The first time we flew with Maya was a 10 hour flight from London to Houston, she was 3.5 months old and it was a piece of chocolate cake. She was tiny, adorable, happy, satisfied with breast milk only and not mobile. She slept half of the way to Texas and all of the way back--literally she was asleep when we took off and didn't wake up until we landed in England and were getting off the plane. She was a star, a diamond, the perfect miniature travel companion.
I was very dubious the second time, she was bigger, still adorable, still happy, but hungrier, and very mobile with a little bit of mischevious mixed in. I was a wreck, I worried about it for months, literally, I lost a lot of sleep. She was still good although it wasn't the leisurely red-wine-sipping-film-watching experiece like the first time. She didn't sleep much and wanted to walk constantly, and with all of the other emotions of moving it just seemed a lot harder. I wept with relief when we landed and vowed never to travel again, much less with a toddler. Silly me, because within 2 months I was booking a trip to San Fransisco to visit my bestie Emily and I was taking Maya with me! ALONE. WHAT???
The third time I travelled with Maya she was at the worst possible age, 14 months. She didn't sit still, she didn't sit at all. Domestic flights are horrible, the crews aren't as nice and the planes are small--there wasn't even a changing table in the bathroom! I changed Maya on the floor in the galley, yesss. Luckily we sat next to pretty nice people. On our way there we had the aisle seat next to an older hippie man from California. Maya was very curious about him she touched his arm and wanted to get a good look at him. I appologized and he said it was ok, he has cats. Eh? He was really nice though and played with her, Maya handed him everything out of the seat back pocket and her bunny and he handed it all back and they went through this routine most of the flight. Toward the end he looked at me very seriously and said something along the lines of, "I can tell she is a really generous spirit, she reminds me of a dog I used to have. Children and animals always know the right thing to do. I believe she will carry this gift with her always." I don't entirely agree with that but I appreciated his thoughfulness. Anyway, our flights back were less amusing and she was fairly good, I just gave her snacks the entire time which kept her happy.
So here are my travelling with a young toddler tips:
-Be realistic in your expectations. Be prepared to walk the aisles and stand in the galley the entire time.
-When going through security ask a staff member for help, it's hard to get everything onto the conveyer belt while taking off your shoes, folding up your stroller and keeping your toddler out of the scanner, if no one readily offers to help just ask.
-Don't take a lot of toys, you'll need room for snacks, and everything on the plane is more interesting than anything you take. Maya found a little torn off piece from a chips bag and delicately carried it around trying to put it in her hair and showing it to people as we paced up and down the plane, it was like she had found a rare and precious gem stone.
-Let them play with stuff, anything that entertains them is your friend, and if you're a germ freak take antibacterial wipes and wipe every surface down around you as soon as you get on the plane.
-Take antibacterial wipes and wipe every surface down around you as soon as you get on the plane, not that it will make any difference at all because they will touch other horrible things but it will make you feel better and that's important.
-A cardigan worn backwards doubles as a nursing cover, don't waste space taking something when you can use something else. You will need space for snacks!
-Take three times more snacks that you think you'll need, little things that take a long time to eat, boxes of raisins, Goldfish, Cheerios. Don't worry about feeding schedules while on a plane, just keep shoving food in, they love it and it keeps them quiet and still.
-Obviously take enough diapers and wipes for 24 hours just in case, and a change mat, but if you forget your change mat your cardigan will work for this too!
-The hardest part of the flight is the beginning and end when the clueless crew expects you to keep your toddler in your lap for 30 minutes. You are not a bad parent if you let your kid stand in front of your seat when the flight attendants aren't looking.
-If you need to go to the bathroom don't be afriad to ask a flight attendant to hold your child. Your child will most likely cry hysterically but this is your chance to get revenge on that flight attendant for not being more helpful earlier when they wanted to sit down and read during their break at the back of the plane on the fold down seat you were standing next to with your boob out trying to breastfeed standing up because your child was screaming and they impolitely asked you to move to the other side of the galley. Revenge is sweet, even if it only lasts as long as it takes to pee and at the cost of 30 seconds of your child's happiness. Since when did flight attendants get reading breaks anyway?
-Don't look anyone in the eye, especially the people seated near you if your toddler has been particularly unpleasant, you will feel their hate and it will ruin your confidence. Stay strong! Stay positive! Remind yourself that wherever it is you are going there is most likely a place in which you can quickly be united with a margarita, you can do this!!
-Have fun! Try and appreciate it for what it is, an adventure! These times will become precious memories, possibly ones you mention in a toast at your child's wedding. You will never see these other passengers again (except we did actually sit next to the exact same guy on the way to and from Texas that first time, and we were all wearing the exact same thing, it was like a scene from Seinfeld, but what are the chances??) and they will most likely forget about you as soon as they get off the plane. Your flight will land eventually and the fun part can begin.
Any other great tips I didn't mention? Anything quirky that worked wonders? Any horror stories about flights with kiddos? I love those best:)