What I have learned when flying with babies and toddlers

Let’s face it.  It’s not a picnic traveling by air with toddlers or infants.  Sometimes you are pleasantly surprised that the baby slept almost the whole flight. Other times it is nothing but chaos.  I clumisly entered through security with a rambunctious toddler and infant strapped to my back trying to unfold a stroller and the thought of  “Am I going to survive?” is on the edge of my brain.

I have been on countless flights with each of my children when they were infants and toddlers.  I have had positive experiences and not so great ones too.  Over the years I have learned how to make it more tolerable…and in some ways even enjoyable. These are some of the things I recommend.

1) Have everyone including yourself wear slip on shoes.  Everyone including infants will need to take off their shoes going through security.  It makes it go faster if you don’t have to untie and retie a bunch of shoes.

2) See if the airport has “family line” while going through security.Portland
International Airport created one not so long ago.  This line is full of people with strollers, car seats and crying babies.  You will avoid impatient non-parents trying to get through the line.

3) You may not have a choice in airlines, but Southwest is very family friendly.  On one flight my baby daughter was surrounded by four other babies.  Filling up sippy cups, heating up bottles, or passing out coloring books is common among the Southwest flight attendants.

4) Ask the airport about getting a security pass for a non-traveler.  I flew to Chicago with my kids (ages 3 ½ and 20 months at the time) and I was six months pregnant. I do not recommend it but I was desperate to see my Midwest family! My husband (who was flying out a week later) was able to walk through security with me and all way to my gate. He obtained a pass from the Southwest airlines check-in counter the morning I flew out.  Make sure your non-traveler has a picture ID.

5) Use a backpack as a diaper bag.  It’s much easier to strap your diaper bag to your back versus carrying it over your shoulder.  You’ll get through the aisles quicker.

6) Layovers can be a nice break.  If you are doing a four hour flight, a break in the middle can be enough time for your kids to get some energy out, go to the bathroom, eat a meal, or ride the moving sidewalks.  Many airports have kid’s areas
in the terminal with slides, toys, or things to climb on.

7) Pack lots of snacks.  Most airlines do not serve meals (unless you are flying internationally) or the in flight meals cost more than you are willing to pay. Pack brown bag meals.  It seems like everyone who flies nowadays gets off their plane hungry.  Pretzels and crackers don’t satisfy appetites.  Pack some sandwiches and fresh fruit in your backpack.

8) You don’t need a large stack of baby toys.  And when they drop toys on the floor, it takes effort to retrieve them.  When my kids were babies they would play with
snack wrappers or plastic cups.  Board books are better than toys.  They lie flat in your bag and do not make noise.

9) Don’t rely on Bendaryl.  It’s a sedative and while it may make your child drowsy, some kids fight sleep.  Instead of drifting off, they will reach that “overtired” state and become hyperactive. Then it’s even harder to calm them down. This is what happened to me when I tried Benadryl when my oldest was thirteen months.  If the flight is only a couple hours, you might consider “just getting through it.”  If you are flying internationally, you might want to have them take something, but please ask their doctor first.

10)  Stay calm. Babies and toddlers are smart and they naturally react if you are
tense.  If you speak to them calmly, reassure them, sing quietly (I have been known to sing Sunday School songs quietly to my babies on flights!), it helps tremendously.  Have a sense of humor about it.  While we all have dealt with stares and snide
comments, most people understand.  I remember the father of twins who made a bottle for me or the elderly lady who watched my kids so I could go to the bathroom.  If people are rude, don’t take it personally.  Of the problem goes beyond their impatience and you cannot fix it anyway. Remember you are creating memories and you certaintly will not be in this phase forever.

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