Welcome to Mommy Mondays, my one day of the week to gush about my kids.
I got an email from a friend asking for advice on how to fly with her young toddler and I just groaned for her.
The first year of my daughter’s life we flew twenty-six times. We have flown at least every six to eight weeks of her three years. Since was my son was born, I’ve flown with the kids to Oklahoma at least four times (3 hour flights), to our lake house twice (5 hour flights), to Virginia twice (5 hour flights), to Colorado twice, and a few more.
This is at least 20 flights I’ve taken with both my kids who are three years and under. Most of those flights I was solo parenting. So I fair well call myself an expert at this task. Prepare yourself for my infinite wisdom:
It’s not awesome.
I mean, I have my systems: one bag only, pants with pockets, get a seat for the kid. I bring lots of snacks, several small activities, an iPad, and a good attitude. But flying with children is just something you have to endure. Dirty looks from other passengers? Been there. Rising panic as nothing will console a screaming baby? Done it. By far, the hardest age to fly with is the 12 - 24 month set. My son doesn’t want to sit still, nothing much holds his attention, and he’s quick with a yell. Every flight is a lesson in zen mothering.
So, as much as I want to give you the magic formula for the actual flight with your kids, I don’t have it. I cheer you on. I know you can do this! But I bite my lip from takeoff to landing.
Now, I do have thoughts on what will make your actual stay better. ‘Cause the flight may seem like an eternity, but our family continues to book travel because we enjoy the trip.
A few things I do to keep my sanity:
Pack the same way each time.
I have an Ogio backpack that’s a hundred years old and has a million pockets. (Similar to this.) It has seen tens of thousands of flight miles. It is not sexy. It’s not cute, even. But it’s part of my system. I pack it the exact same way every time. Wallet in a certain compartment, planner in a certain compartment, a bottle fits snugly in a side pocket, there’s a hidden area where I stash diapers. It saves me time and stress to pack it up quickly, and to know exactly where stuff is when I need it. Cut down the frazzle every chance you can.
Bring things that are comforting.
When I first flew with a baby, the pediatrician told me to make sure and bring a familiar blanket from home. The smell is soothing. It is helpful at bedtime in a strange place. My daughter has a blankie and it goes with us on every flight. My son has a couple of blankets that he likes to rub on his face, and those go in the bag.
So even if your kid doesn’t have a specific lovie, subconsciously it will bring them comfort to have things (besides toys) from home.
Don’t stress over the time zone change.
One of the most common concerns with flight travel is how to deal with the time change dilemma. We are big sleep schedulers around here. I am not very flexible on bedtime or our nap routine. But when you travel, you gotta roll with it. Trying to stay strict about whatever rules you’ve put in place (whether you decide to adhere to the home time zone, or the traveling time zone), will set yourself up for disaster. When I’m more relaxed about it, the kids adjust on their own after a few days. If the trip is really short, we usually stick to our home time zone because that’s what they do naturally.
If I’m at a loss, or they’re not giving me any signs, I usually split the difference between time zones. Meaning when I travel to Oklahoma, which is a two-hour difference from California, I meet in the middle. Their normal 8pm bedtime becomes 9pm (which is still 7pm in LA). Clear as mud?
Make your return as easy as possible.
Much like I book a seat for my child so I don’t arrive at my destination exhausted and frazzled, I do everything in my power to make the return home less overwhelming. Left to my own devices, I will leave a packed suitcase sitting in the floor in the front hall for days. Which means I end up feeling annoyed and drowning later in the week. So I try and make it easier on myself. This means:
- I turn dirty clothes inside out, so I know exactly what needs to be washed and what needs to be put away when unpacking.
- I force myself to unpack within hours of getting home, if at all possible.
- I give the whole family a 48-hour grace period to be overtired and cranky as we readjust. We usually eat a lot of pizza delivery the first day or so back. It’s when I’ve tried to hit the ground running that we all have a mini-meltdown. Your body and mind have to re-adjust after a trip. Let yourself.
That’s a personal lesson in parenting altogether, I guess.