Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Traveling with kids: 5 observations from our latest trip

After almost 20 hours of travel, kids do get kind of tired...
I spent this past weekend on planes and in airports as I traveled with the kids all the way to Sweden from Vancouver. We started off with a 3 hour drive to Seattle's Sea-Tac airport, followed by two flights with Iceland Air, and one domestic Swedish flight up to my old hometown in Sweden.

What did I learn from my latest long-haul travel experience with kids? Well, here are 5 observations I made:

1. I love Sea-Tac International Airport
Their play room is a dream come true when you've got some time to kill while waiting for a flight with kids. A whole room, all full of climbing equipment, crawling tunnels, and slide-y stuff, plus comfy seats along the walls for parents.

With the large bathroom (complete with a change-table of course), as well as a nursing room, it's a five star facility in my book. My kids spent about 1 1/2 hours playing there, running around and having fun with lots of other kids while the parents lounged on the sidelines. Just awesome. Every airport should have something like it.

2. I love catching a connecting flight at Iceland's Keflavik airport 
It's a small airport, so thereƤs no long walk to the next gate. Security and immigration were fast and friendly and there was barely even a line-up. Our time between flights was just over one hour, and we still had time to grab a snack before boarding the next flight!

3. The kid-friendliness of the food on Iceland Air leaves something to be desired
The kids did get their free kids' meals. But on the first flight from Seattle to Keflavik, this consisted of a ham and cheese sandwich with some kind of red relish on it. Kids were not too much into that unfortunately (neither was I when I tasted it...).

Next flight, Keflavik-Stockholm, was better food-wise, with a ham and cheese croissant, chocolate bar, bag of pretzels, and a juice box. Of course, picky-eater 4-year old did not eat her croissant, but at least the 8-year old had a pretty good meal.

The airline does offer food for sale, but there's nothing very kid-friendly available (at least not for those of use traveling with picky young eaters). Mixed salads, sushi (which was very good mind you), a wrap with veggies, and a couple of other items. I would have loved it if there was at least something simple like yogurt, fresh fruit, or a veggie plate with dip.

4. Kids can survive quite well on snacks
My picky-eater survived quite well for the 20 hours on granola bars, a couple of bags of chips, chocolate bars, water, crackers, pretzels, and the tiny side-salad she scavenged from my in-flight meal. Oh, and a few lollipops tossed in for good measure. Not the healthiest diet ever, but she didn't complain!

Bringing your own snacks (in my case the granola bars, crackers and pretzels) is essential if you have a kid who might not eat the airline food. Hungry, tired kids on a plane are way harder to deal with than kids who are "just" tired. Next time I'm adding raisins, and maybe baby carrots to my snack-stash.

5. After almost 20 hours of travel, kids might not do well in line-ups
When we arrived at Arlanda airport, Stockholm, the kids were seriously exhausted. They had been good sports for the whole trip, but here we had a couple of minor melt-downs.

My 4-year old cried for half an hour because I wouldn't buy her a stuffed reindeer, and my 8-year old decided that he wanted to go back to Canada, and didn't think we should check in our luggage for the next flight (and let all this be known quite loudly...).

Combined with a busy, messy airport terminal (Arlanda's terminal 4 is in serious need of a remodel in my opinion), it was not a great travel-moment. Still, we survived, made it to the gate and on to our last flight of the trip. Both kids promptly fell asleep as the plane took off.

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