My sister Ruth asked for tips or helpful advice for traveling overseas with kids. I told her I didn’t have any advice. I quickly realized I’d lied. I do have advice; it’s just not helpful.
In the last three years, my husband, five kids, and I have been in no less than 20 European airports. It’s always eventful. Bottom line – there is no easy way to travel. But, for the brave and slightly deranged who attempt it, here’s a little advice.
Don’t buy new carry-on luggage for your five children in the hopes they will carry it. They won’t. I lugged a three-year-old kid, three rolling bags, and five backpacks through the Paris airport. Only two of the kids actually carried their bags.
Don’t ask a three year old to help. Seriously. Don’t ask at all. Apparently two small travel pillows are too heavy and will induce fits of rage or simply cause him to lie down in the middle of the terminal to take a nap.
Do go through baggage and security while your husband returns the rental car. Yes, you heard me. It is less stressful to check in 28 bags of luggage, get five kids undressed and re-dressed at security and feed them their last meal in America, than to have my husband make us walk single file, stop every 100 feet for lectures on keeping up, and threaten to take away all snacks and toys on the 12-hour plane ride.
Do expect to get randomly selected for further screening in every US airport. My son still thinks the gas box that tested him for chemical weapons was the coolest thing ever.
Do expect to cut every line, including security and customs in every European country you enter. My children think they are royalty.
Don’t get nervous when there is severe turbulence on the plane. Just hide behind the seat while your three youngest children act like they are on a roller coaster and scream, “Mom, I bet everyone thinks the plane is going to crash, and we will all die, but this is most fun ever!”
Do let kids watch all the in-flight movies, drink all the soda they want, and make a mess of their area on the plane. I’ve learned as long as they aren’t crying or screaming, everyone will say what wonderful kids they are.
Do let them go to the bathroom alone. Because of the above-mentioned non-stop soda binging, my children visit the airplane restroom no less that 20 times. They really seem to enjoy the mini-sized bathroom we adults find so disgusting. However, I do insist they wear their shoes in there. You would be shocked to know how unfair they find this rule.
Do let them talk non-stop to the stranger next to them. I refer to this as the “Baby-sitting Upgrade.”
Don’t fight jet lag. Go ahead and stay up until 3 a.m. and wake up at noon. Just make sure you arrive on a Friday and school doesn’t start until Monday.
That’s all for now. I’m still indulging my jet lag.