Air Travel with Kids

02 June 2014

In the last couple of months, I've been on 4 flights with the twins that tested the extremes of travelling with kids:

  • First was a red-eye return trip from Calgary to Ottawa to process our Nigerian travel documents
  • Second was a globe-trotting 19 hour return trip from Calgary to Lagos, Nigeria with a connection in Houston
Phew. I'm glad for all the previous practice sessions I had because they came in useful and the flights were really uneventful. Apart from all the things I'd learnt from previous flights, here are some additional tricks I incorporated since the girls were now older
  1. Tell the kids what's going to happen (but not too early or they'll drive you crazy with questions). At almost three and a half years old, the girls could understand the concepts of airports and planes. Telling them what's going to happen and treating it all as an adventure meant they were excited instead of apprehensive and cranky. If possible, watch a few shows on planes and flying before you leave so the kids can relate. (We watched the Gup, Gup and Away! episode of Bubble Guppies on repeat for a few days prior to the Ottawa trip)
  2. Individual carryons for everyone travelling. I let the kids have their own carryons and it lightened my load considerably. I got both girls the Skip Hop Little Kid Backpacks and we've used them on our last 3 flights. I managed to squeeze in their travel pillows, crayons, coloring books, headphones, drawing board, jigsaw puzzles, cameras and a few snacks. Those bags look small but are quite roomy.
  3. Call ahead of time: For the red-eye flight, we got into Ottawa after midnight. I had called the hotel the day before to inform them of our arrival time so the front desk was waiting for us and actually had little goodie bags for the kids as well. 
  4. Don't count on the plane having individual TV screens: I was banking on the plane entertainment system to keep the girls engrossed. Imagine my shock when I got on board and saw this!! Hey United airline, the 80s called; they want their planes back!
  5. Get health necessities: Call travel clinic at least 6 weeks before and make an appointment to get the necessary shots. If you have local knowledge of your destination, use that in making the decision concerning shots. BE INFORMED. The travel clinic recommended 6 shots for going to Nigeria but with my local knowledge and consulting with friends and family who had recently traveled to Nigeria with their kids, I opted for just 2 of the 6 shots. 
  6. Everything on this list adapted for current age. Yep, even the notarized letter which I've never needed until this last trip when the border officer actually asked for it. Let just say it was one of the few moments in my life when I said "thank you" to my over-planning gene
  7. Beg, Bribe, Threaten, Enlist Help: I tried one or more of those methods and had my younger sister on the same flight with us for the Houston-Lagos flights. The girls loved knowing that aunty "Mutan" was just a row away and I definitely enjoyed the extra pair of hands to hold the girls while I attended to other airport matters. Thanks boo!
We traveled happy, made good memories and are back home safely. I'm glad to add one more continent to the twins' travel map. Happy Monday peeps!  

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