how to survive the stockholm to chicago flight with two small children

In just about two weeks, we fly off to America, to Chicago and then San Francisco.  We can’t wait to be there, with family, friends, and our good pal the sun.  Yes, even if Chicago is frigid and blustery, it still features the sun, or at least a bright sky.

Ahh, but getting there.  I just wrote a blog post for on the joys, or lack thereof, of the transatlantic flight with small kids:

“In a few weeks, my wife and I will undergo our annual marriage stress test—the transatlantic flight with small children.

There may be no greater parenting and marital challenge than surviving up to 25 hours together in a succession of claustrophic buses, airports and airplanes. This year, we have it easy—only an eight-hour flight from Stockholm to Chicago, with a trip to San Francisco a week later… plus the return flights, of course.

Last year, we went from Stockholm to Tucson, then from Tucscon to San Francisco and back (with an overnight delay throw in after we had already boarded the plane) and then, a day later, from Tucson to Stockholm …

Yet these trips are also never as bad as we fear. The kids do not ever really scream. We do not ever really scream. And even though every trip is different because our kids are at different ages and stages (this one will suck because our son is almost 2, meaning we did not pay for a ticket but we have a really big almost 2-year-old to put in our lap), there are a couple rules we follow to keep some semblance of control.”

You can read the rest here.


5 thoughts on “how to survive the stockholm to chicago flight with two small children

  1. Having just done this, let me add…

    Take a bunch of small surprises to whip out when you need a distraction. I load up on new novelties like pens, stickers, coloring books, or small books at places like OöB, Tiger, or a grocery store before we go. I am not above using them as bribes, either. Lacing cards make great airplane toys for young people. The toddler played with a beanie baby cat her sister tied to a string and one board book almost the whole flight last time.

    My kid goes nuts if she gets food coloring or artifical flavoring, so while we let them have sugar on the trip, we insure they get no artificial colors like Red 40 or petroleum based additives like BHT or vanillin, which are the sneakiest. I make chocolate chips cookies before we go and add as many health food ingredients as I can while stil lleaving the cookies taste intact… things like protein powder, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds to make a mini meal. If they will eat nothing else, these travel cookies hold them over. I have also been known to do this with muffins.

    Pack good spill proof sippy cups and ask the attendant to fill them as needed. This lessens the chance of spills, but bring pack at least one change of clothes for everyone in case of a spill.

    Maybe you are more tech, and have an ipad or something, but the DVD player goes a long way. Then you know the movie is okay. Even better is a SAS flight with good kid shows on a built in screen. Bring good headsets for kids.

    Kids love earphones and playing with the arm rest channels.

    Bring a car seat for the under 2. Tell them at check in you have a seat for the baby. If the flight fills up, they will gate check it. I traveled with my 2 alone and brought the big double stroller exclusively so I could push the car seat in the airport between connections.

    If you are woo woo enough, use aromatherapy. A spray of rosewater or lavender oil really can calm a kid down. We use it for baths, and carry a spray for the plane.

    Camomille tea chills them out.

    And tonight, three nights after returning home when we had no other jet lag problems, I pulled out the big guns. They were still up at midnight, and need to go to dagis in the morning, so I herbally sedated my kids. I am trained to use herbs with kids, and am comfortable using the pretty high powered herb valerian. I have it on hand as a teething remedy, but never have used it on the kids till tonight. I gave them some celestial seasons sleepytime chamomile spiked with 5 drops of valerian tincture and honey. They settled in 30 minutes….. I felt a bit like I cheated doing that, but it is safe, and now i can say for sure works. I have used it to sleep before, and it is strong stuff, use with awareness.

    Good luck, and have fun over the holidays in the States.

  2. Oh, and slip on shoes for all, easier to manage the many trips to the bathroom and to get through security easier.

  3. What great tips! This is our first flight with an actual “kid” so we are actually in slightly uncharted territory. Was all simple toddler stuff before. We are most intrigued by the sleep solution, of course. Never gone there, but it sounds so intriguing, as we tend to get these 9-day jet lags ….

  4. I meant to add also be ruthless and quick in staking out extra empty seats. If you are on an overnight, we prefer to split up and take an extra free row and have good sleeping room instead of stick together. We dash for empty rows before the plane takes off. This last flight my 5 year old had a row of two for her bed, the baby was in the seat in a 4 row, so I had three seats to sleep in. When I travel with my husband, sometimes one of us will claim an empty row an use it as adult only space and then we take shifts with the kids.

    It also helped to skip nap the day before we left so the toddler was super tired on the plane over and adapted faster in USA.

    Ah, the valerian worked great and my bigger girl even asked for it the second night when she had trouble sleeping. I used a whole dropper full for her, there are doses by weight online and it is used often with babies for teething and kids to calm them with ADD, it is in a lot of ADD formulas. Valeric acid is the thing that makes goats stink, it is the worst smelling stuff in the world. I mixed the valerian with a tad of honey in a small tea cup, dosed them with that, then gave the sleepytime tea after. My kids are used to drinking tea.

  5. Oh, since I am so full of advice I will add another thing…

    Include the older one in the planning. They will do better if you tell them simply and over and over what will happen…break it down really simple, but tell her what to expect. We all do better when we have an idea of what to expect. The train, the plane, things she can do on the plane, that she will sleep on the plane, and who will retrieve you and what the sleep set up will be when you arrive. the first flight when our girl was a kid we told her we it would take sooo long and we would travel all day and all night. But we ran into one snag, we forgot to mention that so one is comfortable the whole time in airline travel, and she was really indignant and surprised how uncomfy and cramped she was. So now we stress it will take all day and all night, and that is is uncomfortable to be on a plane that long.

    And for surprisesi nthe USA, Micheals craft store and dolalr store have lots of simple cheap stuff, and the color wonder pens that are stain free are sold wit hlittle books that are perfect for travel. great things for surprises, or stockings.

    I think that might be all, in this edition of my travel digest.

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