1. Airport - I pack way ahead. I pack each child a backpack with snacks (and I put some special snacks in my bag for emergency fussiness. It's amazing what a fruit snack can do!), toys, books. Each person has a coat, backpack and suitcase to be in charge of. Well, the wee ones don't have a suitcase to roll because they are strapped into a stroller....sometimes not so happily. When we get to the airport we count suitcases, count backpacks, count kids. Once out of the car and into the airport we go in a line straight to get our bags checked. The last trip we checked two bags (it's too expensive now or I'd check it all). Then we re-group and head for security. Cam and I literally have a pow-wow. We look at each other, say out loud, "this is going to be crazy but we have plenty of time, don't panic, don't rush, and remind the security people that Tuba has special needs". We smile and are very friendly to everyone. It helps! One of us goes in the front and one goes in the back. Each of the big boys rolls a suitcase (even when they don't want to...and especially when they lay down on the airport floor and have a fit about rolling the suitcase....Busy Guy!!). To go through security you have to take off shoes, coats, backpacks, etc. We warn the kids ahead of time. When it's time I hand them a bin and they start putting the things in the bins. I place the bins on conveyor. Once they are ready Cam folds up the stroller (it has to go on the scanner belt too) and then he goes through the metal detector. Then each kid goes through. I go last and then we re-assemble everyone and move on in our formation. One parent leads followed by kids and then one parent in the rear. At the gate we sit and get situated. Then we eat, get drinks, go potty and hang out. Once the plane announces that we can board we pick up, put on coats, backpacks, get assigned bags to each person, get into formation, count things and get on.
Here's an old one from our trip to Disney in 2007. My how they've grown!
2. Plane - We've been on a plane once with just Tuba, once with each baby coming home from Ethiopia, once with three kids when we went to Disney in 2007, and twice now with the whole brood. I can say it's much easier with one. ;)
One thing Cam and I use that helps us keep track of everyone is called, "eyes on". When we are all together and one of us adults is going to walk away with or without one of the kids we say to the other adult, "I'm going "blank" and you have eyes on "fill in number of kids". So at the pool when I would take Sis potty I'd say to Cam, "I'm going to the bathroom and you have eyes on 4". It keeps us on the same page and keeps the kids safe.
***Disclaimer: The going trip is always much better, nicer, calmer and easier than the return trip. I don't quite know why? Perhaps it's because we are tired from vacation? I can tell you that the return trip from Hawaii was SO bad that we vowed to never fly with our kids again....EVER! First off the TSA agent at the airport was a crazy nut job! Will I be banned from flying for saying that??? While going through the metal detector Tuba kept reaching his hand up and touching the side of the door. This caused it to beep. Tuba was sent back and had to try again, and again, and again. Tuba started to melt down, cry, hit himself, hit me. I was getting flustered as Cam had already gone through with all the kids and I could not see him. The TSA guy was not interested in the fact that Tuba has special needs nor the fact that he couldn't help touching the side. Our giant MAW buttons weren't helping either. I asked if they could push him through in a wheelchair, I asked if I could walk through with him, both were a big NO. So as I was being bit and spit on by Tuba I was getting flustered at the guy. Then the TSA guy tells me, "Lady, if I'm gonna have a problem with you then I'll have to take you the back room". Seriously!! My next thought was that I was going to be strip searched by this TSA nut job. YIKES! I lost my composure and bellowed loudly for cam, "CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM". Suddenly Cam appeared where I could see him so I then yelled that I couldn't get Tuba to walk through. We tried once more and Tuba did it. Thank the Lord because I can tell you that I would have been arrested before I went into a back room with that guy. Cam once told me (another story for later), "Becky, you act like a big giant person but you're actually pretty tiny". Believe me I'm a BIG person when I need to be!
So after that ordeal we had a couple of hours to burn before getting on the plane. The kids were wild and loud and awful. I was crabby and tired and awful. Tuba was terrible. While boarding the plane he refused to move down the aisle. While trying to get him moving he bit my hand and then spit in my face. It was so humiliating. I started to tear up. A kind woman sitting near me reached up and rubbed my arm. The flight was worse...2 hours of horrendous turbulence (the worst the flight crew had ever experienced), flight crew buckled so no drinks, no snacks. Sis and Baby George were hungry, tired and crabby. They had to be buckled due to the turbulence and they did NOT like it. They both screamed for 2 hours straight. Sis pinched me until my arm was black and blue. She wanted her seat belt off and I had to hold the clamp closed. She screamed and bucked and kicked the seat in front of her...for two hours...until she then threw up on me.
The turbulence was bad, scary bad. I was scared with all the bumbs and jumps. All of this made the flight even worse. At one point I thought to myself, "the plane is going to crash into the ocean and I'm glad. It will all be over with". I'm sure if the other people on the plane could have gotten away with it they would have thrown us out the air lock!
I do believe that these photos showcase exactly why we had trouble in the AZ airport. I blame Cam. ;)
You may wonder why we would ever do it again...I can tell you Cam is with you! But the flight to and from our last trip was way shorter and much better. The worst of the return trip form AZ was at the airport waiting to board. The kids were wild and tired and wild. They had had too much junk food on vacation for sure. They were sharing a pop after having pizza. The last pop was being passed around and my sweet lovely wee ones were shouting top volume, "IIIIIII WAAAANT POPPPPPPPPPPP!". So embarassing!! I never let the kids have pop except on vacation and the occasional dinner out. Soon the pop was in a tug of war and it got spilled on the carpet. Next thing I know Sis and Baby George were down on the floor licking the carpet....Ewwwww! My eye was in full twitching mode. Next Sis was licking the glass back and forth...slobber oozing down the glass. Mr. P and Busy Guy were fighting over a coloring book and soon it was in shreds...along with my nerves. Getting gathered and in line was awful but once on the plane it went really well. Thank goodness or I'd never get Cam to fly with the kids again...ever.So, in my very long winded fashion that's how we manage the tribe on trips out. Sometimes we do it well and sometimes....we have lots of room for improvement.