Two Mistakes to Guarantee a Miserable Flight with Small Children

My husband, kids, sister and I at Canada's Wonderland
My husband, kids, sister and I at Canada’s Wonderland

Last week I shared 5 tips for flying with small children.  These are tips I picked up over many flights, but they definitely were not learned without pitfalls.  So, I thought it might be insightful to share my two biggest mistakes.

#1 Overbooking your itinerary

One of the drawbacks to being a road warrior is that you can have such a gigantic level of self-confidence in your travel finesse that you can over-think and over-plan the simplest itinerary.

My worst travel experience was a return flight from Toronto.  When I planned this trip, I wanted to get the maximum bang for the buck.  I booked the crack-of-dawn flight to get to Toronto early and the latest flight home so I can spend maximum time with my extended family.  Plus, flying back to California you gain three hours, right? So, with the three extra hours, we could spend a day at Canada’s Wonderland, leave at 3 PM, beat rush hour traffic and check in for our 8 PM flight.  Perfect, right?


What ensued was a six hour flight of two over-tired, over-stimulated kids (3 and 1), who both cried, screamed, yelled, kicked and threw fits, tantrums and toys.  If my friend Diana was still a flight attendant and worked my flight, I would be the very reason she hated her job.

#2 Sugar

Out of desperation to calm our children, I started pulling out “treats”.  First came the chocolate panda cookies, then gummy fruit snacks, then juice. Then realizing our stupidity and coming to our senses, we purchased anything available in flight that did not contain sugar.  But by then, there was no hope.  No way could we settle down the kids.  We basically took turns holding the unruliest of the two, whoever that may be, and just did whatever we could to contain the chaos.  We did this the whole flight.  And of course, they both promptly pass out, asleep, when the wheels touched the ground.

This is how I felt at the end of my "perfectly planned itinerary".
This is how I felt at the end of my “perfectly planned itinerary”.



2 thoughts on “Two Mistakes to Guarantee a Miserable Flight with Small Children

  1. I totally agree with both of these. Definitely on the over-stretching what you can do on an itinerary front. When your travel plans outstrip what your kids are able to take, you end up no longer being able to work with their willingness but are instead forced to basically drag them everywhere or else you miss your flight/train/engagement/etc.

    I have vivid and terrible memories of dragging my two kids at ages 2.5 and 1 through the Dallas airport at warp 5, trying to make a psycho connecting flight, all the while lugging luggage and carseats. It’s unpleasant putting kids through that – especially if you had hopes they were going to have fun on the trip too.

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