Friday, November 7, 2014

Traveling with Small Children

A friend of mine was flying down to San Francisco to run the Nike Half Marathon.  She asked me for some tips for flying with her almost one year old.  After typing up my tips and sending them to her, I realized that these should be shared with everyone, because at some point in our life, we will find ourselves with an infant on our lap riding a silver tube through the air.

These tips are listed only in the order I thought them up, so my apologies if anything seems out of order to you.

1. A car seat won't be counted against you in the baggage department, so it's good to bring it and check it with your luggage. You may plan to take public transportation everywhere, but how will you be getting to your final destination from the airport? If by something on wheels that isn't a city bus, you'll need a car seat. Plus, you never know what kind of plans will crop up and you may need one. Car seats are too expensive to have to purchase once you're there.

2. Take a stroller with you all the way to the gate, but don't put your kid in it. Put the kid in a child carrier and throw your carry on bags on the stroller. It is much easier and less painful to get through the airport that way. The stroller can be gate checked and will be waiting for you when you deboard.

3. If you have assigned seats, wait until the last possible moment to board the plane. This pre-boarding for families with small children is a joke. You don't want to spend any more time on the airplane than you really need to. Also, when the plane lands, wait until everyone else has deboarded before getting your stuff. It will be less stressful, and all of your luggage will have already been pulled off the baggage claim and waiting for you when you get there.

4. Buy a ridiculous amount of snacks, and mostly food that you wouldn't normally feed your child because it's too this or too that, but that you know your kid will love and will probably go insane over. Do the same with toys. In fact, hide some of his or her favorite toys right now so that they are completely forgotten, and pack those. Do not let your child know that you have them, or that they exist, even when you get on the plane. Wait until the last possible second, when you are pretty sure that if you don't do something right this moment, your kid will start losing their mind and all the passengers on the airplane will hate you. That's when you pull one thing out. ONE. THING. Let it entertain your child until you get to the same nearly crazy point, and then pull out another thing, but just one. The idea is that you will get through the flight without going through your stash, because you have another flight home, and if your kid knows what you have in your bag, you'll be up the proverbial creek.

5. Get an aisle seat. (This is especially advantageous on Southwest Flights that are not overbooked).

6. Practice changing a diaper on a thimble, because most airplanes don't have changing tables, and if they do, they are the size of a lunch tray. I did diaper changes on the toilet seat.

7. If you are still nursing, nurse on take-off and landing. If people glare at you, stare them down.  It's intimidating to maintain eye contact with a nursing mother. If they complain, tell them it's better than blood curdling screams, and at least your bosoms are silky smooth. If your kiddo takes a bottle and/or you're uncomfortable nursing with a stranger's elbow in your ribs, give him or her a bottle at take-off and landing. Once, I was lucky to sit next to a young man who had a Mormon upbringing, with a mother who nursed all 7 of them, so when I told him I was going to have to nurse my child, he told me that it not only was OK, he asked if there was anything he could do to help. THAT was unexpected. And then my son proceeded to kick him the entire time he nursed.

8. Ask for extra snacks when they come around, and for your beverages to stay in their original containers, unopened. You may end up wearing them otherwise.

9. I just remembered the whole TSA craziness. You can bring anything you want as far as food goes. They will try to tell you that your applesauce cup is above the 2oz limit, but they can't stop you from bringing it. If it is food for your child, you can bring it. Whatever it is. Plan extra time for the TSA because you will have to claim everything when your time comes, and they will have to swab everything and attempt to shame you for not simply purchasing the overpriced "food for purchase" on board, and cause you to worry that you're going to miss your flight, but trust me on this one. Here is the information from the TSA website. I brought 5 ziplock containers of bone broth through once because "my child has terrible allergies and is on a special diet" and after three minutes of shaming, they let me go. Also, you can't wear your baby through the machine, nor can you push baby in the stroller. But you likely won't have to do the body scan thing because you'll have him or her in your arms.

What are some of your tricks to survive an airplane ride with small children?