5 tips for flying with young children
March break is here! If you are that brave, brave person climbing on a plane with a young child this weekend, you have my sympathies. And my positive vibes. I understand that place. Your absolute terror of being stuck in a closed space with one or, shudder, more little critters wars with the need to get to the other end.
By the time Murphyskid was 3, we had done 3 round-trip transatlantic runs and several shorter ones. Some of the longer ones were complete with stopovers for long onward journeys. And heres the kicker… I’ve done 3 legs, from Toronto to India, with Murphyskid, by myself. Yeah…
So I’ve picked up a few survival techniques. And here they are:
- Make that carry on count; and make sure it has wheels
If you’re taking anything more than a couple-of-hour-long flight, you’re going to need stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. You definitely don’t want to be carrying that lot and your child (because trust me, there’s going to be a lot of child carrying). So get carry on that’s easily manoeuvrable. Now make sure you kit it out intelligently – light but thorough. Double duty items are great – like use wipes to blow noses, Ziplocs for dry food (then you have bags, when they’re empty, to put used bottles and cups in). If you’re in the diaper stage of life, or even well after, take enough diapers. You never know when they’re going to want to go and the ‘busy’ loo signs are all lit up. Plus if you’re lucky enough to have a child fall asleep on the plane, you don’t want to be stressing out, worrying if they’re going to pee the seat. Trust me, put them in a diaper if they’re little. It does no harm to their potty habits in the long run. Make sure you have enough spare changes of everything, including socks and shoes. Two words: throw up. Oh and that goes for you too – take a change of clothes for the parents. Plus… Milk. Snacks. Sippy cups or bottles. Wipes. Blanket. Hair ties. First aid kit. Basic meds in small bottles. Bring it all.
- Take enough entertainment
Fave toys. Books. A few new cheap toys/art/books for a plane surprise. The dollar store is your friend. My tip is stickers! They can stick that shit on all kinds of surfaces, it keeps them entertained and its not really sticky so they either fall off or require a quick wipe off. Well worth it. Take an iPad, if you use it, it is a godsend. If you don’t, now is a good time to consider it ;).
- Forget the routine
Unless your child is that angel kid that mommies who don’t have them secretly hate, check your expectations in at the door. A flight is a massive change for a little child. Its noisy, full of action and color; they’re not going to sleep easy. I once had Murphyskid scream for 7.5 hours of a 12-hour flight. And another time, she was up for the 17 hours starting before a 14-hour flight and staying up till we got into the cab home. I could’ve cried from exhaustion but she was pumped on adrenalin. It happens. The journey will be over at some point and they will sleep then. Expect it; and be grateful if it doesn’t happen. If you do have a sleeping child, get that drink. Which leads me to…
- Get that drink
Yes, seriously. Notice the singular (or whatever amout takes the edge off but keeps you sober). And for those getting up in arms about me advocating alcoholism, in a child rearing context, calm down. There’s no need to get your knickers in a twist. Of course I’m not condoning drunkenness, unless you’re travelling in a large group and the rest of the group can be convinced to handle babies and drunks. I have found no such friends, unfortunately. But hope springs eternal. Don’t drink if things are too hectic and you’re wound up. But… you know… if you’ve got free access to the business class lounge at the airline’s hub and free champagne to boot?? I’m sure you mother didn’t raise any stupid children.
- Take care of yourself
Remember to eat. Keep your energy up. Carbs in particular are your friends. If they’re doused in fat, even better!
If the cabin crew comes over to coo at baby or wants a cuddle from your heavy toddler when you’ve been walking up and down the aisle for 3 hours, hand it right over and take a sit down. Nobody is handing out best parent awards on a plane. If people give you dirty looks/tut-tuts/5 mins of unsolicited advice, take a deep breath and say something rude. Life’s too short and any flight is too long; so take care. The goal is to get to the other end, all else is collateral damage.
Below, I’ve linked to a comprehensive video on how to travel with under 2’s so there’s more specific tips in there. Two great points she has are using a baby carrier (we used one till nearly 2.5) and her notes on what happens if you have liquid over your limits. Murphyskid is dairy intolerant and we’ve had to take soy milk for entire days of travel, so we’ve been taken aside and checked. But rest assured, there is a procedure. They are human at security. Especially in Canada 🙂
Safe travels, brave parents. You can do this.