus my husband is flying with me. Fingers crossed this one will be easy on us (and the kids) and I can tell you all about our adventures on a holiday instead.