I have one rule when you are flying with a toddler. They are the boss. Yup, I said it! Contrary to the rules in my home, where my husband and I are the bosses, Miss Meyer is the little boss when we fly. That is the only way to make it work in the confined space, 35,000 feet in the air, surrounded by strangers. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. It’s what works for us and I’m sure it is working for thousands of other parents too, no matter if they want to admit it or not. You want another cookie? Okay, just don’t cry! You need to walk around? Okay, let’s hit it. You want to rip up the “Sky Magazine?” Just as long as it distracts you long enough to stop kicking that poor man’s chair in front of you! Up in the sky, anything goes! That should really be a slogan somewhere…By this, I don’t mean let your children run free and encourage them to misbehave, I am just saying that you have to be a little more lenient with the discipline and rules on a plane. There is really no place to put your kid in timeout on an airplane and certainly nowhere you can take them aside and talk to them quietly. So why stress about being the ‘perfect parent’ when you can relax and enjoy every aspect of your trip. Even the flight! But you also have to be prepared, just in case the boss gets a little angry…
Pack your iPad…and other essentials. Even if you are that parent who is totally against iPads, they are a lifesaver on a plane. Trust me! They will keep your little one busy for hours with shows, games and movies. Except when you are on a 5 hour flight to Hawaii and there is no WiFi on the plane and your kid can no longer watch endless episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse as planned. True story. Thank goodness American Airlines had inflight entertainment and the Disney channel with three episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse ready to go. Total lifesaver! I don’t think we would have made it considering Mickey is Meyer’s favorite person in the whole world. Oh and we watched those three episodes for 5 hours straight. Over and over and over…..I have them memorized. I could probably even be the next voice of Minnie. Or at least a writer for that show. If your kids aren’t into iPads, make sure to pack a book, their favorite toy or some coloring books to keep them busy. And plenty of snacks. You could always buy them a snack on the flight but most kids don’t like trail mix, or chips or hummus, so it’s safer to bring their favorite snacks from home.
Don’t forget the Boppy (or favorite pillow). I am still on the fence about whether we need to buy Meyer her own seat or have her on my lap like we did when we went to Hawaii but having a Boppy is key. When Meyer was 8 months old and took her first plane ride to Boston, she was on my lap with the Boppy but that flight was also a red-eye so she knocked out the whole time. I didn’t even consider taking the car seat on the flight and paying an extra few hundred dollars for her when children can fly free (on your lap) until they are 2. Why pay when you know you are going to be required to in a couple of years anyway? When we flew to Seattle and also to Phoenix, those flights were so short that I didn’t even consider buying her a seat. She can chill on my lap for an hour or two. But when we went to Hawaii last month, my husband and I contemplated buying her a seat for at least a few months until we decided that we weren’t going to waste the money and she would just sit with me. I mean, what if we did buy her a seat and she wanted to stand or sit on our laps the whole time anyway, right? I do have to admit that it was nice on the ride home when we lucked out and the middle seat was empty. Boom, Meyer had her own seat for free. And without that Boppy, she would have been miserable. The seats on the plane are so uncomfortable even for us, can you imagine trying to curl up in the seat and sleep without some sort of pillow? And if your little one is on your lap, the Boppy keeps you both comfy and also serves as a breast-feeding pillow if needed.
Be very meticulous yet realistic when packing. You don’t need to pack every single book, toy and essential your baby needs on the trip. You are already bringing the stroller, car seat and diaper bag right? You need to lighten your load. You really have to plan and ask yourself, “do I really need the stroller/pack and play/Baby Bjorn on this trip?” And if you do, then pack it. You can check it at the gate if that is one of your concerns. But we have been on many trips where we brought it and didn’t even use it. If you don’t think you will need it, then leave it at home. That goes for the car seat too. If you aren’t going to be driving anywhere on your vacation, then you really don’t need to bring it! Trust me, it’s hard enough traveling with a toddler, especially when you are toting around every last possession that kid owns! There are also baby gear rental companies in most cities that are seriously the best thing ever! When we went to Maui, we used Maui on the Fly www.mauionthefly.com to rent a crib, highchair and car seat and it saved us so much time, stress and even bag check fees. And if you forget something? You can buy it there. Don’t stress! Your baby will get over it if you forget the banana teething toy that she ‘just can’t live without!’
Don’t worry about what other people think. I feel like that is the number one reason parents don’t want to fly with their babies. They are too worried about what other people will say if their baby isn’t an angel on the flight. So what, who cares? Babies are loud, babies cry, babies are needy. Everyone knows that and this is a free country so people can deal with it. There are plenty of adults that I have met that are way worse than babies and they don’t care what you will think of them on the plane when they fart/talk loud/get up every two seconds/disrespect flight attendants and whatever else they do. So, if you are anxious to fly with a toddler (and I know a few people who are) and have ruled out any sort of vacation that requires an airplane, please reconsider! Don’t limit your family vacation destination spots because you don’t think your toddler can handle it. They will be fine! And don’t worry, they serve alcohol on flights…it will help you get rid of your nerves.