Flying to the Beach and Back in One Day With a “Lap Child”

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About a month ago, I got this hair-brained idea to take Little C to the beach.  Okay, that part isn’t too hair-brained – she is 20 months old and loves Finding Nemo, aquatic animals, and water, so a beach trip over Labor Day weekend sounds like a normal family activity.  The somewhat crazy part is that I decided the “easiest” way to do it was to fly from Houston to Corpus in the morning, see the beach and the Texas State Aquarium during the day, and then fly back home in time for dinner.  The Man has grown to tolerate, and often enjoy, several family trips per year.  However, he didn’t have any burning desire to join us on this trip, and I was up for the challenge of having a “Mommy and me” adventure, so we decided it would be just C and me.

My “easy” beach plan also included doing that by myself with C in my lap.  I am by no means a fan of  “lap children” on airplanes.  I believe the safest, and easiest, way to fly with little ones is to have them in their own seat.  This is the first (and likely only) time C will fly without her own seat.  However, since this was a spur of the minute trip, we didn’t have the cash or miles set aside to pony up for two seats on our beach adventure.  It pretty much boiled down to me holding her, or we weren’t going. We all know how that story ended.

This post should give you some insight into what goes into flying by yourself with a little one.  If you have kiddos this should give you a an idea of what to expect when you do it by yourself.  If you don’t have kiddos, you can read it and appreciate how easy it is to fly by yourself.  I am flying by myself tomorrow and am looking forward to being able to just relax.  Even if there is a delay or cancellation, I can still just relax in the airport lounge and have a drink, or two.

Here’s the story of our first Mommy & Little C traveling adventure…..

Packing:

Ugh, I really tried to keep it to a bare minimum since I was going to be the one carrying everything while managing the energetic toddler.  I was able to keep the essentials in a backpack and a shoulder bag.  I tried to group everything I needed for the airport and plane in the shoulder bag, and everything for the beach in the backpack.  It was about 80% successful, but some of the plane items leaked over into the backpack.  In the end, I didn’t hardly use any of the “plane items” on the plane, but I did use them in the airport on the way home when we had a slight delay.

I was successful in keeping important documents (ID, birth certificate, boarding passes, etc…) in an easily accessible pocket of my shoulder bag.  That was very helpful when going through security, getting into the airport lounge, and picking up the rental car.

Houston Airport:

Here we are starting our day.  Can you see the excitement written all over C’s face??  I was thinking, “oh boy”!  My dad was nice enough to drop us off, so that was very helpful.  I highly recommend getting dropped off if you are traveling with a little one.

While I didn’t need any help on this flight, I did ask the Continental agent at check-in what their policy is on giving out “gate passes” if a parent is traveling by themselves with little ones and needed help.  Her answer was that they have really cutback on giving out gate passes for situations like that, and that they try to reserve them for elderly and passengers with special needs who need assistance getting to the gate.  However, if you are traveling alone with multiple very little kiddos, it could be worth a shot to try and get one so that a friend or family member could help you to the gate.  (Just don’t count on getting one, it will require someone taking some pity on you and your situation).

I unloaded all of my gear into the bins at security and then took C out of her stroller.  The hard part was then folding up the stroller to put it through the scanner while holding on to C.  I had no problems getting her juice, milk, and water through security.

We then headed to the President’s Club to get some breakfast (read more here about why I think airline lounges can be super helpful for families).  Even though we didn’t have a ton of time to be in the club, it was nice to have a place to run in to for a few minutes.  I had never been to the Terminal B President’s Club before.  It didn’t have a family room that I was able to find, but we found a quiet corner in which to hide out.

C was pretty well behaved there and enjoyed having a snack at one of the little tables.  She kept saying “mommy breakfast” and pointing to my bagel.  She thoroughly enjoyed the little toddler sized muffins and hiding behind the chair!

The bathrooms in the President’s Club are much nicer for changing babies than the public airport restrooms, so we took advantage of the nice amenities right before heading to our gate.  Of course, as soon as we got to the gate we needed another change.  Once we were done with that necessary change, C kept bolting out of the bathroom while I cleaned-up and got our stuff together.  Right then I regretted not strapping the monkey on her back. Toddler + airport – monkey = playing a lot of chase.  After her emergency diaper change, we walked around the gate area saying hi to everyone and then read a few books before boarding the plane.  We were able to gate-check her stroller, so we had it until the very last second.  It was helpful even when she was walking next to me, as I could pile our bags into the stroller.

Outbound flight:

Little C was so excited to be on the plane.  This is her “say cheese” face.  She totally understood that we were about to “fly with the clouds”.

We were lucky enough to have no one sit next to us on either flight!  I was so excited that we would not be bothering anyone right next to us and we would have a little extra space.  I had her sippy cup of chocolate milk and goldfish ready (hidden as best I could).  We read Skymall and the Continental Magazine until take-off.  Thank goodness there were pictures of horses in this month’s Continental Magazine!  Once we took off, she drank her milk, and we ate goldfish for about half of the very short flight.  I then pulled out a couple of crayons and she colored on a piece of paper for the remainder of the flight.  The actual flights were just about the easiest part of the day.

Since she was having fun, I waited for everyone to exit the plane before getting off the plane.  This was best as we didn’t feel rushed, and by that point the stroller was waiting for us on the jetway.

Rental Car:

When we got to the Corpus airport, I hooked C up to the monkey as I didn’t want a repeat of her running out of the bathroom before I was ready.  She wasn’t thrilled about realizing she couldn’t roam free, but she did pretty well with it.

I had called earlier in the morning to verify that the rental car company had a car seat waiting for us – I was not going to risk that potential mess if they didn’t have one.  When I was waiting in line for the rental car, I was very glad that she couldn’t run off.  It took a little while to get our rental car and she was pretty impatient and ready for a nap.  Installing the car seat was just as big of a pain as I thought it would be.  At first, the agent at the counter tried to hand me the seat to carry out to the car.  The look on my face quickly told her that unless I was about to sprout extra hands out of my head, there was no chance I would be able to carry the seat (in addition to the other things I was carrying/pushing).  She then offered to carry the seat to the car, thank goodness!  I’m not sure if I installed the seat correctly or not, but it was installed to the best of my abilities.  Looks like it was comfortable enough.  She got a nice nap from the airport to the aquarium.

Beach and Aquarium:

Since we went on Labor Day weekend, everything was very crowded.  There was a 30 minute wait in the sun to get into the aquarium.  I was very thankful that C stayed asleep through most of the wait.  Once inside, she had a fantastic time seeing the fish, dolphins, turtles, and otters.  The dolphins and otters were definitely her favorites.  Aquariums are great in the summer with little ones.

She was clearly in a good mood as she even offered to share her french fries and fruit.  The snack shack at an aquarium hardly provides a wholesome toddler meal.

After lunch, we hit up the aquarium’s little water park.  She loved it and it was the perfect way to cool off a little bit.  She tried really hard to keep my hat on her head.

After the water park, we changed back into dry clothes and headed toward the beach.  I packed a “wet bag” for all of our wet clothes, and that was very helpful in getting things back home without making a royal mess.  By the time we got to the beach, we were both very tired, it was very hot, and I almost didn’t even stop when we got to the beach.  I am really glad that I did decide stop, as she was very impressed with the waves and all that comes with the beach.  I couldn’t get any shots of her looking at me as she wouldn’t take her eyes off the water.

Return flight:

After our visit to the beach, it was time to head back to the airport and get ready to go home.  This time when we went through security, Little C immediately said “shoe off”.  Quick learner!  Once we got to the gate, we learned there was a short 30 minute delay, so we turned on some Toy Story (“Tophy”, in her vernacular) and vegged out, toddler style.  Again, we changed diapers just before boarding to hopefully avoid having to do it in the tiny airplane bathroom.

When we did board the plane, we just repeated our routine from the flight earlier in the morning.  I hid a drink and some goldfish and gave them to her soon after take-off.  After her juice was finished, I turned Toy Story back on.  I think it took 10 seconds of Buzz and Woody to pass out.  There is nothing more beautiful than a sleeping baby on a plane.  I was so, so excited!  I was just as tired, hot, and sticky as she was, but I stayed awake and kept a death-grip on her as I was afraid the whole time that we would hit some sort of turbulence and she would go flying.  If she would have been in a car seat, I would have been able to take a little very much needed nap myself.

And here is what it looks like when Sleeping Beauty wakes up to get off the plane.  If it was up to her, we would have kept flying for another hour or so in order for her to keep snoozing!

Recap:

While everything went as smoothly as I could realistically have hoped for, it was really hard.  The flights by themselves weren’t that hard, but doing a flight in the morning, getting a rental car, going to the aquarium, the splash pad, the beach, returning the rental, and then flying back home all in one day, all by myself, with a 20 month old was pretty tiring.  Frankly, I’m tired just reading about it.  That said, C had so much fun.  Despite how tired I was at the end of the day, I am very glad that I did it.  She really is learning to be a great flyer.  She is also learning that going on adventures with Mommy is fun and exciting.  Of course, not all adventures require an airplane, many adventures can happen in your own backyard.  However, in my family, some adventures will include airplanes, and I am excited to have my co-pilot seated next to me.

Little C, thanks for being Mama’s traveling partner in crime.  🙂

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Comments

  1. Kris, thank you! Despite the exhaustion, we really did have a good time.

    CarlosU, thanks! It was a pretty neat time for the two of us. 🙂

  2. Brave woman! Your story reminds me of my flight alone with our 18 month old to the UK to see her Grandparents. But, back in the old days, they gave us bulkhead seats and a funny type of sleeping bed/crib that attached to the wall in front of the sears. It was bliss to have a safe place for her to lie down. (and tickets were only 20% of the adult price as I recall)

    • Laura, your flight was much longer,but you are right, a lot of things are the same traveling with little ones regardless of the length of flight.

  3. Ah memories! DH and I flew with twin boy 13 month old lap children, through Atlanta of all god-forsaken places, from the southern Midwest to the Upper Midwest. Missed our tight connection coming back and overnighted in ATL. Boy were we crazy. They were just learning to walk, and I remember the boingy boingy boingy on the lap. Oy.

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