National Lampoon’s European Vacation

So, we survived. Better than that, we actually had a good time. The kids were all SO good on the 8 1/2 hour ride back from Paris, even without Benadryl.

That’s the number one bit of wisdom I have to impart to fellow parents who are contemplating a trip abroad with small children: bring Benadryl, and Tylenol, WITH you. You think the baby food over there is wackadoo? At the same Boots pharmacy in London that is peddling “Fisherman’s Bake” (scroll down for more on that horror), they offer a drug which is also called “Benadryl” but that bears no relation to the Sleepytime Syrup we know so well. Their “Benadryl” has an antihistamine that buzzes you UP instead. And, although I returned to that same pharmacy twice more, hoping that I was just not looking carefully enough, London pharmacies basically offer no drugs at all for children, let alone with a soporific side effect. If British kids get coughs and fever, they get, like, lavender poultices, and that is IT.

Not to get totally sidetracked on this Benadryl thing, but there are certainly a Mother Load of opinions out there on whether a parent should give her children something to make them sleepy before a long trip. (Check out “The Drugging Debate” at as a primer.) Those on the pro side needn’t really explain any further. Those on the con side tend towards rhetoric like “How dare you drug your children for your own convenience,” or, “I refuse to give my children a SEDATIVE when it is their God-given right to run up and down the aisles for eight hours.”

I feel like this is all kind of missing the point. I wouldn’t give Benadryl to a baby. But I wanted to make my almost-four and five-and-a-half year olds sleepy for THEIR sake. Would I, if I had a choice, fly overnight to London without one of the Ambien I smuggled home from the hospital after giving birth? Well, of course not. Who wouldn’t choose to sleep away those long hours over the North Atlantic?

But there I was, in France, sans Benadryl, so I was trying to brainwash the boys as we boarded at Charles de Gaulle. “This is going to be a LONG flight,” I told them. “A LOOOONNNNNGNNNNGNNGNGNNGGG flight. So we are all, most certainly, going to take a nap. Here are your blankies. Start huffing them now.”

Maddie did, thank the Lord. Nap, that is. And huff her blankie. But neither of the boys took so much as a lengthy blink. And when lunch was served in hour five, it was pizza. “Thank you, God!” I rejoiced.

Then I opened the box.

It had MUSHROOMS on it.

“Why, God?? Why???” I railed to the heavens, as Cooper’s lip quivered and he said, in a shaky voice, “I fink I don’t like this pizza.”

Which, of course, meant that he ate nothing for the eight hour flight, since the boys ate all the baked goods I smuggled from the hotel breakfast before we even got to the airport.

So there is my other advice to traveling mothers: BRING FOOD. Bring only food. Don’t pack clothes. Wear the same T shirt five times if you have to. But bring enough baby food, cereal, chicken nuggets, and most importantly, peanut butter, for the whole time you’re going to be gone. And for that last one, make sandwiches ahead of time, and pack an extra jar in your checked baggage. Do NOT pack it in your carry on. I packed a whole loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter for our trip to London, chuckling to myself at my own brilliance, only to have the PB confiscated as a “liquid” at the security checkpoint. I just confirmed at the TSA Permitted and Prohibited Items Website that peanut butter would have been OK, if it were less than 3 ounces. Oh, and your screwdriver has to be shorter than 7 inches. Well, at least that one makes sense.

Last thing: when you get off the flight from Paris, and your kids haven’t slept but have really behaved amazingly well the whole flight, do not, I repeat, do not say aloud, “The kids were great. This trip was SO worth it.” Because your children will reward you for your hubris by waking up, all three of them, at 2 am the following morning. FOR THE DAY.