When I envision traveling, I think of Lost in Translation…the whole Indie, hipster vibe. Scarlet Johansen’s don’t-talk-to-me-because-I’m-way-cool-and-have-a-monastery-I-need-to-see type character.I love getting ready for flights. Airports always give me an added sense of importance. I must be somewhere. Can’t be late. I’m expected.
I take my travel tote, fill it with things to keep me happy and busy during the flight. Dress-up, but comfortably, (Dressing up in my world means styling my hair, and wearing some makeup, earrings if I wanna go crazy).
At least this is how I’d try to roll before we had our rambunctious ball of energy. Now, my tote has been replaced with an unattractive black back pack (I find the attractive ones to be too small), the contents contain items that keep Little Man happy and busy, and I consider showering as dressing-up.
We travel quite a bit. And I still love it. We’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to take Little to Europe and fly within the US several times a year for business and to visit family.
I remember my very first flight alone with Little. We were on our way to Seattle. He was four months old, and I was super nervous. Luckily, the seat next to me was blocked off and empty (some airlines will do that for you when flying with an infant), so I took my car seat with me. I had four things in my hand plus the baby who was not in the car seat. I could barely move through the ridiculously cramped plane aisle. And people behind me were clearly getting irritated, hence the huffs and puffs and loud sighs. One woman who was already seated, got up, grabbed a couple things from my hands and said, ‘I’ve been there too, honey, what else do you need?’ I was so touched, I hugged her.
A wonderful thing about traveling with small kids is that no one wants to sit next you. As soon as we got to our seats, four people in our near vicinity got up and moved to the back of the plane. Score. Whole aisle was mine. I put Little in his car seat, strapped him in, and gave him his bottle during takeoff because that’s what you do to help reduce ear pressure. And much to my disbelief he slept the entire flight. Amazing. I actually watched a whole movie. And ate pretzels. I’d get up and stretch every so often just because I could.
I look back on that flight with great fondness. Nowadays I’d be lucky to drink water on a plane without spilling on myself.
Toddlers are busy bodies. Sitting is a ridiculous idea. There’s so much to discover and explore, staying idle in one place is a waste of time to them.
When Little was around one, people gave me all sorts of fun ideas to keep him busy during our flights. Unfortunately he wasn’t interested in about ninety percent of them. He’d much rather jump on the seat in front of us, or open and close the window five hundred times. Obviously super stressful when you get the stares and eye rolls, but when you get kicked in the face and your kid takes that opportunity to swing on the adjacent seats, there’s only so much you can do.
So I’ve narrowed it down to some ideas that have worked for us over the past couple of years, and hopefully will work for you too!
1. Get to the airport a little early and have the Littles run their hearts out. Some airports have play areas,(I’ve found that half the staff doesn’t know they have one, so check online first). I’m usually there, or running up and down hallways with Little just until we board. Great way to get some energy out before sitting for several hours.
2. Be last on the plane. I love this one. If hubby is with me, he goes first, gets settled, then I join at the last minute with Little in tow. If I’m by myself, I can still do this. I don’t usually have a carry on, just my ugly backpack, which I need near me anyway. So getting on the plane once everyone’s seated is awesome. No need to sit and wait an extra thirty.
3. Snacks galore. I’m sure you’ve heard this one many times. Little boxed raisins, fishies, cheerios, grapes, dried fruit, granola bars, any favorite snacks they love. The more the better, and as much variety as you can possibly have. I put them in mini-Ziplocs, and rotate about every twenty minutes depending on how fast it’s eaten. The key is getting it to them before they get fussy and cranky. And most importantly, I always have several organic lollipops (organic because they don’t have dyes or food coloring) as backup.
4. Fun stuff. Books and coloring books are swell, but if you have a curious, active fireball, those items may not fly. Or will fly, because he threw them.
Some of my favorites:
*Home videos and downloaded cartoons.
*Empty water bottles, and a pouch full of coins. Put in, take out. Repeat a million times.
*Stuffed animal or doll, play doctor. Bandaids, cotton balls, alcohol swabs, qtips. Pretend you’re at the doctors office getting a check-up.
*pre-wrap little toys (Target’s dollar section is marvelous), and bring them out every so often. The unwrapping is an activity within itself.
*Stickers. Big ones. Small ones. Put them all over.
*Play doh. Little loves sculpting, rolling, smashing. Take a couple ‘tools’ too.
5. Walk up and down the aisle. When they can’t sit still anymore, this is a good one. Little sometimes cant handle this without touching other passengers, so I carry him and count or quietly sing some songs to keep him occupied.
6. Bring extra clothes. A no-brainier, I know. But usually necessary and appreciated. It includes clothes for you too. Kind of nice to change your top after sitting in it for a long time.
7. Take a tiny suitcase or backpack to put all their toys in. Little loves pushing his around. I usually end up carrying it, but we have fun packing and re-packing it on the plane.
8. Make sure you bring/buy something for yourself. A goodie, a drink, anything to add some pizzazz to the flight. It’s usually all about the Littles, and making them happy and occupied. But try not to forget about yourself. You can have fun too.
And the most obvious point. Try not to stress. I remind myself this every time, but it’s hard to remember when your Little is having a meltdown in a small space. Take a deep breath. Know that the people around you who’re huffing and puffing, were kids too at one point. Don’t feel like you have to over-apologize for crying and tantruming. As long as they’re not touching or swinging on people’s chairs, a one-time apology is sufficient…if you even want to be that nice.
Baby steps and yummy pretzels,