Sunday, April 17, 2011

on traveling with baby people

that's how we roll.  heavily.

The threat level of flying with a baby or two can be ranked like the color-coded rainbow thingy that tells us just how horrified we should be about air travel on any given day. One baby? Threat level blue: guarded. Be a little tiny bit nervous but you'll probably just end up sipping Diet Cokes and reading magazines and going all "threat level whaaaa?" One toddler? Make that level yellow: elevated. Won't be the most fun trip you've ever had, but you probably aren't going to cry. One baby, one toddler? Up it to threat level orange: high. Have a sound plan in place, sleep well the night before, be sure there's alcohol waiting upon arrival. Two toddlers? You've hit the most ominous level of all. Red: SEVERE! Meaning, kiss your mom-jean-ass goodbye, you're DEAD. Okay, no, you won't die (and please tell me you are NOT wearing mom jeans, because thatwould make me so very sad that I might actually cry for you Argentina). But at some point during your however-many hours of flight time and connecting time and layover time, you're maybe going to wish you were dead.

But no matter your threat level, remember this: eventually, you'll land, you'll exhale, you'll brush the 4 pounds of smushed Goldfish off your lap and then you will RUN off that plane toward sweet fresh-aired freedom. And by run I mean lumber as fast as one can move down a six-inch wide airplane aisle with one groggy toddler in your arms, one defiantly shoeless toddler you're dragging behind by his shirt sleeve, and two overflowing carry-on bags sliding down your shoulder and into the crook of your arm. (You're running because the 250 people on the plane with you? They all want to hurt you.)

If you've been reading long, you know I fly with the kids every so often. Most of the time, I'm alone in these travels, because the man-parent has a job and such (party pooper). I don't enjoy these solo flights with the babies, but I do enjoy going places and seeing people (especially people who live in sun-soaked beachy locales and take my babies to the park and leave me with a book, a lounge chair, and my Facebooking iPhone, hiiiiii parents!) and so, we fly. And every now and then, I get an email or FB message or blog comment from a friend asking how it works, this flying with babies thing. I'm not an expert, by any means. But I sense that this air travel with baby thing makes even the calmest mama anxious,so I've got a few tips to share in hopes that my experiences help you fly more confidently with your littles.

Here we go.

1) Forget your co-passengers. Their comfort means nothing to you. They're going to go all wide-eyed when they stumble down the aisle to your row and see they have to sit by you and your baby(s), they're going to shake their heads and sigh and exchange "OH EM GEE, that baby is out of CONTROL!!!!!!!" glances at one another if your baby so much as sneezes, they may even verbally assault you like some judgey old bat did to my friend Elizabeth one time. Shake it off. Who cares? You're not going to see these people again, and if they're sooooo bothered by your crying baby, they should've ponied up for a seat in first class. Or a private jet. Or, maybe just kept their crabbyass at home. Because your baby? One hundred plus times less annoying than the crusty open mouth snoring guy, the hangover whiskeyfart guy, and the spilling into your seat guy. (I've flown beside all three. I'd take colicky triplet babies as my seatmates over any of the aforementioned.)

2) Wear. Your. Baby. Bjorn, Moby, Ergo, budget-friendly duct tape, whatever. You'll have free hands, your baby will probably snooze, you can take them into the bathroom with you and still be able to wipe, which if you ask me, is kind of a crucial part of the whole going to the bathroom idea. Plus, if you get lucky like I nearly always did while babywearing, you won't have to remove the baby going through security. Super helpful because you'll be very busy extracting the butt paste and infant tylenol and bottles full of water that have migrated to the very bottom of your carry-on lest you inadvertently sneak a liquid-like substance through in your bag forcing the whole place into lockdown for three hours. Or the dreaded full body pat-down. I had one last week, people, and I needed a smoke afterward. Just sayin'. (HER HANDS WERE IN MY PANTS, YALL!)

3) If you're taking a convertible car seat, and I do recommend doing so if you're traveling with a bigger baby/toddler, buy this: the GoGoKidz Travelmate. Big help. HUGE. You strap the car seat to it, and voila, car seat on wheels. You can even pull your kid around the airport this way if you aren't bringing a stroller. Then you wheel it down the airplane aisle to your seat (our Britax and Evenflo seats fit just fine on the Travelmate down aisles on every airline we've flown), pull your car seat off, and stash the Travelmate overhead.

4) Forget the CARES harness. At first I thought it might be a winner (car seat straps without the burdensome car seat!) and even blogged about my one successful flight using it .... but by the next flight we took, Mister A squirmed right out of it. And it's never kept him put since. It lacks a crotch strap, so even if your kid is compliant and doesn't escape, he'll probably slide down and end up with the seat belt up around his armpits. And it's around $80, so if you're even considering it, I'd borrow or rent one a couple of times to see how it works for your kid. Mine is available for borrowing, call me.

5) Two toddlers? Take that double stroller! Take it right to the door of the plane, then gate check it. I can't even come up with a way that you'd get two toddlers through an airport on your own otherwise, unless you're He-Man or have freakishly obedient toddlers who won't take off running the wrong way on the moving walkway and just about take his face off and make the WHOLE TERMINAL stare at you like you're some kind of deadbeat mom. Or something. Even if one of your kids walks, that's valuable space to cart around one of your ginormous carry ons and it also comes in handy for changing babies in the bathroom (blanket between butt and stroller, obvi) if you're like me and just can't quite bring yourself to use the public changing tables unless you absolutely have to. (Because then you have to burn your kid's clothes when you get home and that's a total waste of BabyGap.) I know a lot of you are concerned about what the baggage handlers might do to your stroller that probably set you back a paycheck or two. I can't make any promises, but I can tell you that ours has emerged in the jetway unscathed every single time. That jumbostroller is going to be one of the last things loaded and the first things off, which drastically reduces the risk of it being pulverized. Knock on wood.
the old pros, double strollering

6) Overnight diapers. Put one on your bebe(s). My first line of defense when the screaming starts is usually a sippy cup. Chugging a sippy cup for 2+ hours means the average toddler will pee more than a horse. Not like I know how much a horse pees or anything, but I'm betting it's a lot, just like the average toddler who sucks on a sippy cup for 2+ hours. So go for the overnights (Huggies have been fail-proof 'round these parts) and avoid your lap being soaked with leaking baby pee and ALSO avoid a trip to the germ encrusted, stranger-poop smelling airplane bathroom. Unless your baby poops. In which case, you're going in. Bless your heart.

7) For the toddlers, a portable DVD player is a must-have. I don't care if you don't believe in TV, you will believe in TV when your antsy pants toddler has pressed the flight attendant call button THREE times and you're not even an hour into your flight. Probably won't buy you peace and quiet the whole way, but it's been great for entertaining at least one of my two kids for thirty minutes here and there. Buy the cheapie. We paid $40 for some no-name brand, because I'll care less when it ends up being left in a seatback pocket one day in my haste to escape when they crack the forward doors open. And leave the DVD cases home to cut down on bulk. I stick each DVD into a sandwich baggie.

8) Don't overpack. Just packing the bare minimum will net you a couple ginormous carry-ons, so don't make this harder on yourself than you have to. Skip the books, because your littles would rather rip up the SkyMall catalog and books are heavy. I don't bring toys anymore, either. They ended up catapulting to the floor and rolling away, and plastic cups and boarding passes are far more entertaining (and disposable). Save your carry-on space for snacks (see#9), sippy cups, your Valium, a giant pack of wipes, two more diapers than you think you could ever possibly need, and a full change of clothes for each kid (and maybe a spare shirt for you, just in case). Vivian had a code brown explosion when we flew home in December, and had to spend the flight wearing nothing but a shirt and an overnight diaper because I neglected to bring her spare pants. We had to buy her a $20 Minnesota Golden Gopher onesie when we connected in Minneapolis, and that made me want to cry twice ($20?! Minnesota?! Sads.)
boarding pass is a fun toy

9) Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. On our last flight to CA, they ate their weight in Goldfish crackers, Puffs, and Fruity Cheerios. Forget the wholesome diet for today, the name of the game is keeping their mouths busy with chewing. Because if they're chewing, they're probably not screaming in your ear. Give them double vegetables tomorrow and you're even.

10) Pack a few extra Ziploc bags. You never know when you might need to contain a diarrhea soaked onesie or a leaking sippy cup. Or suffocate yourself.

11) Keep a light heart. Keep #1 in mind (you don't know these people, you'll never see these people again, they were babies once, too) and go easy on yourself and your littles. I'm not going to lie and say I keep my cool (I sometimes get sweaty and hyperventilatey) or that it gets easier every time, because in truth, the baby stage is the very easiest flying stage and I don't foresee it getting much easier until they're at least 5 ... but no matter what, you'll get where you're going and nobody will die and it will all be worth it to be wherever it is you wanted to go so badly in the first place.


Have anything to add? Want to hear more about TSA getting to 2nd base with me last week? You know where the comment button is, friends. Happy travels! You can do it!

25 comments:

Lisa said...

Hilarious! And so true! I ditto everything you said and want to add: bring a couple of suckers! That was the magic trick for us. The girls never have suckers, but when it comes to air travel, a sucker does wonders for sitting still and being quiet. For at least 5 minutes. ;)

Emily said...

This is awesome. :)Oh, and totally agree on the lollipops. Another tip - last time we flew I bought one of the Usborne sticker books and that gave us one whole hour. Score.

Erin said...

Great advice! It looks like you buy seats for each kid when you go? We just flew with 2 adults and 1 12 month old as a lap child and it wasn't bad, but having an extra seat on one flight was the main reason for that.

I did bring toys, the best one was the Barrel of monkeys game, she just liked putting the monkeys in and out and taking the cap on and off. Cheap enough that I didn't really care that probably 5-10 monkeys were lost. Other than that, there wasn't a need for anything else other than the snacks!

Simply Complex said...

I'm so not trying to be a creep but I swear you read my ever loving mind sometimes and you are soooo helpful. I might be traveling with my husband (after we close on our old house *fingers crossed*) while he goes on a business trip and last night I was wondering how to fly with them. Then here today you post this. THANK YOU!

Kristin said...

Fantastic and hilarious advice - thank you! I've flown a few times with my now 8.5-month-old baby, but I had no idea how I'd face the future. I had seen the Go-Go Babyz item on my last flight but had no idea what it was or how to describe it - I just knew that it looked like something that would definitely come in handy in the future. Thanks again :)

Tabatha said...

Awesome tips, lady. But I wanna know how you manage to push the littles in the stroller and cart around your car seats. Because I've met you and (no offense, but) you're no He-Man. Or She-Ra.

::smooches::

lena said...

I have always gate checked my stroller which is usually so helpful. But we flew home this weekend and made our connection only to find our stroller did not. They forgot to put it on the plane!!!

Kari said...

LOVE THIS POST! Thanks, Mandie, for the information and the laughs! Going to be traveling with a baby and toddler BY MYSELF (one way anyway) for the first time. This was helpful! I just recently bought the carseat stroller thing you mention and hoping it helps a lot. Glad to hear the Britax carseats fit!

Katie Kidwell said...

Thank you thank you thank you!!! We are traveling in Sept with a 4year old and 1 year old. I am scared outta my mind!!

mandie lane said...

Lisa & Emily: Oh, yes! The suckers! Stickers have been noted as well.

Lena: yikes about the MIA stroller. Did it ever turn up? I'd have totally fuh-reaked.

Tabatha & Erin: I'm definitely not pushing a double and pulling two GoGos, because I'd need a 3rd arm (hawt!) So far, we've just been buying a plane seat for Anderson, so just one car seat to haul along. Technically he has to be the one in the car seat (because he's past 2, the age cutoff for flying as a lap child) but we usually switch on and off. Vivi will sit in it for takeoff (because she is more likely to take a nap), then we'll switch them when they start to get restless.

SimplyC, Kristin, Kari, & Katie: glad I could help! You'll all do juuuuuust fine. I promise. If you don't, your post-flight airport terminal drink(s) are on me.

Anne said...

The thing I took away from this? Mom jeans are better than Gopher onesies.

Verna said...

That was so awesome! You crack me up! I'm flying to NYC (solo, Woo HOO!!) but I'll keep these in mind if I ever get brave enough to take the kiddos anywhere! Great tips!

Jill said...

Thanks so much for the tips! I wish I'd had them a year ago when I flew with a toddler while I was pregnant with #2. Longest six hours of my life! My tip is that if you do bring toys and books, bring NEW ones and only introduce them one at a time.

LittleT said...

I just have to say this post made me LMAO. I was laughing with you, not at you, I promise! Great advice!

Sylvia Rose said...

Mandie, I love this post! Much appreciated...I have to remember #1. Stickers, snacks and tv were key for our long travels. Go Go Babyz that you recommended to me was a life saver! People would stop me in the airport and ask me what it was. Safe travels!

Whatsfordinner said...

love this post! so funny and so true!

Candace said...

Great tips! I am traveling with my toddler son and my daughter in September for my grandmother's 90th birthday in San Diego. Anyway, one question ~ Did you just check Vivian's car seat then? If so, do put inside some sort of bag? Thank you :)

Sara said...

I think this is one of my favorite posts of yours - love it!! LOL over here :)

mandie lane said...

Candace: Usually we're visiting my parents, who have a seat at their house for the kids. But otherwise, yep, we check it. I'm pretty sure every airline will check it through for free. I do something VERY classy for bagging it. I buy the huge black garbage bags and double wrap the car seat. Then I take a big piece of masking tape and write my name, phone number, and destination address on the tape, and stick the tape to the bag. It's very ghetto fabulous, but it works. Throw two extra garbage bags (with the coordinating masking tape, obvi) into your luggage for the flight home.

I'm always a tiny bit nervous about the checked seat not arriving at our destination (because hello, yikes) ... but so far, so good.

Lindsey said...

Thanks for the tips! I'm flying with my son in May (but will also have my husband- not sure if that counts as 2 kids). I'm kind of curious why people bring the car seats on the plane. Obviously not for safety as a car seat isn't going to do much in a plane crash. I feel like my son will like the bigger seat better b/c he'll be able to move around. I'm guessing it mostly helps keep your kids in the seat while you are by yourself with them. Is there another reason you like having the car seat with you?

Thanks so much for sharing!

tali said...

Hilarious! And helpful!! Wish I would have read this last month before my trip :)

Mel said...

Love this! Thank you very much for the awesome tips & the loaner. Heading to Wally right now for the overbite diapers ;)

Elizabeth said...

Found this via your link over at MODG. Loved it. My EE has a code brown explosion every time we land...something about the pressure? I don't know. All I know is overnights do not hold poo like you ever hope they will, so I always double bag that kid. What the first diaper doesn't hold, the second one will.

nicole taft Johnson said...

I will be taking my one year old on her second plane ride soon. She will be lap riding, and I was going to check her convertible carseat at the planes gate. Im worried about damage done to it if it goes with the regular baggage, thoughts on this?

The Winn Baby Blog said...

Thanks Mandie, I'm a Durango Mandy mom of a toddler as well, flying day after tomorrow with her, solo for the 1st time since she started walking and talking and has hit the tantrum stage. Found your post searching pinterest for flying with toddlers. It was one of the 1st that came up and it looked great. So I started reading and saw that you live here too! Great blog... super funny lady :) Thanks for the reminder to forget about the other people, they are in no way going to endure what I am about to!!