Parenting,  toddlers,  Traveling with Children

Flying with kids (hint: grab a drink and drop those expectations nice and low)

I’m delirious with excitement (and a little bit of denial, apparently? Because I’m woefully behind in laundry so packing remains but a glimmer in the hazy future) because Luke and I are venturing eastward for my first official girl’s weekend in years. Maybe ever? Definitely since having kids. And by “girl’s weekend” I mean “crashing at one mama friend’s house for a byob (bump or baby) DIY home renovation weekend (pics and tutorials to come!!) Plus wine.

It’s a mouthful.

But my beautiful best friends from Steubenville glory days are both Virginians, and while that is very sad news for our phone calling schedules, it’s very good news when I do get the chance to head out there because it’s a twofer.

One sweet friend is getting her house ready to sell, and after virtually advising her via Pinterest and Voxer and text messages about whitewashing bricks, I decided to jump on Southwest and see what could be found for under $200.

A round trip ticket for 1+ lap baby to DC, that’s what could be found.

So Luke and I are headed out, and since I’ve flown solo with him once before, I know the drill, but more than that, I know the thrill that is now flying with one single solitary lap baby on board.

I guess this part depends on your individual baby and his or her good – or not! – nature, but I am personally looking very much forward to the 3.5 hours of uninterrupted baby-on-lap airtime. Because free wifi, free drink coupons, uninterrupted snuggles with my youngest, and a loaded Kindle.

My favorite way to travel with kids is hardcore minimalist. For example, I’m not bringing a car seat. I phoned a friend and scrounged up an old Graco she’ll bring to the airport when she picks us up. Saved: 20lbs of heft and mommy’s right elbow joint.

Next on the chopping block? A stroller. Unless I’m going to be walking a lot at my final destination, I don’t bring one. If there will be walking and the need to put baby down somewhere (like at a conference or event) I’ll bring a cheap umbrella stroller that I don’t care about losing. Only if we’re traveling internationally (see: cobblestones) with more than one child do I bring the big kahuna. It’s easy enough to break down and fly with, but I’m always wary of the wear and tear and the possibility of losing it when we check it.

My best trick when we do bring the big stroller is to use this mommy hook to clip the two seats together, pile them directly on top of the frame, hand it off to the gate agent, and stow the seat post pegs in my carryon bag. I feel safer gate checking it than sending it through at the get go, but make sure you confirm with your airline that it’s not getting sent through to your final destination, unless you want it to.

(Though you may not have a choice, and you may end up laid over in Copenhagen for 7 hours with 2 exhausted toddlers and nowhere to stow them. Until you find the complimentary on site airport prams the Dutch are kind enough to populate their airports with. But I digress.)

I am not much of a baby wearer except under duress, for example, during Mass or baseball games or, you guessed it, travel. But when flying, I never leave home without my Ergo Sport. It’ll be 6 years old this fall and I’ve washed it, um, never mind actually…but it’s a work horse. And an added bonus? I’ve never had to go through the X-ray naked image screening booth (technical term?) because I’ve had a baby strapped to my midsection, either via Ergo or pregnancy, every time I’ve flown for the past 6 years. Which is convenient. And funny.

(You will, however, get bomb swabbed every time. Because you are wearing a baby, and therefore you might also be wearing a bomb. Palms up, ladies.)

I always bring 5 more diapers in carryon than I calculate needing in the absolute worst case scenario. And I’ve I’ve been down to a single undersized soldier scrounged from the bottom of my purse, but we’ve always made it off the plane in time.

I also like to bring a little cash for airport sundries, a squeeze pouch of food for whomever might need it most desperately, baby advil or tylenol, and a backup paci and onesie. Luke actually met the Pope in his backup onesie, and wearing his very last diaper of the day. Nicely timed, son.

Don’t forget your nursing cover or a gallon of formula either.

This might not be everybody’s jam, but I love sipping an adult beverage before I board, if I’ve allowed for the time and it’s not 8 am. It soothes the nerves and alleviates the fear that junior will kick your $8 watery white wine spritzer off the tray table. (If you’re flying internationally, of course, all bets are off, and you’ll need more than one glass to get you across the Atlantic. Godspeed.)

I also bring my phone and my super basic Kindle with a book or two that I’m currently reading. It’s hard to read a real book with a baby in your lap, and it’s even harder to read a newspaper or magazine, which is a shame because print media is normally my guilty alone time pleasure. But you’re not really alone in this scenario, c’est la screen.

Finally, and most importantly, remember that you have a right to be there, and that so does your baby. I’ve had very few uncomfortable travel experiences with our kids, but when I have, a single gracious and sincere apology for their somewhat inevitable and entirely age appropriate behavior is all you owe your seat mates. I heard someone say once that babies and toddlers just express with honesty what everyone else on the plane is feeling. Particularly if you’re stuck on the tarmac 😉

But truly, the calmer and cooler you stay, the better the odds that your fellow travelers will grant you grace. Don’t be flustered if your baby freaks, and by all means if a friendly older woman offers to hold him to spell you, take her up on it! Flight attendants can also be generous along these lines, and I’ve had no qualms handing a happy baby to a Southwest agent while I pop in to the restroom. It’s a lot easier than the alternative.

So happy travels, fellow baby toters. And don’t be surprised if your little bundles of joy get you an upgrade, a preferred seating option, or a door or two held open for you. Chivalry in air travel with little people is definitely not dead.

Remember to put on your own mask before assisting the tiny drunk guy next to you.