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Flying with a Toddler

flying with a toddler
The holidays mean traveling for many of you, as I know.  This post about the hard, honest truth of what worked for me with a toddler and an eight-month pregnant belly still ring true.  I hope that all of your travels bring you home safely this holiday season and that these tips may be found helpful during the hustle and bustle.
How to Cope While Flying with a Toddler
Since D was born we have traveled by plane ten times together. NINE times completely by ourselves.  Our family lives far enough away that flying is the only option at this point.  The trip by car takes 28 hours-which I have completed four times-and the trip by train is over 45 hours(so many stops) which I have completed once.  Neither of which I would ever attempt to do with a Toddler- or Baby- by myself- ever.  
Although, given the choice if my family lived ten hours closer- I would gladly drive 18 hours with my little munchkin versus navigate the airport-plane-and people obstacles of having a toddler in tow.
WHY? You ask out loud-incredulously?!?
The Toddler is stubborn, much like myself, and weighs in over 36 lbs of pure muscle(who knows really but it sounds about right).  And terrible twos hit around the One Year mark and are getting better-but maybe pregnancy brain just clouds my memory… yeah, probably the second. Oh- yeah and I am pregnant-like eight months pregnant(yes I was cleared by my OB).
Making your child sit still for over three hours in a plane full of people that loathe your mere existence is complete and utter torture.  TORTURE.
No, we have never been “those” people on the plane.  You know the ones I am talking about… the ones that can’t quite figure out how to stop their babies from screaming bloody murder… the ones that when I was back in college- oblivious of how hard it is when traveling with a child- I would roll my eyes(to myself-I’m not nearly that brazen nor rude) and pop in my ear plugs and read my magazine-it was only a three hour flight anyway.
I just wish people were kinder.  The only time that the Husband was available to fly with us- D did great- he even slept on the plane- didn’t squirm once!!! ONCE!!! I kind of wanted the Husband to see just how hard it is to fly with a Toddler- especially one that is as big as D- and yet there he was sleeping through the whole flight on the Hubby.  BUT- it is different when you are not by yourself.  
You have help at security.  
Trying to hold onto your Toddler’s hand while you remove your shoes, place the stroller and diaper bag on the conveyor belt-with the bottles-snacks-and medicine out for inspection should be an Olympic Event- I would win- by the skin of my teeth-but victory would be mine!  When the Husband was there it went by in a flash- and there were no beads of sweat pouring down from my forehead- WINNING.
At the gate.
You have someone to stay with the stroller-bags-Toddler while you rustle up some snacks or hit the bathroom for the upteenth time(because you are pregnant-like I was the last time the Toddler and I flew solo). And all of those trips with the stroller-Toddler-diaper bag-are completely chaos. You also have someone to run the Toddler ragged so that he sleeps through the whole flight… very necessary to get out all of those extra wiggles and giggles!
Gate check.
Disassembling the stroller and checking it.  Thank you husband.  Holding onto the diaper bag and baby while doing this is a great workout but the help makes it easy-peasy.
Airplane bathroom breaks.
What? Help on the plane??? This should speak for itself.  Just another pair of hands to help during the flight… A-FREAKING-MAZING.  Please note- that there are flight attendants out there that help tremendously when I am flying solo- so far it was only one- but that one made my flight and curbed my new-mom flying with a baby fears- thankyou thankyou thankyou.
Long list of rants eh?  Yep.  Just had to get it off my chest.  Friends that fly with husbands? I know how good you have it… just saying.
TIPS for SURVIVING a Flight with your Child:
  1. Curb-Side Check-In for all of your luggage.  Worth it! You can also check your car seat if you will not be using it on the plane for free-and it doesn’t count as an extra piece of luggage. SCORE.
  2. When bringing a stroller make sure that it is cleaned out and doesn’t have any toys, lovies, or food that will accidentally get misplaced when you have to disassemble it and gate check it before boarding. 
  3. Baby medicine, snacks and bottles can all be brought in “reasonable” quantities with you on the plane.  When D was a baby I always brought 8 ounces more than I thought I would use… which when we were delayed at the airport for over four hours once was completely necessary.
  4. See if they have a “Family” security screen line at your airport ahead of time.  Phoenix and Seattle have one and it is a life-saver!  There is literally no line and the TSA officials are used to handling all of the goodies that come with flying with a baby.
  5. Wear your baby through the security check point.  You still have to remove your shoes and put everything on the belt-BUT- you can keep your baby all snuggled up as you go through the metal detector-you just have to get your hands swabbed for bomb making material after you go through-which takes-two seconds.
  6. Bring an arsenal of go-to items.  My list of necessary things? Two books-that they love- textural toys- one “new” toy(one that they have loved but has been meticulously hidden from them for a week)-two-three snacks- cooler full of milk- five diapers-wipes- one swaddle blanket(D always tended to get too hot so I would dress him in a cotton shirt and shorts-easier to add layers than take them away) a small wet bag for accidents-change of clothes for D-baby medicine(benedryl in-case D has a reaction to something).
  7. Let them run around at the airport.  Or find a spot where you can watch the planes take-off.  D loves when I point to all of the cars, trucks, people, planes outside and talk about what they are doing. Research if there is a “play area” at either your terminal or the main airport.  Research is key!  Both Seattle and Phoenix have various options.
  8. Use the restroom before boarding and make sure they board with a new diaper.  Southwest has only one changing table and it is in the front of the plane.  I use the term changing table loosely because at six months old D was too long for it… and now I have a 19 month old.  What fun!
  9. Let them take the window seat if you have a row to yourself-this has yet to happen to me-so I usually choose the aisle-so that I can get up and make my way to the bathroom or rock him to sleep(when he was younger) in the back.  
  10. Sit in the back of the plane-with all of the other parents-helps to have a little morale boost and people that give you the look of “been there, done that-I know what you are going through”. Plus the noise from the engines makes a great sleep aide!  Oh and if you have a squirmy little one- sit in the very last row- that way they can climb up the chair without “bothering” the people behind them and there are less witnesses to you pulling your hair out.

As you are reading this the Toddler and I are taking our eleventh flight together- solo.  Hoping I can just relax and know that it will all be over in a few short hours.  PLUS- although he is still 19 months old- he has his own seat for once… which should make… yea I am going to bite my tongue and not jinx myself right now.  Oh and did I mention I have an ipad now? Perhaps that is the key to flying bliss? We shall see.

Pregnant Lady & Toddler take on the airport!!!
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One Response to Flying with a Toddler

  1. When we had toddlers, my friend took her 3-year-old on a flight by herself. At the end of the flight, an older woman said to the boy, “My! You are such a well-behaved boy. Thank you for being such a quiet and nice flying companion!” My friend, while delighted to have her son praised was secretly thinking — What?! It’s ME you should be thanking! I’m the one who packed and carried 458 different things for him to play with on this flight and who was forced to play 12 hands of Go Fish so he’d be nice and quiet on the flight.” She had me in stitches as she told the story.