By my son’s second birthday, he had taken 15 plane trips. I can’t even wrap my mind around the fact that he has flown more in his little life than I had going into college. But ‘tis the life of a well-loved tot who lives 1000 miles from one set of grandparents.
And for all of those flights, he has flown “for free” via my lap. But it didn’t feel free to me, as I paid for it in…effort. Yes, my husband was with me for a FEW of those flights, but for the majority of them, I handled him solo. For our last six flights, I was even PREGNANT and solo. We called that THREE for the price of one flying.
But more often than not, I get at least one post-flight stranger compliment about how well-behaved my small child was. So I figured I’d share some of my seasoned wisdom with some of you who fly a little less frequently with little ones.
1.) Timing is everything
For the kiddos who have any kind of regularity in their schedule, HARNESS THE POWER OF THE NAP. I do my best to schedule our flights between 12pm and 2pm for take off.
One reason is that it gives me the morning to finish packing, let baby crawl or run around, and get to the airport with a tiny bit of sanity.
The other reason is because every moment that my kiddo is asleep on the plane is one less moment I need to spend entertaining him. Even short naps help! But to encourage a long nap, I recommend having everything YOU need for the flight within reach. A book, a tablet, a snack or drink–put them in the pocket in front of you so you don’t have to wake baby with awkward reaching. And hey, get comfortable! Your heiny may go numb in those two+ hours of lap-napping, but it’s a small price.
2.) Bring an empty sippy
I am not about to pay $7 for a bottle of water at the airport. So I always bring an empty sippy, fill it with water from a drinking fountain after security, and ask a flight attendant to fill it with juice or whatever when the free drink cart comes through.
Drinking will encourage ears to pop during take-off and landing. If you have an under one year old, be sure to nurse or bottle-feed during those times. Pacifiers will do the trick as well!
When you’re trying to keep a little one entertained, you just can’t have too many new and interesting snacks on hand. Whenever your babe gets bored and fussy with an activity, haul out a new snack! (This is survival, remember, not recommended for real life parenting!) 100 travel snack food ideas
4.) Bring a well stocked iPad or tablet
If you haven’t noticed already, I like to save as much money as possible when traveling. So I just about never check a bag, but instead use carry-on luggage. That makes for LIMITED space when it comes to bringing in-flight entertainment. Thank goodness for the iPad/tablet! Movies, music videos, educational games, learning apps–HOURS of entertainment all in a thin, easy to pack device. Throw the screen time rules out the door and JUST BRING IT.
5.) Get a window seat
It’s the only way you’ll keep your little one contained. It also gives a little more privacy if you’re a nursing mom. Or if you want to do a lap diaper change on the sly.
6.) Win over the people around you
You never know who you might be sitting by: Ebeneezer Scrooge or a lady with 18 grandchildren. Either way, you can win them over with your kindness. You’ve probably heard of moms who bring goodie bags for their companions with a nice note from baby saying something like “Hi. My name is Ellie and this is my first flight! I’ll try not to cry too much, but here are some earplugs, gum and homemade cookies from my mom if I do!”
That’s cute but I’ve never had an inch of space to bring goodie bags. So I just try to be nice. I apologize in advance for crying or crossed personal boundaries. I smile often, introduce my child, ask them their name and why they’re flying. Little ones can really break down walls among adults.
7.) Bring a deflated balloon for terminal play
Again, I’ve never had space to spare for a toy that will occupy my little one’s attention for three minutes and then never again. But a balloon, oh how he can play with it for long spans of time! It takes up no space, we can blow it up post-security, and we can pop it and throw it away before we board the plane! It encourages him to run around a bit before he has to sit still for a whole flight, and it also helps us to befriend travel companions because who can resist bopping a balloon toward a cute toddler? In my experience, no one.
Good luck in your upcoming travels, friends!
Do you have any lap-infant travel tips to share?
Bonus – keep your child’s ears from popping with this tip from a flight attendant!
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Wondering how to pack your toddler’s bag to make everything easier? Here’s the packing method that makes travel with kids easy!