We recently made our way back to Dili from Seattle—logging nearly 20 flying hours and two full travel days. It was exhausting, but somehow easier now that the little ones are almost four.

They understand that flying is part of a journey and are usually pretty excited about the destination. They love checking out the airport scene, observing other travellers and befriending  just about everyone they meet, from airport security guards to stern-faced business travelers.

Of course, 20 hours is still a very long time to be confined to a small space—with or without kids. But, it’s not as grueling as it once was.

We took our first family flight when the twins were seven months old, travelling from the US to the UK to visit our British family and friends.

The outbound flight was just about perfect. We’d booked the bulkhead row with bassinets, and the kind check-in staff arranged for us to have the whole row to ourselves. Since it was a night flight, the babies slept soundly the entire way. We smugly toasted our good fortune with a mini bottle of wine each and relaxed our way to Heathrow.

The return flight was a nightmare. For ten hours we soothed cranky babies, juggled baby food and made up bottles in our seats, dealt with hourly diaper emergencies and a record number of clothing changes. “Excuse me, I’m sorry”—we repeated over and over—passing toys, Tylenol and other supplies back and forth across the aisle (and our neighbors). We didn’t manage to eat a meal, let alone enjoy a leisurely glass of wine.

To top it all off, an hour before landing my daughter vomited all over me, the floor, and the nice guy sitting next to me. “Would you like a wipe?” I offered apologetically.

Since then, we’ve endured other trials, including delayed flights, 12-hour airport layovers, and patience-testing extra security measures.

Once on the last leg of a very long trip, when my then-two-year-old son was asked to walk through the metal detector by himself, he collapsed on the floor face down and sobbing. I felt his pain.

But, we survived. And for the most part, our kids have become pretty good little travelers. They have their challenging moments, but we have also received compliments—usually from the relieved passengers around us (who may or may not have cringed a little when they saw our small circus approaching).

In real life, moderation is my guide. When flying with kids, I believe in whatever works. If my daughter wants to watch the same Dora episode five times in a row, I will most likely say “absolutely!” If we need to employ a lollipop strategy to get us through a few tense moments, I’m okay with that. If the Silly Putty that kept my son busy for 30 minutes is now all over his clothes in a gooey slept-on mess, well, that’s a bummer. But, I’m willing to pay the price.

What are your favorite family travel tales?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Shaula Bellour in East Timor. Shaula can also be found on her blog, Notes From a Small World. Look out for Shaula’s next post, where she gives us her favorite family flight travel tips!

Photo credit to My Kaul.  This photo has a creative commons attribution no derivatives license.

Shaula Bellour (Indonesia)

Shaula Bellour grew up in Redmond, Washington. She now lives in Jakarta, Indonesia with her British husband and 9-year old boy/girl twins. She has degrees in International Relations and Gender and Development and works as a consultant for the UN and non-governmental organizations. Shaula has lived and worked in the US, France, England, Kenya, Eritrea, Kosovo, Lebanon and Timor-Leste. She began writing for World Moms Network in 2010. She plans to eventually find her way back to the Pacific Northwest one day, but until then she’s enjoying living in the big wide world with her family.

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