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I have done some posts already about how to survive, and actually enjoy, airplane trips with babies and toddlers. I talked about preparation and navigating the airport. Now it’s time for the fun part, THE PLANE RIDE! If you haven’t already read the posts about preparation and the airport, I highly suggest you check those out first as without the tips in those posts, this one may not be nearly as helpful.
Okay, back to the plane ride. Just the idea of it scared the holy bageesus out of me before we actually did it. Hours (maybe more?!) strapped into a metal contraption with virtually no space to maneuver with a temperamental baby. I could barely keep her happy at home for several hour stretches at a time, what shot would I have on a strange airplane?! We didn’t travel when she as a very young infant partly because we were just scared of how it would turn out. She had a lot of tunmmy issues when she was really young that probably would have made it more trouble than it was worth, but we delayed longer than we probably needed to due to fear. Like most things in life, it wasn’t near as bad as we had made it out to be in our minds once we finally got up the guts to do it! Here’s what we learned………
If you are on an airline like Southwest that doesn’t have pre-assigned seats, cough up the extra 10 bucks per ticket to get on as soon as possible. You need seats together, you need them towards the front of the plane, and you need overhead bin space. If you are on an airline with pre-assigned seats, you still want to board the first second you can. Families with small children on airlines with assigned seats often get to board a bit earlier than most. Listen for those announcements and get thee on the plane ASAP.
Be overly nice to everyone as you board. The flight attendants, those around you, everyone. You may need their help and mercy later on.
I keep Little C strapped on my back in the Ergo as we are boarding. Usually The Man is hauling the massive car seat and I am pack-muling the baby while carrying some of the carry-ons. Try not to hit people as you walk down the aisle. Another reason to get on ASAP – your stuff is clunky. The fewer people to avoid hitting that are already in their aisle seats the better.
Make sure you are not seated in an exit row, a row in front of an exit row, or a row behind an exit row. We were seated in a row in front of an exit row and found out after C had already fallen asleep in her seat that “new regulations” prohibited children from being in a row adjacent to an exit row. At this point the plane was full and they had to delay it a bit while we had to move my sleeping kid (and all her stuff!) and convince other passengers to shuffle around so that we could still have three seats together. Ugh, a mess I don’t plan to repeat.
Sleeping pre-takeoff (that’s like winning the lottery!) before we had to move her.
Getting Locked and Loaded:
Anyway, the car seat must go next to the window for evacuation purposes (trust me – it is almost impossible to climb over one once installed in that teeny tiny airplane seat). So, let whoever is carrying the car seat on first so they can get to the window and install it. Ask for help from a flight attendant if you are having trouble. Some flight attendants double check to make sure it is an airline approved seat, so double check yourself well before you ever head to the airport. Once the seat is installed, get your kiddo strapped in and get all your supplies situated. Also take a deep breath, you will already need it by this point. I have found getting on and situated to be one of the hardest parts! Order a drink ASAP to help with the shot nerves! 😉
If you have prepared adequately, your kiddo should be tired out some from playing in the airport and you should have an arsenal of activities and snacks to cover the duration of your flight. If you are lucky the novelty of the plane and watching people board might keep them occupied for a while. If it does, do nothing and let them be occupied by the excitement of the plane. A trick to a successful flight is to not move on to the next snack, activity, etc… until you have to because you little one is tired of it. If something is working, let it keep working as long as possible. Every minute they are happy is one minute close to your final destination!
Hopefully your flight won’t be delayed on the ground prior to departure. The idea of a several hour runway delay with a baby makes me want to cry into my pillow at night. If it happens to you, just start going through your planned activities and snacks just as you would if your flight had taken off. You may just end up having to repeat through your cycle of things to do. Then, you can cry into your pillow after you finally reach your destination! You would have earned it!
I think that’s enough excitement for this post. In Part 2 of Babies on a Plane! I will talk about take-off, the actual flight, landing, and de-planing. Stay tuned and feel free to please share any tips you have!