If you don't have children, or never intend to travel with your children, turn away now. This post will bore you to tears, and I'd hate to do that on a relatively nice Thursday. If you have kids, or had kids, read on. Hopefully my experience can assist (or amuse) you somewhat.
The elusive Toddalope. Only found in Kansas.
Caveat before you go on: These things work for my two monkeys. I have no idea if they'll work on your kids. Your kids may be llamas, or sloths for all I know. Feel free to try them or ignore them as you see fit.
We took the monkeys on a 2 hour plane trip out to Topeka, Kansas this past weekend (ok, we flew into Kansas City, Mo, if you want to be picky, and then we drove the 1 1/2 hours to Topeka). It was a fully successful trip. We had two minor snafoos, but even those were ok.
1) This is a big one: Prepare your kid for the trip. Talk about it before hand. We decided that two weeks was an appropriate amount of time. Just enough to get LG excited, but not enough to make it abstract. We talked about getting to go on an airplane, and seeing the farm and his cousin Karson. We let him know he'd have to sit in his car seat, and we'd go up in the air. We talked about going through airport security, and staying close to PB at all times. Before we left, we decided that I would be responsible for little o, and PB would take care of LG (we did trade off once or twice, but with really clear communication. Nobody thought a kid was "with the other person" when they weren't.) Same thing about the car trip. We talked about going on the highway, and stopping at the rest stops. We told LG he'd be in his own big boy bed, and little o would be in the pack and play at the hotel. Make sure they know what to expect and what you expect of them.
2) If you are going to fly, put kids who can walk into their own seat in a car seat (if you can afford it). I know it's tempting to save the money and put your 18 month old on your lap, but that's just uncomfortable for both you and them. No little kid who can walk wants to spend more than a half hour on your lap quietly. And it's a tight fit in those airline seats. If your kid knows they have to sit in their car seat at all times in the car, they won't even think about getting out on the plane. And they're much more comfortable.
3) Make sure you research what can and can't go on an airplane, what can be gate checked, what needs to be in a quart size clear bag, etc. Do this well before hand so you know your options. Call the airline and the airport if anything is unclear. I ended up buying little o's formula straight from the manufacturer so I could get the 6 oz nursettes. I called the airport to make sure it was ok. I got the name, title and phone number of the woman who said it was, just in case some power hungry security guy gave me a problem. They allowed them in my carry on as long as they were still manufacturer sealed. Yes, someone checked the seal. We gate checked two strollers and little o's car seat at no charge, with no complaints by anyone. LG's carseat was strapped into the airline seat. If your airline has this stuff on their website, print it out and bring it with you. You can never be too prepared.
4) On our way out to Kansas, I kept the things that would have to be taken out of the carry on in a separate grocery bag. Little o's medicine and formula, and our toiletries were in clear quart size bags, I just put those bags into a grocery bag. I knew they'd go into the carry on to go on the plane, but I kept them out before security. I just dumped the contents of my grocery bag into one of those little bins, without having to open our carry on while in line and juggling the kids. Then, once we were through security, I took my time to get them into our luggage.
This one helped a lot. Kids need to be out of strollers and car seats and go through the metal detector, so you've got your hands full. Their jackets and shoes have to come off, just like yours do. Your going to have a line of people behind you, they don't want to wait for you to fish out your krappe and juggle your kids.
I'll admit that I didn't do this on the way home and it caused a minor snaffoo. LG was having a little anxiety (more on that in a second) and PB was distracted and forgot to take the medicine out of the carry on. When the lady discovered this, not only did she act like I was trying to smuggle nuclear grade weapons on the plane, but she gave all our stuff an extra critical eye and me a 7 minute (yes, I timed it) lecture on how to travel. It sucked and threw off my mojo.
5) Bring different levels of snacks and a few different distractions. If the kids are behaved they get level 1 (in our case graham crackers). If they start to get antsy they get level 2 (fruit snacks). If they were on the verge of meltdown we had level 3 (m&ms, jelly beans). We had books, markers and paper and their comfort item (we allowed LG to pick 2 small things to bring on the plane, he chose his snuggle blanket and a stuffed animal). Avoid stuff that makes noise where the volume can't be turned off or that need space to play (we didn't take his cars, or his toy phone- nobody around us wanted to hear "help me call my friend" over and over for 2 hours). LG had his own backpack with his stuff (not the snacks, I controlled those). We tried it on the night before to make sure it wasn't too heavy for him to carry.
6) Travel at a time of day that's good for both you and your kids. I know it's tempting to drive through the night, or take the red eye and hope the kids sleep, but what if they don't? Also, if you travel in the middle of the night, you're tired the next day. Then you're grumpy. Who wants that on vacation? And we all know that the sleep you get in a car or on a plane is never as good as it is in bed. Give up that extra 1/2 day at your destination and just travel when everyone can be expected to be at their best. Make the trip an adventure, instead of just a means of getting there, if you can.
7) Kids are unpredictable, go with it. Our second snaffoo happened on the way home at the KC airport. It's a much smaller airport, so security is pretty much right at the gate. No long line to prepare in. LG was holding his stuffed giraffe when we got to the metal detector. The security guy snagged it from his hands and put it in a bin on the conveyer belt. This did not go over well. Cue crying 2 year old not understanding why some strange man just took his Stretchy away. Followed by grumpy security man who didn't understand why a 2 year old wouldn't just walk through the metal detector and get his stuffed animal back. Yeah, it was good times. PB ended up carrying him through. It took me just a few minutes to get him to stop crying, but all this happened while the lady was rummaging through our stuff. It was a stressful few minutes.
8) Buy what you can at your destination. We didn't bring food or diapers with us. In our case I sent them ahead with my in-laws who drove. But it would have been just as easy to do a little internet search for the grocery store nearest our hotel and plan a trip there once we arrived. You need to bring clothes and stuff like that, but why carry stuff you don't have to? It's probably a good idea to know where the nearest Walmart is anyway, so that when you realize you didn't pack socks for your 7 month old or the sheet for the pack and play you don't freak out. Just saying, it happens.
Last bit of advice: smile and be friendly to everyone around you. Let people who are alone with no bags go ahead of you. Thank people who are helpful. Everyone on our trip (minus the jerk at security) was really understanding. They helped us out, and were patient. I don't normally give LG chocolate, but when the steward on the way home handed him a Twix bar for being such a good boy, I smiled and let him take it. Many people complimented him on being so well behaved.
And that, my friends, is all I've got. Like I said above, this won't work for everyone. It may not apply to you at all. But it did work for us. If you've got any specific questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'll get back to you.
Come back next Thursday for actual pictures of the trip. Cow being born and all. And, as always, via con dios.