My husband and I first took our daughter on a plane at just before two years old. In airline language she was considered a “lap baby” at that age and as such we didn’t need to buy her own seat on the plane. We could just hold her on our laps. We flew with her again at age 2, and the same rules applied – but at age 3 she became an adult in the world of airline tickets. Her seat on an airplane costs the same as my husband and I’s tickets do now. Ouch! This year at age 4 – we will be traveling the friendly skies again, and it occurred to me that over the years we have figured out some tips and tricks for different ages that might be worth sharing…
1. A little prevention is worth an ounce of cure – Can you schedule your flight to depart at a time that your baby/child is likely to be in a good mood? Better yet- can you plan your flight during a time your baby/child is likely to sleep? If so, bingo! ( I have heard of people drugging their kids w/Benedryl and the like. Please dont do that! Not only is it bad for kids little bodies to have medicine in them that they don’t need, but you may not even get a sleepy kid. Those drugs effect children differently than adults and you have a 50% chance that you will end up with a jittery hyper kid instead of a super groggy one. No drugs!)
2. Carrying a car seat around an Airport sucks – And my husband will tell you that buckling it in, and unbuckling it at the end of a flight amidst an aisle of people is even worse. That said, the great thing about bringing yours is that small children already have an expectation when sitting in a car seat, that getting up and running around isn’t an option. So it can be a blessing if you see that as being a potential problem. Our daughter knows from previous times flying that we don’t walk around the plane, and so for us at this point we check the carseat at the gate if we need it for a rental car. And if we don’t need it for a car at our destination- we leave it at home with no problem. And we don’t miss carrying it along with a stroller and carry-ons and luggage through the airport either! That is exhausting!
3. Bring Toys the Kids have never seen– The dollar store kind work great. Wrap them! Ya know why? Unwrapping that sucker just gave you an extra 30 seconds of peace. lol. Seriously. Dole out the little toys or coloring books or whatever throughout the flight. Bring some more hidden in your luggage for the return flight. Bring your childs favorite lovey on the plane with you. It can act as a reassuring friend- and if God forbid your luggage is lost, your babies most treasured lovey or blankie wont be!
4. Bring your child Food for the flight – While airplane food is never been known as particularly good, the pickings are even worse for young children. If your child is breastfeeding you’re in luck, the food is already at the ready. It also may help infants experiencing ears popping during take off or landing to nurse. If your child needs baby food(you can ask a flight attendant to heat it for you) or formula, you can bring a reasonable amount of those on board without having to adhere to the no liquids rule, so call your airline and find out their policy on how much you can take. Preschooler? Bring oat bars, or raisins or something from the airport. But do not count on the airplane having something they can eat, they very likely wont have much that’s kid friendly on board.
5. You don’t need to feel apologetic about traveling with babies or kids – But a sense of humor and empathy towards your fellow passengers works wonders! I recently saw the awesome idea below parents of twins had on a flight posted on Facebook. It’s awesome! You don’t really need to provide candy to your fellow passengers, but introducing yourself to the people in front and back of you, can build some goodwill that will thwart angry looks later. And those people will be more likely to realize your doing your best if a melt down does occur.
Last bit of advice…. Kids totally pick up on the mood of the adults they are with. As a parent you already know this. But i just point it out because air travel can be stressful at the best of times, so try to have extra time planned to get around. The more you seem cool and collected the more chance that the tiny members of your party will follow suit!