Before age one Sawyer had flown on a total of 21 different flights. For some families I know that's not even a drop in the bucket but it's been been plenty for us (me). A majority of those flights were me alone with S and let me just say - flying w i t h & w i t h o u t Taylor are not even in the same universe of experiences.
Flying with Taylor = cake. Stress level at a .01 compared to a 12 flying alone. Would do it everyday and not bat an eye. I suppose with him, the fear of embarrassment is shared between the two of us and usually one of us can entertain and keep things under control. We usually have the whole aisle to ourselves and play pass back and forth + dad is always way more fun anyways.
Flights alone were and continue to be a little more, oh i don't know - eventful. Although looking back, flying when she was 12 weeks old was about the easiest thing I've ever done compared to flying with her now at almost 2. She'd sleep for about 90% of each flight and all we really needed was the boob and we were good to go. At 2, sitting still for 3.5 hours in a cramped space with no wi-fi is something I'd rather not sign up for.
But what can you do -
Between now and the end of July we have a total of 6 trips planned equaling a total of 18 more plane flights to: Omaha Montana San Francisco Mexico Montana again And Omaha again
18 flights - 18 flights in the next 90 days. That's a lot of flying. And I'm about to be prepared AF. (Excuse me)
Two of those trips I'll have Taylor with but the other 4 I'll be solo-ing it again with my sweet little time bomb.
I've had a lot of friends ask me what I do and how I handle flying so much with her alone and I thought, although less emotional than my usual posts, I could share a few of my own tips / tricks (more like life saving tools I bring to bribe my child to practically beg from my knees for good behavior) I'll add a list at the bottom of this of everything I have or do bring including logistical stuff like car seat and stroller checking but here are my 6 ish best tips.
1. Minimize then organize. I can't stress being organized enough but being organized AND full of unneeded sh*t does nothing but cause more stress. The first time I flew I was SUPER organized. But I packed for two natural disasters and enough food/clothes/toys and snacks for a family of 7. I was so bogged down with crap that I didn't need or use that It was not only hard for me carry it all but it was hard to get to the stuff I really needed. You do not need 25 diapers. You do not need an extra pair of shoes (i actually read a blog post about a mom who's baby threw up on her and soaked her socks and shoes so I prepared for that) it wasn't necessary.
Make a list of what you you think you'll need and divide it in half. You'll feel better when you're not waddling to your gate with 87 extra pounds of carry ons. I will say a change of shirt and pants is good for the babe- I've yet to have to deal with vomit but I did have a poop explosion on one of my flights and that extra onesie was helpful. Bring plenty of wipes. And a plastic ziplock to put any soiled clothes or items in.
2. Break all the rules. Do you limit screen/iPad/cell phone time? Not today you don't. If 32 episodes In a row of Peppa pig are going to keep her occupied - she's got it. Fruit roll ups and chocolate muffins for breakfast? Fine with me. I try to stick to as much routine as possible because a sugar overload isn't good for anyone but I'm lenient on the candy/snacks and iPad time. You just have to be.
3. Mix of new and old. That was the trick for me. One flight I thought I would bring all new snacks for her to be surprising and fun - she shook her head no to everything I offered and was frustrated that I had nothing she wanted. Fail. A few new things are good for excitement and entertainment but if too much is new and unfamiliar I feel like it gets confusing and overwhelming. I bring snacks and toys and I already KNOW she loves too that way it's something we are sure to be happy with.
4. Maximize each activity you bring and don't pull everything out all at once. Stimulation overload. Don't do it. One thing at a time and let them play with it for as long as you can before pulling out something new. (I'm adding a list of all the toys games and snacks I brought down below ) but this mini Minion eraser from the dollar section at target bought me almost 20 mins of quiet entertainment. Heck yes. Remember you'll have a flight home too so don't use all the goodies too fast on the inbound flight. I always save iPad/electronics for last because it's my last resort but maybe that's not the best for everyone. Sawyer tends to enjoy playing with toys and games until she gets restless and then settles down with a movie or tv show but I know some kids are reverse. Do whatever works.
5. Stay off the plane as long as possible. They will offer for people or families travleing with kids to board first. Do not. i let her play and walk/run around for as long as we can and usually am the last person to board. The less time spent sitting in a confined space with her, the better. If you can, i ALWAYS ask before they board if there are any open seats they could move me near. Since Sawyer is still under 2 and flying free as "infant in lap' I obviously don't have an extra seat next to me, which until about age 1 was fine. But for a few flights we've gotten really lucky and either had the seat next to us empty or we've been moved around a less than full flight to have the seat. It never hurts to ask and they are usually really understanding.
6. Schedules are subjective. Every single plane advice post I've ever read suggests choosing a flight that best correlates with your child's schedule. (insert eye roll here) Sure, because all flights are usually the same price and you always are completely flexible on when you can or need to arrive or leave. in a perfect world all my flights would be direct, first class, in a window seat with an empty seat next to me and they would all depart around her nap time so she could sleep during the flight and I'd probably enjoy a nice glass of wine and a magazine too. Unrealistic- book the flight that best works for you and plan to be flexible with their schedule and routine. Even if she is EXHAUSTED, S really no longer can sleep on the plane. She struggles to get to sleep and stay comfortable and its just a big pain so I do my best to make sure she is well rested and sorta hungry so food can occupy part of the flight. The point is, don't stress yourself out over times and the little schedule details. Your whole day traveling is usually going to be thrown off a little and the less you feel anxious and worried over nap times and routines, the more relaxed you'll be.
Last thing- remain calm. Cliche right? But seriously. If you start to act nervous/anxious/upset or unsettled your sweeties will pick up on it too. If they start to act up or get upset, the more you react, the more upset they will get. Easier said than done I know - remember deep breaths. The best advice a friend gave me one of the first times I flew was this: she said "you paid for your flight as much as anyone else on the plane and even with a crying baby have as much right to be there and be respected. and if people can't give you grace and patience as a mama flying alone with her child then that's on them and not you"
I find giving everyone a really "I'm begging for sympathy" smile and dressing Sawyer really cute makes a difference (no but seriously people love cute babies - and babies that are crying but still cute - helps) don't feel like you need to BE apologetic but I felt like my attitude and glances with others always displayed that I was just a nice mom on a plane with her baby hoping for a smooth flight probably even more than they were.
Most people at the end of the day are way nicer and helpful than you'd think. In all my flights I had more friendly helpful strangers ask to carry my bag or reach something for me than I can even remember. One TSA lady even put my own shoes back on Cinderella style because I had Sawyer asleep wrapped up on me and it was hard to get them back on after security. When people offer - if you feel it will be helpful - take the help. And in all the flights I've only had maybe 2 rude people. One guy made a comment that "of course he'd be sitting in front of the 'b a b y' (with the eye roll and heinous tone of a bitter middle aged man too cool to be flying coach near an infant) he was stupid but yet still his comment made me want to crawl under the seat in shame for no reason and I don't think she even opened her eyes from the ergo that entire flight (so I hope he felt like an A-hole for that to this day because I've clearly let it go and not remembered) But really the point is, everyone has to fly with kids sometime and people are way more forgiving than you think. If they start to get piped up, remember the plane has to land eventually and hey, you'll never see those people again. (Hopefully- Taylor always half jokes he worries we will )
Logistical stuff - we always put our car seat in its original box and taped it shut there with packing tape. Sounds like a pain I know but it saved our very nice and expensive car seat from getting beat to hell. If you don't want to use or don't have its box, I recommend a thick bag to put it in for some protection. If you really don't need your stroller at the location you're flying to (I know that's unlikely but for many trips home to see our parents we didn't because they have one) but if you can get by without it then don't bring it just to have at the airport. It's way more of a pain in the buns to fold it up and have them check it at the gate just for you to have at the airport. Especially if you're alone. Wearing Sawyer was (and even at 2 years old) continues to be my best bet. Ergo for the win #bestpurchaseever . But if you DO really need your stroller, which I totally get and sometimes we do- I say having it checked with your suitcase makes life so much easier, especially when you're alone. No futzing with it while trying to get through security, boarding or when you get off and have to wait for it to be unloaded. I just say check it and wear your baby so you're hands free. But if you do decide to keep it with you, it makes a great shopping cart in the airport and for connections that was rather helpful I will admit.
Be ready for last minute changes and problems. My last flight I didn't check my seat assignment and boarded to where I learned we were in the front row, Meaning, no seat in front of me to put my bag full of goodies and no tray for her to play on. It sucked. But I didn't have a meltdown like I wanted to and we survived. You'll survive.
Here's a list with some photos of stuff I brought this flight for Sawyer and I'm keeping as "airplane only toys" for the summer full of flights we have ahead of us.
Target dollar section = heaven.
-A dry erase board is perfect for drawing and well, immediately erasing and drawing again and it doubles as a platform to stick the window gummy stickers I bought. Sawyer loves them and they are easy and simple to stick just about everywhere (airplane tray, window, arm rest, yourself, ceiling of the plane whatever)
-A new hot wheels (she has a thing for tiny cars)
-Tiny little minion and ninja turtle erasers (she has an obsession with anything small and miniature figurine like) those were a huge hit
-Minion model magic creating kit
-Peppa Pig Felt Board with removable pieces
-Princess Sticker Book (we LOVE stickers and it has over 1000 plus pages for her to stick them on)
-jar of play putty
-box of minion bandaids (anything minions + sticky is thrilling - dollar section score)
-a couple of our very most favorite calico critters
-we chose just one stuff, our MOST favorite - kitty (don't bring too many stuffed animals)
-and her tiny little backpack to hold a few things because she loves to carry her own pack
-fully charged iPad with new movies and games
-a favorite touch and feel book (she loves books but sometimes too many get too heavy and take up too much room so we stuck to just one)
I bought these little eraser packs too of stars and popsicles and then bought a pill divider to stick them in. instant fun! Every little door she could open and take them out and in and out and in until her heart was content. Again, she loves miniature things so this makeshift toy was the best