As I am currently procrastinating studying for a final, and I leave for a trip almost immediately afterwards, I have decided to take the plunge on blogging about travelling with a toddler. I’ve flown to see my father every year since my son was born, and I picked up some lessons along the way. Many of them were definitely learned the hard way. Here are my top 10 learned lessons, so hopefully you can avoid the same mistakes I did.
1.) Take the earliest flight, it will be hell, but worth it. Kind of like jogging. You hate it during the moment but afterwards feel like a bad ass for taking the plunge. The earliest flight does mean your kid is simultaneously groggy, bouncing everywhere, and clingy. Buuuut the security and check in lines will be shorter. Security will also want nothing to do with you or your emotionally unstable little one, so the process will be even quicker.
2.) Pack a stroller. I repeat, make sure you have that freaking stroller. It means your kid can’t escape (without having to use one of those bizarre kid leashes parents insist on buying). Plus if the little one gets tired it’ll save you from weight lifting across the airport. Additionally if you’re worried about overhead storage Amazon sells quite a few strollers that break down into a size small enough for an overhead compartment. My kid is 4, but the size of a 6 year old, and I fully intend on strapping him in.
3.) Early board. I have heard differing parenting advice about this, but it allows you the time to get situated and comfortable. Plus with it being that 6 a.m. flight it means your kid is more likely to partake in a catnap before the flight.
4.) Lollypops are your friend. I know what you’re thinking- “But sugar is the devil!!” In this case, sugar is your friend. The lollypops will keep your kiddo’s ears from popping, thus save you from the screaming and subsequent judge-y looks from people in pant suits. If you are totally against lollypops then apple sauce pouches work well too (GoGo’s are my kid’s favorite ones). Either way, make sure the kid waits to partake until the plane is actually taking off and not just driving around, taking it’s time looking pretty. I made that mistake and the results were said people in pant suits complaining.
5.) Flight attendants respond better to a kind smile, polite words, and mumblings of apologies. In all the flights I have taken with my toddler there has only been one negative experience with a flight attendant. Usually, if they can see you’re doing your best they will respond likewise. One even showed Remi, my 4 year old, dry ice during a serious melt down and told him it was from the clouds outside. (Insert shout out to that amazing Air Canada flight attendant here).
6.) Pack one bag for both you and your kid, then check it. Sure it’s an extra 35 bucks or so, but you are paying for convenience. I learned this lesson last year when I flew up to Canada during the winter. Dragging the heavy bag, packed to the seams with sweaters, just made the walk through the terminals feel harder and longer. This year I intend on checking the bag to live my best and lightest life.
7.) Stay in the moment. I can get so caught up in how long the trip is going to take (1 hour drive to the airport, 2 hour wait, 2 hour flight, 2 hour bus ride and 30 minute ride to my family’s reserve for a whopping total of 7.5 hours with a cranky toddler) that I get angry and restless. This energy does no favors for me or my kid. Instead, putting one foot in front of the other and doing the next right thing works so much better than counting down the minutes until I’m out of travel mode.
8.) Hit up the dollar store, or Target, or Walmart, or wherever the fuck you shop, and get toys your kid has never seen. I guarantee you it’ll be worth it when they are distracted by something new to mess with.
9.) Netflix lets you download to your phone, tablet, or whatever device you plan on bringing along. Take advantage of that. Before I get a fun lecture on the dangers of screens, the APA allows for 2 hours of screen time, so hold out as long as you can and then “Surprise kid! Video time!” once you can see your kid is close to losing it. It will help both you and your kid avoid a meltdown.
10.) Grab food in the terminals. It’ll keep you from having to worry about what you can bring through security and what you can’t. Plus it has the added bonus of being “fun” food that your kid might not normally get. When I’m hungry, I get hangry. A kid is no different. Fill up that belly!
These have been my top 10 mommy advice for flying solo with a kid. It can be stressful. It can make you want to pull your hair out and tell the pilot to turn the plane around because you can’t actually do this, you only thought you could. Hopefully this advice helps.
See you cool cats once Remi and I get back from our trip!