Three days ago we took our return flight home from New York City. Yes, my husband and I braved yet another flight with our now walking toddler. And honestly, it was amazing! I always book flights and then immediately after, I feel anxious for months thinking about the agony we will inevitably experience. But with each flight (this was her sixth), she does great.
Does this mean that she never fusses, cries or misbehaves? NO. She definitely has her normal, baby moments. Moments where my face turns red from embarrassment. But these moments last for maybe, Maybe five minutes. So in the end, we’ve had total success. So what’s the secret? I’m here to give a few tips so that your next flight with your little one will be worth it.
#1 Ways to Score an Extra Seat for FREE
Yes, I know. Your baby flies free under 2 years of age and you want to take advantage of that. I AGREE. I don’t want to spend an extra $400 dollars when I don’t have to. But let me tell you, that an extra seat between you and your husband or partner will be well worth it if you can swing it.
Now does that mean that we purchased an extra seat? No. We skirted the system, and here’s how. When checking into your flight the night before, book your seats near the window and on the aisle leaving the middle seat free. This only works if the plane is not full and there are multiple seats available.
Most airlines (especially Alaska) will not book the middle seat next to a lap baby if there are other options available. This exact tactic is what gave us an empty middle seat on our flight home from New York. Our girl slept for two hours in between me and my husband as we watched a movie. Score!
Another tip: get to the airport early. If your seats are already booked, ask the front desk attendant long before the flight boards if it’s possible to get an empty seat next to you for your active toddler. They are so helpful, wanting you to have an enjoyable flight. Often they will try to maneuver things and get you that free seat if it’s not a full flight.
At the Sea-Tac Airport, the attendant paged the person seated next to us and offered them a seat closer to the front of the plane, further from “all the noise” of the bathrooms and the lady took her up on the offer, leaving us a free seat to use! Oh the joy I felt! Oh the joy…
#2 Goodies, Toys & Foods New to Baby
Yes, FOOD. Lots of food to keep their interest. New gram crackers, blueberries, pretzels… anything fun, new and delicious. I know we want to feed our kids kale and beets all day long but let’s be honest, sometimes we need yummy snacks to make us happy. (Think of how you feel when you’re pms’ing… you need chocolate and wine). Let your kids have some sugar and salt and let them have as much as they want. Start the diet when you get off the plane.
Yes, TOYS. Who doesn’t like toys, and you’re lying if you say you don’t play with those Lego’s yourself. Your little one needs new, fun and exciting things to look at and play with just like everyone else out there, think of that new, intriguing book you’re hoping to crack open if you get a chance!
Put some small toys away months before your trip so when you pull them out, they are new again. Go to the dollar store and stock up on some light stickers, squishy balls, Slinky (will also entertain your husband), crayons and paper. Go to Target and pick up items from their dollar bins right when you first walk in. I picked up these awesome window clings from target (see opening image) that kept her occupied for a long time. Put all items away until its go time!
Download videos and apps that make your kids smile while at home onto your tablet or phone. Below is a link to a website that offers animated videos, teaching children valuable qualities such as patience and sharing. If they get fussy and restless, it’s time to pull out the tech. Try to wait till the last hour of the flight if possible. *This tactic also works at restaurants.
#3 Get those ears to POP
If your baby still nurses, make sure they are ready and hungry for some milk right before the plane takes off and descends. Wait until the last-minute when the ears would most likely be affected, not as your taxiing the runway. Same goes for the bottle or a sippy cup. Get your baby to drink something, suck something or swallow. Pacifier, food pouch (god send), lollipop, bottle, you name it.
At one point during our last flight, she refused to drink anything so we resorted to pulling out a new snack and she went for that! So eating will work just the same. Just get that baby to swallow. Truth be known, she has never had any issues with her ears while flying and honestly I’ve never been on a flight where a baby is suffering from this, it’s uncommon. So don’t stress over it, just be prepared.
So with these tips, hopefully you’re at ease about you next vacation. It should be relaxing, enjoyable and memorable. And hey, if baby screams the entire 5 hours, you will not die. Neither will the people beside you. You can smile and wave at the old lady glaring at you across the aisle. Life goes on, promise! But I can also promise that you never regret taking a vacation, so don’t let the fear of flying with a kid keep you from enjoying yourself on a much deserved vaca.