Tuesday, August 2, 2011

6 things I learned on the latest trip with my kids

I'm back home in Canada with my kids after a wonderful month-long trip to visit family in northern Sweden. Every trip with my kids teaches me something new, and here are six things I learned on our latest outing:

Third flight of the day: exhaustion.

1. Stuff happens, but don't panic (if you can help it)
Even with all the preparation in the world, you can never be prepared for everything that can happen when you're traveling with kids. I found this out on our trip to the Canary Islands in the spring, and again when we were coming back to Canada from Sweden on this latest trip.

This time, the unexpected came in the form of a special security check when we were showing our boarding passes when heading for our gate at Keflavik Airport in Iceland. It was my 4-year old daughter who was picked for this special security check. She had to be taken to a separate room (accompanied by me and her brother of course), where several security personnel were present. Once there, we were all patted down and so was our hand luggage. The staff then placed the gloves they had used for the pat-down in what I guess was a bomb-sniffing machine.

The kids handled this unexpected incident admirably, though they did look somewhat confused by the proceedings. Picking a 4-year old for a special security screening was weird enough, in my opinion, though I guess it was a true random check. What made the whole thing really crazy however, was that we were already over an hour late for our connecting flight to Seattle, due to our flight from Stockholm to Keflavik being delayed. So when my daughter was selected for the screening, our flight was actually boarding and due to leave in 15 minutes!

As part of the special security screening, an airport employee had to escort us to the gate and when we finally got there, the screen at the gate said "Final Call", and we had a plane full of passengers waiting for us. I do appreciate that Iceland Air did wait for us to get there (we were assured repeatedly that they would), but wow, that was one extra-stressful connection!

2. One more use for zip loc bags
I already had 8 uses figured out for zip loc bags, now I have one more: keep your currencies straight while traveling. On this trip I carried Canadian currency, Swedish currency and Icelandic currency. I kept the coins and bills for each in a small zip loc bag, which made it very easy to see what kind of money I was getting out of my purse. Much easier than carrying it in a wallet.

3. When traveling with a picky eater, eat a good pre-flight meal at the airport
My daughter is still in a picky eater phase, and she usually turns down any food offered on board unless it's chips, or a familiar snack like a granola bar. This time around, we had enough time at Stockholm airport before we headed out to eat a meal before catching our flight.

Airport restaurants usually do offer better variety than any on-board menu, and it's also more relaxed to eat while seated at a regular table. Since I knew my daughter had eaten a good meal before we left, I didn't have to be too concerned about her getting a full meal on board.

4. Always ask if your luggage can be checked all the way to your final destination
On this trip, we were traveling with Iceland Air and Scandinavian Airlines (for the domestic flight between SkellefteƄ and Stockholm in Sweden). At the Scandinavian Airlines' check-in at tiny SkellefteƄ Airport, I asked if our luggage could be tagged and checked all the way to our final destination, Seattle, even though we were traveling on Iceland Air for the rest of our flights. And it was no problem: turns out Scandinavian Airlines cooperates with Iceland Air in Sweden.

This meant we did not have to wait for our luggage in Stockholm, and just needed to get our boarding passes there. Big time and stress saver, especially when traveling with kids. My advice: always ask if your luggage can be checked through to your final destination, even if you are traveling on several flights with two or more different airlines. It's definitely worth a try!

5. Kids who now what's going on make much better travelers
There's a lot of waiting around when you're traveling by plane, and this can be very frustrating and aggravating for kids (and adults too!). However, if your kids know why they're waiting, it can really take the edge off the frustration. On our trip home this time, one of our planes sat on the tarmac for what seemed a very long time before making it to our gate.

Instead of getting anxious and impatient, my kids (4 and 8 years old) discussed the delay as seasoned travelers: 4-year old: "I think we're waiting our turn." 8-year old: "Yeah, there must be another plane in front of us. We'll be moving soon."

The kids did amazing on this latest trip. They handled the 20-hour travel day and multiple connecting flights like pros with very few cranky moments.

6. Just when you think you know the potential problems and how to deal with them, new problems will arise
Used to be, the problems I had to deal with when traveling with my kids basically had to do with calming fears and anxieties and dealing with boredom. Now, those things are no longer big issues at all. Instead, my main problem turned out to be occasionally having to prevent two tired, travel-weary kids from getting into fights with each other.

This is quite a new development. They have both figured out exactly how to push each others' buttons and love practising this new skill. On this trip there were intense moments of mutual pinching, poking, and generally just annoying the crap out of each other. It didn't happen a lot, and it didn't happen on board (because then I was sitting between them), but it did happen in a couple of airport lineups. Shoving, elbowing, and loud shouting just are not my favored activities when in line for immigration...

Next trip, I'll be better prepared for those kinds of shenanigans, but then they'll probably have something new in store for me anyway!


  1. My kid is the PICKIEST eater in the world, yet you'd think I would remember to bring him food on a plane :) Always forget to!

    And we love ziploc bags, for everythign!

  2. At least I seem to be dealing with just one picky eater now: my son is getting a lot better at eating "new" things. One down, one to go? LOL!


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