Just a few weeks ago my husband and I took the plunge and brought our 15 month-old on a plane. You have nightmares about it, right? Walking to your seat, down that tiny aisle, smacking the other passengers along the way with your diaper bag, and watching people stare at you with the word bubbles clearly floating above their heads that say, “You have a baby . . . on a plane.” (Are you with me, Sweet Home Alabama fans??) Before you’ve actually done it, the prospect seems terrifying, but I’m here to give you some tips that will hopefully put your mind at ease.
First let’s address two things in that previous scenario that were no good, very terrible ideas: diaper bags and looking at people.
Tip 1 — Ignore, Ignore, Ignore
I don’t know about you, but I’m in the habit of following my child’s gaze to everyone she looks at. (Which is actually a pretty time consuming gig since she stares at everyone like she’s an FBI profiler.) I highly recommend not doing this on a plane. Who needs to see all the wary, sometimes hateful gazes you get from people when they see you’re bringing a small child on their plane? Not me. With the exception of talking to the passenger sitting directly in front of my daughter and asking him to please tell me if she kicks his seat/apologizing in advance, I acted like we were the only ones on the plane. This allowed to me to miss all the sideways glances that would have only raised my stress level and to focus on my child, not what everyone else was thinking.
Tip 2 — Backpack It
Currently, I’m in that transition phase where my child is a baby one day and a toddler the next. Before this trip, I was still carrying around a diaper bag (with bottles and a nine month onesie she hadn’t used in five months, but that’s neither here nor there). Because of this trip, I am now officially a backpack mom. I didn’t smack one person sitting along that tiny aisle, and I suddenly had use of both arms again. I tell you, it’s life-changing.
Tip 3 — Start Fresh
Make sure you change your little one’s diaper right before you board, or, if you’re traveling with your spouse, right after you board. I made the mistake of not changing my daughter’s diaper shortly before takeoff on the flight to our destination, and I paid for it. Things were damp; let’s just leave it at that. On the trip home, I took my daughter straight to the airplane bathroom once we boarded to change her diaper. Yes, the space is small, but at least there is a guaranteed changing table. I can’t say the same for some restaurants . . . .
Tip 4 — Pack Cheap
For your sanity, only pack cheap, non-essential toys. With the exception of my daughter’s bunny (that she sleeps with), we only brought dollar spot toys and books, because if they were lost, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Toys were dropped in the middle of the flight and went rolling in between the other passenger’s seats. Luckily we got them back in the end, but if we hadn’t, it would have been a small sacrifice.
Tip 5 — Throw (Some) Rules Out the Airplane Window
You’re in an enclosed space, close quarters with 100-plus cranky people . . . there is no better time to ease up on some of those very important rules you have for your little one. As long as it doesn’t endanger their safety and it keeps them from losing it, I say let. it. go. One of our big rules is not letting our daughter hold/play with our phones or iPads. About halfway through the first flight, she was on the verge of losing it (no nap on fly day will do that to a girl), and so I let her have what she considers the Holy Grail — momma’s iPhone. It worked like a charm, distracted her for the next 30 minutes . . . and I only paid for it a little bit when she reached for it the next day. Totally worth it.
I hope at least one of these tips will help you and your child on his or her first flight.
What tips do you have for flying with a baby or toddler?