As you get close to landing, it is time to start thinking about your next moves, namely getting off the plane, making your way through the airport and beginning the vacation.
Before the pilot requests everyone return to their seats and buckle up for the landing, sneak in one more toilet break. You could face delays in customs and immigration, as well as at baggage claim, and not every airport has a restroom available before you clear the airport. Check with the cabin attendants about when the likely last chance to get up for the toilet will be.
Prepare your child for the landing. Explain that the airplane will make some odd sounds (when the landing gear drop they usually make a pronounced THUMP sound).
The pilot will start moving the control surfaces around on the wings. On 747's in particular, some of these control surfaces are quite wide and when fully extended, make it look like the wings are about ready to separate into two pieces. If you are near a window, the plane will appear to start going faster and faster as you get closer to the ground. This too is normal. It can help a lot to reassure your child that all is well.
After 17 hours on a plane, sitting still, it amazes me that folks have zero patience left over to wait five more minutes to exit the aircraft. Even normal, well-mannered people will leap up upon touch down and begin scrambling for their carry on items in a mad dash to be off the plane. Needless to say, most of these folks will then arrive (first) to the baggage area only to stand around for ten minutes as the plane is unloaded.
Unless your Type A personality has already been stretched to near breaking while in flight, have a seat while others push and shove to get off the plane first. Folks in a hurry will be clogging the aisles, opening overhead bins and swinging luggage around. Things can have shifted overhead in flight only to tumble out of the bin onto someone, your goal being to make sure that someone is not your child. Little kids in particular have their heads at about the right level to get whacked by a swinging carry on bag, so it is best to just have a seat and wait a bit for the aisles to clear.
Use the time in your seats to check around for lost items and perhaps even tidy up a bit. Take a deep cleansing breath, stand up, and exit the plane.
A few things to consider before we move on to baggage claim.
- In many foreign airports it is common to see police or paramilitary troops with (to some kids) scary black uniforms and real submachine guns. Again, telling your child what to expect will push aside many potential fears.
- A lot of countries will also have trained dogs milling about, sniffing you and your bags for explosives and drugs. Beagles are apparently quite good at this and are used frequently for this purpose. Explain to your child that these are working dogs, busy at their task, and should not be petted, teased, spoken to or otherwise anything but left alone to do their jobs. The German sheppard the size of a Volvo is easy to shy away from; the little beagle who looks like Snoopy is a much more attractive pet-like animal, but should be left alone as much if not more so than the bigger dog.
- If you do see a toilet right upon exiting the plane, take advantage of the opportunity. You may not see another toilet for a while and the chances are that an airport toilet will be reasonably clean compared to the one at the bus stop you're heading toward next.