So we are back home and my kids just woke up for breakfast. Two of them will have a fight with jetlag on their hands, although their little sister (by three minutes, since they are triplets) fell asleep before their regular bedtime and slept soundly through the night (as far as I could tell, sharing the same bed).
Her siblings fell asleep at 10 PM but woke up at 1 AM and asked whether it was morning yet. They did not fall asleep again until 0330. Or so, I had to get some sleep myself so I did not check the clock.
About besting jetlag, I realized something in Sweden. Winter days are short and not very fun there. Especially if they are gray and sleeting. It can even be dangerous if the playground is icy and the equipment slippery.
So how do you find a place where to tire out your kids physically? It is not healthy for an adult to sit still for more than ten hours. And kids, who need to move, will stay in one place that long only if they are sleeping. Actually, they may not do that anyway. My son was all over his seat during our entire flight. The only place he did not try to sleep was on top of the headrest, and the only reason was that I pulled him down. Most of the time he spent on the floor.
This despite tiring him out physically before the flight - even with the Swedish weather. And I did find the perfect solution: An indoor playground (slash jungle gym). We have them in Japan, and I have seen one in Bangkok, but now there is an entire chain of them in Sweden. And they serve a halfway decent lunch, too. You only pay for the kids, and you get a fairly good discount if you have more than one of them.
Keeping Your Children Quiet
I have written a couple of times about our trip before, about people who complain about your kids, how to entertain your toddlers in-flight, and flying with sick kids (and I also wrote before about flying with infants). And about how to beat jetlag with your toddlers.
As a parent, you try hard to keep your kids quiet and well-behaved. Apart from when they are eating, small chidren are only quiet when they are eating, sleeping, or deeply absorbed in some activity like watching a video or coloring pictures. Although my kids talk in their sleep, nobody even gave us a sour look on the way home. It may have had something to do with the unusually noisy kid two rows ahead.
it may sound old-fashioned to keep your kids quiet. Small children need to express themselves and play, even if that can be noisy. But it is useful social training for them, even if it happens in a stressful situation.
Tiring Themselves Out
When we came home (and the kids had slept 12 hours), my son wanted to go to the playground in our nearby park (his sisters preferred going shopping with mom). This worked great for tiring him out, but we should have gone for a longer walk, I realized as he woke up at 1 AM and asked if it was not morning yet. He did not fall asleep again until three hours later. Their body clocks are not quite back to normal yet.
A long flight is not healthy for adults either (I am struggling myself, making stupid decisions at work and then deleting them). But it is much worse for kids than for adults. Perhaps they get bored more easily than me, or perhaps I am jaded by a lifetime of business travel. But at least I was prepared - with lots of healthy snacks and plenty of water (and diapers). I had to buy new bottles after security and passport control, since they make you throw away the water in security control. But it was OK to take yoghurt pouches, both through the security control in Sweden and China.
Did I Have Spoons?
I had a curious experience in China, by the way. The security control staff asked ”do you have spoon?” I said no, because I did not think you could try to hijack an airplane with a set of souvenir coffee spoons that my parents picked up during their honeymoon. But they had them x-rayed separately anyway. Sometimes security control is capricious rather than professional-seeming.
During large parts of the trip, when I did not try to make them sleep, the onboard entertainment system was a life-saver. I mentioned before that I wrote another blog post about in-flight entertainment for toddlers, but this time the kids entertained themselves most of the time. The entertainment system on Air China was unusually hard to navigate, by the way. But the kids managed, even though two episodes of Mickeys Playhouse is not nearly enough for a ten-hour trip. The selection overall was really B-list galore, by the way. Except for the Chinese programs, but those made no sense to us.
And there were a couple of games. I told my kids that they had to figure the games out themselves, by the way. I did not want to lean and stretch across the seats constantly. And besides, if they learn to press pictures of buttons on a screen they have learned a skill required in the modern workplace. And it can not be bad. Sure enough, the kids learned to figure it out for themselves. They proudly informed me when they had earned virtual coins. And they were nice and quiet about it. Perhaps time to dig out our old Nintendos for the next flight.
I had prepared really well for this trip, but I did not get to use any of it. I had my sister in law print out tons of coloring pictures. Those are great for keeping your kids entertained, but they require pens in at least two colors (unless you are an adult). So if you bring coloring books or pictures, also bring lots of pens or crayons (of a type that washes off the airline interior panelling easily).
Although this was not necessary this time. That is one of the fascinating things about traveling with kids. You never know what to expect.
I am Wisterian Watertree, recently moved from Tokyo to Sendai, previously of Bangkong and Honolulu. I write about travel, especially with our three beautiful kids (two girls and one boy, soon turning seven - yes. they are triplets). Travel is education and fun rolled into one, and if you are like me, that is something you want to give to your kids. If you want more tips and want to find out when I will publish something, get it from my email list. If you want to be personal, drop me a note on email@example.com, or if you want general tips, follow me on Twitter @wisterianw.