How to Survive Flying Alone with a Toddler and a Baby: Part 2 – On the Plane
… Continued from Part 1 – At the Airport
While the airport was difficult, I dreaded the flight so much more. We did get lucky. Right before we got on the flight, we got upgraded to premium seats (more leg room, yay!), and they reseated us so that we had the three seats to ourselves. After the incident at the airport with Zoe screaming and Alex running away from me, the airline probably figured that it would spare some poor soul the torture of sitting next to us.
The adventure continued:
Alex was so excited about the plane taking off that he climbed up and down the seats and kept looking over his seat at the people behind us. I tried to get him to close his eyes and go to sleep because the plane was still dark at the time (they turn on the light after take-off) and it was already past his bedtime. However, my hyper toddler could not even sit still, forget to try to sleep!
Tip #8: Tire your toddler out physically as much as possible before the flight. It might be worth letting him/her skip the afternoon nap if you think that he/she could handle it and not be overtired by the time the plane takes off. Your toddler will be extra excited due to the flight, especially if your toddler is flying for the first time, so your toddler needs extra help settling down for the night.
After trying to appease an energetic Alex for an hour on the plane, I gave up and took out the backup plan – the iPad. Of course, my kid has to be the one kid on earth who doesn’t care about the iPad. We are not big on screen time so this was the first time we gave him an iPad to play with, and I thought he would be overjoyed. Instead, he played each game for 1 min max and then gave me back the iPad.
Tip #9: Do not count on any one toy to entertain your kid. A lot of the blogs I read before the flight recommended bringing lots of arts/crafts and download games on the iPad for in-flight entertainment, but none of those worked on Alex. Pack a variety of toys for the flight because you never know which one will work to calm down a super excited toddler. For us, it ended up being a moose and a bear figurine – who knew?
Usually, Zoe only poops during the night, so I thought I was safe after that last diaper change at the airport. However, she decided that mommy needed more stress and pooped not once, not twice, but THREE times within two hours. Each time I tried to convince Alex to come to the bathroom with me, but he refused. I probably could have asked the flight attendant to watch Alex while I ran to the bathroom with Zoe, but I was too paranoid that Alex would freak out without me and make a big scene. I ended up laying the changing pad across the seats, kneeled on the floor, and changed Zoe while Alex bounced up and down on his seat like a trampoline.
Tip #10: Don’t bring a few extra diapers – Bring LOTS of extra diapers, along with extra wipes and a changing pad. I packed extra disposable changing sheets so that I could just chuck them after use, which made things a lot easier than folding up the changing pad and putting it back in my luggage when I was in a cramped space.
Zoe fell asleep at one point after crying for a while, then all the sudden she woke up and projectile vomited all over me and herself. I was SOAKED. I somehow convinced Alex to follow me to the bathroom, where I changed a sleepy, screaming Zoe and myself. The good news was that I brought extra clothes; the bad news was that I did not bring extra underwear. After a couple of minutes, Alex got impatient because the bathroom was so small for three of us and almost opened the door and ran out while I was butt naked.
Tip #11: Bring extra clothes for yourself (including bra and underwear). It’s hard to remember to pack for yourself when you are packing for two little humans but this one is critical. I was lucky that Zoe didn’t end up having a blowout and pooping all over me, but her projectile vomiting definitely made up for it. A long flight while sitting in curdled breastmilk would not have been fun.
We got Alex this cute neck pillow for sleeping. It was a nice, cozy lion that I would have loved to use if it fit me. Alex didn’t even want to try it because he didn’t want something touching his neck. Then when bedtime came around, he couldn’t get comfortable enough to sleep and kept shifting and trying different positions. Finally, 3 hours after his normal bedtime, he fell asleep.
Tip #12: Pack your toddler’s favorite pillow, blanket, stuffed animal, or whatever item that your toddler associates with sleep for the flight. This will help set the mood for him/her to sleep. If you are planning to use a neck pillow, take it out a couple of weeks before the flight and let him/her use it during car rides so that he/she gets used to having it around his/her neck and resting his/her head on it to sleep.
We landed about 1.5 hours later. My arms were killing me from holding Zoe the whole time, but I would die before I risk waking her up mid-flight. By the time the plane landed, my arms felt like they were going to fall off and I lost feeling in some of my fingers.
Tip #13: Ask the stewardess for extra blankets and pillows at the beginning of the flight. You never know when you might need it to help your toddler sleep or to support your arms while holding your baby.
I waited until everybody got off the plane, then asked the stewardess to help get my luggage and the stroller. Finally, helpful people!!! One of them offered to hold Zoe while I put on the carrier, and I transferred Alex from his seat to the stroller. I almost kissed one of the stewardesses when she offered to help wheel my luggage for me to customs.
Alex woke up while we were at customs and started to cry. He was super tired, but he was having trouble staying asleep in the tiny stroller. We went past customs and I sped walk towards the exit. We had to walk past a huge swarm of people at baggage claim before reaching the exit. Multiple planes must have landed at similar times because the baggage claim area was packed. Zoe was screaming in the carrier, and Alex looked like he was about to throw the biggest fit ever. As I walked towards the crowd, people stared at me with huge eyes as if I had a ticking bomb in my hands, and cleared the way as I hurried towards the exit. I felt like I was Moses and had the power to part the Red Sea as people backed away from me slowly left and right.
So I completed my first trip with the kids by myself, and I survived… barely.
What are some of your experiences flying alone with the kids? Any helpful tips?