1. Early morning flights should be avoided at all costs. Waking children up at 5am in order to drive to the airport in time for a 9am flight can be tricky. There is always the chance that one child will wake up enthusiastic and agreeable, embracing rainbows and unicorns in her excitement; one child will be a mute zombie who doesn’t speak or acknowledge your presence in any way for three hours; and one child will manage to cry at least five times before leaving the house that morning. Only scenario #1 is pleasant, especially before sunrise, although scenario #2 can be tolerated.
2. It is suggested that you have all children try on their tennis shoes the night before you leave for vacation. If you wait until that morning, you will discover your oldest daughter has outgrown every pair of tennis shoes she has since school ended last month and be continuously subjected to her very loud, very whiny complaints about how you are forcing her to wear shoes that are too small and extremely uncomfortable and she will most likely be a cripple after this.
3. Allow plenty of time for the drive to the airport. Just because it is “normally” an hour and a half drive, do not assume it will be so every time. On some occasions, you will have forgotten to put gas in the car, the children will have extremely important last minute decisions to make, such as which stuffed animals get packed and which get left behind, traffic will be worse than normal, everyone will decide they are starving only half way there, and there is always the possibility that one of your children will suddenly get diarrhea and require a twenty-minute pit stop, just outside of the city.
4. The later you are for your flight, the harder it will be to find a drop-off parking space, the more crowded the airport will be with early-morning flyers, and the majority of self-check-in kiosks will be non-functioning. Also, the more children and carry-on bags you have with you, the farther from the escalator your gate will be. Or, if you are running extremely late, your gate will not only be at the end of the terminal, but it will be at the VERY end. Down a flight a stairs. Out a side door. Fifty yards down the tarmac. Which you will have to run to, through a maze of orange cones, dragging all the carry on bags behind you.
5. Do not feel smug about the way you oh-so-smartly packed snacks, books, and the portable DVD player in your carry-on bag, because when you are the last people to board the plane, you will suddenly realize that you are flying on a plane not much bigger than a puddle jumper and without any warning whatsoever, the flight attendant will take your smartly-packed bag and put it underneath the plane, rendering all your stay-busy-activities-for-children completely useless.
6. When you are unable to purchase seats together on the plane for you and your children, do not assume that the kindly strangers around you will be willing to change seats so your children do not have to sit alone. In fact, more on this later. It’s deserving of a separate journal entry, all to itself.
7. Always pack a long, pointy stick of some sort in your purse so when your child, seated one row up and three seats over, is misbehaving while the plane is in the air, you have something adequate for hitting them in the head and getting their attention. Finger-snapping and furious shushing will be worthless once you are in the air.
8. Threatening children with promises of strapping parachutes on their little bodies and then pushing them out the exit door, so they can float down and find new families to live with, are generally not met with approval by fellow passengers.
9. First line of defense, upon hearing your children gleefully yelling at one another on the plane, “You’re a fartknocker!” “No, YOU’RE a fartknocker!!” and then laughing hysterically at themselves, is to excuse yourself and hide in the airplane restroom for the remainder of the flight. In the event the restroom is occupied, simply stare intently at your Redbook magazine and pretend you don’t know them, as (see rule #7) finger snapping and shushing have already proven ineffectual.
10. In the event you are unable to follow any of these travel suggestions, wonder aloud if a 9am flight is too early for alcoholic beverage service.