"Flying with a tiny child is actually not that hard, as long as you do not relax for a second and maintain the alertness of a ninja for 12 hours straight. On a plane there is nowhere to go, no matter how detailed your fantasy of breaking through a window and parachuting to safety. It’s just you, Baby Medusa, 300 judgmental stares and the reminder that you aren’t a normal person anymore. You’re a parent, and maybe you should just stay home until high school." -- from "Flying with my toddler is easy" by Corinne Purtill
I've been absent for a couple weeks.
Solchop and I just returned from a sunny tropical vacation!
... it was supposed to be a vacation.
We returned Saturday morning and I spent the duration of the day enjoying some much-needed and long-awaited relaxation. It's safe to say that I was not able to relax in Florida.
Who knew that toting my spawn to a sandy Gulfside paradise would be such a chore? Between the nightmarish flights to and fro, the constant
Where to begin...? Air travel. Now that I have survived two hellish flights with my own 1-yr-old, I can safely say that I now know what to do [and what not to do]. Let's first talk about how I got 3 free bottles of wine from the flight attendant [and I fly coach, people...].
There are 8 simple steps:
Step 1: On the night before you leave, take baby to Taco Bell for the first time (this step is vital; do not skip). Make sure he/she eats an entire bean burrito to provide ample gas and diarrhea the following morning.
Step 2: Absentmindedly forget to pack any wipes in your diaper bag. While you're at it, make sure to pack the diaper rash cream in your checked bag so that there is none in your carry-on diaper bag.
Step 3: In keeping with the "absentminded" theme, forget to bring any entertainment for the plane. Make sure to plan ahead, put good thought into it, and buy a boatload of new toys ahead of time; then leave all newly-purchased toys (aka "baby's in-flight entertainment") at home.
Step 4: If possible, schedule the flight for a point in time when your toddler is uber-mobile and impossible to contain. Bonus points if baby has an undiagnosed double ear infection and/or is teething.
Step 5: Dress baby in brightly-colored striped leggings and attention-grabbing mini Converse All-Star shoes... these will win the hearts of those around you and invite oodles of "ohmigosh, those shoes/leggings/fill-in-the-blank's are adorable" comments.
Step 6: Plant yourself in seats at the very back of the plane, directly in front of the flight attendants, to ensure that they are most definitely affected by the inevitable screams.
Step 7: Make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened and your seat back and tray table are in their full upright positions. Then attempt to contain your screaming/writhing/back-arching baby in your lap, allow beadlets of sweat to form along your hairline, and [in a very conspicuous manner] proceed to take deep breaths and count to 10... over and over.
Step 8: Be sure to act surprised and enormously grateful as flight attendant John gifts you a tiny bottle (or three, ahem) of Cabernet because [according to John], "I think you're gonna need this, sweetheart." Bonus points if John throws in a bag of animal crackers for the baby beast in your lap.
This all happened to us on the flight there... 3 bottles of wine and all. On a brighter note, the trip home was a smidge more successful, with Sol holding off about 1 hr into the trip before starting the incessant screaming. Thank goodness for a stranger sitting a row behind me and across the aisle, because Sol climbed right into her lap and was content. For. The. Entire. Rest. Of. The. Trip. I don't know her name, I don't know her story, but she was a blonde angel at 30,000 feet, assigned to seat 13D to help me maintain what little sanity I had left. You're a saint, 13D :) I'm sure the rest of Flight 650 thanks you as well.
If you and your baby/toddler have some air travel plans looming ahead, here are some tips:
- Visit your doctor before the trip, and make sure your child is in tip-top shape. BABIES WITH EAR INFECTIONS WILL BE YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE ON A PLANE. And we all know that ear infections are a) invisible to the layperson and b) can sometimes go undetected until the least opportune moment. Better safe than sorry.
- Book nonstop flights if possible. While airports are pretty cool because they're massive and they allow baby to roam and burn off that seemingly-unstoppable energy, it's best to just get the trip overwith.
- Aim for an aisle seat. This gives you just a smidge more room, and will help keep baby from climbing all over Stranger 1 and Stranger 2.
- Bring all necessary documentation -- your photo ID or passport, as well as Baby's birth certificate (or ID, if you have one).
- Pack your diaper bag, and pack smart. Bring wipes, extra pacifiers, and good diapers (I'm a proponent of generic brands, but air travel is not the time to be changing diapers over and over, so make sure you have premium protection on that booty).
- Dress your child in layers. Cabin temperature can hit some major peaks and valleys, and you'll want to make sure baby is comfortable at all times.
- Allow extra time in the airport. There are some TSA agents that will bump you to the head of the security line (this happened to us, and it was ahhh-maz-ing!), but you should plan for a long line at security.
- Slip-on shoes. Period. You don't want to be tying your shoes and chasing a baby.
- If you're lucky enough to be traveling with another adult, send them ahead with the gear to board the plane, and you wait [with baby] until the very last minute to board. This will allow that wiggly, squirmy monster extra time to roam freely before being confined to a tiny airplane seat.
- Bring a pacifier clip. I did not bring one, and found myself reaching under the seats 8 million times to find Sol's pacifier. Could have been avoided.
- Bring lots of new/fun/small toys as entertainment. Fill a bag with new and cheap (ex: Dollar Store) toys and offer one to your child every 15 mins or so... and cycle through them a couple times. Wrap them up if you wish, which offers an added layer of fun (no pun intended). Here's a genius idea: bring a roll of masking tape for your toddler to play with. This is brilliant. Quiet, sticky, NOT messy, cheap rolls of fun.
- Bring more drinks and snacks than you think you'll need. FYI: the 3-ounce rule does NOT apply to baby's milk or formula (nor to medications or diaper rash cream, for that matter). So pack that milk and keep baby happy.
- When possible (and if a tantrum rears its ugly head), go for a walk down the aisle. A change of scenery can do wonders.
- Allow for exceptions to your rules. If you've been trying to break away from the pacifier or lovie, an airplane ride is not the time to enforce. Let it go for these few hours. Do anything to keep your kid (and the other passengers) happy. I'm all for traditional learning toys, but for something as taxing as a plane ride, a toy like the Fisher-Price Apptivity iPhone case would be PHENOM.
- Be flexible. Even if you've made your list and checked it twice, even if you think you're prepared to handle anything (whatever, Superparent), it will take one tiny tantrum in one crowded plane to humble you. Take deep breaths and bear in mind that baby is taking cues from you. Upset yourself and you'll likely upset Baby. And remember: when you're the parent with the screaming toddler, the other passengers are probably not judging you, but empathizing with you. If anyone offers help, TAKE IT.
- Smile. When your child is draining you of every last ounce of sanity, smile. Onlookers will think you're a rockstar.
Do you have any tips for traveling with an infant or toddler? Share them!