Reaching our car in the cool night air in the Denver International Airport, I almost felt like crying. It was so so good to see something familiar and to know we were only 40 minutes away from home! Home: what a blissful word!
While that sounds like we had a nightmare of a trip, we really didn’t. It was the third time we’ve flown with Ender, and despite some unfortunate issues we had with the first flight this past weekend, the rest of the trip went well. When we moved to Colorado in March this past year, Ender was 9 months old. It was the first time flying with him, and needless to say, I was nervous. I got as much advice as I could from a friend who has traveled with her son since he was a tiny infant. So with this post, I’m hoping to impart the traveling wisdom I have learned from traveling with Ender and give helpful advice to anyone who will be traveling with infants or toddlers!
1. Your toddler’s daily routine
This is actually really important and I’m surprised I haven’t seen much about this online. Is your child a good morning person? Or do they not seem to “wake up” until half way through the day? Ender is not a very good morning person if we’ve missed his normal morning routines. What I mean by this is waking him up before he is ready to wake up makes for a horrid day. We learned last trip to not fly in the mornings, but I didn’t remember that until AFTER tickets had already been bought. Our first flight was in the morning again, and I had to wake him up and we left without giving him a REAL breakfast or his normal cup of milk. One of the biggest tips I can think to give it to create as much of a normal routine as possible when traveling. Of course, there are a lot of variables, but the closer to your child’s normal daily routine, the better.
2. If you’re uncomfortable, your child will [probably] be even more so
Flying is just simply not a pleasant experience no matter how much you enjoy it. You land and get to your destination and feel grimy from being on an airplane for an hour or a lot more. I know I personally always feel completely covered in germs and just grime. Toddlers especially feel the change in daily routines more than older children, so I knew going into this trip that Ender probably would have a rough time. Maybe this is just me, but I have a lot more compassion and patience for Ender when I take the time to understand and figure out WHY he’s upset. Almost 100% of the time it’s because he’s uncomfortable, or something happened, or guess what, he’s hungry! So to combat him being uncomfortable with having his routines messed up, I made sure to pack his favorite snacks. And of course we brought along Ellie and his favorite blankie.
With TSA regulations, we were limited as to what we could pack food wise for Ender. He loves these snack pouches, and I brought them through security without any issues. We packed gold fish, clementines, and a dried fruit mix. When packing for a toddler, think comfort, comfort, comfort. The more comfortable they can be, the happier they will be (usually).
3. When things go wrong, DO NOT panic
Ender slept for the first hour of the flight out, woke up, seemed uncomfortable, but was doing okay. He suddenly started getting severely overheated (think skin feeling really feverish). I couldn’t cool him down, and five minutes before we touched down, he threw up. But because of having not eaten much before/during the flight, almost nothing came up. I know his ears were really bothering him as well, but him overheating was what did him in. It almost did me in too! So on the flight home I dressed him in thinner pants and a short sleeve shirt. As soon as we got on the plane, I pulled off his shoes and socks and jacket. Luckily the flight home was a lot cooler than the flight out.
There were about 7 other toddlers and infants on the flight out too. As Ender started freaking out and trying to escape off my lap, I calmly talked with him and tried to keep him distracted. I don’t blame him for being so out of sorts. I wasn’t feeling well myself, but I certainly wasn’t going to snap at him. Poor kid was so so uncomfortable! I have noticed if I don’t freak out or if Phil doesn’t freak out, the people around us don’t freak out and get upset. Every one was cheering for Ender as we waited to get off the plane. They knew he had had a rough time and every other person asked me how he had done while we walked off the plane. I can’t say how important it is to not freak out. I know some situations are way out of control, and it is impossible to not get upset. But understanding and getting on your child’s level really does make a difference if that is a normal habit of yours.
4. Be Strategic
There was a family of five waiting to board our flight out. I watched them especially since they had twins and what looked like to be a 2 1/2 to 3 year old little boy. The twins were fed before we all boarded and they were also almost the very last people to board. They were smart. I didn’t think of boarding last until the flight home. When I say be strategic, this is what I mean. We let Ender run around and play to his heart’s content before we started boarding for the flight home. Even if this meant we were following him up and down the rows of chairs at the gate and having to turn him around often so he didn’t run all the way back to security. Tire your toddler out. Let them move and get energy out because once you’re on the plane, that’s it. They’re stuck there until you land. I also offered Ender as much food as he would eat. Our flight home was also an afternoon flight, which helped a lot as it happened roughly when his normal afternoon nap would have been. When flying with a toddler, I HIGHLY suggest afternoon/evening flights OVER morning flights. It’s easier on you moms and dads, and it’s easier on the kids.
We also had a fairly normal morning before heading to the airport. Ender still wasn’t happy about being stuck in the stroller again, but we made it to the gate without too big of a melt down. I will be selling our little umbrella stroller and just going with my collapsible jogging stroller next time we fly. He was so uncomfortable in that stroller, even with extra padding. Even though the jogging stroller is bigger, comfort is once again the highest priority with this.
Wait to be the last people to board. By the time we had boarded for our flight home, we were only sitting in our seats for maybe 5 minutes before the plane taxied to the runway. If you’re flying Southwest, then I suggest you think carefully about how to get good seats while still letting your child run a little more. We may fly Southwest next time, and in that case, I would send Phil in first to get seats and then Ender and I would wait till the last few people.
5. Those darn ear pops
Okay, our last flight back to Maryland in May, Ender was still nursing. I fed him as we took off and he was asleep when we landed, so that trip we didn’t have to deal with his ears popping. This was the part I was most nervous about. If his ears are truly as sensitive as mine are, those ear pops would be painful for him. He took off fine, actually, within minutes of the plane starting to move, Ender was asleep. So he didn’t feel the ear pops as we took off. Landing was an entirely different story. We all felt sick, so I didn’t think to do anything. However, on the flight home, I placed my hands over his ears as we were landing and that seemed to help. I am not sure if that it made his ears feel better or what, but it helped! I’m not sure what else to suggest with ears popping, so anyone comment with anything they’ve found that’s worked!
I think that’s it for now. I can only just keep recommending being flexible, choose comfort over convenience if convenience means discomfort. Pick snacks carefully and don’t bring an excess. There are plenty of places to get food once you’re past security. Maybe do a dry run before heading to the airport and see which snacks your toddler likes the most right now. For Ender, that was cheezits, pouches, and goldfish.
I hope this helps! and please comment with any suggestions I may have missed!