Ok readers I’ll be honest with you.
When I was first invited on my recent trip to Florida, courtesy of Virgin Holidays, I was worried about flying with them.
The image in my head was that of being stuck on a plane with screaming kids for 9 hours.
When sharing flying stories from hell with friends, one of the most common horror stories you’ll hear is about being stuck with the kids from hell.
Lobster faced , stressed parents who are drinking umpteen G & T’s to pull themselves through the agony of their journey.
My worst suspicions are confirmed when arriving at the departure gate for my Virgin Holidays flight to Orlando.
I walk into D47- a room , teeming with excited, squealing & hyperactive kids.
The kids were crawling like termites over hapless, haggard looking parents.
The battle was over before it had begun.
It’s a nine hour flight from Gatwick to Orlando.
I expect chaos to ensue soon after takeoff.
Luckily, before departure I check into the Virgin Holidays V-Room where I am treated to a hearty cooked breakfast and a Mojito ( yes, at 9am) which had fortified me for the worst.
Surprisingly, an hour in and there is an eerie calm in the cabin.
I peek around and see all the kids busy thanks to a number of factors: Virgin Holidays’s excellent Inflight entertainment system packed with the latest Disney blockbusters, special Virgin kids goody bags ( while giving them out I suddenly have a jealous pang ) and also Dad’s Ipad.
In front of the loo they form part of an orderly queue , showing a maturity beyond their years.
I guess kids are a much more evolved species nowadays.
Much more well travelled and experienced pros than when I travelled for the first time.
It got me thinking about the time when I flew for the first time as a kid to India
1984. I was 5.
Flying with Aeroflot.
Changing 3 planes from London to India.
14 hour stopover in Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport.
Photo sourced under Creative Commons License, thanks to http://www.flickr.com/photos/jystewart/
Probably the worst airport I have visited in living memory- I still shudder when I recall it’s bleak Stalinist architecture and long, straight corridors.
There was nothing much to do.
No shops or duty free or Starbucks or Internet then.
Lots of bored looking faces.
I remember spending hours colouring in my sketch books and reading Red Rackham’s Treasure a billion times.
Remember, Russia was still then in the fearful grip of the cold war. This was Russia before the reforms of Perestroika and Glasnost.
It was a very lean, mean and insipid space designed to strike fear into it’s temporary residents and make anyone think twice about visiting the country.
I remember being greeted by leaden faced security guards who spoke in monosyllables and short jerky sentences.
If only I had know the Meerkats then, would have found them much more funny.
It was also at Sheremetyevo that I developed the fear of shitting in public toilets.
The toilets were never cleaned and pretty disgusting –which probably scarred me life.
Leading to a little known disease called Parcopresis –‘irrational fear of shitting in public.’
Smoking was permitted on flights then.
I remember being stuck in a smoky haze for most of the flight.
The smoking section would be in the front but I think that did little do stop the smoke escaping to the back of the plane.
Comparing that memory of flying to the one I experienced with Virgin Holidays : wow what a difference 3 decades have made to flying with children.
Now that you can enjoy direct flights, no smoking on flights, shorter journey times and also the benefit of a more family centric approach with better seating arrangements and special kids inflight menus.
Airports have grown up since.
Still stressful places to be but at least a little more busy and cheerful.
Besides duty free and Starbucks you can get a Indian Head Massage, visit an Art Exhibition or dine at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant.
Flying with kids has never been better.
Plus there is the luxury of add-ons like checking into Virgin Holidays dedicated airport lounge, the V-Room where before the flight, parents for an extra £20 can enjoy a breakfast fit for a queen and king while the kids can fool around in a dedicated play area.
I’ve seen the light.
Travelling with kids is an altogether different and much more stress free , enjoyable experience now.
I think also the fear of travelling with a baby crying throughout a whole flight -maybe an modern day myth?
I’m just a tad less apprehensive about approaching parenthood now.
What is your opinion?
Love to hear from families who fly frequently with their kids.
Starting at £949, I spent seven nights in Orlando with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick or Manchester direct to Orlando.
This included two nights accommodation at the 5V Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, two nights accommodation at the 3V+ Sunset Vista Beachfront Suites, two nights at the 5V Longboat Key Club & Resort and one night at the 5V Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotel, all on a room only basis with car hire included starts from £949. Prices are per person based on two adults travelling and sharing a standard room, price includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Prices are based on departures 12 – 14 Nov 2012.
Booking the v-room experience at Gatwick Airport or Manchester Airport for as little as £20 (Adults) £12 (Kids)
To book: www.virginholidays.co.uk , 0844 557 3859 or visit one of our 90 stores located in Debenhams and House of Fraser stores nationwide.