I used to love flying. A few hours to switch off from the world, watch a movie, read a book and hey, even sleep? Well, now that I’m two children deep, “me time” is no longer an actual thing--and getting on an airplane really pushes the point. Nonetheless, I have probably flown with my “extra baggage” more times than I have not now and, though I miss the halcyon days of past, I have it mastered to the point that “fear” and “flying” are no longer synonymous. My most overused maxim since becoming a parent? It doesn’t get easier, you just get better at it. Below, 10 tips for flying high.
1) It’s all in the attitude. One of the biggest obstacles between you and an easy flight (apart from your children, obviously) is yourself. Think good thoughts and let the small stuff slide--advice that could apply to parenting in general, the minutia of which is amplified when confined to a cabin. When your child is screaming and the only face you clock is the eye-rolling a-hole who’s trying to move seats, remember s/he’s in the minority. Take deep breaths, offer earplugs (it’ll raise a smile if nothing else) and deal with the situation as though no one else was in the room.
If you’re anything like me, your biggest challenge will be to forget your usual mom-angst. Planes are filthy. The food ain’t organic, sweetheart. Leave your anxieties at the gate and pack plenty of wipes to wipe away the bad stuff. Know that yes, your little one may get pee on her hands from that too-small restroom and yes, she will definitely exceed your usual 30-minutes of allotted screen-time.
2) Timing is everything. Book your flight according to the nap schedule. And if “schedule” is a dirty word, try and push baby’s naps to sync with your flight on the day. You’ll find there is nothing more welcome than the moment your little one falls asleep. Consider mealtimes too; make sure you know you’ll be set up and settled when hunger strikes. As we all know, a fed baby is a happy baby. On this note, see below.
3) Fast Food Keep it simple, people. I don’t often use the puree pouches but on a plane they are a boon. You can also bring your homemade versions if you adhere to the TSA rules, something this handy cooler does brilliantly. Avoid messy food! Once I bought lentil tabouli for a 3-year-old. WHAT WAS I THINKING. Disaster.
4) Snacks. For god’s sake don't run out of snacks.
5) Be prepared. Bring extra everything, but nothing that’s not essential. Basically, don’t bring anything for yourself. Frankly, you won’t have the time, free hands or inclination to read that novel or catch up on those reports for work. All packing must be with child in mind and consolidated smartly. I love a portable changing mat like Skiphop’s for traveling while the usual diaper-bag supplies should be supplemented thus: pack a change of clothes for baby and dress them in layers to allow for ever-changing cabin temperatures. Make sure clothes are easy on/off and dark, in case of blow-outs. Pack more diapers than you think you need (1 per 2 hours, plus a few extra). If you’ve got a toddler who’s iffy on the potty-training, bring pull-ups for naps. Pack a spare top for yourself in case of aforementioned blow-out (shit happens). A large scarf/pashmina is always a winner for when the AC blasts and doubles as a nursing cover. Pack extra of all the above in case of delays or lost luggage. Throw in some Ziploc bags for spoiled clothes and utensils. Also, see next tip.
6) Bag of tricks. In order to occupy your little darling(s), stock that Mary Poppins bag of yours with endless amusements. First up, the iPad. Forget your principles, screw your judgments; this is your salvation. There are some great and not completely brain-deadening apps that can pass away a good chunk of time. If you take one (duh) you’ll need something like these to shield your fellow passengers from the din. Other engaging tools: Books, always. Crayons (not markers) and coloring books. Stickers!!! Toddlers f*cking love stickers. Avoid anything messy or loud. Some folk stock up with fun things from the dollar store. I’ve never done this but will attest to anything new and exciting going down particularly well. In actual fact our most successful distractions have been the jewelry I’m wearing or the airplane’s paper cups.
5) Wear the baby. By means of an Ergobaby or similar, wearing your baby is a sanity-saver, allowing you to be hands-free during the high-pressure security check through to getting organized at your seat. Bonus, if your baby can sleep in the carrier your life is made that much easier in-flight.
7) SNACKS. The importance of snacks cannot be overstated.
8) Babies Suck. NO! They don’t. I mean, have them suck on something on the way up and on the way down. By sucking on a nipple, bottle or pacifier, pressure in the ear canal is reduced and so is the risk of major pain, screaming and annoyance for all.
9) Know the rules. Before flying, check with your airline and the TSA for their current policies regarding carry-ons and liquids including baby foods, formula and pumped milk. True story: last month I unwittingly traveled to London with a defensive pepper-spray device that is legal in the USA but absolutely not in the UK. Yet somehow I got through security and onto my international flight without anyone batting an eyelid. It turns out that in the UK they carry the same penalties as a firearm, a fact I was curtly informed of when I was nearly arrested at Heathrow on the way home. Special note of thanks to the officers for their sympathy and the escort to catch our flight in time.
10) You're a goddam mother, you birthed a baby. You've got this.