Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Up in the Air...Away We Go...With Child!

I traveled by air for the first time at 12, across the country with a school group, for a week long adventure to New York and Boston. I vividly remember waiting in SFO airport, anticipating the unknown, the fear of what I hadn't yet done, wondering how the take-off and landing would feel, many different thoughts. Amazingly enough to me, my daughter has already traveled via jet airplane six times in her 18 months of life. A sign of changing times, no doubt, and no doubt due to the fact that the Marin daddy is the house is actually a Texan in disguise, so we have family out-of-state, a fun, loving place to which we can escape. I'm thinking about all this now because we are about to embark on a couple of months of madness. Two round-trip flights in less than three weeks.  Two weddings, both out-of-state, one really, really out of state and one close to my in-laws in Texas. It's going to be a busy, busy time for our little family and I'm trying to tackle these events head-on and with confidence.

 Traveling used to make me feel glamorous, even if because it was a change in the daily pattern called life.
Once my daughter was born I assumed and anticipated flying would be horrible. I've heard other mothers tell tales of horror, children crying for hours on end, people casting dirty looks. Well the first time we took our 2.5 month old daughter home for the holidays, she was a perfect baby, slept in the Moby wrap for over half of the trip. It wasn't so bad for us either, no crying, not much fussing. All was good. Next trip, she's 8 months old, and we  thought we had it down. Well we thought wrong. A last minute seat change placed us in the last row of a plane with only one set of bathrooms right behind us and before the attendant's prep area. We thought it would have been a good idea to take a red-eye, let her sleep, which, if we had gotten the seats we originally picked, she would have done.

 All I will say is that my level of patience and calm was certainly tested on that night. We've had a couple other flights, all with no problems, and every time we fly we get better at streamlining the process. We have discovered that our daughter can go hours without being grumpy so mid-day or early evening flights work best for us(this is something you'll figure out on your own.) Considering the location of one half of our family, it's something that will have to keep improving, especially if another baby is added to the equation. Here are some tips from yours truly on traveling with a child: (*disclosure: if you've got more than one child on board, hats off to you! I commend you on your efforts.)

  • Pack Smart: As a mother you can carry-on one bag and a diaper bag. Pack essentials such as diapers, wipes, food, drink, videos, books, in the diaper bag, to be stored at your feet. Those lovely magazines and books you once read in flight? Those most likely, will remain in your carry-on, abandoned to another time and place.
  • Use disposable diapers - this seems like a no brainer to 99% of women but if you were using cloth, as I was, and dragged a whole set of fuzzi bunz to Texas, like I did, then take note. It's not worth the stress and effort to change a baby on a plane, especially when you are 6'3" like my husband. The diapers will also eat up valuable packing space, something to consider with airlines often charging almost $25.00 each way per bag. There are some eco-friendly disposable brands out there and they can last up to three or four hours depending on how much your child drinks. 
  • Bring snacks, lots of snacks: If your child is under six months, be prepared to breastfeed on demand or have plenty of formula prepared. The squeezeable baby food packs that are mega-popular are so for a reason. These handy dandy, no-mess, no-stress packs were a sanity-saving trick last time we traveled. Small pre-packaged snacks are good too but if you want to cut down on waste, pack a cooler. You can take milk through security, but they may ask to test any breast milk or formula before allowing it on a plane. 
  • Keep them occupied: The television stays off 80% of the time in our house so the video entertainment isn't out of control. However, I am a firm believer in keeping my sanity so we bring a chargeable, portable DVD player along for the ride. We let her watch whatever she wants, within reason of course. She can pick Sesame Street, Wonder Pets, My Baby Can Talk/Read videos or even Disney. Maybe others will disagree but I feel that something such as airplane travel can be a time for treats such as video entertainment in mass amounts. Small toys are great too, keep some hidden to pull out mid-flight, "oh look honey, what I found, cool!" If your child is a bookworm like mine is, bring as many small board books that fit comfortably into your diaper bag.
  • Remember that everyone was a child once: Those few people who give you and your family dirty looks? Ignore em'. 9 out of 10 people will be kind and understanding, almost everyone of your traveling companions have raised children themselves. My husband and I have yet to experience a grumpy traveler. 
I'm pretty sure there are many more excellent tips on flying with children and I'd love to hear them. The more knowledge the better! Check out my most recent contribution to the world of Marin Moms: San Rafael Patch.com's Mom's Talk

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