There are so many stories I could tell about my travel-alone-with-little-boys experience (I think it's really important to differentiate between boys and girls in the situation--because say whatever you want, but little boys ARE WAY DIFFERENT). Instead of trying to focus in on any one of them, I've decided instead to create a little list of recommendations/advice for the other mommies out there who might be considering such a feat.
When Flying Alone With Children...
1. Dress them in cute outfits. People will like them better and will be nicer to you.
2. Feed them chewy things that will prevent them from speaking for long periods of time. Gummy Bears, Starburst, and Mike-N-Ikes work well. Gum does not--they can still talk with gum. Chewy foods also assist with ear-popping issues.
3. Understand that coloring books suck. Bring video games and DVDs. Anything that can reel them in now and ruin their attention span for later in life.
4. Hand sanitizer is for rookies. Antibacterial WIPES are the way to go. But you'll need ordinary baby wipes to clean their faces. If their faces are dirty no one will feel sorry for you when they misbehave.
5. Don't make eye contact with them when they are being naughty. It gives them validation, and makes them grow louder. Use a monotone voice to correct them and pretend to be involved in anything else.
6. Don't be afraid to tell outlandish lies. Things like, "The airplane police are watching you on hidden cameras and are about to take you away," and, "The people behind us might be angry aliens" work really well.
7. Explain to them ahead of time in gross detail that the bathrooms are unclean. Also, prepare them for the automatic flushers. Noah was convinced he could get sucked in and tried to refuse to go at all.
8. Have code words to use with your children. Practice them ahead of time. Not too many. Pick and choose what will be most important to you. Ours were "FALL IN." When I say this, my kids run and latch onto my hips like little magnets, no matter what is happening. We practiced this for two weeks at home and I rewarded them with candy. I'm not ashamed because it totally worked.
9. Make sure they understand they are to scream as loudly as they can if a stranger approaches them while your back is turned. This helps with kidnapping and those weirdos out there who seem to think it's okay to touch other people's children. (I suppose it's an unpleasant side effect of adhering to #1.)
10. Strollers help you get through security faster, manage the carry-on bags, and get to your gate on time. Small children are bad walkers.
11. Get seats as close to the front of the aircraft as you can. If the only ones available are premium seats, wait until check-in and ask nicely for a free upgrade. Sometimes they will do it. If they get snarky and look at you with disdain, ignore them. There is nothing wrong with asking.
12. While I know lots of really wonderful men, male flight attendants seem, generally speaking, to be less sympathetic than female ones. Keep this in mind when asking for anything, whether it's help with a Batman backpack in the overhead bin or making sure the cup of apple juice is only half full.
13. Avoid taking your child to the bathroom on the plane at all costs. If you must do it, forego washing their hands in that gross little sink. Use the antibacterial wipes and say lots of prayers. Also, don't try to use the bathroom yourself while you're in there with your child. There's not room and someone will get pee on them. Especially during takeoff or landing.
14. If your children are too old to qualify you as a preboarding family, mill about next to the boarding ramp and look flustered. Sometimes they'll offer to let you board early anyway.
15. Do not allow your really intelligent six-year-old son to locate the seats on the plane. You might end up in the wrong row, which means that you have to get back up after being settled, relocate yourself and the children, and get resettled. This will completely undo the convenience of #14.
16. Don't promise the people around you that your children are going to be well-behaved. Everyone, including you, knows you're lying. Instead, smile and tell corny jokes about "The Ransom of Red-Chief." But understand, many of these people resent you no matter how nice you are. It's not personal.
17. Have absolutely no expectations of anything going even remotely the way you want it to. Children will always, always surprise you and find a way to throw you for a loop. Your goal is SURVIVAL...and memories.
Oddly...it all makes for very, very good memories. :)