4 Flights, 4 Lessons
Traveling with children on a plane is, um, horrifying. Sure, there are fantasies that we all have where our 4 year old spends the entire 2.5 hour flight reading a picture book, coloring, and engaging in calm quiet conversation about the view below. Oh, and he doesn’t have to pee or poop the entire time. And then our 7 month old sleeps the whole time; stirring only long enough to let you know that he is cool with you adjusting your position. And then he falls back asleep. No pees or poops from him either. Yeah, that would be awesome.
We just wrapped up our trip to visit my folks in Spokane. Two flights up, two flights back. We learned some great tips for traveling with small children.
American Airlines Flight 7036 from Ontario, CA to Seattle, WA – 2 hr 48 min
Tip #1 – It doesn’t matter what your airline is, who it is operated by is the million dollar question. Especially if you are flying out of Ontario Intl. At Ontario there are two terminals, seemingly 5 miles apart. They are practically 2 different airports. We chose to go to the one that hosted American Airlines – The name on our damn airplane! We failed to realize that our flight was operated by Alaska Airlines. So after parking, unloading all our bags, standing in line, we were told by Smiley McCheck-in that we had to get on a bus to get to the other terminal. A bus that apparently only makes a round every day and a half! I must say there is nothing like waiting 30 minutes for a terminal to terminal bus to kick start a flying experience.
Tip #2 – Pack extra clothes in the carry-on for you, too. While sitting in our seats, Gayle feeding Alistair a bottle, the pilot announced that we were beginning to taxi and could we please stay in our seats, belts fastened. As if by magic, that is the exact time that Alistair decided to unload some cargo into his diaper. Gayle and I subscribe to the – you touched him last – method of determining who changes a stinky diaper. Since he was on Gayle’s lap, it would be her job. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get up from her seat until the plane took off and the pilot removed the seat belt light. She was looking at at least 10 minutes before she could change the diaper. This was just about the perfect amount of time for that poop to find it’s way out of the diaper, soak through Alistair’s clothes and find a new home on Gayle’s lap. What happened in the bathroom, once Gayle was finally able to get up, can only be described as the product of bad karma. What she did in her past life to deserve this, I don’t know. But it must have been pretty bad.
In the airplane bathroom, it took her a long time to clean up his poop; long enough for him to decide to pee all over the changing table, and all over the mirror, where it ran down and onto the toilet. Struggling to keep him on his back, she got him in a diaper, and proceeded to clean the bathroom of Alistair’s territorial markings. Once the entire ordeal was over, she picked up Alistair, took a final look in the mirror, sighed with relief that it was all over, and then Alistair spit up the contents of his 6 ounce bottle down her front. Alistair was feeling good after that, with a brand new onesie, and he slept most of the flight. Gayle, however, powered through with some poop wetness on her lap, and some spit up markings on her shirt. So yeah, packing extra clothes for her would have been helpful.
American Airlines Flight 7506 Seattle, WA to Spokane, WA – 59 min
Tip #3 – Save yourself a small piece of flight anxiety by accepting that your child might cry or be fussy. Alistair was pretty fussy for this flight. Because of the seating structure (2 seats one side, 2 seats other side), I was sitting in an aisle seat, and Gayle and Noble were sitting on the other side. (All our flights we did the “lap baby” option for Alistair.) We tossed him back and forth like a hot potato. When he would get upset, I’d pass him to Gayle. He would initially calm down. And then 5 minutes later he would fuss again, and she would pass him over to me. And the cycle repeated for the entire 59 minutes. We learned a valuable lesson that things aren’t going to work out perfectly all the time. Accepting that fact helps to alleviate some of the already massive stress that parents have while traveling with their kids. This also leads me to:
Tip #4 – Apologize profusely to those around you, before the flight takes off - This is one of the greatest tips available. When you apologize for what might occur, but which you are doing everything to avoid, you make it impossible for them to not like you. They are forced, by the very laws of human decency to appreciate your apology and, if you do it with a little bit of self effacing humor, they might even offer up assistance down the line! I can’t stress enough how helpful this little nugget is. People like it when they know you are thinking, and are concerned with, their flying experience. Shrugging your shoulders with an attitude of, “What do you expect, he’s a baby! Babies cry! Get over it!” is a surefire way to have invisible rays of hatred beamed at you from all directions. And believe you me, you can feel hate rays. They are day ruiners.
Delta Airlines Flight 4673 Spokane, WA to Salt Lake City, UT – 1 hr 36 min
Tip #4 – Bribing with sugary treats can backfire - The idea was that we would bribe Noble into good behavior with sugary treats. In theory, this sounds great. Implemented, we realized the error of our ways. This is because it only takes about a minute or two to eat a gummy worm. So you are essentially only buying 2 minutes of good behavior. Then it becomes a never ending negotiation for more gummy worms, treats, chocolate, more everything. And because you already gave him a gummy, he doesn’t accept that he can’t have another. When Noble doesn’t accept an answer, he has a tendency to throw down with some opinions. Lately, these opinions are in the form of revenge threats. Here’s an example of one that I got the other day: “If you don’t let me have a bowl of Trix right now, I’m going to write on something that isn’t paper!” I don’t allow revenge threats in my house. But I also am pretty chicken when it comes to public displays of anger. Because this also elicits those unfriendly rays. And I so don’t enjoy those rays. I would suggest bribing with new toys that can be played with for long stretches of time.
Delta Airlines flight 4555 Salt Lake City, UT to Ontario, CA – 1 hr 47 min
Tip #5 – Fly during bedtime. – Noble and Alistair slept the entire trip. The flight left at 7pm Pacific time, so it was a perfect bed time for them both. Alistair screamed as we were boarding the plane, so I’m sure we had more than one person huffing and puffing about the miserable trip they were about to take. But once in the seats, he downed a bottle and I held his sleeping body the entire time. Some things I would do different next time: get a pillow or two out to rest my arm on while cradling the baby. It gets painful to hold a baby in the cradle position for almost 2 hours straight. At one point I rested my elbow on the arm rest, but that ended up hurting just as bad. A pillow would have been nice. Also, I wished I had my iPod out. It was buried in my pants pocket, and because I didn’t want to risk waking Alistair up, I left it in my pants. Sitting quietly for almost 2 hours can get really boring. I would have also liked to sleep, but because of the lack of room, his head dangled out in the aisle. I had to constantly be alert for the flight attendants and people going to the bathroom so that I could raise Alistair up a smidge to avoid getting clipped. All of those inconveniences, though, are nothing to the pure joy of flying with two sleeping children.