The scariest thing ever happened to me recently. My mom, sister, and nephew were accompanying the kids and me to Disney World but if you know my mom at all, it won’t shock you even a little to know that she missed our flight and is 100% to blame for my sister and nephew missing theirs. This was the first time I’d flown completely alone, outnumbered by my offspring. Which, if you’ve never experienced, is terrifying. I was in charge of carrying three backpacks, two clingy children, removing all of our jackets and shoes, and my computer, and being randomly selected and having my backpack searched extra because I was clearly hiding a shiv in my makeup bag, and being on time to my flight that boarded 5 minutes before I got in the TSA line. And I didn’t even have a break down. So I’m an expert now.
If you’ve ever travelled alone with a baby, a toddler, two of either one, or one of each, or even more than two children, first of all – you are a goddess. No one can tell you anything. Congratulations on being so physically and mentally strong. Seriously. No one in the world appreciates you enough, even if you think they might.
This is me virtually bowing down at your feet for enduring the glares and stares while one of your offspring rolls around on the floor of the airport or rips your boob from your shirt in front of everyone at your gate or screams bloody murder as they go all limp noodle in your arms from the middle seat. This is me understanding and agreeing that they are “usually so well behaved” but for some reason felt like going Gremlin and drawing the attention of 10,000 strangers once realizing that you are at your most tired, rushed, and exceptionally unkempt.
This is me laughing at Crossfit because of the fact that you, my queen, can spend 10-15 hours straight carrying your body weight in children, snack packs, activities, back up clothes, and the books you naively believed you’d get the chance to read. And you don’t even get self-righteous bumper stickers to let people know you can do it. Like, give yourself a pat on your amazing traps from me. Then let’s petition for a daycare compartment of the plane, perhaps at which you may check your children at the gate and then enjoy 4 or more complimentary in-flight cocktails in silence.
This is me learning some things the hard way, getting surprisingly lucky with some other things, and wanting to help anyone who’s interested in avoiding as much humiliation and full-body stiffness as possible. First things first:
1. Spend the days leading up to your flight showing your kids EVERYTHING online.
Pull up pictures of the plane’s interior, the palm trees, the beaches, the hotel room, the pool, even the airports you’ll be landing in. Show them every mundane little thing you don’t care about and be really freakin’ pumped about it. Like “Oh my gosh!!! These are the birds that live there!! We’re going to see these birds!! Are you so excited? MAMA IS SO EXCITED”. Do this everyday. Then when you start your painful journey, you can show them all the stuff in real life and distract them from abusing their sibling or knocking your 8 oz water cup onto the guy in your row who clearly hates children.
2. Bring too much. Do it. You can.
Take a long hard look at those traps of steel in the mirror and pack all the carry-ons. Pack each kid their own backpack because it just makes them feel special. Make no mistake, you’re going to carry it for them for the next 12 hours. But they’ll feel special and that’s important because we are millennial moms. Pack too much, because there’s no way you can truly convince yourself that these kids will willingly color in one coloring book for the duration of your 4.5 hour flight. You need to have a different thing to entertain them with for every 2 minutes in the air. My drug of choice? Fruit snacks and 750 small books. ADHD is our de-evolution, people, give in. Bottom line: bring everything in your house that your kid has ever kind of shown a slight interest in. Lesson from trial and error: other than your computer or tablet that has cartoons on it, your carryon can be essentially empty because you’re not going to get any time to do any of that stuff.
3. BRING A STROLLER.
Bring a stroller. Bring a stroller, damn it. I have, to date, never brought my stroller on vacation. And you know what I’ve learned? That it’s a miserable experience. Bring a stroller because you can check it at the gate and get it at the gate and you won’t have to carry 50 lbs of babies through an airport. This tip could actually negate the rest of everything I’ve written here. Bring a stroller that fits all your kids, all their crap, and don’t complain that it takes a second longer at TSA. I’m realizing right just now as I’m writing it, that carrying stuff is the worst thing ever.
4. Skip nap/bed time/book your flight for those times.
Kids who have been deprived sleep and are begging for it by the time they get on the plane make you look like the best mom ever. My babies have both individually been applauded on planes for sleeping the duration of the flight. And every single time, I finger-twist dimple smile and the light reflects off my teeth diiiing! like “I know, aren’t they the best?” Even though I was about .4 seconds from "accidentally" losing them in the airport before boarding. Sleepy, snuggly, quiet babies on planes win everything. You will still be physically uncomfortable from being used as a bed, but at least no strangers will hate you.
5. Lean into it.
Even if your babies are applauded on planes, they’re going to scream their heads off when their ears start popping sometimes. They’re going to wake up uncomfortable. They’re going to get bored. They’re going to kick the stranger next to/in front of you. They’re going to spill stuff, probably pee themselves, maybe definitely going to poop themselves as soon as the fasten seat belt sign turns on and a giant smoke cloud of stank is going to form an arrow above your head that indicates “shit smell source”. Sometimes it will not matter how many of their favorite snacks or shows you’ve loaded in their bags, they’ll just get the urge to run around because they're kids.
So lean in. Relax and laugh when it’s appropriate. Don’t be scared that people will judge you for telling your child “I’m going to beat your little butt” in a harsh tone. Look around and remind yourself that most likely, at least 75% of that plane is currently holding parents and grandparents. Don’t let the eye rolls or stares of the inexperienced make you feel ashamed. You’re taking your kids on vacation, Super Mom, and karma is going to bite those people in the ass with quadruplets one day.