First of all, good for you, it’s going to be worth it. Second of all, it really isn’t as bad as it seems in the movies. So long as you’re prepared. And hopefully this list will help get you there – at least in the “Oh my God. How am I going to entertain this bundle of energy on the plane?!” department.
At the airport:
LET THEM RUN. Use a backpack leash if it makes you feel better, but tire that kiddo out. I try to get to the airport extra early for just this reason, rather than going straight from the car seat to the plane seat.
BOARD EARLY…OR LATE. This depends on your kiddo. Yes, it really is easier to get on first and get settled before the plane is packed to make sure your diapers, toys and snacks are easily accessible. But, if you have a wild child it might be better to let them play, stretch and move for as long as possible.
USE A STROLLER. For non-walkers I would actually advise against this. A front pack works great and saves you the hassle going through security. Toddlers, however, get heavy. A stroller makes getting to your gate easier, especially if you have a connecting flight. A stroller also makes waiting in immigration and customs lines easier. Cause, well, you know. You aren’t chasing your kid around.
On the plane:
DRINKS: Ask a flight attendant to fill up whatever spill-proof drink container you have brought as soon as you board. I ask for watered-down apple juice since I know my son loves it. Don’t give it to them until take off; then hold off on giving it to them again until landing. Sucking (in this case drinking through a straw) helps relieve ear pressure, but offering water or milk won’t do any good if they won’t drink it. I try to make this drink a “treat.” (Offer water throughout the flight to keep them hydrated.)
NAP: Plan around naps if at all possible. This means less time entertaining your little one, and more time enjoying the flight for yourself. Bring noise canceling headphones for those naps. My son was supposed to take his usual 2-hour snooze on our recent trip to Hawaii, however, a little girl was having a meltdown so her screams woke him up 45-minutes in. I was crushed.
CARES: I am all about ease when it comes to packing. I’d rather rent a car seat once I get to my location that haul it on the plane and through airports. The CARES harness fits in your purse and is the only FAA certified harness for flying. (It only works if your kiddo has a seat of their own, though.) It keeps your kid in their seat, and is safer for them than just the lap belt. Win-win.
TOYS: Pack a variety and take them out one at a time. Toys that work for us includ a Crayola’s Dry-Erase Crayon set, videos, games and interactive story books downloaded on my tablet (check out Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter site for some cute book & app options), some sort of quiet toy that they will focus on (my son will spin his little Viking Toys helicopter propeller for a good 5 minutes at a time,) an actual book – Richard Scarry’s Day at the Airport is small, paperback and has tons to look at and talk about.
BRIBERY: You aren’t above it, no parent is. It’s a quick way to make them happy when a tantrum is about to strike. (Besides, where would you give your little one a timeout on a full plane?) Suckers and yogurt covered raisins are our goldmine.
PACING THE AISLES: Lots of kids are into this, just plan for it. Our son wasn’t interested, but liked playing by my feet instead.
TAKE A FIELD TRIP: Um, to where? Well, to the bathroom to splash in the sink. Or to say hello to the flight attendants. Maybe to look out the window of the entry hatch. Perhaps to the cockpit to see the pilots (if you’re lucky.) Sometimes a change of scenery can make everyone feel better.
Any tips to add? Please share them in the comments below, help a mother out!