If you missed Part I of this series, check it out here.
Part II: Day of Travel
1. Wake up early. No matter how well-prepared you think you are… don't be overconfident and think you can get out of the house in forty-five minutes. Give yourself LOTS of extra time. You’ll always need it.
2. Check your flight status online before you head to the airport. Cancellations or delays are rare, but it’s worth checking.
3. Dress that baby like a baby and put her in a footie sleeper already! I know that your little peanut looks so cute in that Tommy Hilfiger mini skirt with leggings, baby Uggs, sweater-set and matching bows, but do you really want to be crawling around on the floor finding all those outfit pieces after eleven hours of in-flight squirming? No, you don't. Put her in a footie sleeper and be done with it. If you manage to loose that, then you really have issues and maybe you shouldn't be flying with children in the first place.
4. When you check in, if you have a child under the age of two, ask for a seat with a bassinet (again). If they say they have none available, pitch a fit. If they still insist on putting you in a regular aisle, then get nice again and ask if they could possibly block an extra seat closeby so that you have a bit more room for your squirmy little one. Beg, cry and plead for this, especially if it's a longer flight. Having one extra seat makes an incredible difference and it's worth the hassle and the possible embarrassment of causing a scene. If the check-in agent still says no, then do the same routine with the gate agent when you get the the boarding gate (assuming it's a different staff person). Beg, cry and plead again. Maybe it'll work the second time. I’ve gotten extra seats (that we didn’t pay for) many times because I’m bold and unrelenting on this issue. If you still fail and you find the three of you packed into two seats behind some chronic seat-leaner-backers and you feel like you may need to breath into that air sickness bag just so you don't hyperventilate, then close your eyes and thank God for the privilege of traveling in the first place. You’ll make it through, I promise. I’ve been there too and I lived to tell the story.
5. Put on your patience and stop worrying about what other people think. Traveling with kiddos is much more complicated than traveling without. It takes more time, it takes more stuff and it takes more skill. So give yourself grace and just ignore those who are rolling their eyes at you and loudly sighing as they speed past your caravan of tots, blankies and diaper bags.
6. Bend the strict security rules. Okay, maybe I don't mean it that way. What I mean by that is don’t stress the security rules and line. You know the 2 oz. rule and the 'all liquid must fit in a quart ziploc bag rule'? Well, truth is, if you're traveling with wee ones, the rules are a bit bendy. I regularly take a clear zipper case full of various liquids and gels that is waaaay bigger than a quart bag through security. No one has ever said a thing. I have also gone through with an arm-full of applesauce cups, baby food, full size adult water bottles, kiddo sippie cups and baby bottles all full of various liquids. They just ask you if it's for the baby, you say yes, and then they do some sort of litmus paper test on them and send you through. Or make you take a swig. Or just wave you on past. It can take a little extra time, but you're a Mom loaded down with baby gear and generally you are offered some mercy when it comes to rules. So accept the offering and don't stress so much about ounces and baggies, gels and liquids.
7. When settling into your seats, empty the entire clan's seat-back pockets except for one movie-guide, maybe one Duty-Free catalog if your munchkins are into ripping pages out of magazines (or if you like goggling at all those silly gadgets they have for sale in there), one safety card if your little one likes 'comics' and an air sickness bag just in case. Put the rest of the various booklets and periodicals in the overhead compartment. Then load the pockets with sippie cups, diapers and wipes, stuffed monkeys, pacifiers and the kiddos' shoes, which they probably kicked off the second you found your seats. It's a great way to stay organized on a plane, and it may just let you feel a little more in control of things. No one really wants to read that magazine full of articles about five-star restaurants in Sydney anyway.
8. Ask for extra blankets. When little girlie falls asleep with two blankets under her and none on top, you are not going to want to risk waking her up by trying to slyly sneak them out from under her to put on top to keep her cozy. Just ask for a couple extras the first chance you get when boarding and you'll be ready to keep 'em nice and toasty or to make them a fun fort between the seats after the midnight dinner spikes their blood sugar and they begin to bounce around. It never hurts, is all I'm sayin'.
9. Try to prevent little ears from painful popping on the plane. Don’t freak out about this. My children have never had problems with their ears during take off or landing (due to the change in pressure), but it’s good to take precautions anyway. If you have a nursing babe, then try to nurse him/her at these times. Bottles and pacifiers also work for little ones. Sippy cups, suckers, gum or candy work for bigger kids. The idea is to keep them swallowing, helping their little ears stay clear and adjusted.
10. Utilize the floor for sleeping . When the time comes to bed down for the night and the chairs aren’t cuttin’ it, try tucking a kiddo into ‘bed’ down on the floor. It may seem scary down there by all those feet, but my son usually prefers to sleep on the floor than flopping around in a chair half sitting up. Talk to him ahead of time about it and arrange an appealing space for him before tucking him in. With any luck, he’ll fall asleep on the floor, your girlie will fall asleep in her Daddy’s arms and that will leave you with three seats for you to stretch out on (true story). Glory Halleluiah!
11. Always ask for two drinks. When the in-flight staff (what is the P.C. term nowadays, anyway?!) roll their big cart on by and ask "Can I get you something to drink?" ask for two somethings. The last thing we need is super-traveling-parent getting dehydrated on the flight. So enjoy the hospitality and drink you a Ginger Ale or an orange juice or whatever you fancy... but ask for a water too. They won’t tell you no and you’ll feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. Well, almost.
12. Don't drink hot stuff. Unless, that is, you are CERTAIN that there is no chance in *bleep* that your darling child could grab it in your tiny confined space. You don't want coffee on your pants and you certainly don't want your child getting burned. So get your caffeine fix with a cold beverage if you must, not a hot one. I know it’s a sacrifice tired Mamas, but it’s worth it.
13. Get up out of your chair. Don't feel like you're chained to your seat. Take your kiddos on a walk around the plane. Yes, you'll have to say "sorry" and "excuse us" fourteen thousand times and you'll have to do that awkward bending-down-ready-to-catch-wobbly-walker-who-is-about-to-smack-his-head-into-the-sleeping-dude's-arm-rest for awhile, but your babe will be so much happier exploring a bit and eating dropped pretzels off the floor along the way.
14. Take a hike to the back of the plane. As long as it's not almost meal-service time, the airline staff usually don’t mind if you bring your bouncy kids to the back of the plane where there is often a good thirty-square feet of open space. They might even give you an extra dinner roll and you can ask all kinds of probing questions to the staff about the fascinating life of international airline flight staff. It's really a win-win for everyone involved.
15. Stand in the aisle. If the kiddos seemed cramped for space in their seats or if you have a baby without her own seat but you don’t feel like taking another hike with them, get your butt out of the seat and just stand in the aisle and let the little one(s) claim the space for a little while. It's amazing how happy babies are when they can sit/stand/climb in a seat all by themselves. You might feel like the sixty passengers in rows 20-45 are all staring at you as you are standing around staring at them, but they're not. Trust me. Or maybe they are, but it doesn’t matter what they think (see #5).
16. Wait out the disembarkment. If you're not in a hurry to catch another flight, just sit (or stand) tight in your seats until everyone else has gotten off the plane. It’s much easier to maneuver children, too-many bags and stuffed monkeys down that narrow aisle if no one is burning holes in the back of your neck with their eyes and cursing you for going too slow. Also, if you can get your toddler to wave at and say 'byebye' to each passenger as they pass you, you can happily kill twenty minutes of possible layover time and get a whole-lotta smiles from weary exiting passengers in the meantime. Another win-win.
17. Don't expect help. My experience traveling with tots is that people are much more likely to offer open stares or an 'I am pretending like I don’t see you’ face than they are willing to offer a helping hand with your traveling circus. I hope that is not true for you, but if it is… you'll be fine without them. Just don’t expect help and then if someone does help you out you’ll be so pleased! But either way, when it's all said and done you'll feel like you've conquered the world.
18. Remember this flying with tots motto:
“Failure is not an option.”
This is what I chanted to myself when I traveled to and from the U.S. alone with my two kiddos (aged 10 months and 2 years). The fact is… no matter how difficult the journey may be… you’re still going to reach your destination and that is the goal. No one is going to kick you off the plane if your baby pukes and cries the entire time. You’ll get where you’re going no matter what. Failure won’t happen, it’s truly not an option! So think of it as an adventure and make the best of it.
The rest of the series…