Essentials for Air Travel With Kids
We were definitely Spartan when it came to travel. We were the kind of parents that would get on the road with one diaper, no snacks, and a road map to an open-ended journey. Spontaneity was our MO, unlike the "trunk potty" crew who seemed to have put together a makeshift RV in the back of a minivan filled with toddler potty, cooler, beach tent, and cooktop. We would chuckle as we drove by a dad casually standing astride a little tot sitting on a potty in the back of a van on the side of the road...until that became us. Our third child, bless her, had a bladder the size of the walnut, and hourly pee breaks were what broke us. Trying to find a bathroom in the middle of the Utah Desert is virtually impossible, and there are only so many pairs of pants you can pack on a road trip. And the alternative, a car that smells like a urinal,
is not a great option in the summer heat. Sorry to be frank, but this is a serious business, and if you have been there, you can indeed feel our pain. We eventually mastered the 30-hour road trip, but the plane trip was elusive. After the past few flights, we may be getting there. Here is what we have learned.
When we first heard about Covid-19 back in December of 2019, it was after we had been traveling. Micah had taken a work trip to Huntsville, Alabama. The youngest and I tagged along. It was a delayed flight from Boston, and we had a few hours to kill, so we stopped in at the Priority Pass Lounge (a perk of the Marriott Bonvoy card). This was our first visit to an airport lounge, and it was pretty great. We were pleased with the setup, free alcohol, snacks, wifi, and it made the delay bearable. Plus, it was quiet, and you didn't need to fight for a seat. Well, that isn't exactly true. Our youngest ended up a dissatisfied customer. As he was playing on his tablet, he was spotted by a young boy of Asian descent. His English was okay, and he was super sweet as he jumped up into EJs chair and commandeered his device. As he provided commentary to the movie that was playing, EJ looked up at me if to ask, "what is this kid doing?" Both boys sat in the chair for several hours, EJ, shooting me angry glances as he regretfully shared his tablet and was schooled on hygiene by a boy that was clearly half his age, "Let's watch this. Don't pick your nose; it spreads germs. Peppa Pig!" To say EJ was miserable may have been an understatement, but that is nothing compared to what happened in the aftermath.
You guessed it.
It started with the sniffles and some big-time lethargy as we were exploring a local cave outside of Huntsville. Then it progressed to a fever and a cough. EJ's nose-picking had caught up with him. He was sick and not enjoying our Alabama trip in the slightest. Before the fever, we thankfully took in some of the sights, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, a Christmas Light Show at the local botanical garden, and Cathedral Caverns. Still, unfortunately, we had been unknowingly spreading germs all the while. He spent the next days in bed with a healthy dose of cartoons, and then we had to fly home. With the fever finally abated, we boarded the plane and instructed EJ to cough in his arm if he needed to and to, better yet, try not and cough at all. Refraining from coughing was a massive ask because he was hacking at a rate of what seemed like three times every five minutes. Before we left Huntsville, we scoured three convenience stores and the hotel market for children's cough syrup but only found cough drops. We bought one of each kind and dosed EJ as we boarded the plane.
Take off was without issue, but landing, oh boy, that was another story. EJs ears must have been so full of fluid that he was in excruciating pain. We tried every trick, yawning, chewing gum, plugging his nose and blowing, opening and closing his jaw, rubbing his ear canals and tragus, but he could not get them to clear. The poor kid cried quietly the whole way until we landed. About two days later, he said they had finally "popped." It was the most miserable flight for him. He said he would never fly again. Looking back, after the entire family came down with the same fever and cough, we realized that the close encounter with the boy in the lounge probably is where it all began with that fateful nose pick. It was most likely Covid-19 as the symptoms matched up, and we were all thrown into coughing fits over the next week or so. EJ learned vital lessons- good boundaries, and no nose-picking in public places. I learned two essential air travel items. 1. the apparent Hand Sanitizer and 2. Children's decongestant. Despite the promise never to fly again, we were up in the air nine months later, learning new lessons with our 5th born.
We were on our way to Dallas for a layover en route to Las Vegas. We were about 3.25-hours into a 4-hour flight and I was sleeping, leaning against the window. EJ was in the middle between his dad and me. Suddenly, I sensed a silent flurry and woke to find EJ covered in his vomit, his mask used as a feeble attempt to catch the flow. We worked quickly; Micah jumped up, pulled one of his undershirts out of his backpack, and headed for the lavatory, leaving me to tend to the shocked kiddo who was awoken from his nap suddenly with an urge to blow chunks. We peeled off his t-shirt and stuffed it into a clean, unused, airsick baggy, and I wiped him off with the air wipes I had saved from our last flight. Luckily the 70% alcohol content masked any
barf fumes. I worked quickly and avoided eye contact with the stewardess as she passed the shirtless boy in aisle 15, "Nothing to see here." EJ sat swimming in his dad's t-shirt, at least now clean and dry, as I tried to get all of the vomit out of the seatbelt meshing with my power wipes. I was so thankful I had saved them. Micah came back with paper towels, and we breathed relief and vowed to never feed the kids Twizzlers and Pringles for breakfast. These items were added to our chocolate milk ban for very similar reasons. Thankfully, this episode wasn't due to a virus or bacteria, just motion sickness, and poor parenting. But, our poor parenting is your gain! In hopes that you will never have to experience some of the discomforts of air travel with kids mentioned in this post, we have compiled a list of air travel essentials. Hopefully, all of your adventures are happy and healthy.