Flying with a nine month old…by myself.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

There were a lot of things I looked forward to in being a mom but traveling wasn’t one of them.  I would put my airport security efficiency up against anyone’s and Tyler and I love road trips.  But I knew going into this my kid wasn’t going to be all, “Yeeeeaaah…I’ll lay on my back semi-reclined for eight hours while you and dad eat Chick-Fil-A and blast Mumford and Sons.  I’ll just be back here sitting in my own pee and staring at the back of seat.”

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{Except that she kinda does.  My kid is chill on road trips.}

Airplanes are a bit of a crap shoot though.  We’ve only flown with her once when she was seven weeks old and she DID cry a bit, sending me reaching for my emergency evacuation button.  I have found myself to be a pretty laid back mom about most things… But I do NOT do well with public crying. I hated grocery shopping with Charlotte when she was tiny and cried unpredictably. I always just wanted to abandon my cart and flee the scene.  I can’t handle negative public attention. {Let’s be real—I barely handle attention.}

And I know there’s a level of uneasiness when you spot a baby at the gate of your flight—let the “Please don’t let that baby be next to me” prayers commence.  So I was feeling some serious anxiety knowing that with Tyler’s new job, Charlotte and I were going to be doing a lot of traveling…solo. Just me and her.  No one to pass her off to and hide in the bathroom.

Charlotte is a pretty happy baby so I wasn’t really worried about crazy, unpredictable crying.  She is just so mobile and busy and does NOT like to sit in your lap for more than 3 minutes, so I had no idea how I was going to reign her in for a 2.5 hour flight.  I was picturing a whole lot of this…

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HOWEVER, {spoiler alert} we actually survived! So I wanted to write out my experience and hopefully you can expend some brain cells on more important things like how to introduce table foods without bathing your kid six times a day.  So here goes… Step one.

1. Prayer. Just start praying, sister.  This is all a crap shoot.  All of my ideas just might be hogwash or it could be the day your kid decides to cut a tooth or has a bad night of sleep… At the end of the day, we all just need Jesus here.

2. Now grab a drink. You’re going to need some of that too.

3. Booking the ticket—be choosey about the time of the day and where you sit.  For us, mid-morning to early afternoon are best for Charlotte.  She is reliably awake and happy.  I’d rather pull out my fingernails than get on a plane with that kid at 6pm.  So for us, a noon flight was perfect because it allowed her to get a morning nap before we left.  I booked an aisle seat because I knew I wanted to be the absolute last person on the plane without climbing over anyone {some folks like window seats so there is less distraction and the baby will sleep but there is no way on God’s green earth Charlotte will ever sleep in my arms in public again—those days are long gone}.

4. Packing—keep it light mamas!  We borrowed a car seat and pack-n-play from friends that lived where we were traveling.  It was a short weekend hanging out with family, so there was no need for stroller.  If there had been, I would have gone Snap-n-Go or umbrella and checked it with the luggage.  Charlotte and I shared one duffle bag that I checked, and I combined my purse with her diaper bag.  So once I checked the bag, it was just me and her and a diaper bag.

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5. The day of.. Plan. It. Out.

Charlotte typically naps from 10-12ish but we needed to leave the house by 10:30-10:40 which wouldn’t work.  So I intentionally woke her up at 6:30 so she would be ready for a nap by 8:30 and get a two hour nap in.  I let her sleep until the last possible second before we needed to leave for the airport and I intentionally didn’t feed her so she would be sucking down her bottle at take-off.  I also put major thought into what time to arrive at the airport because I didn’t want to get there too early and waste good behavior standing at the gate, but I obviously didn’t want to be rushed.  I arrived at the airport in enough time to check in, get through security, use the bathroom and change a diaper, and we had about 20 minutes to kill before boarding.

6. Navigating the airport & security—Come prepared.

I had a neighbor drive us to the airport in our car {because of the car seat}, drop us off, and bring our car back home—curbside drop-off and no parking or taxi fees!  I had the Baby Bjorn already on so once we got out of the car there wasn’t major fiddling and buckling while managing Suzy Crawlerpants.  Out of the carseat, straight into the carrier.  At check-in, I asked to be moved to a row with an empty seat {luckily, I already happened to be in one, but I would have sat in the bathroom if it meant an open seat!}.  My plastic baggies with liquids and her baby food were ready to go and stored in front pockets of her diaper bag for easy access.  I didn’t wear any jewelry and I wore flats for easy get on/get off at security.  Security was a breeze.

7. Surviving the flight

I said it above—don’t waste good behavior or sitting still time waiting for other people to get on the plane.  I was one of the last five people to board the plane {Another mom came up and said, “You know they said we could board already right?”}.  Everything ran on schedule so we were sitting for maybe ten minutes before we took off.  I did have to unstrap her from the Bjorn for take-off, so my whole “keep her strapped in so she knows what’s up” approach was immediately botched.

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I packed activities for the plane to swap out every 30 minutes or so.  So her bottle and lunch took about 20 minutes {sit them in your lap and pull down the tray—they feel like they’re in their highchair and don’t get too squirmy}.  After that, I spread out a blanket in the seat next to me and let her stand on the floor.  I hid toys in the seat pockets for her to rummage through, brought two old catalogs for her to rip apart {You’re welcome Frontier, for salvaging your safety brochure}, and had a few toys and puffs in the seat.  When I sensed her getting antsy or wanting to crawl under my legs and make a break for it, I brought out a different toy.

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I really didn’t bring that much though—just certain things I knew were her favorites: a few teethers, puffs, two books, SOPHIE, a little plastic mirror, and a few of my teething necklaces she likes to whip around and hit herself in the face with.  I packed an apple because she will sit and suck on it for a solid ten minutes.  I also brought painters tape so she could rip off little pieces and try to figure out how to get them off her fingers.  For added measure, I rented a Thomas the Train movie on the iPad but she’s really not into electronics.  I turned it on toward the end of the flight and it bought me five minutes {of dancing to the intro song} before she lost interest.

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I won’t say it went by fast but we made it without any fits or squirming to get out of my arms!  I can only hope we proved all those weary on-lookers wrong by the end of the flight.  I won’t lie—I probably looked at my watch 900 times throughout the flight, disappointed that only 2 minutes had passed since my previous check.

8. Arrival—pass that kid off to Grandma and go grab a drink!  Charlotte did awesome but I was straight up exhausted after our early wake-up and all of the energy and tension I felt preparing for the flight…

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Unfortunately, I’m afraid Charlotte and I have many more girls-only plane trips in our future but it’s worth it to get time with Daddy.  Last weekend I actually did an eight hour road trip with her by myself and I’m not sure it was any easier or harder than flying—both have their own pros and cons.  Anyhow, we’re still figuring this whole thing out…some days I feel like I’m kicking butt and others I just want to teleport Mary Poppins in while I drink wine with a straw…

So what are your traveling with child tips?  What’s waiting for me as she gets older??

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