Airplanes.  Did you just involuntarily shudder?
I know I did.

There’s no form of travel I hate more then by sky.

It’s not that I’m afraid to fly…although…when you inevitably hit that patch of turbulence and you begin confessing things you didn’t even know you had done, then I do start to wonder about my brazen attitude towards it.

It’s just that I hate the whole darn rigmarole. I hate getting to the airport and never knowing if you are going to be on time or not.  I hate getting up at 3:45am to drive 45 minutes, to wait in line 10 minutes, to wait in line 30 minutes, to remove clothing articles in front of/with strangers, to walk barefoot all over the nasty floor (why do I always forget to bring socks??), to smile with confidence, but not too much confidence at the security guard (please don’t pick me, please don’t pick me), to skimpily packing in order to not have to pay a checked baggage fee, to never bringing what I want because my desired items will never make it through the scanner, to waiting an hour for my flight (if I’m lucky), to potluck seating, to recycled air, to airplane lavatories, to being in close confinement with strangers (I’ve got a book AND headphones in…please, please, don’t make small talk with me), to uncomfortable seats, to arriving unfashionably late and weary.  And this was pre-kids.

Now take all of this, PLUS add in the unbending schedule of a toddler, PLUS add in extra security so you can bring a water-bottle and a gazillion snacks through, PLUS add in the germs..oh the germs. And MINUS the one part of airplane travel I did actually enjoy: uninterrupted time to sleep/read.  Sounds like fun, no?

Thankfully, my parents moved clear across the country about 4 years ago…so I’ve had to come to terms with this whole flying business.  AND once we get there, the perks are pretty amazing.  But how do you survive UNTIL you get there?


MG has flown with us at 4, 8, and 16 months (I guess we like the “divisible by four” months).  Each had its own set of challenges and eases.  These are no ordinary non-stop 2 hour flights, mind you.  These are 10-hour door-to-door, 1 or two stops with 1-3 hour layovers in between.  They are work.  While we are by no means experts, here are some things we learned along the way that may hopefully help one or two of you out there in the future.


Bring only, and I mean only, the necessities.  When you arrive, buy what you need: i.e. diapers, food, etc.  Or, if you’re lucky (us), your final destination will have all of these things for you already. (thanks, Mom!)  Often hotels will provide pack ‘n plays and high chairs.  And does your baby really need many toys when they are at a new place?  Traveling calls for a little creativity and you can get by with less.

Deal with it for a day.  Flying calls me to step outside my bounds and live a little.  The schedule goes out the window.  New foods are introduced (I’ve got two words for you: dum-dums) to keep little hands busy.  Vomit bags transform into paper puppets. And you better believe when we arrive, she gets a bath to wash off all of the ‘travel germs’…but until then….we just deal with it!

Let the baby suck during take-off and landing.  And by suck, I don’t mean kick and scream (although sometimes that just happens).  If they are still nursing or bottle-feeding, let them do it during this time because the sucking reflex helps their ears adjust to the air pressure.  This is trickier then it sounds, though.  MG could drain me dry in about 5 minutes, so I really had to time it right.  Note to self: when the captain says to “prepare for descent”, you still actually have about 15 minutes until you need to prepare for descent.  Also, can I just add that there’s nothing more uncomfortable then trying to nurse a 28″ baby in the confinement of a 20″ seat with a neighbor on each side.  {Hopefully you’ll sit next to a Mama or Grandma who won’t mind the occasional kick or jab.}  Once they have outgrown the bottle stage, use either a pacifier (if they still take one) or some kind of food or drink (or the dum-dums, don’t forget the dum-dums!!)

Bring something new that she’s never seen before:  For this last trip, I packed only 2 toys in the diaper bag (and 3 books if you count those as toys).  Both of them were new.  I saved them for the 4.5 hour (shoot me) flight. When we were on hour 3 and running out of fun ideas, I pulled one out.  The excitement lasted for about 20 minutes, but when your child has an attention span of about 2, a twenty minute interlude is heavenly!  While your child is preoccupied with something, always have the next thing in mind for her to do.  After about an hour, you can revisit old ideas. Let’s just say that by the end of the flight you will be more tired then…well…a baby who missed her nap…but I think you can measure your success by how long your seatmate napped (3 out of 4.5 hours…success!)

Buy an extra seat if you can/want to afford it.  This is more of a luxury than a necessity, and one I have to admit we’ve always been too cheap to do.  Thankfully, we’ve flown some pretty early, random flights and had empty rows or seats so we could spread out a little.  Having an extra seat makes a huge difference to a wiggly toddler.  MG’s never been much of a lap baby but always has been pretty happy in her car seat.  When she was younger, if we’d had her car seat and an extra seat between us, I’m pretty sure she would have snoozed the entire trip.  So if you’re like us and too cheap to buy a seat for the little one, pray for extra ones!

Things that did not work for us:
-Videos: MG doesn’t really watch TV (yet) at home, so she doesn’t really seem interested in it on planes.  Darn!!!  What did work (for about 5 minutes) was showing her pictures of herself on the iPad and videotaping her where she could watch herself perform.  We’ll take it!
-Constant entertainment: At some point during this 10 hour day, we all hit our walls.  Nothing is going to distract her from being tired and this is when Daddy takes over.  He takes her in the back of the plane and rocks her to sleep standing up(only because this seems to be the only position she will fall asleep in….but every baby is different).  Thankfully, I haven’t had to attempt this trip by myself yet, but if I did, we would just make it work, I guess!


I do have to say: there’s nothing like flying with a baby to have your faith restored in humanity.  From the kind stewardesses who sanitized MG’s dropped paci in scalding water, to the Grandmas who played peek-a-boo with her when I was about out of ideas, to the comments from strangers on the easy flights “Oh what a good baby!  You are such a good baby!”  Most of us who fly know that it is a less than ideal situation for both the parent and the child so we are willing to accommodate.  Those who don’t understand…well…you’ll never see those people again in your life. So don’t sweat it!


Having a baby doesn’t have to keep you from traveling the “friendly” skies.  And sometimes, it’s downright worth the speed and efficiency.  But let’s all pray they come up with a better method of travel.  Fast.



7 Comments on Surviving Mamaland: Airplanes

  1. Kacia
    April 9, 2012 at 7:50 pm (6 years ago)

    Just booked a flight for June! EEKS. doing one way without Andy…. and I”m dreading it! I've flown with her before…but each month as she's more active…I dread it more and more!

    This was helpful, thank you!

  2. Sweet Mama K
    April 9, 2012 at 8:52 pm (6 years ago)

    You can do it!! The post-mobility, pre-reason definitely has its challenges….but it will be worth it when you get there!

  3. Vanessa Jergensen
    April 9, 2012 at 9:15 pm (6 years ago)

    Love this post, Kate! With all of Ingy'y grandparents out of the state, we have become quite the travelers as well. I think we took 7 or 8 flights the first year, and two or three since she has turned one…about half of those I flew with her alone.

    It is definitely a learning experience! I totally agree with bringing only the necessities! I look back at our first few trips and I can't believe how much I packed! Goodness! Such a good idea to just buy diapers and food at the final destination. Now, I've found a way to just bring one carry on suitcase and a diaper bag, so it doesn't leave much room for extras.

    It's a good reminder to leave some new things/toys/activities for the plane rides! Good idea.

    Here are a couple of things I can think of that have also helped us:
    On a longer trip to Hawaii (eeek! it was long!), I bought Ingrid an AquaDoodle. It was a great little purchase. It has a little pen type thing that you fill with water and a fold up book that they can draw in. It shows up only with water, and then disappears as it dries. She was about one year old, and really enjoyed it. But like you suggested, it was the first time she saw it so she was definitely more interested.

    Though it is a bulky item, I usually end up bringing a bigger fold out stroller with storage on the bottom. Even though we usually only use a small umbrella stroller in town now (when we use one at all), bringing along the bigger stroller has been a life saver when traveling. Since they gate check it for free right before you board, it makes it pretty easy. I found it is a handy place to store the diaper bag, snacks, sippy cup, etc as we are walking (sometimes running) through the airport. It can also recline for naps, so sometimes we can squeeze those in between flights (sometimes is the key word here…maybe should use the word rarely). 🙂 One thing to note, it is not super handy for big cities (i.e. we took it to Chicago and it was not downtown city friendly…didn't fit through the gates at the train station, revolving doors, etc) and isn't always ideal if someone with a very compact car is picking you up from the airport.

    The last thing that has been helpful for Ingy, though it sounds like MG is not a movie lover yet like Ingy, is that I put a couple of new Sesame Street episodes on my phone for the flight. Ingrid is obsessed with elmo, so this is a great fit. Though, she can't always hear the sound very well due to the the plane noise and won't keep headphones in yet, so she doesn't always sit through an entire episode.

    Okay, wow! Sorry for that verbose comment! I think I am just hoping that it will be helpful to any other Moms new to travel.

    So fun to keep up with your blog, Kate! xoxo

  4. Kirk and Chrissie
    April 10, 2012 at 12:02 am (6 years ago)

    I have flown more times than I care to admit with my kiddos and I must say (many times by myself), your last point could not be more true! I have always said I could never fly with kids if it weren't for the kindness of strangers. I have always had people to help me fold up the stroller through the security and get my bags on and off the plane. Something about little kids that makes people's hearts soften! I'm always amazed.

    Of course, there is also always the business man in a 4 piece suit who rolls his eyes when you walk on the plane too :).

  5. Sweet Mama K
    April 10, 2012 at 12:48 am (6 years ago)

    Vanessa–I am so impressed!! Especially with the trip to HI! Ing will be able to adapt to anything—she will be so well-rounded! Love the aqua-doodle idea and the stroller too. I agree–stroller storage outweighs stroller size. Thanks for sharing your helpful tips and keep em coming!

  6. Sweet Mama K
    April 10, 2012 at 12:49 am (6 years ago)

    Chrissie—I'm glad you've also had good experiences with strangers. The things we will do to see the grandparents, right?? Someday we will be those Moms and grandmas helping the young moms like ourselves 🙂

  7. flylittleone
    April 10, 2012 at 2:15 am (6 years ago)

    Phew! Glad MG did well :). We flew at 4 months, but that was easy peasy stuff…I can't imagine now!


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