Monday, October 15, 2012

Are You Crazy? Travelling with Kids (and Spouses)...

My friends, mainly abroad in the US, often ask me how it is that we can take the kids on all these vacations that we go on.  We are incredibly lucky to have the opportunity for frequent and inexpensive travel here in Europe and so we are doing our best to take Aidan and Liam to as many places as possible - we want them to see the world and why not start with Europe since it's close, easy and inexpensive.

However, that doesn't mean travelling with them is necessarily easy.  It also requires quite a bit of planning in advance, the ability to be very flexible with said plans and to have a variety of contingency plans in place.  Yes... PLAN PLAN PLAN.

While it's become second nature for us to travel with Aidan and Liam on just about a monthly basis,  travelling with my family is often a cause of stress for me. Oddly when I travel just by myself with the kids it's not so bad. Maybe it's because I have to hold it together more because I'm the only adult. Who knows. All I know is that when the four of us travel together it's a constant personality clash. We have a good time together but it's often wrought with plenty of conflict as well.  Let's take our trip to England this weekend. 

The flight itself was best I've had in a long time as far as smoothness, however I had my family with me so that should say it all.  Maybe I need to travel by myself more.  The kids and I sat together and rather than Josh taking the aisle next to Aidan, he took the window. So there are now 3 seats and an aisle between us. So when he started to snore (LOUDLY) before take off my hands were tied.  I apologized to the guy next to him who just shrugged.  The people in front and behind we're giving dirty looks at Josh and some were even laughing.  While normally I'm able to stop this behavior with a poke to the ribcage, he left me helpless in this case and I tried to pretend I wasn't with him when we left the plane (yet somehow it was obvious we were together).  

But wait, there's more. My kids, whom I've mentioned before are "expert" travelers, seemed to have forgotten their expertise with Liam kicking the seat in front of him during a tantrum where none of the 100 games in his itouch (yes spoiled, complaining about his itouch at 5 years old) were any good.  Nor any movies.  And what do you mean we have an hour left?  You said this is a short flight and this is NOT short!  Ahhhh the joys of a 5 year old.  

But let's not forget Aidan who's fresh mouth gets him into a load of trouble daily. While fighting me on putting his itouch on airplane mode, he had the nerve to not just yell at me but swear at me.  Leave me alone lady!  Ugh he kills me!  Where have I gone wrong?  And why did I plan a trip that's supposed to be special for them when they act like ungrateful brats?  All I wanted to do was something nice for them and they act like they are doing me some kind if favor by coming along.  Yes, we were those people on the plane. Maybe Josh and I should just travel without them.  Did I say that before?  Hmmm...

So who is the instigator here?  Is it Aidan who thinks its ok to be disrespectful to me or me who tells him he has no right to talk to me in such a way. Do I ignore their behavior and let it go?  And how does that teach them to not behave that way?  At what age will we be done with temper tantrums because man, I'm fresh out of strength to deal with any more of them.

Well in this case, we let it go.  We all deal with stress differently is what it comes down to.  I certainly act out when I'm flying because honestly, I hate to fly.  I do it, but I don't like it.  With Josh with me, I'm able to act out more than I would be able to when it's just me and the kids.  When it's just me and them, I have no choice but to reel myself in.  Maybe that's why I travel better without Josh?  Odd, I know... but having him there makes me feel better and enables me to let my emotions out even if it means we are all on our worst behavior.

Aidan struggles with air pressure on the descent of a flight - to the point of crying on almost every flight.  On our flight home, he decided to keep his headphones on (sans the itouch since we were landing) and he said it was helpful and he was smiling.  See, sometimes it just takes trial and error.  We'll remember this one for our next flight (in 2 weeks, yes, 2 weeks).

And while it may not appear so on this flight, these guys have become expert travelers.  They know their way around the airport.  They understand layovers, security and customs.  They may not always act appropriately in those areas (if you look back at my trip to the US in 2011 you'll remember them wrestling as I tried to talk to customs in Spanish) but they understand it and manage as best they can.  After all, they are kids.  They aren't mini adults and we can't expect that of them.  Sometimes I forget this too.

They have also learned to become more flexible.  When we attempted to get into London this weekend (you'll see another entry on that!), something the boys really wanted to do (they were dying to go to a huge toy store there), they were certainly disappointed but their reaction in the end "it was an adventure".  We tried, we failed but we stuck together (ok just barely stuck together on that one but we did make it in the end) and made it back relatively unscathed.

But we also have to be flexible.  When Josh and I make plans for a trip we try to plan items that the kids will enjoy even if it is not a kid focused trip.  Making sure we see a castle or a childrens museum or an aquarium in addition to the things that we want to see.  We limit the things we want to see.  If there are 10 things we want to see, we narrow it down to the top 3 and if we get to see all three of those, the trip was a success.  Recognizing our "limitations" with kids and setting our expectations accordingly has made a world of difference in our travelling, resulting in less disappointments and more, hey bonus, we got to see item #4 on our list!!

So give it time, but also take time for yourself.  We don't take the kids on every trip - we make sure to do trips just the two of us or trips with friends.  We recognize that while we want our kids to enjoy our time here in Europe that, we too, also want to enjoy that time.  But don't let travel with kids intimidate you because while your child may start out a little iffy about getting on a plane or embarking on a long car ride (especially tough when you have a puker like we do), the hope is that someday they will also embrace the opportunity and recognize the only limits are the ones you place on yourselves.


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