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Leaving On A Jet Plane. . . Part Deux


So here I sit, once again at 1am, obsessing about my upcoming flight. Only, on this trip, I am adding an extra carry-on into the mix.
Jackson's first trip at 3 months.
I find myself running through the same obsessions in my head, and procrastinating as I always do, but this time, I am packing for two. UGH. If you have never traveled with a toddler or baby, you know that there is really no way to prepare for what may transpire in the air. 
Being that his Mom is currently a globe-trotter by trade, Jackson has already been on 8 planes in his 16months. Well, 9 if you count the one that we sat on for over 3 hours waiting for a mechanical problem to be fixed, before being sent to another airline anyway. 
2nd leg of our last trip to L.A. in December

So far, the flights with my lil' monster have been relatively perfect. Any crying was honestly the result of me not unbuttoning my shirt fast enough. On our last trip, we were actually complimented by several passengers and one of the flight attendants. PHEW, "fooled them again!" . . .

None of this good fortune has calmed my nerves in anticipation of what COULD happen. He COULD decide that he will be practicing his new found deafening scream. He COULD get bored with all of the distractions I have packed, and start throwing them at unsuspecting passengers. He COULD want nothing to do with me. He COULD open and close the window shade for the entire 3 hour flight. He COULD just be his sweet, inquisitive self, and want to play peek-a-boo with the guy behind us. . . 700 times. 
Open. Close. Open. Close. Open.

No matter what happens, we will get to our destination in one piece. We will have an amazing visit with our family. We will live. And we will have to get BACK on a plane in a few days. 
I have a confession to make. I was one of those passengers that cringed whenever I saw a baby boarding the plane. I have turned to my neighbor and said "Seriously, they let babies in first class? Awesome". But I was also one of those passengers that sympathetically smiled at the parents as they frantically walked up and down the aisle with a screaming baby. And I have complimented the parents when their baby was silent the entire trip 
(probably doped up on Benadryl . . . just saying). 

It all evens out, I guess. Now, I have a new found respect for traveling parents, and it feels like a right of passage, or a sort-of fraternity that is REALLY tough to belong to, one where the hazing never stops.  
EVER.

Here are some tips that I found worked well for us.
  1. Arrive at the airport with enough time. I have almost NEVER done this, but I am spoiled. I am a frequent traveler, so I am used to flying through security with preferred status. I don't remember the last time I have had to take off my shoes. If you don't travel regularly, it could take some getting used to even WITHOUT a baby in tow. 
  2. Wear that baby - The TSA no longer requires you to remove your baby from his carrier or wrap. You may just need to have your hands swiped to check for explosive residue. Easy-Peasy
  3. If possible, buy a car seat at your destination. We found one at Target.com for $40. It has great reviews. If you don't have preferred status with the airline you are flying with, you could be charged up to $100 to have your car seat checked. Aside from $$$, you should also be concerned with the condition in which that car seat is returned. Have you ever watched the pieces of luggage being thrown all over while the plane is being loaded? A car seat is meant to provide safety to your child in a car. Not to be thrown around, possibly damaged and buried under hundreds of pounds of baggage. (I have been warned by airline employees not to bring my own for this reason.) You can donate it once you're done, or leave it with friends and family. It is a much cheaper route to go. 
  4. Get some baby Earplanes. These are easy to use, and come in adult sizes too! I use them all the time. 
  5. Leave the stroller at home - Please think about pushing a stroller, grabbing a toddlers hand as they are running away from you, re-balancing your purse on your shoulder, holding your coffee cup between your teeth, while dragging your carry on with your free (foot?). *see #1
  6. Do not board the plane early. You should take advantage of the time you have in the "spacious" terminal for all the running/wiggling/fussing/diaper changing, before getting too close for comfort with people that do not want to share their flight with you anyway. 
  7. Bring snacks. Lots of them! You will likely ignore #3, and board the plane early, because it feels good to jump the line. . . admit it. Now you will find yourself sitting for at least 30 minutes, trying to entertain your mini-traveler. If you run out of snacks, you are screwed. Plain and simple. 
  8. Bring Scotch Tape. More specifically, double sided. This occupied my little one for at least 20 minutes. (thanks to AA :))
  9. If you are nursing, do it during take off and landing. Their poor little ears want to pop, and the sucking will help. If you are not nursing, a bottle or a pacifier could help. Even eating something chewy is a good option. It is very important to do this when as the plane is speeding up to take off, and as soon as you feel the initial descent.
  10. (headphones are a must.)
  11. Bring your iPad. If you do not have an iPad, BUY an iPad (or similar). I was one of those people that said "My kid will NEVER play with "my" electronics". Yep, I owe yet ANOTHER apology to all moms that I silently judged for handing their toddler an expensive piece of technology.
  12. Make sure you are sitting where you want to be sitting. I personally like the window seat, but if you know you need to pace the aisle, or maybe want the option to get to the bathroom quickly, an aisle seat would be better. (I am currently booked for a MIDDLE seat, which is adding to my anxiety tremendously)
  13. Smile. A LOT. Smile at the agent at the ticket counter (she may be able to give you a better seat.) Smile at the TSA agent, as they swipe your hands. . . they make minimum wage, and this process can get a LOT worse, TRUST ME. Smile at the gate agent, as you go up to see if there are any better seats, a smile will get them if they are available. A pissed off mom with a screaming baby, will not. And MOST importantly, smile at the passengers as you board the plane. They are probably dreading flying with your child just as much as you are, and it helps to soften the blow if you are pleasant about it. 
  14. Do not overpack. I know, easier said than done . . . but I am, serious. You want to be able to grab and go. First, it isnt legal for you to have more than 2 carry-ons. Unless your child is old enough to have their own (purchased) seat, that means 2 total. You will get better at this as time goes on. 
  15. Ask the gate agent if there are any open seats so your little one can have theri own. This is where #8 comes into play. Jackson has NEVER had to sit on my lap during a flight. I have even had passengers move to allow for more space. (I'm sure they weren't motivated by moving to a baby-free row at all!)
  16. Try not to fly with connections. One flight is doable, two is kind of pushing it. Tomorrow will be our first direct flight. I really should take my own advice! 
  17. Finally . . . BREATHE. No matter how good, or crazy your travel ends up, it will never be the end of the world. There is ALWAYS a parent on the flight that totally understands what you are going through. 
    If you happen to be traveling with another adult, many of these tips can be tweaked because you have some help. As a single mom, I have just been going through this by trial and error.
    Wish us luck tomorrow  in 12 hours.
    Sitting on the "broken down" plane coming home from L.A.
    Still Smiling!

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