Monday, 19 December 2011

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How We Survive Traveling at Christmas

I married a teacher. I find that somewhat humorous, considering my feelings towards teachers through my own school journey were lukewarm at best, but I guess you can't control who you fall in love with. The benefit of being married to a teacher is that they get lots of time off. The downside, is that their time off comes at the same time as the other hundred million people who are connected to the school system. Different school systems have their spring and summer breaks at different times, but Christmas break is pretty set in stone, and thus it's pretty much the busiest time of year to travel.

That doesn't make it the worst time though. Sure there are plenty of stressed out, leave everything to the last minute, mad at the world, kind of people out there, but it doesn't take a whole lot of preparation to not be one of them. Mostly it just takes a little planning and a positive attitude. That's not a lot to ask, but for the 50% of you who just went "How am I supposed to have a positive attitude? The kids aren't allowed in the airport bar!", here's a few of the other ways that we cope with traveling at Christmas:

Leave lots of time
My children absolutely love it when I tell them we're on an early flight! Nothing thrills kids like having to get up at 3:30 am on their school holidays. They didn't want to waste them sleeping anyways! I know it sucks getting up early for a flight, but when something goes wrong at the airport, you won't end up being that person who's stressed out because they're going to miss their flight. Last time we were in San Francisco, the security line shut down for about 10 minutes for some reason, and you could just feel the tension levels rising all over the line. Apparently a lot of people had decided that 15 minutes was plenty of time to leave for getting through security. It's not.

Feed the kids
I hate airport food prices as much as you do, but it's just an expense I've decided to live with as my kids are immensely better travelers when they're not hungry. This doesn't mean they get carte blanche at the food court. My daughters passion for Cinnabon could easily double the cost of whatever discount airfare we're flying on that day. I am willing to pop for hotcakes and sausage at McDonalds however, mainly because there's usually a little bit that finds it's way into the Daddy line.

Don't sit right at the gate
Airports are big places, yet everybody wants to sit within 10ft of the departure gate. Go find an empty gate and relax. One person can shuttle back and forth to keep up with any developments on the flight, but the kids can have tons of space to play. When our kids were younger, they used to man an empty gate and pretend to check each other in for flights. Amazingly, every flight they did was always headed to Disneyland, since they assumed that all planes flew there. Maybe we should have varied up our destinations a little bit.

Don't bring overhead carry-on items
Easier said than done I know, but it's possibly the biggest stress reliever I can think of. If you don't need bin space (and you're not flying Southwest) then there's no need to be at the front of the line to board. You don't need to be at the gate quite as early, and you don't have to search the entire plane if the spots near your seat are gone already. Besides, you only have to store your bags under your seat for takeoff and landing. Outside of that, you can dump them all under your kids feet while reminding them of the days when you were young and used to travel with nothing more than a small backpack and a bag lunch (which inevitably will lead to questions about just how old you really are).

Try and remember what it was like
Try explaining that at security
My kids are old enough now that they can merely be told how to behave when traveling (yes, that day does come), but I remember when they were younger and flying was new to them. I used to cringe everytime my daughter swung her feet, even though they weren't long enough to actually kick the seat in front of her. I used to dread security when my other daughter was in her "I'm a Pokemon" stage, as the only response she would give to the question "What's your name?" was "Pikachu!!!" (for a while we thought we might have to legally change her name if we ever wanted to travel again). Most of all though, I remember the questions. If you thought "Why?" was an annoying question on the ground, try it in an enclosed space 36,000 ft up in the air. It'll drive you nuts!

I may not have to deal with these things anymore, but you can bet somebody on the plane will be. Try and have some sympathy for the families in the beginning stages of their traveling adventures. It will help them, and it'll help make your trip more enjoyable as well. Most of all, remember the fun and excitement that waits for you on the other end of your trip. Unless it's your year to visit the in-laws. Those kind of stress levels, I can't help you with.