By Heather Cocks, REDBOOK
Our summer vacation, a family get-together in the North Carolina coastal hamlet of Duck, is rapidly approaching-and with it, a cross-country airline odyssey. We've flown with the kids before (three times before they turned 1 and then again in April), but the trouble with kids of this age is that we can rarely use the previous trip as a blueprint for what's to come. Every time, they're that much older, more developed, more mobile, more independent-and thus, more fidgety, more independent, more impatient, more likely to throw something right where an unsuspecting passenger is trying to rest his head. Maybe Peter Pan was onto something with that "never grow up" shtick. The older these two get, the more it's like wrestling an alligator to get them to observe social conventions.
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I've learned that the most beautiful sound in the world when you're on a plane is the sound of someone else's kid crying. Because the second people see twins getting on, all the color leaves their faces and they clutch at their seatmates, murmuring something out of the corners of their mouths like, "Please don't let them be sitting here," or simply, "INCOMING." At check-in, I guarantee you that as we wait with our mountain of luggage, sniffly babies and a double stroller, several passengers around us will smile tensely before somebody breaks and initiates this conversation:
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TRAVELER: Hello there! And where are you all going today?
ME: North Carolina, through Houston.
TRAVELER: Oh, thank God! I mean, how fun for you. I'm going to Chicago.
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Luckily, our boys fall asleep as the plane takes off and stay zonked until we can safely turn on electronic devices (read: Cars). Well, usually. You know that old expression, "We planned and God laughed"? In our scenario, God is two mop-topped toddlers who have a darling penchant for being unpredictable at predictably inconvenient times. It was on a flight when Dylan first chewed up a bunch of food, then gently removed it from his mouth and used it to give me a facial. Liam's first-and mercifully last, I think-public vomit was all over himself in seat 26F after having a stomach of steel on much rockier trips. And who could forget the time Dylan was flirting with a stewardess for ten minutes while standing on Kevin's lap, only for her to walk away and have us discover that his pants had been around his ankles the whole time. First foray into stripping: check.
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We also have a two-hour layover, opting for a pair of three-hour flights over one five-hour and one hour-long hop (there was no non-stop option). Usually we can get by with a zone defense, but the last time this happened, in Charlotte, we had to switch to man-to-man: Dylan spent the whole time chasing an NBA player through the terminal while he tried to have a private-well, "private"conversation with his accountant, whereas Liam found a girl curled up on the floor and threw himself at her, hugging her tightly every two minutes before plonking down in her lap, wiggling his bum, then jumping up and doing a lap around the gate area. Thank God for nice people. He did it so fast I couldn't even catch him before he was romancing her shins.
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If we can get through all that, plus an 11 p.m. arrival time and a car rental process that never takes less than 20 minutes, I will let you know how we did-and what, if anything, we learned that might actually help the next time. I keep joking we should just pre-print apology cards and hand them out to everyone the boys decide to adopt. Hopefully I won't kick myself for laughing instead of actually doing it.
What are your worst-or funniest-stories of traveling with kids?
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