Travel with a toddler
A lot of moms have experienced this situation....
You board your flight with your little one and if you’re the first one on you pick a comfortable aisle seat so you can get up and move around with your baby if necessary. You sit down and as you watch the rest of the passengers board you can’t help but notice everyone looking for a seat, any seat, other than the one close to the baby.
Or your NOT first on board and you almost feel bad having to sit next to someone who wasn’t expecting to sit next to a baby. You can usually feel their silent terror as you sit down.
I know a mom who would hand out gift bags of candy and ear plugs to the surrounding passengers to apologize in advance for any inconvenience.......wow!
Now as for me I don’t have that sort of knack so I just do what I can to make sure me and my daughter are in good spirits before flying. Or I’ll do my best to sit near other parents traveling with kids, so we’re at least in our own little community of potential chaos. Thats the best you can expect from me.
People often comment on how "well behaved" my daughter is on flights, and while I appreciate the sentiment I always think in my head "If it weren’t for the 28582958 things that we did in preparation for this flight your comments would quickly turn to eye rolls and complaints- but thanks"
My daughter took her first flight at 2 1/2 months old and just like every other first time mom, I was terrified. I was given all the advice I needed, solicited and unsolicited. The only advice I took seriously was to nurse during take-off and landing to prevent her ears from popping. She is now 17 months old and I still do this.
At 8 months we took our first trip out of the country, to China. 13 hours in an airplane would make any mom cringe at the thought. I kept thinking “How am I going to keep her happy and occupied for 13 hours?!" Seemed like an impossible task, but being that she had been on 10+flights in the last 4 months I figured I could handle it. WE could handle it. Luckily my husband came with me. We got a seat in the first row and created a plush pallet on the floor for her to hang, read, and sleep comfortably. She slept for a large majority of it. Thank God!
My husband and I took shifts walking her up and down the aisles to cure her curiosity, and I nursed pretty much on command to soothe and keep her comfortable. I kid you not, there was not one single tear. I happily welcomed the compliments that came after of "how good she was". This was a proud moment for me. Felt like a job promotion. We made it!
Mama Joey's TIPS for Toddlers:
Now that she is older and a more experienced traveler, preparation is key. She and I tend do a lot of flying on our own to meet my husband in the cities he is playing in so we BOTH have to be prepared so that we’re both comfortable. We are the type of family that gets "hangry". Literally when someone has an attitude the first question we ask is "Have you eaten?", so
* make sure we eat, well, before any flight.
*I am always equipped with snacks. Veggie sticks and apple juice (diluted of course) are a staple for her, green tea latte from Starbucks for me.
*I pack a carry on of necessities, diapers, wipes, books, blanket, and a change of clothes. I’ve forgotten the change of clothes once and had to thug it out all the way to Florida from San Fran with green tea covering her entire back and bottom. She was sitting on my lap so it covered my front too.
*If I am so lucky to choose when we leave, I try and ALWAYS leave right before her nap time. So it’s clockwork for her and she sleeps. I’ve been very lucky, and now she expects to take a nap on flights, especially if I nurse during take off.
As mothers we constantly have numbers in our heads, feeding times, nap times, number of minutes before we lose our shit, etc. So it can be helpful if you can wrap your mind around the algebraic equation it takes to time a flight correctly so your little one falls asleep during take off. Keep in mind wait times, security lines, and those other variables. The worst is when we leave for a flight that I’m desperate for her to sleep on and she falls asleep in the car on the way there and is bursting at the seams with energy by the time we board.
Mama Joey's TIPS for my Mommas....
We just recently completed our second trip out of the country to Italy. 11 hours of flying and 3 hours of driving to get where we needed to be. Tyler was again, a very good girl. Although I was pretty exhausted. Exhausted from nursing, exhausted from hearing her ask for Elmo, and exhausted of the extra 30lbs of adorable but very busy weight that couldn’t sit still on my lap unless she was sleeping. But after 3 meals, 8 snacks, 5 or 6 nursing bouts, countless Elmo songs, and a few hours of sleep we made it in one piece.
Now I am sure this won’t always be the case, although I am going to remain confident. I have seen other moms struggle on flights.
The baby who can’t stop crying and mom doesn’t know what’s wrong.
The mom who’s dog tired and has no patience left for their little one.
The mom who is sitting uncomfortably next to someone giving her side eye, and can’t nurse without fear of exposure.
My heart goes out to these moms and I usually always give words of encouragement when we land. A simple "It wasn’t easy, but you made it. Good job mama." , always seems to shine a little light on a Mother who had a rough go of it on the plane.
Being a mom is a thankless job so acknowledging one another is important since we are the only ones who understand what it takes to carry out the job.
Even after a few stamps in her passport and handfuls of domestic flights across the country, I am still no expert on traveling with your toddler. But what I do know is that you have to develop a rhythm.
There is beauty in repetition, especially with toddlers. It gives them an idea of what to expect and gives you the freedom to work in a few minutes to yourself while traveling. I am always working in time to read, write, or sleep. There is no absolute method to flying with a toddler. I think if you do your best to prepare yourself and your little one for the travel ahead of you, you can only go with the flow at that point.
Take care of your needs so you have more patience for theirs.
***Usually when I am frustrated with my daughter it’s not because of something she’s doing. But more because of something I haven’t done for myself. **
Lastly don’t worry about what type of “inconvenience” you are causing for other people. You’re doing the hardest job on the planet with no days off, no breaks, and no pay. Most parents will empathize and to the non-parents I say, “consider it non medicinal birth control”. Just do what you need to do to keep mama and baby happy.
Safe and HAPPY travels!
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Hope you enjoy these as much as we do!