Yesterday, Alex (2) and I came to California to visit his Chichi (my mom) and Yanni while I spend a few days working on my new business. The thought of flying across the country with a toddler in non-direct flights can scare most parents (specially when flying alone +kids); but not me only when I fly to Europe with both of them on my own. One kid, totally manageable. I embrace the adventure actually. He loves planes and gets very excited to be going on one (or two). Both my children have more airline miles than many adults I know; they’ve been flying the friendly skies 2-4 times per year since they were 6weeks old. It is, however, a total test of my patience.
Here are some of the things that make my trips manageable:
- Always bring a stroller if your kid(s) are under the age of 5. There is nothing more frustrating than dragging your kid through an airport when you are running late for your next flight and you are carrying a backpack, carry-on, and their bag. There are never enough free hands to pick up your kid and run to the next gate with them. They don’t want to sit on the stroller or you are not pressed for time? The stroller now becomes your personal butler where you load up your stuff and push it and walk along with your kid. I own a single and a double stroller.
- Bring a tote filled with toys. While you may be thinking: “Oh, great. Another thing to carry!” My response: What do you expect your kid to do while you wait for your next flight for 2-3hrs at the gate? What is your child going to do while you are on the plane? Alex and I had almost 2hrs to kill between flights. We passed the time on the ground playing with his trucks and the farm. Trust me, after ten minutes other small kids will join the play time and you can sit back and read your magazine (or not). Yes, I let my kid crawl around the nasty, dirty floor. Those clothes go straight to the wash and he goes in the bath as soon as we arrive. What is he supposed to do?
- Bring Snacks/Food that your kid will love. Hungry child means cranky child. Alex will not eat airport food, so it’s my job to bring things that he may like. From a sandwich to fig bars and treats. An empty sippy cup also prevents in-flight spills!
- Bring movies and books for the flight. You know I am not pulling out the farm with its tiny pieces inside the airplane. That can only mean lost pieces and lack of space to play= frustrated kid. I buy one new movie for the trip (seriously, you think they are going to sit still watching something they have watched over 200 times?) and that usually keeps their attention for a while. I lay my kids down on my lap with the promise that after they take their plane-nap I will read their exciting new book. Your kid doesn’t nap? make them take a 20min ‘rest’ or ‘quiet’ time instead (they will more than likely fall asleep with the cabin pressure noise) and then you will read that exciting new book. Mommy needs some sanity-rest herself.
- Bring a Pillow. Airlines no longer provide pillows who wants to put their face on someone else’s drool anyway? so you need to bring something that your child can use; a sweatshirt will work fine too.
- Bring a change of clothes. You may think it’s a ‘duh’ statement. I’ve seen mad frustrated parents yelling at their kid because they wet their clothes with the drink (I know you are bringing something with a lid, right?) or peed on themselves. I bring a wet-bag (or zip lock bag) to put the wet clothes in when this happens; because nobody wants peed-on-clothes in their purse. I doubled the use of the wet-bag; I stuffed it with the dry clothes and used it as a pillow instead. One less thing to bring!
- Bring your smile on! When Mommy smiles, so does Alex. You have to remember that you are flying in a sardine can for God knows how many hours. It is going to be exhausting, frustrating, and you-are-going-to-want-to-pull-your-hair-out at times. So what. Flying with kids is like labor pains: necessary & temporary.
Remind yourself often that you are almost there. Tell the kids that soon they will be at their destination. I find it most difficult to keep them in check the last hour of the flight. This is when I become Van Gogh. I begin to paint a picture of the fun and exciting things they are going to be doing when we get there; but we just need to hang on a little longer.
PS: It will be 5 o’clock somewhere!