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First Flight With Kids: Worrying About the Wrong Things

When I was a flight attendant, we used to have infants or children onboard every flight. Often, the mothers would be quite demanding and ask for this and that. They’d press the call button and say, “Can I have a blanket for my child, please?” Then you’d bring it and they’d say, “Oh, can I have a pillow, too?” Once you were back with the pillow, they said, “Actually my other kid over there would probably want a blanket and a pillow, too…”

Then another call button went off and someone handed you baby food without looking up, instructing, “Heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds, no longer or it’ll be too hot.” When I explained that there was no microwave onboard and that I’d heat it in warm water, which would take about 10 minutes, they’d look up and protest. “10 minutes!!! My baby is hungry NOW!!!!!”

Thank you didn’t feature in these flying mamazillas’ vocabularies.

And then, years and years later, the day came when I boarded a flight with my own children. They were no longer babies, I definitely made sure to skip that experience, but still, on our first flight together, I was fearing the reactions we’d cause. My kids aren’t known to sit still for very long: they are of the athletic type.

While arranging our trip, I kept having flashbacks. I remembered the flight attendant who walked “down the aisle” (you’re welcome for the image) handing out not flowers, but ear plugs in a silent demonstration towards one particularly loud baby, a fake smile of victory on her lips. What if my kids are too noisy? What if I turn into the mum who takes up all of the flight attendants’ time?

Travelling with kids is stressful, they say. Add a pandemic, a war, a heat wave with bush fires, rumours of long lines, give it all a stir and top it off with a pinch of food allergies, and you’ve cooked yourself some nice stress levels.

I used to love, love, love flying. And now all I could think was, “I need some fresh air, I’m sitting in a metal tube in the sky!” I didn’t turn into a mamazilla, but I still could hardly believe my transformation. I realised that I no longer liked the hustle and bustle of an airport, the leisurely lingering while waiting to board, nor the dreamy browsing of an inflight magazine. In fact, there were no inflight magazines at all and I sighed sadly, remembering how I used to bring the new issue home every month when I worked in the business. There were piles of them in the office and the articles were carefully crafted. During flight, I loved looking at the maps at the end and imagining which country or sea we were flying over right now.

It turns out, after having kids, all sense of adventure has drained from me. I think of climate change all the time and it puts me off travelling anyway. But my kids… they were behaving perfectly. They were calm, quiet, polite – curious, trusting and relaxed. We had gotten them brand new kids’ tablets and they were well entertained for the 4-hour flight to Alicante, Spain.

Once there, it took me almost the entire holiday to unwind, and then it was back to the airport… But we’re definitely doing this again. Maybe I just need some more practise. 10 years in aviation clearly wasn’t enough!

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70 replies on “First Flight With Kids: Worrying About the Wrong Things”

So you see,it all went well😉beautiful photos.as you know,we only travelled by car with our kids (and a short boat ride) because I too didn’t want to fly with them as babies.but we’ll soon fly with them

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And, while unwinding, you made wonderful pictures! Mamazillas made me laugh. 🙂 (And shiver.) But good to know all went well. No fears anymore the next time you go flying with the family. I wonder, are you telling your children stories about the time mom was a flight attendent. Or are they still to young for that?

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My kids actually ask both me and hubby to tell them any kind of adventurous stories… so I’ve told them about the time a penguin photobombed my shot, and when a jungle creature ate its way into my backpack, and how the airplane used to shake me when I tried to sleep in our crew bunks while flying over mountains. Sometimes it’s hard to remember stories to tell 😅

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Oh I do feel for you! Although I don’t have kids I get why it would be so stressful (one of the reasons I didn’t have kids) – but well done you! You did it. And I bet it will be less stressful next time. Beautifully written post – I was with you all the way. Those momzilla’s sound truly dreadful!
Alison

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Thanks, Alison! I really am glad for the kids that we did it: now they have experienced flying and been abroad! They were quick to pick up some Spanish, too, bravely saying graçias and hola without being prompted! So the stress was well worth it. Thanks for reading!

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I don’t have kids but I can relate to the feeling of anxiety and stress (“what if everything goes wrong, WHAT IF I FALL ON MY HEAD”) that you describe here. I want to say, as for the climate change point, the way I see it is that that place was going whether you were on it or not. So it doesn’t matter. I think the argument should be more against the rich using private jets and people opting for public transport instead of a car.

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First trip down successfully, although I disagree with the comment above that the plane was going anyway, so what did it matter. If we take the flight, it creates demand for more, if we don’t then the flight might get cancelled. But the blogger is right about private jets needing to do the heavy lifting in terms of reducing jet air travel.
As regards kids, our first trip to Tasmania with kids didn’t go well as the little one had an ear infection and screamed all the way home on one leg. We didn’t have a direct flight. But we survived, but being a night flight was very unpleasant for the other passengers I think.
I got my dose of Karma on my last flight wherein a bub cried all the way home from Kyoto…..

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Karma is lovely 😏 I had some kids’ nasal spray (under 100ml!) with me just in case their ears started to hurt. But they didn’t need it. First time checked off the list – if only their allergies disappeared, travelling would be easier. Who knows.
As for climate change: I agree with you. And tourism has so many other adverse effects, not just the flying bit is bad for the climate. Anyway, I can’t control the world, I can only control my own actions…

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Well said, Snow. You can only control your own actions, not the world. As always, there is occasionally a beneficial side to travelling and tourism as well. Some places in the world have been able to protect their natural wonders through eco-tourism. I feel that a person who travels is a more rounded person, especially if they travel to places where life is not cushy and they get about instead of sitting in the confines of a resort. I find it hard to understand why Norwegians fly to Turkey or Croatia just to spend several weeks inside a resort with pools and spas. It is nice but why not get out and explore the local area?

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I guess it’s the climate that makes them do it. I was actually thinking that maybe next time we’d do an old-fashioned package holiday where someone else cleans and cooks, and we can just lounge by the pool. I’ve never been a fan of that kind of resort vacay, but now with kids, I GET IT 😆 Sometimes you are just so exhausted you want to relax. In my home country, these places don’t exist so traveling is necessary. My colleague did a package trip like this with her kid and husband and they had a sporty theme. The resort offered (included in the package) every sort of sport you could imagine and it sounded really fun to me. In this case, it’s not really about the destination or travel. It’s more about finding a spot where you can relax and focus on your wellbeing. Like a yoga camp or surf school type of holiday 🤷‍♀️

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I get that you want to relax. In fact you need somewhere like that. It is a shame it is not so close to you. We are spoilt here! The beach is on our doorstep and resorts less than an hour’s drive. I remember the 1st holiday we took with my eldest child. He got sick wirh croup and we ended up spending all night in the shower getting the steam to help stop his cough. It was at resort but we didn’t seem too much of it. The next holiday was infinitely better.

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Yikes, it’s not fun to be sick away from home and if it’s your kid then even worse. That is definitely on my list of worries. Do young kids over there get Covd shots, by the way? Over here they can get them after 5 years of age but it’s not a recommendation unless they are in the risk group, not even when travelling. But they are recommended to get influenza shots yearly, which we have done and we also got them the recommended travellers’ hepatitis shots. I don’t really know what to do about their Covid shots, though. No one I know has vaccinated 5-year-olds yet…

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I think the pfizer vaccine is given to the little ones but under 5? Maybe not.
Kids and adults don’t get the annual flu vax unless you are in a high risk group or have an underlying condition. I travelled with my kids through Asia Japan, Europe, Iceland and the Baltic s. They never got sick overseas. And no special vaccines other than the usual childhood regime. Kids get hepatitis B, tetanus, diptheria, rubella, measles, chickenpox at school. I have not heard of travellers hepatitis before.

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I doubt 10 years in aviation could prepare you for traveling with your own kids. That’s a whole different ballgame, but good for you for going through with it. I hope you enjoyed warmth and sunshine and got to relax at least a little bit.

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Oh yes, though the pictures make it look like the weather was bad, it was actually very hot there every day (all day). The sea was like bath water, super warm, and the beach was crowded with locals. Still, we saw plenty of fish so I guess it was relatively clean…

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When I see a mom with a kid and luggage, all by herself, trying to balance everything, I feel really sorry for her. I once had a little girl going with her father, on the seat next to me on a flight. It was interesting that she asked me for help with tv and all, while her father slept away. Probably at their home, it’s the mom only who takes care of everything and hence, the child looked up to me for help even though I was a stranger. That aside, I am glad your trip went well :). Alicante is still hot at this time of the year? Great, then I will try to plan a bit early next year, to go to Alicante for when the temperatures drop here in Germany 😀

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It was very hot but this trip was in September. Just over 30C every day, but thank goodness not close to 40C. Even in the evenings, it was still hot. And luckily I wasn’t alone with the kids: their dad came too, and so did my mum! That helped a lot, having 3 adults. But still, I stressed and stressed… 🤪🙃

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The first thing I thought of when I read this post was how stressful I find it to fly with my DOG! Haha. Our kids did pretty well on planes, but you are correct that it is not even remotely like a vacation trip with another adult or solo. I’m glad your first one is under your belt, and it sounds like you have innately good travelers, so next time you can relax a little more!

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Yes, next time we’ll know what works. Everything went quite smoothly, except on the way back to the airport, the bus broke down and I started stressing again. But we made it on time! I can imagine travel with a dog needs some planning, too. Is yours a small one that can travel in the cabin with you?

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I miss those amazing magazines! I was always in awe of the amount and quality of content that was different each month. Sometimes, when traveling at the end of the month, I’d get annoyed that the new month’s issue was in and I couldn’t get the ‘current’ one. I’d try to schedule my travels at the beginning/end of the month when convenient so that I get TWO different issues. So much reading material. And, everyone in my family knew to grab it for me when they were flying.

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Oooo, you went! Excellent! I’m so glad that your rock stars behaved and you managed to unwind eventually. Thank you so much for these two doors, I can imagine that you have noticed many more. Splendid! Hopefully, you will visit many more places that you love and new ones, now that your first joint flight is behind you. And a funny anecdote of what our family friend said upon learning where I live now: “Ahh, Tuscany! I travelled around France a lot when I visited Alicante.” 😀

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Same same, but different – all those Mediterranean countries 😊 Alicante looked poorer than I remembered Spain to be, and the nature was so desert-like it was almost intimidating. I remember France as pretty, with well kept houses. I wonder if I’ll still see it that way one day when I go back. Of these three, Italy was my most recent one, before Alicante. So I’m counting on Italy still looking like Italy when I take my boys there one day!

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It went well because you are a good, active parent and a nice person who considers your impact on others. An easy trip is your reward (but also rewards everyone else on the flight!)

As I have an “athletic” type child as well, I understand your worry. Mine’s been doing flights to visit family in Hawaii and on the East Coast since he was 2 months old. When he was a baby and a toddler, it was exhausting. I had to keep him entertained with finger puppets and other activities for hours, manage the carseat, etc.. The first time I went away for a girl’s weekend, all I had was a carryon bag and a purse. I could go right to the gate! I could read a book! I didn’t have to worry about anyone else!. Flying isn’t nearly as fun as it used to be, even crowded airports and delayed flights felt like vacations.

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I can imagine! I feel sorry for the kids for saying it was stressful, because they behaved so well and did everything they were asked to do. But it’s just the constant organising, worrying, being on alert and being prepared that all adds up. Also, maybe I’ve simply forgotten how to relax!!! It would be interesting to see how a solo trip or trip with just grownups felt, would it still feel stressful, too.

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A good story Snow, glad your kids enjoyed traveling. You are a wonderful mother!
I had a good laugh at the ‘mamazillas’ It is sad actually seeing that some people think the whole world should sit at their feet. We didn’t travel (almost at all) when our daughter was little, just to avoid the eventual problems.
But a lady comes to my mind from our latest flight, she stood up the whole time from Marseilles to Montreal, as her little one would cry at soon as she was sitting. I was so sorry for her, you could see she was knocked down physically and mentally, but she wouldn’t give up to sit at all. She was one of a kind🙂

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Beautiful photos…I wish I was there as well!
Lovely eye for details you have.
See, it´s not that bad…I think almost all women in the world experience once in their life a flight with their baby, toddler or with bigger kids. No matter what the age is, it´s an adventure and a memory to cherish.
My first airplane flight with my daughter was from Kuwait to Amsterdam and it went quite well. Emirates has good support system and she managed to behaved well.
But then on our second trip from Manila to Amsterdam, it was exhausting for me, almost 23 hours of travel with a baby and I totally relied on my baby sling.
I was dreading it, thinking that it would be chaotic but even with 4 hours layover in Dubai, we managed to enjoy our time together.
And no, I haven´t had the time to complain to the Flight attendant Hehehe..it went all smooth except for diaper changes and turbulence….and yes…i was exhausted!

can´t wait to have a flight with her next year, probably it´s going to be exciting as well!

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I’m not a parent and I don’t think I want to be. I know how hard parenting is without being a parent.

I loved the photos a lot! I’m glad it worked for you too!

I also pitied the flight attendants who had to go through all of this ‘:)

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I’ve not been on a plane in three years now. The longest time ever for me, but between the pandemic and a concern about climate change, plus so many rude people, I’ve stayed home. HOWEVER your photos of somewhere lovely instantly reminds me that I like a bit of vacation adventure. What to do, what to do…?

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You know what to do!!! Once the seed is planted, it’s just a matter of time, if you ask me. I had a 4-year break from flying before this trip, and it was my longest time without flying. Which is probably why it felt like I’d never set foot on a plane before! So odd.

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I wouldn’t mind sitting next to your well-behaved twins at all! Usually, I would face-palm if I sit anywhere near any kids, the screaming is just too much to bear or they’d kick their legs everywhere! Great parenting, pat on your back. Relax…. next trip with your kids will be all well. 🙂
And great photos of Alicante!

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Thanks, dear friend! I don’t really enjoy sitting next to other people’s kids either, to be brutally honest. So I get it. And I’m happy you liked the photos – I just decided to throw them all into this post, since I blog so rarely these days! 😃

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How wonderful. A 4 hour flight is long. But I’m sure it was a very nice time out for all your family. The kids must have loved it. They take everything in stride at that age. We did have little G. and his sister and all the family with us this summer. Paris, London. The little kids took everything in with big eyes…
Au revoir

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