There’s a saying, “plan for the worst but hope for the best,” and I have no doubts about me that it was coined by someone who has flown with their kids. Toddlers, even, because if you’ve ever flown, or thought about flying or plan to fly with toddlers, that phrase may as well be your mantra.
My thoughts on flying with toddlers is this: have no expectations. None. Zero. Don’t expect it to be terrible. Don’t expect it to be peaches and cream either. Just don’t expect anything. This way, regardless of what happens, you will always be surprised.
Well, that and find reassurance in the fact that anything short of the plane falling from the sky in a fiery tailspin of death and dismemberment is a win.
I’ve flown four times with the boys, first when they were 5 months and 2.5 years old and again when they were nearly 1 year and 3 years old. Each time we were met with some unforeseen delays, most recently a relatively important computer hard drive malfunction which resulted in a one hour ground delay which left us captive on a full flight.
Thankfully, we were under the charge of a flight attendant who had her wits about her when it came to dealing with a toddler on a plane that is stuck on the ground. She included the toddler in each of her duties allowing him to sweep the “hokie” up and down the long aisle, collect trash and even pass out headphones. From what we could observe from the rear of the plane, the passengers seemed to enjoy it too.
You want to know why? Nobody wants to be stuck on a plane with an unhappy toddler. Not even the toddler’s parents. We’ll do anything and everything short of hopping their little brains up on sugar to ensure they remain their oft pleasant, bubbly selves.
But do you want to know something else? Toddlers are only human and despite the copious amounts of snacks and treats and a carryon entirely stuffed to the gills with new toys, they may cry. And scream. And kick the back of the person’s chair in front of them.
It happens and as much as it sucks, sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it other than offer to buy the passengers around you a drink, be it a stiff one or even just a gourmet coffee. In my experience, more times than not they will often offer to hold the screaming child in question, especially if it is a baby. Or they may decide to play peekaboo with them between the seats.
Although there were only a few times when I wanted to crawl under my seat and hide until the plane touched down in our destination city, I had to stop and laugh to myself because the situation was in fact comical. You have to laugh. Why? Because if you can’t find the humor in the situation, you’ll end up screaming “BOMB” in the rear of the plane causing the on-board Air Marshal to tackle you to the ground in an act of anti-terrorist chivalry.
Readers have been asking me “what are your tips for flying with kids?” And in summation, here they are:
1. Fly with zero expectations. The worst that can happy is you’ll crash and burn. Anything above that is a success.
2. Peruse the dollar bins at Target in the weeks prior to your flight. Pick up some new toys that you know your toddler will love playing with even if for only 15 minutes. That’s 15 minutes that they aren’t asking the person behind them 1,579 questions. Buy 5 of them. That’s an hour right ther
3. If you have an iPad, download a new app or two and a new movie the night before your flight. This is guaranteed to hold their attention for at least thirty-forty minutes. That’s as good as gold
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. No one on that plane wants to listen to your kids scream.
5. Let your kids do an activity that you wouldn’t typically let them do at home. For me this is letting the toddler color with markers. At home I’m all “Crayons! Crayons! Crayons!” But as a special treat on our flights, I allowed him to color with markers and he pretty much thought I was the bees knees
6. Give your toddler something to drink or suck during landing and take-off. That part where I mentioned about not hopping their little brains up on sugar? I lied a little. Lollipops and fruit snacks are great ear-poppers.
And last but not least, if your toddler whines, cries or screams? Take a deep breath, count to ten, order a jack and coke and think to yourself, “well, it could always be worse.” Trust me, you aren’t the first mom whose toddler decided to lose their shit at 40,000 feet. Your toddler will eventually stop crying, the plane will eventually land and chances are you’ll never see those people whom you shared a plane with ever again.
And if you're anything like me, after four flights with two kids under the age of 3, chances are you'll vow never to fly with your kids again, no matter how "great" it goes. Sometimes I think I must have a little sadist in me to think that taking my kids on a vacation that requires a plane ride, especially one that takes over 4 hours, would be a good time.
Flight attendant, three jack and cokes for row 26 please.