The other day I read a very sensible post by a seasoned traveler, giving advice on what to take and what to omit when flying long haul.
Unfortunately, the first item on the list prompted a response that many of us might have had – “Oh yeah, when travelling on your own maybe”. Let me explain.Item 1 – Noise cancelling earphones. When travelling on my own I don’t worry if I don’t have any with me. Since lone travelling is a once-a-decade luxury, I usually just sit back, close my eyes and relish the peace and quiet. No asking if they have everything they need before the plane takes off and no admonishing about seatbelts, or kicking the seat in front. Since most of my long haul travel is done with at least one child, the last thing I’m going to be doing is noise-cancelling. Not that I wouldn’t love to, but I am not being that parent who leaves his or her children to run riot in the cabin while parent catches forty winks.
Items 2 and 3 – USB cable and battery pack. For the kids perhaps, but again, when you’re the travelling parent there’s usually little point in planning in-flight entertainment. I’ll watch what they show on the screens, thank you.
Item 4 – A camera (or your phone). I will just quote here as the point is somewhat vague. Probably just better not to forget your phone.
“I’ve seen many people, those who don’t use their phone for entertainment on a flight, store their phones in the overhead bins. Big mistake, especially if you’re in the window seat. If you’re on the aisle, well, maybe this is more optional.”
I think what the author is saying is if there is anything you need, don’t put it in the overhead bin, especially if you’re sitting at the window.
Unfortunately, parents usually have a trunk load of coping equipment when traveling with kids, not all of which can be out and about on take off or landing. We just have to hope we’re in an aisle seat.
Item 5 – An extra Layer. Or seven. Since our kids were babies, most of us know that anything can happen when it comes to needing extra clothing, and I’m not just talking about the cabin temperature. (Although it’s often chilly on planes, so don’t just dress them in t-shirts and shorts.) There’s the inevitable diaper disasters, (I’ll spare you the litany) and in later years we also experienced several bouts of extreme turbulence that saw drinks tossed all over the kids, literally leaving them dripping wet.
Items 6 and 7 – Travel pillow and eye mask. Oh please. In the 20+ years I’ve been long haul travelling with kids, I have never, ever fallen asleep. Besides, does anyone ever find a comfy angle with those inflatable neck pillows? Not my family. At most I have wrapped the entire thing in a sweater and tried to rest my head on it, and at worst I have ended up staring at my naval and giving myself a stiff neck.
Item 8 – A pen. What? Just one? If you haven’t packed fifty shades of every color pen for the kids, they’ll be borrowing your one pen, which they will then drop down the side of the seat or on the floor. In either case, it will never ever be found. Take more than one pen.
The author of the post also mentions a few items not to bring, mostly food and drink that is either banned at security or at customs. I have no argument with that, although I must confess I have had to throw out several bottles at security simply because I forgot they were in my bag, and was busted by a beagle when I came in from England with a banana still in my bag. Don’t judge.
The last item on the “don’t” list however, made me laugh out loud. The reader is advised not to travel with “anything that smells”. Oh well, just have to leave the kids at home then!
Toni Summers Hargis has a new book – “The Stress-Free Guide to Studying In the States; A Step-by-Step Plan for International Students”. (Summertime). She is also the author of “Rules, Britannia; An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom” (St. Martin’s Press) and blogs as Expat Mum.
Read Toni's other Expat Focus articles here.