My son's first time on an airplane was August 14, 2009. He was just nine weeks old.
Thank goodness my mother-in-law was with me to help out because Lucas had a blow out of the yucky disgusting nature (his one of only four EVER) mid-flight and I was stuck in the bathroom with him and left his diaper bag with a clean change of clothes back at my seat. Such a rookie move!
Even so, Lucas was A LOT easier to travel with back then (he used to sleep the entire flight) than he is now.
Since that first flight, I have flown solo to the Bay Area (an hour, 20 gate-to-gate) with Lucas a dozen times to visit my in-laws and Todd and I have taken him to Europe and Australia. At this point, I consider myself an expert at traveling with a tot in tow.
Now, having said that, as we are getting ready for our summer vacation, a week in Hawaii (!!), the thing I'm most stressed about is the flight there and back.
Five hours in a confined space makes me crazy enough, but add an energetic toddler to the mix and it could be a nightmare.
I am not claiming to be an expert on any of this, but here's what usually works for us:
- Book your flight for first thing in the morning, when children are usually at their best or around nap or bedtime, in hopes that they will sleep.
- Before you even get to the airport, explain where you're going and how you're going to get there. Airports and airplanes can be scary for small children; there are lots of people scurrying about, long lines, loud noises, etc.
- Let your child be a part of the packing process. Allow them to pick out a couple of favorite items to bring on the plane in addition to having something stowed away in the suitcase to "meet" them at your destination.
- Once at the airport, spend a lot of time walking around. You want to tire your child out and burn off some of that extra energy so they can sit still for some of the flight.
- Load up your iPhone, iPod, iPad or other favorite electronic device with photos and videos of your child. Lucas loves seeing footage of himself. Just don't forget to completely charge your device! Many airports have outlets at the gate, so plug in before you board.
- Download your child's favorite television show to enjoy mid-flight. Most episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Chuggington and Sesame Street are id="mce_marker".99 - $2.99 each.
- Download tried and true toddler-friendly apps, such as: Talking Tom Cat and Toddler Puzzle Shapes, which are both free and ABC Train and Voice Cards, which range from $.99 - id="mce_marker".99 each.
- Be sure to bring your child's favorite snacks and lots of them. You never know if you might get stuck on the tarmac waiting for a gate or have an unexpected delay before even taking off.
- Buy some inexpensive books and toys to introduce to your child during the flight but not all at once, spread them out and don't forget to hold on to a couple of new items for the plane ride home. It's very important that these are items your child hasn't seen before. The Target dollar bins are great for this! Avoid anything that makes noise so as not to disrupt fellow passengers or items that are round, as they may roll down the aisles. I don't like crayons or markers for this reason.
- Make sure to pack an extra change of clothes, not only for your tot, but you too! At the very least, a clean t-shirt. Kids get messy, drinks spill and inevitably it all ends up on mom.
- It should go without saying, but carry extra diapers. Just before we got on the plane heading to Florence, I forgot to calculate our layover time in Paris and while I know European babies wear diapers too, I panicked fearing we wouldn't have enough or be able to find them, so we scoured LAX looking for a small package. $20 (for 10!) later we were covered.
- Airports and airplanes are crawling with germs, so carry Wet-Ones and hand sanitizer and use them frequently while traveling. I wipe down the arm rests, the tray table and hands all through our trip.
- And speaking of germs and other yucky stuff, pack a couple of zip-lock bags for soiled clothing in case your child throws up. No one wants to smell that!
- In my experience, the ground crew, TSA and flight attendants have always been very helpful. If you need help, just ask! Fellow passengers are typically sympathetic to your situation too, especially if you are traveling with your child alone and will help out if you need them too.
- If a flight attendant doesn't offer, be sure to ask for a set of wings and if it's your child's first flight, most airlines have keepsake certificates.
- If all of the above fails, go through the SkyMall catalog page by page together and look for pictures of cats and dogs. Trust me on this. And please remember, you aren't ever going to see the people on your flight again, so whatever happens, happens. At least you did it!
I hope these tips help you prepare for your next flight with your child, and if you have any advice to share, let me know!
Tonya writes Letters For Lucas and at any given moment can be found changing a diaper or enjoying a glass of Cab while Dave Matthews plays in the background.
More from living