Thursday, June 20, 2013

On Flying With Toddlers. (Or Other Small Children).

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. 

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  1. Now the sadist in me is thinking it might be a good idea to try and get a sit by toddlers...just for the free Jack & Coke that the parents might buy me!!

  2. Great tips AP. Next time you travel I am volunteering as airplane babysitter as long as I can play with Mac and Carter.

  3. That's one rite of passage we have not checked off the list...and for now I'll keep it that way. I'm pretty sure I will require medication when that day comes. Kudos for making it through.

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  5. Awesome advice on the lollipop! I'm flying internationally in less than two weeks with my 16 month old who doesn't take bottles and isn't one of chug on a sippy. My main concern is the ascent and descent -- because no one has been kicked off a plane for a screaming tot. But the lollipop -- total genius!

  6. Kennedy has been on about 8 different roundtrip flights (the last flight she was on was last month), but tomorrow will be the first time I fly with her by myself. Granted, it's a 45 minute flight (thank god), but I'm freaking out. She is a great flyer, but teamwork is what really works for us when we fly as a family. I think I'll hit up the Target dollar spot today...

  7. Good tips! We are flying with our girls (18 month old girls!) and are dreading it! We leave next week so I have another week to convince myself this was a good idea! Ha! Oh and the flight is a measly 4 1/2 hours...KILL ME NOW! :)

  8. I just wrote a post last week about flying with my 9 month old...I'll be flying again in 2 weeks but without my husband so I'm a bit more nervous!

  9. I really want to somehow save this to read later. Like, 4 years later. I'll try to remember as much as I can!

  10. We're flying to Chicago next month and I'm already dreading it. Brady (4.5) is pretty solid at this point, but this will be our first flight with Cole as a walker. I have a feeling this is going to be a whole new ballgame! I may bring some sugar free lollipops for him though, that might be a very welcomed treat if he starts to melt down. Great suggestion!

  11. The hardest part about flying with kids is its different everytime. They grow so quickly that what worked last time might not this time. You think you have it figured out and then suddenly they can walk and it gets a lot harder to keep them in their seats!

    My first flight with both boys (2.5 & 9 weeks) was to visit family in Indiana. I planned to go alone, but my mom decided to join us. Thank god bevuse Monroe puked on day 2 and I just knew my healthy days were short lived. Don't you know I started to feel nauseated on the drive to the airport. Sure enough, I started puking on the flight and barely made it through the Philly airport for our connection. It was a disaster! On the bright side, our next flight with two should be a breeze!


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