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Step 2: Don’t Freak Out

If your child is like mine, you have considered canceling your trip altogether because they won’t stop running around screaming and you are scared to take this crazy person out in public, let alone shoved into a seat on a small plane where people are sure to judge you. Here’s the thing… they might just judge you but you will be surprised at who you meet on these planes. Many people have been there before and some people who don’t have kids will get it someday. Last flight we had a single guy that held our child and let him look out the window for over an hour and was cool with it because he had nieces. On another flight when we were heading back for Europe a ton of things went wrong and people around us were frustrated but all it took was one guy to tell us we were doing great to calm the lot down. That drink vouchers seemed to do the trick.

When you get to the gate and pick up your gate check tags for your stroller/car seat, ask the airline representative if you are going on a full flight. If they say that it is pretty full but not entirely full and you are on Southwest, you just won the lottery if you have a lap child! This means that you can sit those little bunnies on a middle seat and no one, and I mean no one, is going to try and sit next to you.

On Southwest try to find seats next to others that also have kids. That way people can avoid your section if they really don’t want to be around the little ones. You are likely all boarding together anyway before more than half of the plane boards and other parents are going to be more sympathetic to your screaming, climbing, crazy child. Added bonus, if you sit behind a little kid they probably won’t recline into you especially if they are in a car seat. If you are flying a different airline that assigns seats try and book tickets that are not side by side but rather an aisle and a window. The chances of having a free middle seat are greater than having a free aisle or window and you can always move over and take the middle if someone does book in your row. Lap children are really hard to hold after they can walk so if you can, spring for an extra seat. Unfortunately, on most airlines the ticket for someone age 1 is the same as an adult ticket so you might just want to suffer through the flights until they are 2 if you are trying to stick to a particular budget. These tips should help free up your lap on some flights though.

Flying with someone 3 months old is so much easier than flying with someone who is 13 months old. We have learned this one the hard way. Because flights the first year had been pretty easy as long as we remembered to feed and change our baby before boarding, we thought that going to Europe would be a breeze. Turns out, it’s not! There are however things to help you. On our direct flight from Denver to Munich we didn’t end up getting the bulk head seats that we had anticipated but on the way back we had a magical flight with all of the extra room the bulkhead offers. If you are flying internationally try and to book the bulkhead. United and Lufthansa have a bassinet that hooks onto the bulkhead for children under 25 lbs. Regardless of if you use it for the baby to sleep in or just store toys and food in it like we did, it surely makes your trip a lot easier. You also have a lot more leg room and don’t have to ask people to let you out if you need to get up and walk with the kids to expel energy. Each seat still has their own TV so you can be playing your movie and your child’s simultaneously to keep them occupied. A lot of airlines don’t let you book this space when you book your flights so call them 24 hours ahead of time and let them know that you are traveling with small children and they should be able to accommodate you. If you have to upgrade to United Economy plus, do it, you’ll thank me later.
Lufthansa bulkhead. Best flight ever!


There are also little tips that will help your travel go a little smoother:

1.        If your child is under 2 and you haven’t discovered the Peekaboo apps for kids, do yourself a favor and download Peekaboo Barn and Peekaboo Wild. If you’re going on a long trip this will be a lifesaver when your toddler gets bored. Also download some Netflix movies. They won’t last more than 48 hours but you might need these midflight.
2.       Pack a small backpack with all of your kid’s essential items in it. We put ours inside of our bag so it doesn’t count as a carry on. It has games, toys, stickers, food, diapers, a water bottle, and headphones in it. We like the little bag because it’s easy to put under the seat and you don’t have to dig around for everything.
3.       Even if you just changed your child’s diaper before you got to the airport, give them a quick tire change. They will be more comfortable and if they are sitting on your lap you won’t smell like pee when you get off the plane. Our favorite long travel diaper is the Baby Dry from Pampers. It really can last all night. It is not easy to change a diaper on the plane especially in one of the tiny bathrooms. Always ask the flight attendant which bathroom does have the changing station because it’s not always the same on every flight.
4.       For infants, make a bottle (or breastfeed) during takeoff and landing. If you can time it right their ears won’t get clogged and you will have one happy baby. If you can’t time it with their schedule, pull out that wubanub and make sure they are sucking during takeoff and landing because the air pressure is a lot for their little bodies.
5.       If you have a ring sling, bring it. It doesn’t seem to matter that my kid is 18 months old now, he still will sleep in that thing. It frees up your arms to you don’t get arm cramps and lets you catch up on your reading!
6.       Bring TONS of snacks. You never know if your child is going to start a growth spurt right on the plane! Sometimes is just something to keep them occupied but other times you are going to go right through your stash in the first 10 minutes and then you’re screwed.
7.       Benadryl doesn’t necessarily work the same for everyone. If you are going to use this method on a long trip, try it before you leave. My son becomes a hyper crazy person and was awake for almost 7 hours in the air.


8.       Breathe. You will be surprised at how many people have actually been in your shoes before. In utmost honesty, it sucks to fly with a baby and unless they have done it before they are not going to be good at it. Think of this as training them how to be good at something and they get to experience the world, their family, and new experiences while doing it. Take a breath, can do this!

-Lauren Browne


Mom of a Toddler  Frequent Traveler  Avid Reader  Lover of All Things Amazon.com  NPR Listener  Wanderlust  Dancer  ASL  Frequent Click List User  Pie Baker   Sushi Obsessed  Humanist  LGBTQ+ Supporter  Hot Air Balloon Lover 



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