x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Travelling with Kids: Flying can be fun when families pull together

What really eased the seven-hour journey, however, was that with two years and eight months difference in age, my eldest enjoyed taking care of her little brother.

Flying home for a holiday with my two children was far from the horror experience I had anticipated. Towards the end of last year I wrote of my apprehension about travelling solo with my two-year-old son and five-year-old daughter for the first time. However, rather than being the type of children who antagonised passengers and upset the aircrew, my children were angelic. Why I ever doubted them, I don't know.

After checking in at Dubai International Airport, we found a quiet spot to watch Charlie & Lola videos on my phone and play a game of "I Spy". On the plane, they settled themselves in by fiddling with their seat belts, their earphones, their TV remote control and the window blind.

At take off, they sucked on boiled sweets to help their ears pop as we climbed higher and higher. Then their focus turned to Tom and Jerry, Mary Poppins, Toy Story, colouring and sticker books.

There was a little excitement if one of us needed the toilet as this meant we all went. As any frequent flyer can imagine, squishing an adult and two smallish children into the cubicle is a bit of a squeeze but nothing a bit of humour can't deal with.

But, for my snack-obsessed children, the highlight of the journey was the arrival of the meal tray. As they cried with delight at all the little dishes before them, I speedily removed the box of treats - my bribing tool to ensure they ate as much of the "good" stuff as possible - nestled in the corner of each of their trays.

What really eased the seven-hour journey, however, was that with two years and eight months difference in age, my eldest enjoyed taking care of her little brother. She insisted on being in charge of pushing him through the airport in his push chair. She considered it her job to do up his seat belt on the plane and open all his food cartons when the meal arrived.

This extra pair of little hands meant I watched an entire film - something I haven't contemplated in the last five years of being a flying parent. Though I did choose Jane Eyre because, as an English graduate, the storyline is so familiar it didn't matter if I missed anything to adjust a little person's headphones or spoon another mouthful of lunch in. I even caught up on a couple of episodes of Glee. A miracle!

After landing at Heathrow, the three of us were relatively relaxed, particularly when a member of the usually surly airport stuff pulled us out of the queue to go straight to the front. I suspect my hassled expression as I tried to stop my son ramming everyone's feet with the wheelie suitcase he insisted on pulling had something to do with that. And having to repeatedly stop him mounting the baggage carousel was a little tiresome, too. But, hey, you can't have it all.

arayer@thenational.ae