|Me: Ethan, we've made it to our final destination, but we have to sit on the tarmac for 30 minutes because there's nowhere to park the plane.|
Trying to navigate the airport with your toddler is like trying to carry a 30-pound backpack, a toddler backpack your toddler refuses to carry and your 40-pound toddler who can't be trusted to walk in the right direction all at the same time.
Yep. That pretty much sums it up.
So here are five survival tips for the next time you have to fly with your toddler.
Tip #1: Stay home
Weren't expecting that one, were you? On our way to Virginia we had a connection in North Carolina. I was traveling without my husband (who had to work, but also got to sleep through the night and didn't have to watch Disney Jr. for a whole week so who really got a vacation here?) so it was just me and my 2 year old. We had been up since 4:30 a.m. in order to make our 7 a.m. flight. After three hours on the airplane, we got off and my toddler had a meltdown. I mean an EPIC meltdown. And then he proceeded to have another one. And another one. And another one. I nearly had one myself. I wanted to curl up in the fetal position, click some magical heels together and go home. Then I realized this isn't Hollywood and I'd have to get on a plane in order to get home. So E had another meltdown for me since I couldn't afford to lose my cool in the middle of the terminal. The only downside to this tip is that if you stay home, you don't get to fully experience life. And I wouldn't have traded our time in Virginia for anything. So while this is practical advice, it's not realistic ("why am I reading this again?" - you, "because my husband has already heard me complain about the meltdowns" - me).
Tip #2: Bring snacks
Think you have enough? You don't. Pack more. A lot more. Anytime your toddler wants to open his or her mouth to whine or cry, stuff it with food. Sure, this will probably create food issues when they get older, but let's not worry about that right now. Let's worry about all of the people sitting around you wishing they hadn't pulled the short straw and ended up next to your kid. Did I mention Ethan was the only child on three of the four flights we took? Couldn't exactly pin the noise on someone else... And for some reason, flying made him hungry. Just keep pulling out the snacks. Preferably new ones or the ones you never let them have. That being said, I do regret the donut at 5 a.m. Probably not the best idea to fill his tiny tummy with sugar right before asking him to sit still for three hours.
Tip #3: Do not sit in the aisle seat
But why, Jen? Then we'll have easy access to the bathroom. I know, I know. That's what I thought, too. But I was wrong. So very wrong. We had an emergency situation (he pooped, of course) and so we had no choice but to use the bathroom. When we got back to our seats, all he wanted to do was run into the aisle. Do you know how hard it is to restrain your toddler on a plane without causing a scene? He was determined to get out. He crawled on the floor. Licked my face. Pulled on my shirt. But I kept him contained without tears or screaming. How you ask? A miracle, my friends. A miracle. On the way home, he sat in the window seat. He wanted to get to the aisle, but wasn't willing to physically assault the aisle passenger to get out. This is the way to go. Also, did you notice I was in the middle seat both times? Pffth.
Tip #4: Load up on fun games and movies
Before we left, I added a new movie to the iPad for Ethan to watch on the plane. It didn't keep him entertained the whole flight, but it did help. I also brought sticker books, play packs and those coloring books that use white markers, but color shows up on the paper. What is that called? Magic markers? Magic paper? I have no idea. He also played with some of the games on the iPad. While we were waiting on the tarmac (we landed 30 minutes early, but there wasn't a gate for us to park at) he would throw crayons on the ground, say they were "lost" and then bend down to find them. I think that kept him busy for 10 minutes. I mean, whatever works. Also, snacks. Have I already mentioned that? I don't think I can say it enough.
Tip #5: Ignore the Haters
For the most part, we had good experiences with our fellow passengers on all of our flights and in the terminals. Sure, there were some grumpy old people and some easily annoyed business travelers, but for the most part we were golden. E knows how to turn on the charm and when he was having a meltdown I think most people felt sorry for us (or maybe just me?) which isn't great, but is better than the alternative (them videotaping it and putting it on YouTube along with remarks about how they would "raise their kids right"). But if you happen to run into a hater, just ignore them. And if you happen to be one of those people who can't stand kids on flights - try to have some empathy. You can't expect a toddler to have the same amount of patience as someone in their 30s or to sit still in their chair for three hours without complaining. And if you still want to complain about all the kids at the airport well...remember that karma is real, my friend.
For the most part, Ethan did great. We had a few meltdowns at the airport and he cried on one of the flights (for about 2 minutes and then fell asleep). Oh and he cried every time I put on his seat belt. The kid does not like to be restrained. Anyone have tips for that? I tried to be stealthy like a ninja when I put it on and I even left it loose, but it didn't seem to matter. In the end, I'd wait until the last possible minute to strap him in and then threw snacks and sticker books at him until he calmed down (which felt like eternity to me, but really wasn't but a few minutes). Most of the people around us said he did well for someone his age (and were shocked he was 2) so overall, it was OK.
Anyone want to share their tips for flying with toddlers?
Oh you don't have any tips because your kids are awesome travelers and never made a peep? That's nice.