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Airplane travel with toddlers

Posted by Kristen on January 22, 2009 at 6:40 AM in KristenRaising Boys
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Do you ever have one of those moments in parenting when you think, "I'm thinking a do-over would be helpful right about now?"

I got on a plane last week with Ethan and Nathan. I am 8 months pregnant. We had two seats for the three of us. Several people asked why I didn't buy an extra seat so we would each have one. Besides the fact that money doesn't grow on trees around here, it was a matter of principal. The airline will be extorting money out of me as of February, when Nathan becomes two. They are already getting me for $15 a bag and a 50 pound weight limit for my bag. I'm not giving them one extra dollar until I am required. I think there may have been a fee more fees I am forgetting about right now but it seems like you are constantly pulling out your wallet.

It's always that game when you get on a plane. Do you go during nap time and hope for the best (only if you have lost your mind)? Early in the morning, requiring you to wake the kids up before their normal rising time? I did all of these things and needless to say, I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown right there on the plane.

To be honest, I think the key is a crowded vs. empty flight. No good is ever going to come from having someone sit in the seat in front of your toddler. Especially if that person is not quite bright enough to realize that the little feet couldn't reach the seat to kick it until he placed it in a full recline mode. And he didn't think to just put the seat back up to solve the problem of the kicking feet or my 300th "STOP TOUCHING THE SEAT." He just turned and glared. I wanted to feel bad but his solution was right in front of him. I have to live with my problem until high school graduation at least.

I had the complete bag of tricks (stickers, markers, paper, books, glue, fruit snacks). There is really nothing you can do when you have two children with more energy than a power plant. The trip was well worth it but I have to say I'm glad that I will never again have to travel as a big pregnant woman alone with two kids. At least the older one didn't throw up. Tell me your tragic travel story. I need to feel like I'm not the only one to make such a crazy decision in my emotional/physical state.


Julie writes...

Hi Kristin,

I am a mom of three boys who are currently 9, 8, and 5. I have been traveling via air since they were each/all babies.

I will say that toddler time was the most difficult. Although, you are in close quarters with many others I try to stay in my own world.

If the other passengers have that much of an issue with a child's noise, feet, diaper, etc. They should fly in first class! No matter if one pays $200 or $800 for the coach seat they must realize the close proximity of other passengers.

Pacifiers or drinking helps ease the ears of the little ones. Discuss with your pediatrician as well, mine always has great advice.

I have two 'most memorable' in flight experiences. (1) In first class with my 2 month old son when my breast start spraying and drenching my grey pantsuit with large circular spots. (2) Most recently my 8 year old consumed a good amount of goldfish snacks on the plane. Then rather loudly announces that he is not feeling so well. I said dear God, please Louis don't throw up! There was nothing he could do to stop it. It was horrible, we wrapped him in blankets to exit the plane. It was on the plane, him and the smell of goldfish was everywhere. I had to buy Louis an entire new outfit in the ATL airport giftshop (fun)! Since ATL wasn't our final destination we spent the entire layover in the bathroom trying to scrub the scent from our in flight bags, shoes, etc.

The best part was a man from this flight was also on our returning flight. You should of seen how hard this man worked to keep Louis focused on sports conversation on the descend.

So, it happens and I say (even if mine are quiet) there is always one on every flight. No big deal if it's yours or someone elses and most of the people you will probably won't see again.

Keep flying and have fun, life is an adventure with three! ;-)


Amber writes...

I'm glad the trip was worth it. Under these circumstances I would say that if everyone made it there and back in roughly one piece, and no one was arrested, then it was a resounding success. ;-)

mary writes...

Hi, my name is mary and I love to read your stories.

one horror story that i had was when i was traveling with my then 1 and a half year old daughter from florida to DC. The trip from DC to florida was okay but it was when we were coming back. I didn't buy an extra seat for her and I didn't bring a stroller with me.

It was okay when we landed at the airport but once we got there was the problem. Apparently the weather in DC was terrible ( a big storm ) so we couldn't get on the plane. I think we waited about an hour before they told us that we would have to wait some more. Then they told us that we could get on, but we ended up waiting another hour on the plane because the plane never got permission to take off. I had this squirmy kid on my lap with two other passengers squeezed next to me. To make things worse, she was having slight fever due to tooth eruption. I couldn't stand it anymore so i excused myself and took the squirmy kid off the plane. I still couldn't get a response as to how long we had to wait. After waiting for another hour (or more it seemed) and with very sugar levels ( i didn't get a chance to have any lunch ) I finally broke down to tears. I finally called my husband and he told me i should just get a hotel. So that was what i did.
We stayed in a hotel for one night and then took another flight the next day. We got to the hotel and both of us just fell on the bed and fell asleep.

The lesson I learned was to always expect the unexpected. It was the worst
experience for me and now I always buy an extra seat. It is alittle hard carrying the car seat around but I think it's worth it.

Reading your story just made me think about my episode...


jen zug writes...

Oh, my son threw up on me when he was nine months old, and he did a stellar job of it - in my hair, in my cleavage, all over the seat. I was horrified by the smell that other passengers had to endure. Fortunately we were approaching the airport!

wendy writes...

When Alli was 18months we were moving to Hawaii and appearantly February is the month of the most turbulance going over there... no one told me. She was barfing and I was holding her bag (thank goodness I got it to her in time) and just the smell and my motion sickness kicked in. Trying to hold 2 bags while she's crying and I'm puking and she's puking...the poor flight attendants couldn't even get up to give us any help. When it was all over, they were so nice to give us cool cloths and saltines.

Linda writes...

I love it! Thank you for putting it into words! We recently flew (myself and our 3 young kids ages 7, 5, and 3) while my husband had to stay home and work. My kids were exceptional during the flight, but the guy in front of us put his seat all the way back, and we had the same problem. My 3 year old was now able to kicky kick kick all the way there. This guy was coming unglued, and I came to the conclusion that he must 'want' this to happen since it's only common sense that when you recline your plane seat all the way back, it is now in the lap of the people behind you. Great post, and I thank you for confirming that I was right all along! :)

Anna writes...

Thank was very refreshing to read something that did NOT make me feel like a horrible parent for not wanting to by my baby a seat, or booking us all in first class.

Alissa writes...

When we flew from San diego to chicag(following on to rome and then sicily in one day) on the first leg of the flight sean was kicking the womans seat and i was constantly tlelig him to stop and even popping him on the legs a bit to try and discourage it. everytime he kicked I did something and appologized to her, to the point where mid flight oi turned his carseat around to try adn stop oit..but he would kick the seat back and shove his carseat into her seat (although much better then two seperate feet)

Everytime this woman gave us a dirty look, and when we were allowe dout of our seats i was up and down the aisle with him to appease her....but I FINALLY had it (the gentleman next to me even noticed her snotty appearance and looks even though i was doing what i could) so the next time she gave me a dirty look even though i smacked his leg and appologized to her i went OFF and said LOUDLY what the heck does this women expect me to do?! tie his legs down. Im doing what i can to stop him, i swear if she gives me one more dirty look even though im hitting my kid and appologizing i will turn him back around and let him to go town on her seat (and she obvioiusly heard because ppl a few rows up turned around..) and sure enough 5 mins later she gave me another dirty look and I did what i said I would do.I even told her Im not going to keep hitting my kid and trying to stop him when you arent even acknpowldging that im doing whta i can, instead you're giving me dirty looks. so im done hitting him.

Lets just say she wasnt too happy because he kept kicking her seat with both feet alternating now.....and props to the flight attendant for not saying much because she told the lady that she has seen my hitting my sons leg (lightly) for the last 3 hours trying to get him to stop anbd there isnt much they can do about it since it was a full flight.

Heidi writes...

My daughter was four months old when we moved from Italy to Florida. What an experience! I had her and all the junk you have to bring with an infant stroller w/ bassinet, car seat & adaptor, diaper bag...on and on), my luggage, TWO cats, and a broken foot. Not to mention flight delays (Ohare!!), forgetting bags on the plane, customs, etc. Enough time has finally passed that I can laugh about this experience and wonder, "What was I thinking..."

It was a real lesson in humility, since I HAD to rely on the kindness of strangers. People were so nice to us. I just couldn't have done it without all the help. So, the moral of the story is...
1) you don't need half the stuff you think you need
2) accept help when offered. People want to help you.
3) be nice to your flight attendants!

Glenn writes...

I am a business flyer, who pays his own wage, therefore flies economy. The number of times I have had a parent watch while their child kicks, pushes thumps the seat in front (mine or someone else's) has led me to invent a rather novel and very effective method of terminating the behaviour, and at the same time educating the parent on the existence of a world outside their little bundle of joy (yes, I am a parent, but an externally aware one, unusually...). I won't go into details, but it involves the child, parent and flight attendant, and involves education of all involved. If you think someone who travels thousands of miles a year should "just get a business class ticket" or "get over it" when they have had 3 hours sleep and have to work that day, then you need to get over yourself, AND your child. Respect is something earned as an adult, but needs to be taught as a child. Jails are full of people whose parents didn't have the time for them.

SERENA writes...

I just read this post, with the same fears of our flight across the world with our 3 yr old (coming up in three weeks). I can see the effort and embarrassment of fellow parents, but Glenn, in his superior wisdom and sarcasm, has failed to actually say what this grand and simple solution might be. From what I can see, most parents are indeed spending their time trying to make life easier for the likes of Glenn

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