To Infinity and Beyond
about a week ago, while in westport, i got an email from an old friend asking for some tips about traveling with a wee one. as i sat down to respond i realized, for better or worse, i really have become an expert on the matter. this is what happens when you have taken at least 20 flights with a kiddo who is only 18 months old. first, that is all kinds of nuts and i think our calendar needs to take a deep breath. second, it should be noted that ALL of these trips were to visit family that we love (in other words, we’re not globe trotting to exotic locations…well, other than the outer banks of north carolina). and third, well, honestly, i think that’s quite a big accomplishment. ABN has been along for some of these flights, and my parents have been along for others – but for the most part – EBN and i have become first class (i wish) travelers together…and
i we deserve a pat on the back.
so, without further ado, if you are thinking of getting on a plane with a zero-18 month old (turn around and run the other direction…kidding…sort of)…here are my top 10 tips – in no particular order:
1. the suck and sleep – okay we started flying with EBN when she was not quite 3 months old. start ‘em early…whatever. and we don’t mess around so our first flight was cross-country - i know! can i just tell you – except for my anxiety level, it was the easiest flight to date. it was easy because she didn’t move, she didn’t get bored. she didn’t take up much room. she just sucked and slept. if you’re nursing – i really recommend nursing on the flight – rather than bottles. the supply is endless (or at least, the baby can suck an endless amount, after a while it’s not really about the milk) and it’s less gear to navigate. you’ve got to leave your inhibitions on the tar mac because this is not really a time to pull out the hooter hider. i found that a nursing tank top under a button down shirt or deep v was the best option (limited exposure slightly). sure my boobs were raw to the point of no return after that initial 6 hour flight (and it didn’t help that we turned around 2 days later to fly home, giving my body no break) but the kid (and therefore the other passengers) were quite content and after all, that’s what it’s really about.
2. check it and forget it – you know me, i’m into saving a buck as much as anyone but i’ve realized that sometimes remaining sane is even more important. when traveling with the kiddo, do not even attempt to carry on your rolling bag – to begin with, i can’t imagine walking down the aisle with a rolling bag, all the shit you need for the flight and your baby. that’s just insane. fork over the dough and forget the bag (or, fly JET BLUE where you can check a bag for free!). flying with the kiddo is the one time that you also don’t really have to wait for the bag to come off the airplane at baggage claim (a super annoying part of flying in my book). by the time you get yourself off the plane, head to the bathroom to remove airplane grime/change a diaper and grab yourself a coffee (you’ll need it) your bag will be waiting for you and the crowds will be gone – win, win!
3. selective supplies – this is a tip that i have learned over time. when traveling, bring what you need for the plane ride and maybe the first 24 hours – don’t bother with bringing every diaper, wipe, slurp pack etc that you will need for the entire trip. unless you are traveling to some 3rd world country (or someplace without internet – neither of which you should do with a wee one…if i do so say so myself) you can get it locally. or, even better AMAZON MOM will deliver your order to your door (or, your mother-in-law’s door…you get it).
4. lap it – okay, i know i am going to get heat for this one. let’s remember folks – this list is just based on my personal experience – to each their own, but…don’t take the carseat on the plane. check it – or better yet, get grandma and grandpa to get their own (it’s way to show love), or rent one with your rental car…whatever. car seats take up space and require their own seats and there are all these extra rules that apply when you bring your own carseat so just…don’t. if you have a carseat, the kid has to sit in the carseat and i don’t know about your kid but my kid, prefers my lap to the carseat by…a lot. on this most recent trip we finally decided EBN was simply too big (pushing 30 pounds my friends) to sit on our laps the entire trip and so we bought her own seat on the plane. this meant that for take-off and landing she needed to sit on my lap but for the rest of the trip she had her own space. and that was nice.
5. getting pooped on is no fun so be prepared – everyone knows that a change in altitude leads to massive poop explosions (news to you? you’ve clearly never been on a flight with my girl!). because this isn’t new information we all know to travel with at least two full outfit changes for our wee ones. but, what about you? if your kiddo is on your lap and the shit hits the fan (literally) it’s not going to do you any good to change your kid’s clothes if you are also covered in poop. you’ll be hard to miss. so throw an extra pair of leggings and a clean top into your diaper bag. i promise, it’s a good idea. while we’re on the topic of clothing – flip flops and pants with an elastic waist are essential for you. moving on…
6. kill ‘em with…goodies – everyone in my family knows, it’s best to expect the worst and to be prepared. so for my first flight with EBN i brought with me, a package of ear plugs from CVS to pass out to my fellow passengers, a tin of homemade cookies and the idea that if things got really bad, i could always offer to buy those nearest the screaming infant an alcoholic beverage (who cares that the flight was at 10am!?!). of course, none of these diversions were necessary (i think ended up eating all the cookies myself during the suck and sleep portion of the flight) but as i got on the plane i did offer the ear plugs and i think that everyone was touched that i had thought of them – and i felt better knowing i was prepared.
7. stroller not optional – depending on EBN’s age and who was traveling with me, i’ve gotten her through the airport a couple of different ways (stroller, baby carrier, letting her walk to burn off energy). how you get your kiddo through the airport is really up to you, but having a stroller with you is a non-negotiable. you just need it. it’s a great place to put all your stuff (you’re diaper bag, your carry-on, you’re coffee). you can take it all the way down the jet-way meaning you only have to navigate on your own for the length of the plane itself and then the stroller will be waiting for you again when you get off the airplane.
8. first ones on, last ones off – as many of you know, i hate to fly, and so when traveling solo i like to spend as little time as possible on the plane. this means, waiting until last boarding before getting on the flight and scurrying to get off at the first opportunity. but with a kiddo – forget it. me and my kiddo will push our way to the very front of the line and board with 1st class (even on airlines that don’t call up passengers traveling with small children - fuckers). this gives us time to make our way on to the airplane without people pushing past us. it gives us time to do a last-minute diaper change and to wash down our seats, the tray tables, seatbelts and whatever else with clorox wipes. and then, when the plane lands, just sit back and relax because you aren’t going anywhere any time soon. you are going to be the last person to get off the plane. you’ll need to look around to make sure you haven’t left anything behind (you know, like that sippy cup that rolled to the back of the plane when you hit turbulence) and if your kid is walking he or she can make her way up the length of the plane without getting trampled by over-anxious passengers. also, if you wait, your stroller will have been brought up to the jetway so you won’t have to stand around.
9. carry on bags for now and for later – obviously, you are going to need supplies – food, toys, diapers, drugs, what have you. i think it’s important to consider what you are going to need within a moment’s notice and what will be nice to have but you have 90 seconds to grab before all hell breaks loose. in other words – what is going to immediately quiet a screaming baby. those things, you want to keep under the seat in front of you. a bottle, a sippy cup, some toys, cheddar bunnies. the diapers and change of clothes and extra food and extra milk – those can go up in the overhead bin. you’ll want the extra room at your feet so don’t try to cram everything down there (it’s not necessary). EBN once spent an entire flight to new york standing between my legs. it was awesome. but if all her diapers had been shoved down there too, there would have been no room for her.
10. an ipad will fix it – if you are traveling with an 18 month old – do not pass go, do not collect $200. just buy an ipad. you need it. don’t ask questions. go into debt over it, it will be worth it. even if your kid never gets screen time (unlike my kid), even if your kid doesn’t like elmo (unlike my kid), even if your kid doesn’t like staring at pictures of herself (unlike my kid) the ipad is key. we made it back from the east coast on saturday in full on ear infection hell and my kid was…pleasant. because she had everything that she needed in that oversized-iphone-dream. and now that we are home, it’s been de-snoted and has returned to me, it’s rightful owner.
alright, that’s it. i told you, i’m an expert. maybe i should write a book – i’ll think about it. in the meantime…what did i miss? do you have any tips to share? do you know ANYONE who has taken more flights with a kid then me? i didn’t think so.
go forward and spread the gospel…