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14 lessons learned during my son’s first flight
This past weekend, we traveled with our son Jai for the first time by plane. I was so excited to get to Dallas and see my family and friends for a fun weekend celebrating my cousin Samit’s engagement. But what I wasn’t so thrilled about and was actually quite nervous about was how the actual flight to Dallas and back would be. Even though I had talked to my fellow Chai Mommas and other friends and family who have experience flying with kids and I prepared based on their advice, I still wasn’t as ready as I could have been. And it wasn’t Jai who was the issue. He was pretty close to perfection the entire trip. My friend booked some flights with Flysafair flights so I decided to book some flights too. I love to travel!
Of course, there was the occasional whine of boredom or cry of annoyance over the fact that he couldn’t move around as freely as he’s used to at home. But overall, he was really, really good. I guess we learn from trial and error and here’s a few things that I learned from this first flight that I thought I’d share. Some things that I did that really helped, other things that I should have done and will definitely consider for the next plane ride to who knows where…hopefully, somewhere warm and tropical. In which case I might have to check out Pharmavaccs vaccinations to ensure we are safe wherever we go!
Share your flying with babies/kids tips and tricks by leaving a comment below too!!
1. Get to airport early
So our flight was scheduled to depart at 6:45am. And we thought that leaving by 5:30am would give us enough time. Plus, it’s hard enough for us to get up earlier than 5am that we just couldn’t imagine waking up a baby. But it was the best flight time from our choices and we went with it. I guess in retrospect, I would have rather taken a later flight or gone a day earlier. I think because it was so early it was hard to get out of the house any earlier than we did. But you need more time with a baby (I say give yourself a good 1.5 to 2 solid hours) to get through the entire check-in/security process compared to when it’s just you. We had to park, take elevators since we had his stroller and could have benefitted from more time.
2. Get a seat for the baby too
We just figured it would be fine to travel with Jai sitting on our laps. And for the most part it worked. But there were many times during the flights that both of wished that we had that extra seat. My husband is a tall guy at 6’3″ and already struggles with flying being all cramped up in these poor excuses for seats on planes thesedays. With a busy toddler on his lap and a pregnant wife beside him, we think it might have been better to have that extra seat. If you’re traveling with an infant, I think it’s a really good idea to get that extra seat and bring a car seat on board (let them know when you’re purchasing the ticket and also at check in that you want to bring it with you) to have somewhere to put the baby when you’re not feeding, when baby’s sleeping or when you need a break. I’ve seen flight attendants help moms install the car seat on the plane too. So don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it!
If it’s easier for you, then definitely take advantage of pre-boarding. Some moms I talked to prefer to board last so that they can tire their kids out before boarding in hopes that they will sleep easily on the plane. On the way back, we decided to step up and pre-board with first class passengers. They didn’t announce pre-boarding for anyone such as the elderly, disabled or people traveling with kids…so we just stepped up in line. It worked out so well. We didn’t feel as rushed. We left our stroller at the gate, boarded with just ourselves, one carry on and my diaper bag. There were hardly any people on the plane at that point too so getting situated was so much easier. Compared to our flight to Dallas where we boarded almost last since we were pushing it time-wise, this was such a breeze.
4. Make sure to be clear that you need seats together when booking flight
For some reason, my husband and I didn’t get seats together when we booked. And on the way there, it wasn’t a big deal to get new seat assignments with the agent at the counter when we checked in. But on the way back, we ran into the same issue and when I went to the gate agent to ask her to get us seated together…she for one, seemed annoyed then proceeded to tell me that it was impossible at this point. Then after me just standing there for ten minutes…she looked up and said I think this can work and handed me two boarding passes with seats 22E and 22F. Thank God! I was so nervous at what we were going to do if she coudn’t make it work for some reason. And nervous at the thought of having to scuffle around and convince people to trade with us once we boarded. I hate doing that so again, being clear with this is a good idea.
5. Just remember going through security will 99% suck but having a systematic approach helps
So we made it in the airport with all our gear – woo hoo! But then the dreaded security check. Our departing airport didn’t have a family line…was kind of annoyed with that since we were already running late and I think it may have helped smooth out the process some. But oh well. Again, another thing to keep in mind…not all airports are the same! It’s best to keep it simple. What I mean by this is…be prepared. Keep everything organized and in it’s home. If you’re traveling with your husband or partner, then designate tasks. We decided to gate check our umbrella stroller (a great idea to have by the way!) which meant we had to go through security with it. That was a pain…but we got all the major pieces on first – like the carry on suitcase, the diaper bag (which I took out his milk and water) and my purse (which I took out the ipad). Then we took off all our shoes (I’ll get back to the shoes in a second) and put them in their own bin along with belts, watches and phones. Finally, we took Jai out of the stroller, put the stroller on the conveyor belt and I carried him with me through the check. Of course, Jai was screaming, people were staring at us but we had a system in place, we tried to stay calm…and it worked to keep the chaos to a minimum.
6. Designate a “home” for everything
Ok so remember in lesson #5 I talk about keeping it all organized with everything having its own home. Well, we learned our lesson with this one. During all of the craziness of getting on the plane during the flight to Dallas, we didn’t put our driver’s licenses back in our wallets. They ended up in the side zip pocket of the carry on suitcase. This became a big problem after we landed in Dallas and needed ID’s to get our rental car. The Dallas airport is going through major changes right now and so we decided it was better for me to wait near baggage claim with Jai while Hitesh took a shuttle to the rental pickup area. Of course Hitesh got all the way down there to realize that he didn’t have his license in his wallet. He had to come all the way back and then go back again, wait in a long line…all while we are waiting for him…it sucked. Of course, I was lucky that Mr. Jai was content eating snacks and playing with the iPad the entire time or we would have been in big trouble! Moral of the story is – keep your id’s, important documents in the right place – in their home – no matter what. Traveling with kids can leave your brain mushy and foggy…but stay clear with this to save time and future annoyances.
7. Know the rules
Ok back to lesson #5 again…remember how I also mentioned shoes? Well, in Dallas after getting through Security…this darling little agent told me laughingly…next time, don’t take your son’s shoes off. You don’t have to take their shoes off for anyone who is 12 and under. I had no idea. And I would have loved to have known this before hand because Jai was already annoyed and it sent him over the edge when I tried to take his shoes off only to put them back on again a few minutes later. Every little thing helps and knowledge of this would have too.
8. Apologize in advance
So as soon as we settled in…I introduced myself to the girl sitting next to us and also loudly announced in advance so that everyone could hear me – those seated in front and especially the back of us – that this was Jai’s first flight and that we weren’t sure how he was going to do but that we apologize for any annoying crying or disturbances coming from our direction. The girl seated next to us was so nice about everything even letting me invade her space a little if I needed. She even tried to entertain Jai some. On the flight back, I did the same thing and I think people appreciate hearing it from parents. I know there are going to be annoyed people no matter what you say or do to help pacify the situation…like the guy who’s seat Jai accidentally kicked maybe three times. But overall, I think it helps to break the ice and most people are usually receptive to it.
9. Watch that sippy cup
So there was a little water show on the flight to Dallas. We soaked ourselves plus the bald guy’s head who was seated in front of us along with the nice girl next to us amongst others. After Jai had a snack, I went to offer him some water. I pulled out the sippy cup, opened the top and water sprayed out everywhere. Hitesh was like “what are you doing?!!!” And I was so startled that I even tried to open it once more to see if it would happen again. I know dumb…but I was so surprised. But pressure changes during air flight can cause spillproof sippy cups (the ones with valves) to leak. So the best thing to do I’ve learned is to only fill them halfway, unscrew the top a few times during the ascent to equalize the pressure inside and outside of the cup and you should be ok. Luckily, people found the water to be “refreshing” as one guy jokingly told me. Thanks goodness for the humor he had!
10. Use the bathroom ahead of time
It helps to use the bathroom right before you board or as soon as you’re settled on the plane. It’s one less thing to have to get up for later. Of course depending on how long your flight is…or if you’re pregnant, etc…you may have to go again. But at least you’re good for awhile and if baby happens to fall asleep in your lap you won’t have to disturb him to get up and go.
11. Speak UP
One thing I noticed on the trip is that in general, people are willing to help when they see you with lots of bags and a baby in tow. Hitesh was able to handle most of it…but if we needed it, there was a helping hand. It made me feel better for any future traveling I may do solo with kids. But if people don’t offer, then speak up and just ask. Ask nicely. Most people are gracious enough to offer a hand or two.
12. Keep calm and carry on
This goes for everyone who is traveling with you too. Young children and babies don’t always understand that concept…we can’t expect them to. But as adults, we must be patient and give off a calmness even when we are agitated, annoyed and stressed. Kids feed off of our energy and if they sense our frustration, things usually only get worse. So take a deep breath and remember, this too shall pass. You will get on the plane eventually, get off the plane eventually and get to where you’re going, eventually. So relax. Some people use things like hemp oil to help them relax on a flight, so it might be worth exploring hemp oil benefits to see if that could help you to relax when you are flying.
13. Laugh it all off
I found myself laughing numerous times during our travels to Dallas and back. Laughter is kind of my therapy and how I deal with weird, tricky, complicated situations…sometimes, my laughter is completely inappropriate. But I found that even when I had the most anxiety, like when Jai’s sippy cup exploded and became an unwanted shower for all of us…I was able to laugh it off. You kind of have to. Unforeseen things happen when it’s just you traveling yourself and with kids it becomes even more of a guarantee that something may not go quite as you planned. But if you can roll with it and just have a a little sense of humor about it…you tend to move on and get over the annoyances quicker.
14. Ignore when necessary
You will encounter people who have no patience for a baby or kid on a plane. And they will boldly stare at you, give you annoying looks. Looks that will make you feel like a bad parent for not having you kid under control…leaving you to feel even more out of control and even more upset that you can’t stop your kid from crying, kicking, screaming, laughing – yes, some people get annoyed with laughing babies too. To the ONE – yep just one – guy who gave us several mean looks when we were traveling back to Orange County…we saw you and chose to ignore you. Because I know even 100 apologies would not have changed anything for you. Please know that we did everything we could to stop our curious, busy Jai from kicking your seat the four times that he did.