Friday, March 11, 2011

Come fly with me - but only if you're a idiot

We have to take the children on a plane.

Let me repeat that, to let it sink in: we have to take the children on a plane. I'd rather have snakes.

This is how I feel:


A terrible sense of dread is slowly creeping through my entire being. I've flown with a young child several times before, and it's never easy, but this is the first time with two of them. Prediction: this will end in tears.

But it's not all bad. There are ways to cope, and even ways to squeeze a little entertainment from the situation - if you're a cruel person.

Yes, I am a cruel person.

Torture your fellow passengers

People travelling alone are often foolish enough to hope for a peaceful flight. They are your best victims. Observe them, settling in with their inflatable neck cushions and iPods, reclining their chair a bit just because they can, and wondering what the meal will be.

As you stagger up the aisle, laden down with diseased, squalling brats and more hand luggage than anyone would have thought possible, make a show of scrutinising your boarding passes closely. Focus on a lone passenger of your choice. Now look closely at the seat numbers above their head - and enjoy the expression on their face.

If you do it right, their face should bear a mixture of terror and slight paralysis, as they try very hard to pretend they really do like children and they don't mind at all if you sit next to them. Meanwhile, their mind is in turmoil as they contemplate many hours of smells, mess, noise and punches to the side of the head. Linger for a moment and enjoy it.

If you don't get the proper reaction, don't worry. Just pick another solo flyer and try again. Repeat as often as you can.

Be prepared

Once you're settled in your seat - hopefully next to a genteel, elderly person who is tolerant or at least too polite to complain - it's time to get out the earphones. The best way to cope with children on a plane is to have no idea what they're saying.

Sooner or later, they will get your attention, and then it's time to get out the bag of tricks. Be ready for the squirming little demons with activities like colouring books, or a toy that doesn't roll away when dropped on the floor. A good technique is to start playing a handheld video game, as a child will immediately seize it, turn up the volume and start driving the entire plane insane. This is acceptable, because you still have your earphones in.

It's also important to be ready with snacks. A plane flight, especially a longer one, tends to be punctuated by meals and you can fill the time between them with inappropriate treats. Don't worry about the children being so full of sugar that they babble incessantly. Just turn up the volume and keep those earphones in.

Finally, if all else fails, there is one sure-fire way to occupy a child on a plane. Select a kindly-looking person and send the child over to say hello. Then hide in the toilet.

Unconsciousness is the best policy

Just like at home, on an aircraft the best time to be a parent is when your child is sound asleep. As soon as the plane is in the air, try to encourage them to doze off.

It is good advice to try to book a seat for every child, however young, if you can afford it. It means you have plenty of room and don't have to spend the whole flight holding a struggling urchin. Glaring at people who dare to sit near you can have a good effect, as they will back away in fear and pretend they're being considerate by sitting somewhere else.

Also, try to plan ahead and manage the nap regime so they're due a snooze soon after take-off. But be warned that keeping your children awake for two days leads to the sort of behaviour that calls for an exorcist, and anyway isn't good for them.

If they're comfortable, warm and full of stodgy food - or at least somewhere in the midst of a sugar crash - they should fall asleep. Now snuggle up and enjoy the peace. Leave that parachute alone. You'd only freeze to death at this altitude, anyway.

So wish us luck. Somehow, we will survive. It is very possible that I will be transformed into Shatner (or Lithgow in the film version) and try to open a window with my fingernails and teeth. This time, however, the gremlin is inside the plane.

I'm sure we'll have a lovely time when we get there. We'd better, because we'll have the return flight to look forward to.



  1. nice one Mike, and so so true ! we had really bad turbulence flying back from Florida when Lucy was 4 , she was sound asleep , opened her eyes and was promptly sick all over everything , the furry elephant , herself , the seat etc , you get the picture - worst experience ever - crew were pretty good but oh the smell !! needless to say the next flight we starved her ! all with good reason of course - i'm sure any sensible parent would do the same x Pauline M

  2. Whiskey Mike, whiskey. A little in milk for them or by the pint for you, both are equally efficacious. Surely that's not frowned upon in this enlightened day and age...

  3. Pauline, that sounds terrible. You should have pretended you weren't with her.

    Kerrin, I fear we would be arrested.