Tuesday, April 23, 2013

// tips for flying alone... with kids

It sounds like an oxymoron but I assure you that it's not.
I don't consider myself an expert but I do have some fresh advice to share from my recent trip.
If you find yourself in this not-so-desirable situation,
these tips might help you manage a toddler and a baby. 

f l y i n g   w i t h   a   t o d d l e r

  1. Use a car seat. Since Jake had his own seat this year I had the option of bringing a car seat or letting him sit on the plane seat with a regular seat belt or a harness. I opted for bringing the car seat even if I looked like a madwoman pushing a double stroller with a car seat hanging from my forearm, a diaper bag, and a massive backpack. Why did I go through the inconvenience? Jake is used to his car seat. He is accustomed to sitting in it for the duration of a trip without unbuckling it. Airplane seat belts are so flimsy I know he would’ve figured it out in a hot minute. While I did loosen the belt on the car seat a lot, I never gave him the option of getting out. He wasn’t happy at times but he didn’t question it. It would've been the end of me if he got out to walk about.
  2. Bring food. We had a morning flight and Jake had lollipops and fruit snacks the whole time. I didn't care about the nutritional value as long as he was happy.
  3. Bring a drink.Bring a cup the child is used to drinking from. Part of a happy demeanor is being full and hydrated. Those airplane cups are a joke and only hold like an ounce of liquid. When the steward (is that what you call male stewardesses?) flight attendant came around I gave him Jake’s Camelbak bottle and asked him to give me as much water as he could. On one flight the guy gave me a whole bottle of water on another he only gave me two cups worth. Either way, it helped.
  4. Offer movies/shows. If you’re so lucky to have your kid watch movies the entire flight, be ready for it. I don’t like my kids watching too much tv at home but I was ready for them to watch 10 hours of cartoons if needed. My husband loaded our tablet with episodes of Caillou, Cars, and Toy Story before I left and they were a life saver on the flight and while we were away as well.
  5. Give them presents and surprises. Sometimes movies won't cut it the whole time, even if the kid is a tv addict like mine. I went “all out” when it came to gifts for Jake. Nothing was too expensive but I got him more things than I usually would. I got him things he likes. Yes, even a tacky Cars backpack. See pictures for the things I brought. The key isn’t only to keep them happy but to keep them entertained.
  6. Put a nighttime diaper on. I put one on Jake right before we boarded both times. I wanted him to feel as comfortable as possible and I wanted to avoid having to take him into the bathroom, or out of the car seat even. It worked. ** I purposely delayed potty training as to not have to bring a kid to the bathroom while overseas, on a plane, and in the airport. 
  7. If all else fails, Benadryl. My doctor approved of me giving Jake Benadryl but it didn’t work all that well on him. He fell asleep without it during the first flight and, on the way back, he fell asleep for the same amount of time with the Benadryl as he did without. We tried it two weeks earlier and it knocked him out just fine so who knows what the issue was. If you're going to try knocking them out, I would suggest trying it a few weeks before hand and not right before nap or bedtime when they would be tired anyway.
f l y i n g   w i t h   a   b a b y 

  1. Learn how to change a diaper on your lap. Airplane bathrooms are the absolute definition of tiny. I can’t even use one by myself let alone with one or two children.
  2. Bring toys for the littles too. Siena is little but she needed something to look at for five hours. I brought locking rings and one of her favorite toys that has crackling sounds and textures.
  3. Milk, milk, milk. This is one time I love nursing. I had an endless supply of food for her and could nurse her to sleep whenever she seemed tired or fussy. Also, nursing cover, just use one.
f l y i n g   w i t h  t w o 

  1. Let them wear pajamas.Our flights were early, so I put the kids in pajamas the night before that they could wear through the whole trip. I mean, Jake looked like a hot mess, but a cute one, and he was so comfortable. I on the other hand, wore jeans and that was dumb.
  2. Ask for help. In some airports, you can have someone help you through security and all the way to the gate if you ask. The counter person checking you in has to print an essentially invalid boarding pass for the non-flyer. My husband came with me and he had to go through all the security steps (shoes, metal detector, etc.) He had to leave me right at the gate door. Not a bad deal. This wasn’t allowed in Costa Rica but the personnel there helped so much. They didn’t make me take the kids out of the stroller to go through the metal detector and searched them on the side. Someone else carried the car seat for me onto the plane and installed it before I got on with the kids. On the second flight the counter person placed us on an aisle where there was one seat free on the other row so the person who was supposed to sit next to me happily hopped over one spot and I had a whole row to myself. All it took for all this was asking and informing people that I was flying alone. People can be nice.
  3. Wear one of your kids. Wearing Siena was necessary for me to keep all our stuff together and so I could hold Jake’s hand. I only used the sling very briefly but it was a great option to have.
  4. Keep it in perspective. My biggest piece of advice for a mom, or even parents, flying with one, two, or more kids, is to keep it in perspective. The flight, however long it is, won’t last forever. Eventually, you will get to your destination where you can rest and the kids will get settled. For the duration of your flight(s), just go into survival mode. You can figure out the rest when you get there.  
f l y i n g   i n  g e n e r a l 

  1. Bring a bunch of zip lock bags. i  bought a box of gallon sized freezer bags at Target and it was the best purchase for the trip. I used them for everything during our trip but especially on the plane. I had a bag for garbage that I loaded up and gave to the flight attendant at the end. Another bag was for dirty clothes and I used other ones to keep new toys with parts organized. In previous years I had just made an organized but disgusting pile of stuff to gather at the end and give to the flight attendant. This was a much better option than shamefully handing a dirty diaper over to a stranger. Gross. 
  2. Don't drink. I mean, if you need a stiff drink it’s totally understandable, but for me it was ideal to avoid having to go to the bathroom. I can’t say I used the restroom at all from the time I left the house until we got to our final destination. It’s not the healthiest thing in the world to not pee for 10 hours but, if you're alone, you have to do what you have to do.
  3. Don't be afraid of early flights. At first I was hesitant to take morning flights because that’s when the kids, especially Jake, are most active, but it worked to my advantage. Since we had to wake up so early to be at the airport at 5am and 4am, both kids were so tired once we actually got on the plane that they both fell asleep for considerable amounts of time.
  4. Bring a charger. God forbid, you may have a delay (I had a four hour delay last year and it was nearly the end of me) so be prepared to charge up the tablet, computer, and/or phone that might be the only way to keep your kid entertained. They have outlets on the airplane so if your battery drains in the middle of the flight, you wont be in despair.
  5. Have something ready for yourself.  I was so bored on the flight down during the time that both kids were asleep. I wasn’t anticipating that at all since I thought the kids would be going nuts the whole time. I ended up paying for the in-flight tv and I don’t regret spending those $8 at all but a book would have been nice as well.
  6. Pay someone to carry your luggage. The question I kept getting was “how did you carry all this stuff with you AND the kids?!” Well, I didn’t. There are people who will load, carry, and push your luggage to your car for a tip. I took full advantage of this in both airports.
Gifts // Surprises

I got him a pack of Hot Wheels and put them in a zip lock bag. 
Every half hour or so I gave him a new one.

This was perhaps the best trick. As you can see it got a lot of use.
It's a Melissa and Doug On the Go water coloring book.
It comes with a brush that you fill up with water 
and the child brushes it over the page to reveal the colors. 
It dries back to black and white and the child can color it over and over again. 

He's into dinosaurs but I didn't want to bring big ones.
I found these mini dinosaur erasers for a dollar at Wal-Mart.  
He plays pretend with them and still hasn't figured out that they're erasers. 

Window stickers or gel clings were really useful when the tray had to be 
"secured in the upright position."

I indulged his every Cars movie want.

It was Easter time and I found a mini magnetic drawing board that fit in his back pack.


Dara @ Not In Jersey said...

all great ideas! glad you survived!

ladybug said...

I will keep these in mind when we fly to Orlando in January


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