This week we will embark on our first cross-country trip with all four kids. We haven’t traveled anywhere overnight with all six of us since Baby No. 4 was born. Because we’re always up for an adventure (or because we are mind-numbingly stupid), we figured we’d just dive right into traveling as a family of six. No small trips where we stay close to home to ease us in. Nope. We’re going all out with a week-long, cross-country trip with a 6-year-old, a 4-and-a-half-year-old, a 2-year-old and a 12-week-old.
I’ve written before about our first airplane trip we took back when we only had one baby. We looked like light infantry as we strapped all our earthly possessions to our bodies and headed onto the plane. We have four times as many kids now as we did then, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to pack a quarter of the stuff. Live and learn.
My approach to airline travel with kids is to survive. It doesn’t have to be pretty; we just have to arrive still breathing, body parts intact, with the same number of people we had when we left. My husband and I are fairly big on rules on a day-to-day basis. When we travel, though, pretty much all bets are off. My goal is to arrive at our destination with as few meltdowns as possible (both on the part of the children as well as the adults). If we achieve that goal by eating nothing but fruit roll ups from here to North Carolina and watching 10 straight hours (including layover time) of movies on the iPad, then so be it! Candy! Juice! Screen time! None of it is limited when we travel.
(We are, however, still as strict as we can be about not kicking the seat in front of you on the airplane. Why is that such a hard rule to follow?)
I’ve packed clothes for the three older kids. I still have to pack for the baby and myself. My husband is a grown man who has an advanced degree, so he’s on his own when it comes to packing. (Though we did go camping once, and he forgot to bring pants. And another time we went to Chicago in December, and he didn’t bring a coat. So it’s possible that packing isn’t his strong suit …)
I’ve started putting things together for our carry-on bags. We downloaded two new movies onto the iPads for the kids to watch, and I’m sure we’ll fork over the cash for the WiFi on the plane because, like I said, whatever it takes to get there with as few tears as possible. We used to own two sets of headphones for the kids but because having children is like living in an abyss where things go in and never come out again, I could only find one set of headphones. And rather than get angry that no one ever puts anything back where it belongs, I just logged onto Amazon Prime and ordered two new pairs. Because I’m a fat, lazy American.
There are six of us, and we bought five plane tickets. Which means we take up one seat shy of an entire row. My husband and I joke that we’ll put the 6-year-old on the aisle and the 4-year-old by the window and leave the middle seat open. If it’s not a full flight, my bet is that middle seat will remain open. And if it’s a full flight, it will be fun to watch as the last person to board the plane discovers their fate. And there’s at least a 40 percent chance we’re only joking when we talk about that plan.
Our flight leaves at 6 a.m., which means my stepdad is picking us up at 4:30 a.m. to take us to the airport. And you know what is best about getting up at 4 a.m. to get on a plane for a full day of travel with four young children? Gummy Bears for breakfast!