Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Airplane - The Family Adventure

Ted Striker : Surely there must be something you can do.
Rumack : I'm doing everything I can... and stop calling me Shirley. 

I'm always up for surprising, shocking, or just plain scaring the hell out of someone.  It just happened that I was presented with a perfect opportunity to surprise my kids.  And in a big way.

My wifes mother lives in Nashville and it had been quite some time since we'd been up there to visit.  Even then, the last time we visited we drove.  Believe it or not the stress of 14 or so hours in a van driving there doesn't even come close to the stress of trying to keep track of and move 5 people, 3 of whom were either very little or infants, along with all their 'stuff' (diaper bags, 10 tons of clothes, playthings, strollers, car seats...) through airport, security, getting on and off the plane, ......... it stresses me out just thinking about it.  I did it once with only two kids, and swore never again until they can carry their own crap!

The result of my ban on flying with the family meant that only my oldest son had flown in any memorable capacity.  My middle son flew when he was only one year old, so remembered nothing.  And the youngest had never set foot past security.

However, given a few years in between, we're finally at the age that each kid can carry/pull their own bag, doesn't require diapers, and generally can follow instructions...... ahhhhhhhh.  So, with our new found independence, a trip to fly up to Nashville was hatched.  After everything was decided my wife turns to the kids and says:

"Guess what we are going to ...."

That's as far as I let her get.  No way was I going to let such a perfect setup slip away.

Thanks to some quality distractions and slight of hand work, my wife was able to pull clothes a bit at a time from their rooms without them noticing, and get all our stuff packed into one suitcase.  We were even able to get it loaded into the van on the day of the flight, all unseen.  Our only mistake was not covering the suitcase with a blanket or something.  You see, my oldest sits in the back of the van, and you could be assured that he'd look over the seat, just in case something cool might be back there.  My wife said:

"Just distract him when he gets in by telling him to be sure to clean up any mess he left back there before he gets out...."

and would you know, it worked!  Well, for a whole 15 minutes anyway.  So while driving down the highway to the airport we hear from the back of the van:

"Why is dad's suitcase back here?"

You see, from time to time I travel for work.  Not too much, but a week here, a week there.  This always stresses the boys out.  So on at least one occasion, we tried not telling them until the last second, on the way to the airport.  Obviously, this is what my oldest boy was thinking.  If only I had spent more time practicing my Jedi mind trick.

In the front of the van, the response was closer to something like this (whispered through clenched teeth):

my wife: "what did he say"
me     : "why is dad's suitcase back here... i told you he'd see it"
my wife: "well, what do we do"
me     : "i don't know.... tell him we're bringing it to someone to borrow it"
my wife: "who"
me     : "whoever... who do we know that lives this direction?"
my wife: "nah, just ignore him.... he'll forget about it in a bit."

Seriously?!  Forget about it is the plan?  This is why my wife isn't a good liar.  But it basically worked.  He didn't stop thinking about it, but he did stop asking about it.

We had told them that we were going to buy the youngest son cleats for soccer.  This held off the others until we started to get close to the airport.  Very interesting to see the difference in how their minds work.  As we came around the corner, in view of the airport.  The oldest was in the back of the van looking like he was ready to puke, likely stressing out over the expectation that I was going to drop a big "daddy will be back in a week" on them.  While up front all the youngest could say was:


It was great!  Of course, even he started to ask questions once we turned into the airport and then into the parking garage.

Getting them out of the van, and pulling the suitcase out... the gig was up, well, at least for my wife it was.  She can't keep a secret very long and this was all killing her.  So after they suggest that I alone was going on a trip, she says no that we're all going on a trip.  And to guess where to.  My kids know of relatives in only a couple of states: Louisiana, Montana, and Tennessee.  So presented with this question, my middle son's response is of course .....

My wife: "Where do you think we're going?"
Son #2 : "The Bahamas?!"

The Bahamas?!  What the...?!  How does he even know what the Bahamas are?

Eventually we get on the plane, and have a great trip... But my post wouldn't be worth while if it didn't leave you with a few tips.  I 'may' have experienced some or all of these on our trip!

When travelling on a plane with children that have never flown before.......

  • Don't presume they will want to sit next to the window.

  • Don't draw too much attention to the pictures in the emergency procedure card.

  • When the attendant says to use the life vest under your seat in case of a water evacuation.... they are going to reach down to look for it.... be ready.

  • The SkyMall magazine is loaded with all sorts of fascinating items.

  • You'll want to have reasonable control over sitting together.  So if you're flying a cattle call airline like Southwest.... make sure you get there early, or at least early enough for 'family boarding'.
  • Their ears may start to hurt - bring gum.
  • Their ears may still hurt - bring standard audio headphones that can 'magically' relieve ear pain
  • Their ears might continue to hurt - bring Benadryl to uh... 'relax' them.

  • If all else fails, pull out the Nintendo DS.... it's a cheap move, but it works.

  • Airport gift shops are expensive.  Set expectations LOW before you ever get there.
  • Their nose may start bleeding - bring lots of extra tissues / napkins / cork / duct tape
  • It is not obvious to a child how to find, open, close, or lock an airplane lavatory door.
  • When sending them to the lavatory, don't temp fate, go ahead and send them to the back of the plane.  There's no chance of them getting confused and trying to open the cockpit door back there.

  • They may realize that flying makes them nauseous.. even though they've never shown any signs of motion sickness before - bring an extra pair of Sea-Bands
  • Previously mentioned nauseousness may result in inevitable vomiting - after exiting the plane, move through the terminal leapfrogging from trashcan to trashcan (hint, there's one behind every gate counter)
  • Your kid may break out in freakish hives all over his forehead - DOUBLE WORD SCORE, hit up your Benadryl from previous ear pain issues!
  • If you're bringing booster seats for the car when you get there, they can't use them on the plane - go ahead and check them with your luggage.  Your kids willingness to carry them will fade after about 250 feet.
  • Kids don't need identification to get through security - you do.
  • Discuss with your kids the type of things or words that they should NOT say while moving through  security.
See, now that wasn't so hard.  Just a few simple tips and you too can enjoy a relaxing, stress free first flying adventure with the family!


  1. O..M..G..THAT IS HYSTERICAL!! So glad you all made it there in one piece & came back in one piece. Hope you had a great time!!

  2. LMAO!! That is great!!! I loved the "seriously, that is the plan?" Heehee...and the Double Word Score!! Too funny!


  3. we pull out all the "cheap moves" at the beginning of the flight (i.e. ipods, ds, psp) and then threaten to take them away should said children start whining!! you guys did good!

  4. @elysha: wow, so you're kinda like a drug pusher..... bait them into the hook.... string them along..... then hold it over their head if they don't comply ;)