Riding in Planes with Boys

We have done the long, 1778 km trek to my in-law’s three times since Cameron has been born.

The first time we drove. Straight. Through. Halifax to Saint John to Toronto. That equates to more than 21 hours of driving, not including stops for food and fuel and bodily needs. Picture us, Nursing Mom, New Baby, and Tired Dad, packed tightly in a little Toyota Yaris chugging along through the connecting provinces and states. We drove through the night, through a snowstorm (in May?!), through baby cries and straight into the first hours of my first Mother’s Day. When we got home, we raved about how well our son traveled and vowed that we’d never do that trip like that again.
The next time we made the trip, Cameron was nine months old. We flew. We took advantage of the fact that the three of us could fly while only paying for two seats. It wasn’t ideal and I envied the little family seated in front of us who had purchased an additional seat for their infant, but we managed. The pacifier kept pressure problems at bay and my son and I fell into an uncomfortable sleep. We were four provinces away in two hours and I was grateful that we did not drive.

Two weeks ago, we flew with a fifteen month old.

Those two hours in the plane felt longer than that initial car ride.

As I am now clearly adept at flying with a baby, let me present you with everything you will ever need to know about traveling with your own bundle of “joy” (trust me, you’ll use that term lightly too).

How to Survive Riding in Planes with Boys (and Girls)

1.  Pony Up: If your “infant” is older than a year but younger than two, he is not a baby and he does not want to sit on your lap for at least two hours. He doesn’t even want to sit in his own seat, but at least he doesn’t have to be right against his Mom, who he is already embarrassed to be seen with. And let’s be honest, if you’re travelling with a significant other, you’re the one who will be holding his squirmy spawn for the majority of the plane ride so when he suggests that your child can ride free, fight for that extra seat with all the gusto you have.

2.  Book Strategically: If your significant other has somehow convinced you that it would be better to save $600 and not pay for a seat that won’t even have a tiny bum warming it the majority of the time, then plan your flights during times when other people won’t be flying. Then, book your seats at almost the last minute, but not quite. You want to make sure you are able to get at least two seats together next to an empty seat and pray hard that that empty seat won’t be filled.
3. Adopt a Victim Mentality: When the other passenger notice that you have the audacity to bring a young child on their flight, they will inevitably shoot daggers at you from their eyes. Ignore It! You are the victim here. Not them. They have to deal with a few hours of cries and smelly diapers. That’s old hat. You dealt with that back on day one. You have to deal with all that plus wiggly limbs, extra bags, shoulder bites, tantrums, and changing that diaper in an airplane lav! You are a victim, a survivor and a superwoman. Milk that for all its worth.

4. Bring Expensive Crap: You know all those “toys” that are off limits to your young kid(s)? Things like your iPad, cell phone, Nintendo DSi, laptop, and ear bud headphones? They are still off limits – but they are now off limits to you. Your baby gets free range. Because honestly? That book and that toy car and that stuffed dog (that makes noise and is really annoying to everyone sitting around you) is not at all entertaining to your child at 40,000 feet no matter how much they love these toys at sea level. If you take them out of your bag, they will be thrown on the floor within seconds. So hand over those precious electronics. Even if his slobber completely fries your favourtie gadget, at least it has held his attention for a few minutes, and for that you can be proud.

5. Encourage TV Watching: No matter what your personal beliefs are about using television as a babysitter, you must change them now. I promise you, that little seat-back television that your airplane is equipped with is not going to keep your child’s attention for long. But if it captures his attention for even a minute, that is one less minute that you have to entertain him. So point out colours and shapes and characters on the TV. And don’t you dare try to change the channel to something that might interest you, even if your baby has stopped paying attention. When in doubt remember that Treehouse is always better than a tantrum.

6. Pack Bottles: Don’t let those cup holders on your diaper bag go to waste. If you have two, pack two bottles. One with water or milk (or another baby’s choice beverage). Encourage baby to drink while taking off and landing. This will help prevent his poor little ears from popping. Fill the other, opaque bottle with wine and sneak it onto the plane. Encourage yourself to stop drinking if ever your baby really needs you. And try not to get the bottles confused. Actually – scratch that. Anything to encourage sleepiness, right?!

7. Become Adept at Selective Listening: Not only will this help you ignore your baby’s cries and the cries from the other baby on the plane who is only crying because your crying baby woke her up, it will also help you ignore that lady who is sitting in front of you as she bitterly (and loudly) complains to her seatmate that she just can’t fall asleep. (Remember you are the victim here. And now, take a good long swig from your bottle.)

8. Join the Mile High Club…: …by yourself. Or, you know, just find a reason to use the washroom. Even if you don’t have to go. Sometimes anything, even an airplane lavatory, is better than taking care of a baby on a plane. (Hint: This is actually a great tip for many parenting moments. If you’re not parenting alone, a trip to the washroom can often provide a couple minutes of peace and quiet. Just make sure to lock the door. And ignore those persistent knocks).

9. Cry It Out: When all else fails and a tantrum is inevitable, make sure it is you who is doing the crying. When other passengers turn around to give you the what-an-inconsiderate-mother-letting-her-baby-cry-on-a-flight-look and they see you having a break-down of your own fueled by exhaustion, their looks of blame will quickly melt into sympathetic pity.

10. And finally, For Pete’s Sake, If At All Possible, Stay The Heck Home!

I hope I’ve been able to help you plan for your next trip. Some of these tips are tried and true, the rest are what you can be sure I’ll be doing the next time I fly, which hopefully won’t be for a long, long time. Like 17 years from now when we go visit Cameron at university. Just Dan and I. Two old-fogies. Finally alone. Joining the Mile High Club for real.

Too much information? Sorry about that. Sometimes it is just nice to dream.


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