Monday, April 4, 2011

Tips for flying with a toddler

This is the backpack packed for the flight out. The black bag with white designs in the back was filled with snacks. The Magnadoodle was a new toy, and every other book and toy was in the checked bag on the flight back because she couldn't have cared less about my desperate attempts at entertaining her.

The Basics:
We flew from Albany, NY to Portland, OR on Southwest Airlines. We had a 40 min layover at Chicago, Midway, and Charlotte had her own seat. Flying time = approx. 7 hours.

  • Expect the airlines to carry milk as one of the beverage options and then not buy any extra before boarding a flight for 7 hours, especially when your toddler is firmly in the stage where milk is a comfort food.
  • Expect that "Family Boarding" is even remotely helpful because the moment your tickets get scanned, so do everyone else's and then it's still an awkward scramble to get to your seat, get the carseat in, and get everyone settled
  • Expect to do ANYthing other than hold their legs and feet down for the ENTIRE flight. Once in the car seat, their poor feet are touching the seat in front of them, so even the slightest twitch means they're kicking the person in that seat. And if you've flown enough you know how MADDENING that is when it happens to you. (see pic below)
  • Spend the world's shortest layover circling Chicago because the cloud cover is too thick to land, then deal with a cranky gate agent who won't look up your gate, then run to your gate, then have everyone on the plane move so you can put the car seat in the required spot (window seat), then fly for an additional 4 1/2 hours to your destination with the seat belt sign on, meaning your toddler has now been forced to sit for 7 hours without moving.
  • Let your laptop break a week before your trip and then have no media or cartoons to rely on.
  • Spend even two seconds feeling bad if you want to give your kid Benedryl. I didn't, but only because I learned on the flight out that I should have, and on the flight back she was sleep deprived and actually feel asleep once or twice.

  • Pack tons and tons of food - both for you and for them. Assume that you'll need all meals for both of you for the entire day - don't count on layovers or airline food.
  • Have a HUGE glass of wine when you land, or while you're still in the air if you want to!
  • Attempt to have a layover longer than 30 min if you have your choice of flights
  • Totally revamp your mindset on how early you should get to the airport. In order to get to the airport, return the rental car, get through security, and have enough time to buy food and let her run around, we left our hotel THREE hours before our flight departure time.
  • Spend the money and get them their own seat (it's not required until they're 2). It's safer, and unless they're a newborn, I don't see how you can hold them for that long and keep your sanity.
  • Relax and know that everything will go slow and awkward (security, seating, etc.), but it can still work out fine.


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