There he is, the little monster. Yes, he’s an adorable little monster, but a monster nonetheless. Whether he’s traveling with you or he’s headed toward you, either way, he’s on the flight with you. Near you. I feel for you. Really, I do.
Traveling sucks, most of you will agree, but what’s even worse than traveling is traveling with children, even when it’s your own kid you’re traveling with. Why? Because the people around you give you the please-don’t-sit-by-me look. Because you’ve only got two hands. That’s it. One. Two. It’s not easy carrying the kid, the car seat, the stroller, the diaper bag (that’s been stuffed full of fun things things to do, causing it to weigh more than the kid and the car seat alone) while you’re doing whatever it is you have to do in order to keep the kid happy – and quiet – on-board an aircraft, surrounded by all those people giving you that look.
Like I said, traveling can suck, but you don’t have to let the stress of travel ruin your trip. Here are a few tips I’ve used when traveling with my own little two year-old monster who has flown once a month since he was three months old.
ARRIVE EARLY – The line at security just keeps getting longer now that summer is here, so give yourself a little extra time. And by God, check those bags, if you haven’t already, even if you have to pay that ridiculous bag fee. Why? Because it’s even more ridiculous struggling lug all that gear on the airplane where you’ll only end up even more frustrated and agitated when you find all those overhead bins full. So pack light, come early, and check the bags.
BE PREPARED – Don’t be surprised when TSA makes you toss that sippy cup full of milk and the bottle of water out of your diaper bag. No need to remind TSA the liquids are for your little princess. They already know. And yes, you AND the princess will need to remove your shoes – both of you – even if sweet pea is just four months old. Don’t get angry. It’s a waste of time. Just be ready when it happens. That means leave the liquids at home and start taking off those shoes and collapsing that stroller before it’s your turn to walk through the metal detector. No one likes standing in line behind the person who is not ready to go when it’s their time to go. So go! And after you pass through security, please don’t forget to purchase milk and water (and snacks if you didn’t bring any food from home) in the terminal before you board the flight. Chances are the flight attendants will run out of bottled water and food before they even reach your row.
TRAVEL TIME – Whatever you do, do not take the all-nighter when traveling with your perfect little angel who may not be so perfect on a flight at night. There’s nothing worse, or more stressful, than traveling with a screaming child, especially when everyone around you is trying to sleep. Me, I always book my flights during the day, during nap time. That way the kid can run around and wear himself out at home, before we have to head to the airport. Nine times out of ten my little cutie patootie will fall asleep on taxi out, allowing me (and whoever is seated in front of me) a few hours of quiet time. What parent doesn’t need a little quiet time?
DIAPER BAG – Oh sure I spent WAY too much on a designer diaper bag before my son was born, only to use the messenger style Diaper Dude my husband bought every single time we traveled – and didn’t travel. You’d be shocked at all I can fit in that one bag. All I can say is the style of the Diaper Dude makes traveling easy. Why? Because the messenger bag leaves hands free! That means your hands are available to do what they REALLY need to do – like take care of the child.
BABY SLING / WRAP – The Baby Bjorn made going through airport security completely do-able when I had to go it alone. With the kid attached to me, all I had to do was slide off my shoes (slip-ons when traveling with the kid) and throw them, along with the Diaper Dude, on the conveyor belt without asking a stranger for help, which is something you may not feel inclined to do when the stranger behind you is looking kind of…well…strange. Once on-board, use the sling when baby falls asleep. In other words, let the carrier hold the baby while your hands hold a book. NOTE: The sling cannot be worn on take-off or landing or anytime when the fasten seat belt sign is on.
SIT-N-STROLL – Best invention known to mankind – mankind with kids that is. Once through security, sit baby in the chair and start strolling to the gate. Baby rides like a king in his first class seat. When it’s time to board, roll the little prince onto the airplane and straight to your seat while passengers already seated oooh and ahhh at your precious bundle of joy. Once at your seat, retract the wheels and VOILA – the stroller is now a car seat! After the flight deploy the wheels and you’re off and rolling to baggage claim (you did check the bags, didn’t you?) and then it’s off to the car where once again you retract the wheels and VOILA – car seat again! NOTE: The SIT-N-STROLL does not fit down the aisle of a narrow body aircraft (S80, 737, 757), so if you’re traveling alone leave the SIT-N-STROLL at home, or just ask for help from the strange looking person behind you.
CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System) - The second best invention ever! If your child is at least one year-old and weighs 25 lbs, you can leave the car seat at home and use these simple straps that easily fit around the back of a seat and attach to the seat belt to keep your child safe.
RIDE ON CARRY ON – The third best invention ever! Would you believe the genius behind this was a flight attendant! Oh yeah. Who else but a flight attendant would come up with something so amazing? If you’ve got a roller-board and prefer traveling light, this is the contraption for you – and me! (Of course I already own one.) Just attach the “lawn chair” to the back of your rolling bag and off you go, as simple as that. Once on the flight the chair folds flush against your suitcase and fits perfectly into the overhead bin. Use the chair with CARES and your little one travels safe and sound while you’re off and running. NOTE: Be prepared for pointing and laughter as you sprint through the terminal with your little one attached to your bag.
DVD PLAYER – Never – I repeat – NEVER leave home without the DVD player. And don’t forget the charger. Pack it in your bag, the one that is going under the seat in front of you. Charge the DVD regularly. There are outlets in every airport. Oh and DVDs. Don’t forget to pack the DVDs, too! All I can say is thank God for the Teletubbies. La-La and friends have gotten us through over 35 flights – calm and peaceful flights.
BRING SOMETHING FUN TO DO: Coloring books, crayons, stickers, books, bring it all! Years ago a flight attendant told me that when she traveled with her son she always made sure to give him a small present each hour of flight in return for good behavior. Sure, you’re buying good behavior from a kid, a kid who should be well behaved to begin with, but sometimes kids act out, even the well behaved ones. Hey, kids are kids. And good behavior is worth every penny. Just ask the guy seated in front of you.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE PASSENGER IN FRONT OF YOU – I know you’re going to find this very hard to believe, but the person seated in front of you is not at all thrilled to be seated in front of you and your adorable child, no matter how cute the little munchkin is. Remember, it’s your job as a parent to be aware of what the little monkey is doing, so don’t let those feet kick the back of that chair, please! And stop those little hands from banging on the tray table, please! Sure, kids will be kids and can’t always be controlled, but you can try, can’t you? Please try. For the sake of the passenger in front of you. The passenger in front of you who is begging you. The passenger in front of you who is now begging me.
IGNORE THE ANGRY PASSENGER. Hey you, angry guy, they’re trying their best to keep the kid quiet, okay! Maybe those little ears hurt from the pressurization of the airplane, who knows. Don’t forget, you, too, were once a kid, and you were probably just as annoying as the crying kid seated behind you. Probably more so, based on the way you’re behaving now. Look, you’re not the only one who thinks traveling sucks. Just ask the little stinker stuck sitting behind you. The one that’s acting just like you!