I will never forget flying when our son was an infant. He was eleven months old and I had spent several days preparing for our flight. I went down the checklist, readying his carseat, making sure it was FAA approved (yes, that’s a thing? I hadn’t ever realized that was a thing, FAA-approved carseats, until I had kids), stocking the diaper bag with snacks and toys, collapsing the stroller to make it travel-ready, and beefing up our artillery of extra sippy cups.
By the time my husband hauled everything out the door, he looked like a pack mule.
Then there was the shoving the collapsed stroller through the security x-ray, bumping passengers in the head as I hauled his carseat down the narrow aisle in the airplane (because he was a ticketed passenger, he needed a carseat), and then finally using every muscle in my body to cram his over-stuffed diaper bag under the seat in front of me.
Feeling the worst was behind me, I relaxed into my seat and looked over at my sweet, giggly boy, smiling from ear to ear. “Oh yeah I got this.” I told myself. I had prepared everything from beginning to end, leaving no room for error, and it was definitely working in my favor. I was pooped, but we were doing just fine.
Ha. Ha ha. Hahahahahahahahaha.
About thirty minutes into our flight, my cute giggly happy boy started to fuss. No prob, he was tired. I knew how to remedy this. He just needed a nice, dark, airplane bathroom and his stuffed lion, and then I could bounce him to sleep. I grabbed the lion, grabbed the baby, and headed down the aisle to the bathroom. His fussing had now turned into an exhausted wail, and I quickened my pace until I finally reached the tiny loo. Sweat beading on my forehead, I did an internal silent happy dance for finally reaching my destination, before stepping into the dark bathroom and locking the door.
The light popped on.
In the blinding light I searched frantically for a light switch as his pitch reached pterodactyl-like decibals. We need DARK!! My hands were all over those smooth walls while I tried bouncing and shushing and WHERE IS THE LIGHT SWITCH?!?! Panic set in and I felt tears welling up in my eyes. This had all been so perfect! I had done everything right! AND NOW I CAN’T EVEN FIND THE FREAKING LIGHT SWITCH. He wailed, I started sobbing, and together we bounced in that BRIGHT airplane bathroom for what felt like an eternity until exhaustion finally won out and he conked out, despite the surface-of-the-sun blinding light. I sniffled, wiped my eyes, and took a deep breath. What a hot mess that had turned out to be. But now, it was over. Reaching a shaky hand to the door, I slid the bar and unlocked the door.
The lights went out.
I slid the bar back to “lock”. The lights popped on.
Slid it again. Dark. Slid it again. Light.
Dark light dark light dark light.
I stood there, staring at the bathroom door, when it dawned on me that yeah, airplane bathrooms don’t HAVE a light switch. Which you think I would have known, as this was not my first flight, duh, but also that the lights had automatically turned on when I stepped INTO the bathroom. But nah, I was certain there was a switch somewhere but nah, there wasn’t. I let my forehead hit the door a few times for my “duh” moment before finally returning to my seat (to a very concerned husband who was fairly certain I had flushed myself down the toilet).
My advice when traveling with a baby? Let your expectations just fly on out the window! Ha!
My firstborn and myself, on that flight in 2009, so innocent, so oblivious to the inner-workings of airplane bathrooms.
We’ve been traveling with our kids since they were infants (note the above-mentioned story) and honestly, for the most part, it was fine. I mean that. Because preparing ahead of time for the things you CAN anticipate helps smooth the rough edges of the things you CAN’T. It’s humbling, for sure—I learned a lot on that flight (mostly that airplane bathrooms don’t have a light switch, ha). But for us, the destination was always worth the trip. Our kids are older now and flying is so much easier. Fun, even. I really mean that. Before we fly, we always sit with our kids and lay out our expectations for their behavior (this is a good idea for any “grown-up” situation, really—it gives them boundaries to function within). They know to use quiet voices and to be respectful when the flight attendant talks to them. Things like that.
We’re taking a trip with our kiddos in a few short days, so I wanted to share some tips that have worked well for us!
-Pack plenty of snacks. This is especially true with babies and toddlers. Feed them, feed them. And pack an extra stash of snacks in your suitcase that you can use on the flight home.
-If you are using formula, remember to make sure that your bottles/sippy cups are empty when you go through security.
Our littlest, 2014
-Be creative with activities! We used to tape dental floss to the tray and string cheerios on it as a craft (and a snack!). The Target dollar aisle always has awesome stuff for traveling. The window gel clings were a huge hit, too. Old-fashioned coloring works, too.
Our middle, 2015
-If you are traveling internationally, keep your passports and a pen in a ziplock bag, to save the frustration of hunting down a pen when it’s time to fill out immigration paperwork.
-We always chose to board as late as possible if we had assigned seats when our kids were toddlers. You never know if the plane is going to be stuck on the runway, so we hung out and played in the terminal for as long as possible before boarding.
-We lax our screen time rules when we fly, too. Our kids are older now and their brains have not yet melted through their ears from extended screen times on flights.
Our oldest, much bigger now, no longer needing a nap, taken last year!
For some, flying with littles just isn’t their jam. But if it is, I hope these tips are helpful! It was a lot of hard work, but with it came trips with really sweet memories.
Our middle when she was one year old, in Aruba.
And there were also learning moments. Like, you know, airplane bathrooms. HA.
Have a lovely day, my friends!