Friday, February 24, 2017

Tips for Flying with Little Ones Alone (from someone who *actually* knows)

It was just me and Amelia, the then less-than-one year old, smashed onto a flight with no empty seats, headed home across the country from coast to coast after visiting my family. We chose a window seat and I thought for a few minutes I would have the middle seat for myself because the flight was almost done boarding and I had prayed really hard and Amelia was getting increasingly horrible. At the last possible moment a nicely dressed businessman took the seat and my heart sank. I normally try to sit by other moms or at least women, so this was a first for me. Well, Amelia wasn't a newborn anymore and still nursing, so if I tried to nurse her with her legs on my lap, her legs could easily reach over and kick the businessman. This wasn't the only problem. I was offering her anything I could to stop her from being fussy, and when she got food, she would fling it toward the man sitting next to me. This flinging of food was the last straw for me, and I started sobbing. I could tell the man felt bad for me and wanted to help, but I was so beyond embarrassed and there was nothing I or he or anyone could do. Such is the life with babies on a plane.  Sometimes they are just going to be, well, babies.  In fact that's the best advice I've gotten from my mom with a newborn. Me: "Mom, why does the baby do this horrible thing??" Mom: "Because they are a baby, and that's what babies do." But advice for newborns is for a different post.  We need to talk about flying!

I have flown in an airplane with Amelia through all of her stages, flown with a toddler and a newborn, and flown with two toddlers. By myself.  Amelia is finally to the "watch an ipad for 6 hours" stage, so we're through some of the hard parts.  But I still vividly remember how it was, and flying quickly became my biggest fear.  But taking the advice of my mom, family, and the internet, I soon learned that preparation was indeed key for my nerves and for the chance of success and well-behaved children. 

Here is my go-to plan before a flight - hopefully it can bring some calm, but in this scenario, do plan for the worst.

3 weeks out: No potty-training, No getting rid of: the bottle, nursing, pacifiers, blankies, or any other method of soothing or comforting for your child.  Sorry! I don't care if great aunt Greta is going to judge you for your 2.5 year old not being potty trained - TOO BAD AUNT GRETA!  Also, make sure they are used to everything that will be happening on the plane as much as you can.  If they've never worn shoes in their life, don't plan on getting them to be happy wearing shoes in the airport.  Same goes with new car seats, clothes, or anything else that's too different and might induce an unneeded meltdown.  Also, buy kids' headphones and start letting your child use them if they are old enough for it.  

2 weeks out: Start your shopping! And be prepared to hide it until you get on that airplane.  If you have never given your child juice in their life, now would be the perfect time to buy some apple juice, juice boxes, fruit punch, whatever - and put that shiz in their bottle or sippy! They will be so delighted it might buy you up to a half an hour+ of happiness on the plane! At the gate they will test it, and they CANNOT make you throw it away.  (If some terrible human being does make you dump it out, stop by the nearest shop and buy some more juice and pour it back in the sippy before you get to your gate). Same goes for snacks.  Buy little packets of (or put in little zippies) cookies, chips, crackers, snacks that your little one has never seen before.  And don't forget candy (maybe just for you, but if worst comes to worst and you need to offer your 9 month old a reese's to stop them from screaming because they won't do something you desperately need them to do, you'll be prepared! Bring little bits of everything, and leave the big box of most of it at home for your husband to binge on while you're gone and he's missing y'all like crazy.  I don't care if you are a crunchy mama, or putting your little one on a whole foods diet, an airplane ride is not the time for that nonsense! haha! 
If it were only this easy hehehe
A few days out start packing.

Of course you need to be packing what you know for sure your kids will eat in addition. Don't bank on the airport having something your kids will like.  Bring sandwiches, cold chicken nuggets, etc. that you know will feed your kids for the amount of hours you will be gone.  If your child is on a *only eating ritz crackers for the last 6 weeks* phase (just me?), bring plenty along with all the fun stuff.  
If you don't carry a diaper bag, now is the time to pack the one you got at your baby shower.  You will need two large purses/bags/backpacks for just you and one or two babies. 

In bag one: 
12 diapers (more if you will be in flights/airports longer than 1 cross country trip).
3 Yes 3 outfits for your little one.  I have gone through all three with a 6 month old baby.  If your child is prone to blowouts, plan accordingly, but 3 should do you.  
Big thing of baby wipes
Wallet and other mommy things like phone charger, phone, earbuds, and you should probably also keep ipad or extra kid phone in here too. (keep liquids in a place they will stay upright, or in a different bag).
Keep children's lovies or pacis in here too, in a special place so you can easily grab for landing and takeoff (especially pacis).  

In bag two: 
You will need a section for food/snacks
A section for fun entertaining toys/games/gifts/coloring books. 
A place for a bottle or two and that magical new juice
A special small place for a couple of straws, spoons, pens, a place for children's ibuprofen (just bring it and don't ask questions)
A place for kids' headphones

A backpack diaper bag is a REALLY good idea as well.  The more toddlers/babies you are taking on a plane, the more this becomes a must.  

Now, as far as toys - go to the toy section as well as the party supply section at Target or Walmart and look at all those mini toys. I'm thinking tsum tsum, slinkies, mini foods, mini legos. Be prepared to lose them all, because you just might. As soon as kids get any dexterity in their fingers, they love putting little things inside of other little things.  If you buy a toy that has its own special box with an easy-to-open clasp, a one year old could play with that for like an hour if you get lucky, ESP. if they've never seen it before.  My little sister once played with a paddle ball for an entire flight that my mom wrapped for her. I have bought the Anna and Elsa head pillows that you can draw on with washable markers, and Amelia loved it.  Can't stress this enough, something they haven't seen before.  And if you have an 18 month+ old that loves to open gifts, wrap them up beforehand.  At age 2.5, you can start bribing them with good behavior and to obey, keep their seatbelt on, stop kicking the seat in front of them, etc. for these toys and gifts.  

Something I brought on A LOT of my trips with just Amelia was my boppy. I wrapped it around my diaper bag strap when we were walking up and down airplane aisles so I didn't really have to carry it on and off flights. It made a nice area that I could drape my nursing cover around and not have it be sticking on Amelia and bugging her.  Eventually with baby 2 Noah I just got better at nursing more discretely and without a cover and pillows. Also, Amelia was sitting next to me as a buffer for those teeny tiny, horribly tiny, seats.  

A few days out also call the airport and see if they have a family security line and where it is. They have one sometimes in my home CLT airport. 

Miracles like this do happen if you pray REALLY Hard!
At check-in: Your husband can come with you behind security!!! Make sure he has his driver's license, and ask the ticket agent if he can have a pass to get beyond security to help you. I haven't met anyone that hasn't let us yet.  Also, ask how full of a flight it is just because you want to know and so you can start preparing yourself mentally if it will be bonkers up there.  

After security: Get to your gate as soon as you can and let your littles crawl/walk around as much as possible.  Don't let them sleep if you can help it.  Also, if they're not too hungry, food would be a good thing to wait til you're on the plane to worry about.  At the gate, go get a gate check tag for your stroller and car seat.  Ask the attendant how many empty seats there are.  If there are a lot of empty seats, you can ask if you can bring your infant car seat onto the flight.  I have been able to do this a lot of times without actually buying a seat! It's awesome! I'm actually nervous that some higher-up at Southwest or something will find out that I do this and nix it.
 But for now, it's amazing.  I have never brought on the full-on huge carseat, because it's just so heavy, but if you have help and really feel the need to do it, go for it.  It will probably do a lot of good, especially if the seat is purchased.  Just make sure to check if they will let it on the plane at check-in before you lug it all the way to your gate.  
Moving way too fast to get in focus with a camera phone
On the airplane: If you are on a flight with unassigned seats, go to the VERY back.  Like last row or second to last row very back.  No one wants to be back there, and if there are empty seats you're more likely to have them back there.  I always struggle between choosing window or aisle, but usually we choose window and middle and just too bad for the people that have to move to let you change your baby's diaper, walk around, etc.  If you have a really wiggly one that you plan on being up and about with, aisle might be better, just be prepared for a meltdown that they can't reach the window and lift the window cover up and down a million times.  So now that I think about it, probably better to just go with window and let the person on the aisle deal with you. Now, you've made it! After all your preparations, it might still be terrible, but you'll live to tell the tale! On takeoff and landing, nurse or give juice or a paci, so ears won't hurt. The only other advice I have is just don't cuss anyone out or threaten anyone so you won't get arrested upon landing. And at the end of the day you will be where you are going! You're brave! Make sure to stay at your location long enough to make the trip worth it and forget how hard it was! But, YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS! Go Get 'Em Momma!


byuhotmama said...

Oh my gosh, I read this out loud to Olivia and I am laughing so hard, I'm crying! She loved it too, and remembers all the terrible, I mean FUN plane trips we took when she was younger! We always had the "extra fun" of having Olivia throw up on every lift-off and landing, so my gallon-sized freezer ziplock bags were a MUST! They saved us!!! My "best" (worst) story is when we were flying standby and they put Dad, Me and Olivia in three middle seats in three different rows. Olivia had just turned three years old. I was so worried! So when a man came to sit by her, I said really sweetly, I'm so sorry, but you'll have to hold this bag for her to vomit in, she always vomits. He was soooo angry and said, I can't believe this airline! He traded seats with me immediately without having me ask him. (I was being 100% truthful, too).

Katie Allred said...

Thank you for reading mom! You are my one faithful reader so far hahaha! I guess it was worth it to write this now :).

Em Elle Oh said...

I liked reading this, too! Don't know if I'll ever need it, since my husband is a road trip fanatic, but I'm sure many of the same principles apply.