This photo was taken 2 years ago (my first flight ever!). I remember how I was feeling back there. So scared and overwhelmed. Me traveling with a baby?! Oh, boy! just wanted to close my eyes and be at my destination in a blink to say the least… unfortunately, I realized very soon this is not how real life works.
Going through security was my first challenge. Get off my shoes, fold the stroller, hold the baby, pass the scanner… I almost forgot my shoes! So I was clearly a mess already… Thanks God there are always good people willing to help and one female officer hold my son while I was unfolding the stroller and putting everything in place.
Security. Checked. Now, passport control. As you know already I was traveling alone and I didn’t know I needed a permission signed by my husband to be able to travel with the baby, so… I was stopped by an immigration officer! (Lucky me!) I had to wait a couple of minutes until a supervisor or director came to me and I had to convince this person I was going to meet my husband upon arrival. Whoa! Some of my friends say I was lucky!
Finally I was free to board, sit and just relax! Ha-ha-ha. Not-at-all!
Being on a plane for 2+ hours with a 10-months old proved to be everything but easy and relaxing! The crew was very kind, always trying to accommodate me, but soon I realized I was completely unprepared. It was a short flight (considering that now I have been on a few 8+ hours flights), but it felt like an eternity. I didn’t even know what a lap baby actually meant until I boarded! Yup! Surprise! On top of that, my little buddy spent half the time pulling the arm hair of the man seated next to me. I felt a bit embarrassed but this man seemed to enjoy it, so at the end wasn’t that bad. My biggest concern was when my baby was crying and I have no clue how to keep him happy and quiet on that plane.
That experience thought me A LOT and I have been refining my strategies ever since. Now that I finally managed to have a real happy and peaceful flight, I feel I can share my grain of salt with you:
1. See the moment in advance and practice before your trip
It may sound weird what I just said but visualizing the whole process beforehand has worked wonders for me. For example, before I travel I usually practice my stroller folding, so that I can see if it needs oil somewhere and avoid delays and awkwardness on the line.
2. Always have on hand enough “healthy-and-travel-friendly” foods and snacks…
I remember that first flight I just mentioned. In terms of “food” I brought just some baby food including milk and I decided to have the classics blue chips, cappuccino and water during the flight. BOMB! I was bloated the whole time. Lesson learned. Now, I always bring an empty water bottle with me and also healthy snacks like bananas, grape tomatoes, nuts and seeds, digestive cookies or pretzels with coconut butter or natural nut butters, protein shake (I like Premier and Muscle milk) and protein bars (my favorite so far is Met-Rx Protein Plus Chocolate Fudge Deluxe Protein Bars but almost any high protein bar would work. Just look for the ones that are high protein and low sugar. These are processed food anyway so proceed with caution).
I also try to have grapes and apples because they are very handy (easy to transport and pretty much mess-free). Also, string cheese, and maybe (just maybe), if I find a good one in my local grocery store, I would carry a fruit juice, if not, I’ll just stick to water. A good idea also are homemade travel-friendly muffins, sandwiches and/or wraps.
… but say no to the sweet stuff
What about sweet treats? Well, for me, it doesn’t matter if it is M&Ms or healthier counterparts like raisins, dates or cranberries; I try to avoid them as much as possible because there are too sweet and you want everything but hyperactive kids on board. If you are going to carry some fruits with you, that is probably all the sugar your kids and you will need.
3. Take Kids to the bathroom a couple of time before boarding
Keep in mind that when you are traveling with kids is better to arrive at the airport with pleeenty of time (and when I say pleeenty, I mean it!) so that you can have peaceful eating time plus “last-minute-visits-to-the-bathroom” without stressing out about losing your flight.
4. For long flights (5+ hours) bring a tablet or and old smartphone
For my first over-5-hours-flight I packed tons of stuff for my son to be entertained (Obviously, I wanted to be prepared!). And what did he use of all of that stuff? Nothing! It was a pain because all of that stuff took precious space from my luggage, and honestly, searching for toys during flight and getting them in and out your carry-on or handbag can get messy.
After that experience I prefer to have a tablet (I have this one) on hand instead. I have downloaded all Dr. Panda games that work while travelling (most videos (if not all) and some apps in the Kindle fire just work in United States!) and my son enjoys them. A tablet can come in handy if you are travelling in budget airlines.
What to download:
Head to Google Play or Amazon Underground and arm it with your preferred kids-friendly apps. There are very good ones that are absolutely free, specially if you are using the Amazon Underground (I love Dr. Panda Apps!). Keep in mind that if you have the Amazon Fire Kids Edition Tablet, it comes with plenty of apps pre-loaded, just download them beforehand in case you cannot connect to wi-fi
5. Have easy access to extra clothes
You want a change of clothes (or two) plus diapers (for infants may be 1 for every hour, and for toddler maybe 1 for every 2 hours) in a place where you can take it out in an instant in case you need them. I usually have a change of clothes plus diapers and wipes in the front compartment of each luggage (including personal item), just in case. If I need a piece, I just open the overhead-bin, open my carry-on front compartment and grab the piece I need without having to take the whole luggage out (carry-ons can get heavy, and sometimes you don’t even have enough space to move freely so, keep that in mind)
6. If you can book your flight at night… do it!!
I am not saying that they may not get irritable or cry when flying at night, but they will sleep on their natural schedule so it will be less problematic.
Of course, you can travel early in the morning, if that works best for your trip schedule. We did this on our recent flight to Israel. We were heading to the airport at 3.30am and got on that plane by 7:30am. By the time we seated our baby was so tired he felt asleep for almost the entire flight! When we finally landed, he was in a good mood, very happy and curious about the new place 😀
7. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your trip
Every human being should be drinking at least half its body weight on ounces everyday. If you fall in the category of people that don’t drink enough, start drinking this amount of water at least one week before your trip (the sooner, the better). Also, remember to bring an empty bottle for each family member so everyone can be well hydrated at all times (and less susceptible to tantrums! Win win!)
8. Last but not least. Don’t rush in your way in or out