I love to travel. We’ve always been a family that frequently takes trips, both domestically and internationally. My career has required many plane trips in the past, and when I got pregnant, I had no intentions of slowing down. Plane trips can be a lot, even for adults, so the idea of taking your child on one can be a harrowing thought. Your mind floods with all the thoughts of the things that could go wrong, and you may almost decide to cancel that flight. I’ll wait until he’s a bit older, you think to yourself. Only that same thought occurs to you after a year has passed, and then another, until you realize that there will never be a perfect age or time. The time is now. So what can you do to ensure you have a good flight? Are there any guarantees? Let’s talk about ways to improve and survive baby’s first plane trip.
The first and perhaps best piece of advice I have has nothing to do with your child, and everything to do with you. You need to mentally prepare. Before the flight, days or weeks before the trip is scheduled, prepare. You are a parent with a kid, and kids are human. We all have to accept and acknowledge that just like us, our kids have emotions, and those emotions are not always positive ones. I know this isn’t what you’re hoping for, but let’s get real; your child might cry. You can’t let the possibility of that happening stop you from living your life, or you’ll never go anywhere! There are moms who have made travel kits for other passengers consisting of earplugs and candy, and they’ve passed them out during a crying spell. It’s a cute idea, and if you’re feeling especially insecure about handling a kiddie breakdown, a kit like that might be worth looking into. Above all else, make peace with it, peace with the likelihood of passengers being displeased, and come up with mantras you can say to yourself during those moments. If you’re mentally prepared, you won’t be thrown into a panic in the event that a meltdown occurs.
Now that we’ve looked at what to do prior to the trip and tackled the worst case scenario, let’s look at other things you can do to ensure a happy kiddie passenger. The next area deals with the airport portion of the trip. Invest in a great travel stroller. It needs to be one that you can take all the way to the gate! There are several on the market that you may find suitable, but my favorite is the City Mini GT. This one is lightweight enough to handle in an airport, and best of all? It folds with one hand. When you’ve got a million things to manage, the last thing you need is to add a stroller to the list.
Luggage is often another sore spot for parents traveling with children. Consider designating a bag solely for the child’s stuff. I love to make that bag a fun bookbag that the child (if old enough) can wear. This does a few things: first, it secures all of baby’s things in one place, so you don’t have to dig for them when you need them quickly. It also frees up space in your own bag. Think about it, even if their one little bookbag is filled with nothing but a giant stuffed animal-it’s one less item you have to stuff into your already full suitcase. Lastly, it gives them something to do and carry. Kids love to do what adults are doing. It gives them purpose and makes them feel important. Find a cute bag with their favorite cartoon or animal on it, and say things like, “Help mommy carry all these heavy bags!” and they will wear it proudly. Bonus points if you find one with a detachable tether.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to make the plane trip as enjoyable as possible is to be prepared with all personal soothing items your child might need. I always bring my sons’ favorite toys, making sure to select ones that do not make noise. Your child might love the toy that lights up and dances and blows an airhorn at home, but the plane isn’t the place for it. Does he have a favorite book? Stuffed animal that he can’t sleep without? Those are the types of things to bring. Of course, in today’s digital world, everyone has a tablet of some sort. If your child is old enough to be entertained by a tv show or program of some sort, you’ll definitely benefit from having a few episodes loaded and ready to go. Keep snacks handy, opting to bring nibbles like Goldfish as opposed to messier ones like applesauce. Help yourself out as much as possible! As far as other items I bring, I defer to Eat-Poop-Sleep. Consider dressing your child in extra comfy clothing for longer flights. Adults may be fine in jeans or suits, but your little one may prefer pjs. Comfort is king in these situations.
Plane trips with children are challenging; no one can deny that. The first one is always a bit nerve wracking, but I’ve found that each subsequent one gets easier and easier. Remember that children are unpredictable, and no two days are going to be the same. Being prepared will increase the chances of a smooth trip more than anything else! Adjust your expectations to a realistic level and breathe through it. Some trips will be a breeze, and others might require purchasing the people next to you an apology cocktail; but no matter what, you will survive!