The Boy Band is preparing to go on tour! We have been invited to Australia at the end of next week to fill in for the Rolling Stones. (Ok, we’ve actually been invited to a family wedding, but it still feels like we are preparing for a tour…)
Here is how the members of the Boy Band usually prepare: they jump about the furniture screaming hysterically about the idea of (a) staying up past bedtime to get to the airport, and (b) missing a few days of school. This giddiness will escalate, over the next 10 days, to an unacceptably high level of naughtiness. On the WHO scale of bad behaviour (I believe there is an app to measure this), it will reach Dangerously High, followed by Harmful To The Health Of The General Public. This craziness will result in me losing both my cool and my mind, and insanely screeching, “That’s it! You’ve lost all iPad time for a month!”
Big mistake. my friends. HUUUUGE mistake! Who am I punishing here? We’re about to go on a nine-hour flight and I’ve just banned iPads. Quick! Somebody invent a time machine so I can whoosh back and bite my out-of-control tongue! In fact, just pass me a rusty knife and I’ll saw that wagging flesh from my mouth rather than utter those words again.
I have seen the future, and the future is unpleasant. Therefore, I will not – NOT – be provoked into confiscating iPads or other handheld sedatives before a long-haul flight. So, while the hyper behaviour slowly creeps up the scale from “Boys Will Be Boys” to “Let’s See What The Police Have To Say About That”, I am going to practise deep breathing, find my inner zen and mentally prepare for being in a small metal tube for nine hours with my four ‘energetic’ (a euphemism for ‘out of control’) darlings.
To be honest, nine hours will seem like a walk in the park, given that our usual journey from Hong Kong to visit Grandma and Grandad in the north-east of England takes about 22 hours door-to-door. We’ve survived enough long-haul flights with the Boy Band over the years that One World have recently awarded us Medals of Valour (and requested that we switch to Star Alliance for all future flights.)
I am willing to share my top tips for air travel with infants and young children. These, my friends, are the essentials to be packed in your carry-on luggage.
- Benadryl. This is not for the Boy Band. Goodness, if I drugged my children every time I felt they were annoying other people, they’d spend their childhood floating in a soporific haze. No, the Benadryl is for the adults in the rows behind and in front of me. They may be grateful for a swig of it by hour five.
- One thousand small packets of sweeties/candies. Again, not for the Boy Band. Do I look like a rookie? Under cover of darkness, once the cabin lights have dimmed, I distribute these to children sitting in our section of the plane. With a bit of luck, their sugar high will detract from the antics of my own children.
- Sticky tape. This has a two-fold purpose. When Drummer Boy refuses to stop rhythmically pounding his feet into the spine of the man seated in front of him, I use the tape to secure his errant legs in the brace position. Safety first, folks! And when The Cute One is being less than cute and wailing at a pitch that drowns out all four jet engines, I go all Eastern Bloc orphanage and tape his dummy firmly into his mouth. Sweet, sweet silence.
- Small toys galore. As soon as the ‘Fasten Seatbelt’ sign has switched off, I fish handfuls of small toys from my bag (e.g., die cast cars, crayons, dice, plastic dinosaurs and the like) and strew them liberally on the floor, making sure to toss most of them far under the seats about 3 rows in front. Then, I stuff the few remaining pieces of Lego or toy soldiers down the sides of the seats, mashing them in with bits of month-old food and other people’s skin flakes. This skips the annoying step of playing with a toy for three minutes before losing it, and goes straight to the more challenging “find a small toy in the dark” game. It’s especially challenging for Drummer Boy when his legs are taped to his chair.
- iPads. Forget all the above steps if you must – but pack those iPads before you even pack your passports or e-ticket printouts. We like to take an iPad 1 (it has a certain quaint antique value), an iPad 2, an iPad Air and an iPad Mini (did I mention we have four boys, and we are cooped up in a very tight space for a very long time?). All bets are off, all rules are in abeyance. If the one-year-old wants nine hours of Baby Einstein, I am not going to be Amish about it.
One final gem of advice: make sure your iPads are all different (whether it’s the type of iPad, the colour of the cover or the apps you have loaded on them). This invariably sparks a lively argument about who gets which iPad. I am always grateful for these little diversions. The fight over the distribution of iPads occupies at least 15 minutes of the flight, which accounts for a substantial amount* of the journey.
*It’s important to note, minutes in the air work like dog years:- 1 dog year = 7 human years; 1 minute in the air with the Boy Band = 7 minutes on solid ground with the same children. So, a minor tiff about the iPad actually lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes. And the flight to Australia will, in real time, last 63 hours!!! Just make sure you save the last swig of Benadryl for yourself.