“This is without doubt the blackest day in the history of Brussels Airport. ”
Flying with the Kids
Imagining what it's like to take a private jet flight with your kids is easy. Just picture them hermetically sealed for a few hours in a space not much bigger than a walk-in closet. On the minus side of the experience: on most jets, it's cold turkey on texting and Internet access; skateboarding is definitely out; and there's probably no live television. So if you schedule the flight during the season finale of American Idol, you might as well go ahead and alert your lawyer to pending charges of child abuse. On the plus side, you've bypassed the kid-hell of airline terminals; and the amenities of private air travel include big leather seats that swivel, sophisticated entertainment systems and posh catering.
Here are some tips to help assure a smooth flight with the little ones:
Put anything your kids might need in a carry-on bag. Be sure you're familiar with the baggage accommodations for your flight. You might be limited in weight or bulk. Realize that on some aircraft the baggage area is not accessible during flight. Make sure you have a suitable carry-on with essentials such as favorite stuffed animals, iPods and something warm to throw on in case the cabin gets chilly.
Load up on snacks. If your kids are anything like mine, walking from the passenger lounge to the aircraft and waiting for the cabin door to be shut could be enough to totally drain their energy and make them call for refueling. Catering might not be available until sometime after takeoff, so bringing along some snacks is a good idea. Avoid rich, nausea-inducing foods, both in flight and for several hours before takeoff. And bring along sippy cups or gum for the descent phase to help ward off pain from air-pressure differential.
Prepare kid-friendly entertainment. If you're familiar with the airplane you'll be flying on, you have your own mental inventory of what's available. But try viewing that inventory from your children's perspective. For example, can they connect their games to the cabin video system? Another tip: it might be a good investment before a long flight to buy that game cartridge they've been clamoring for. And don't forget headphones to preserve everyone else's sanity.
Discuss what to expect. Kids do better with new experiences if they know what's in store. So give them your best preflight briefing on the ups and downs of turbulence and unusual noises such as landing gear, wing flaps and other mechanical sounds that will likely be more noticeable than on a commercial flight.
If you aren't familiar with the airplane, scope out some details, such as whether there is an onboard lavatory. Is there a place to change diapers? Will you all have to sit for the entire flight, or is there aisle space to stretch in? Also, make sure your kids understand up front that the crew is in charge, including the flight attendant, if there is one. The preflight safety briefing is serious stuff, and instructions in the use of emergency exits, flotation devices and seat belts are not to be taken lightly.
Play up the adventure element. Perhaps your young sophisticates will prefer to "be seen" strolling across the tarmac, casually swinging a tennis racket as they sip a Shirley Temple from a champagne glass. But just maybe they would get a kick out of meeting the pilots and walking along on the preflight examination-even riding for a while in the jump seat on the flight deck, if one is available. At the very least, encourage them to holster their Gameboys long enough to look out the window during takeoff and landing. The view from a private jet can be much more enriching than what you see from the tiny portholes of a jetliner.
Remember that kids are...kids. Finally, it's important for you to accept that, unlike your accountant, the average kid has no idea how expensive this is. So when you holler at them, "Do you have any idea how expensive this is?" realize that their honest answer really is "no."