It is one of the most dreaded activities of parenting: flying. There are countless articles, internet memes, stories, tweets, and judgements on parents who fly with their kids. Some people refuse to fly with their children, and for others it causes extreme anxiety.
We have flown with D about two dozen times in his two years on this planet. His first flight was when he was six months old and we flew as recently as a week ago. So we have done the baby and young toddler flying thing. Here is what we have found to work for us when we fly with our child:
1. Snacks: We bring lots of snacks when we fly. Even if our little guy is cranky, snacks can make a big difference. When he was really little he loved teething biscuits and the fruit and veggie pouches. Now that he is a little bigger, gummy snacks have been a huge lifesaver on planes. He rarely gets sugary snacks, so gummy worms or Swedish Fish have been very exciting when he starts getting antsy on the plane.
2. Small toys: Tiny plastic dinosaurs and pony erasers have helped us keep some semblance of sanity on a few flights. These tiny animals pop out of seat pockets, line up on tray tables, and hold funny conversations that help keep our kiddo entertained. Portable inexpensive toys are easy to pull out, put away, share with others, and buy a few minutes time during a flight.
3. Lovey: Having a small blanket or stuffed animal that is a favorite has helped for those moments when D just needs to cuddle or is just getting sleepy. It can be a little stressful because the worst thing that could happen is that the lovey could get lost or left behind in the midst of the travel chaos (this has been a great fear of mine while we travel!). To help with that fear, we try to put the lovey back in the same place in our travel bag every time. So it’s easy to remember to pack it and easy to check for it.
4. Exercise: Before we fly, we let D walk/run around as much as possible. Some airports are awesome and have kid’s play zones (Milwaukee, Twin Cities, Athens, Bozeman airports to name a few) which helps a lot. If the airport doesn’t have a designated kids area where D can run wild and free, we usually go to the gate to check it out, then find a nearby area that has two features: 1) few people 2) a space that is blocked off on at least two sides by walls or chairs so there is a smaller space to try to keep him confined to without us running all over the airport. We point things out from the windows, or look for other small kids for him to play with. The more worn out he is, the better, as he seems less likely to try to go running down the aisle of the plane when it is time to board.
5. Sense of Humor: Sometimes no matter what we do/bring/plan for, a flight can be a little rough. So we try to take turns being the responsible parent so we each get a break, and sometimes we just try to laugh at D’s antics. One flaw with the amazing Camelbak water bottle we love so much is that when you flip up the spout on a plane, the pressure usually causes the water to build up and sometimes it sprays all over the place. We have accidentally sprayed other passengers on flights, and have apologized profusely while trying not to giggle. Once D got a big spray of water in the face, and his look of surprise was priceless and hilarious. Flights don’t last forever, even when it feels like they might or that you are on the flight to Purgatory that is everlasting, it will end. And then your adventure really begins.
As D gets older, I am sure our flight tactics will continue to evolve. I jealously watched a dad give his two children each a tablet after we left the runway on our last flight, and that was the last he had to speak to either of them until we started to land. Total bliss, thanks to technology. Sigh, maybe someday. Someday I hope to again read or close my eyes on a flight.
Until then, I’ll take another bag of those gummy worms and scour the dollar aisle for more fun little toys for our next flight.