Hello, it's me, Mike, RAYGUN's founder and also its most prolific procreator. I have 4 kids (which is too many) and 1 wife (which is a manageable amount). The kids are ages 10, 8, 5, and 1.5, the wife is from a foreign country, which means about every 2 years, we take our 1/3-of-a-dozen children on a long plane journey to visit the grandparents overseas.
We recently returned from our 5th-ish trip in 10-ish years, and I thought I'd share some wisdom to make plane travel with kids easier:
1) Don't bring your kids.
Without the kids, you'll be able to catch up on magazine reading! So instead of bringing the kids on the family vacation, try leaving them at home with a loved one or pet who is certified in CPR.
2) Don't sit next to your kids.
Airlines have a wacky seating algorithm. If you buy the cheap seats, even as a family, they will kind of scatter you around back by the bathrooms -- none of the seats next to each other. Don't get mad, just go with the flow! Buckle your 18-month-old into that middle seat in the back, and take your seat 2 rows ahead next to a stranger. When you hear her screaming uncontrollably, just lean over to the person next to you, roll your eyes and be like, "What kind of terrible parents would bring their kids on vacation?"
Airport staff can be real sticklers for people staying in lines, but, trust me, if they see a grown-ass-man crying uncontrollably while muttering "I can't, I just can't," they'll move you up to the front of that security line real quick!
4) "It's not the destination, it's the journey." - Said no one traveling with kids.
It is TOTALLY the destination. At the destination are grandparents who need to make up for lost time with their grandkids. Burst through that front door like a SWAT team, pass the kids off and go lock yourself in a bathroom for a few days!
5) There will never be enough snacks.
You could buy an extra seat for a mule loaded with bags of snacks and it still won't be enough for tired, grouchy kids. As a general rule when kids are tired: whatever you have, they don't want, so just give up. Don't bring any snacks, just tell them to chew on an armrest if they're hungry.
6) The iPad "Won't be working!"
Bring some electronics if you want. It'll give you a few minutes of free time between tirades about the iPad "NOT WORKING!!!" Try and get some shitty, free apps working while a kid screams at you. Not even offering them an armrest to chew on will calm them down.
7) Try and find someone in the airport with a worse situation than you.
Seeing hip 20-somethings breezing through airports can really bring you down when traveling. But this past trip, we saw a family with a 7 year old, 4 year old, and TWIN 1.5 year olds. My wife and I were like, "DAYUMMMM...." and kind of felt better about our situation. Those people are either made of steel or are still crying.
8) Go on, melt down.
I don't know about you, but my clearest memories of family vacations involve car trouble, vomiting, or one of my parents totally melting down in front of us kids. So go on, make some memories for the gang! A day at the beach will fade away, but seeing your dad throw down his bag in the middle of a crowded airport and yell at your grouchy, toddler brother who is refusing to walk, "Stop laying down on the goddam floor, we have a tight connection!!!!!" as strangers stare, well now THAT will stick for a lifetime.
9) You know they're not gonna carry their backpack.
Your 5 year old, who can't walk 2 blocks without asking for a piggy back ride, is gonna carry all the stuff he's cramming in his backpack? Hellllll no. You better make sure you're comfortable carrying whatever he's got.
10) Bring some hand sanitizer the kids can drink.
Yup. After you see what the 1.5 old decides to lick, you'll be like, "Forget the warning label, put this hand sanitizer on your tongue!!!"
11) When you get back, tell your parent buddies that, "Our kids travel so well!"
There's nothing parents of hyper-active hellions (AKA: kids) like to hear more than other parents talking about how THEIR kids are such great travelers. So make sure to keep that charade going. Someone asks me how the trip was, I just let them know, "With my little angels, it truly is the journey, not the destination."