Folks, flying with children can be rough, am I right?
No one wants to be that dude—the one carting around a crying, screaming, red-faced, mini-monster whose sole purpose in life is to inflict pain and misery on everyone around them.
Seriously not fun.
But! While infants, toddlers, and all other manner of tiny tots can make traveling stressful, you can anticipate the crazy before it strikes—and hopefully, avert any meltdown crises before they even happen.
Think that sounds too good to be true? Think again, my friends. Behold, five tips to surviving a flight with a tiny human.
1.) Punch your wallet in the face and buy the kid her own seat.
If your kid is under two years old, lots of airlines will let you keep them on your lap, free of charge. This is a super tempting option, because money. All that cash you’d be dumping into a whole, full-sized extra seat for a pint-sized munchkin could totally go towards diapers, or formula, or booze to ease your crippling anxiety over traveling with an infant. Like, seriously, this kid is not even the size of your arm. Does she really need a whole seat all to herself?
Yes. Yes she does. And here’s why.
First of all, safety. Lap babies are more likely to be injured—or worse—during unexpected turbulence, due to not being strapped in.
Would you put your kid in the car without strapping her in first? No? Then don’t do that on a plane, which is basically just a very cramped, elongated car that flies through the sky.
Second of all, comfort. Bring your airplane approved car seat along for the ride, stick it in its own special chair, and strap the kid right in there. Both of you will be a zillion times more comfortable. And you know what a comfortable kid equals?
A kid who’s less likely to have a meltdown while you’re flying over the Atlantic Ocean, that’s what.
2.) Be deliberate about when you fly and where you sit.
Now that you’ve made the super smart decision to book the tiny tot his own seat, you have to be strategic about where exactly you sit him down.
You’ve got a few options. You can go for the bulkhead seats, which provide more legroom (irrelevant to the miniature limbs of your kid, but score for you!), and is the only spot on the plane where an in-flight bassinet can fit. This option might work best for folks with the newest of newborns.
Then there’s the back of the plane, which can be great for staying near the bathrooms and minimizing exposure to the other passengers.
But the best place to sit your kid? Probably wherever the engines are. Do a little research about the type of plane you’ll be boarding and where its engines are located. It might seem like a headache-inducing option, but all that white noise should help your kid to relax—and hopefully—fall asleep.
As for when you’re flying? Try to plan flights around the kid’s usual naptime, if possible. If that’s not doable, keep your child’s natural sleep and energy cycle in mind. Is he a total night owl? You might want to think twice about booking that red-eye flight. Have a lark on your hands? Overnight flights might be your best bet for traveling with a sleepy—and therefore silent—child.
3.) Have a solid entrance and exit strategy.
Getting an infant on and off a plane smoothly—not to mention carting her through the airport along the way—is tricky business. The definitive game plan for optimal child loading? Make it a team effort.
Send one adult onto the plane as early as physically possible. Said adult brings the child seat and whatever other accoutrements the kid requires—which, let’s be real, will probably make Grownup #1 into a veritable pack mule.
Whatever, early boarding adult. You’re taking one for the team.
Once you get on the plane, mark your territory in the overhead storage bins and install the child seat. Step 1 of the all-important child-loading maneuver has been completed.
Step 2: The adult who’s been left behind with the infant waits as long as possible to get on the plane. Seriously. Let everyone board ahead of you. Let them all stow their luggage in the overhead compartments and sit themselves down before you even think about getting on that plane. Not only does this minimize the amount of time your tiny human has to spend on the flying tube of boredom, it also minimizes the risk of injury from getting smacked in the face with flying luggage and frantic passengers.
After you’ve waited it out, get yourself and your munchkin on the plane, strap her in, and get ready for take-off. Congratulations, folks. You just mastered the aero-child-loading maneuver. Good game.
As for transporting the child around when you’re not on the plane? For pre-boarding, post-landing, and the in-between-layovers mad dash, buy this nifty contraption. Turning your kid into a piece of live rolling luggage is the best investment you’ve ever made.
4.) Pack all of the entertainment. ALL OF IT.
Are you one of those parents who has a strict rule about technology use at home? No more than 30 minutes of TV per day for the kid, you’ve decreed. I admire your resolve.
Not really, to be honest. My parents were of your kind, and it was not super fun.
However! Despite your high moral standards around electronics and their ability to make children’s brains melt out of their ears (this is literally what my mom told me would happen if I watched too much TV), airplanes are an exception.
At least, they totally should be if you want to not have a screaming child on your hands.
Here’s the deal. Planes kind of suck, and there’s no way around it. They’re uncomfortable, they’re smelly, they’re boring, and they’re a teeny tiny bit scary. Adults—we’ve learned how to deal. But the babies have not learned that skill, and so when they inevitably get bored, uncomfortable, or frightened, they’re probably going to pitch a fit.
Unless you distract the crap out of them.
So load up your iPad with new kid-friendly apps that they’ve never used before. Download some new children’s movies for the flight. Bring tiny, child-friendly headphones to use if and when the plane shows a kid-friendly in-flight movie. Stash some surprise toys or activities—a new coloring book, for example—to unveil mid-flight, when cabin fever will start to kick in.
Distract, my friends. Distract those kids like it’s your job.
5.) Be prepared to drug your child. Responsibly, of course.
So, sedating your kid is obviously not an ideal solution. It’s a fairly controversial tactic, but done responsibly and only when absolutely necessary, it’s a solid strategy to head off any sort of epic meltdown you might be anticipating.
A single dose of Benadryl can not only calm your child, but it can also open up the Eustachian tubes to alleviate any congestion and painful ear-popping your tiny human may experience. The trick? Only administer it when absolutely necessary—like if your kid is prone to really painful ear issues with pressure change, has a history of epic meltdowns, or is smack dab in the middle of one right at this moment.
And, of course, make sure you give the appropriate dosage. One pediatrician gives his dosing recommendations here, but be sure to consult with your own pediatrician before traveling.
Pro-tip: test this strategy out BEFORE flying. Some kids have a weirdly opposite reaction to Benadryl and get crazy hyper, which is not at all what you want to happen when you’re in the middle of a long-haul flight. Also, just as a general rule, it’s not great to give anyone any kind of substance mid-flight when you’re unsure of how they’ll react to it. Know how your kid’s body responds to whatever medications you may need to give him before you get on the plane.
BONUS TIP: No matter how well you’ve planned your flight time and seating location, how epically you’ve mastered the aero-child-loading maneuver, or how many Disney movies you’ve downloaded to your iPad, kids cry. Sometimes they’re loud, whiny, trolls of doom.
It’s totally OK.
If anyone gives you the stink eye over a crying kid, smile and wave. They’re clearly a jerk and deserve to endure every minute of your child’s wailing.
And if you manage to get through the whole flight without a hitch?
Well then, props to you, my friend. We salute you.
What do you think of these tips? Have any tried and true tricks to keeping these kids in line while traveling? Blow it up in the comments!
[Featured Image Thanks to Andresr/Shutterstock]