Friday, May 8, 2015

Flying With Kids: What I've Learned

So if you don't follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you may not know that last month we had to fly across the country for a funeral. My son, who is 10, was super excited about the flight. I figured he'd be pretty good on the plane. My daughter is the one I was stressing about. She is 2 1/2. What the heck do you do to keep a toddler happy on a plane? I asked a few groups I was in, and got pretty much the same answers. I'm going to share those, as well as my own tips from this trip.

We live in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Apparently, the best flight for us was from Phoenix to LAX, then from LAX to Columbus, Ohio (our destination). The flight to LAX was an hour and a half. The following flight to Columbus was 4.5 hours. A total of 6 hours of fly time. I couldn't even imagine what to expect, so I had to ask a few groups I was in.

Since our flight was first thing in the AM, I wasn't too concerned. Then realized that while we'll be leaving LA at about 8:30 am, we'll be landing in Ohio at 5pm. There is a three hour time difference between Pheonix and Ohio. We are three hours behind them. So it'd be just past lunchtime when we land. But somehow I have to convince these two that its dinner time, and then bedtime at what would be our 6pm!? Yikes!

As expected, my son did well on both trips. He has ADHD and is on the Autism Spectrum, but he did really well! He packed a backpack with his Nabi tablet, word search and other stuff to keep him busy.

They seated us all apart each flight...
The kids were assigned to sit together, and my husband and I together...
Not happening.
This pic is the hubby and our son.

Bella watching a movie and drinking some water.
The toddler, she did amazingly well. Until we tried to land. Going up didn't seem to bother her so much, coming down bothered her ears so badly she just cried. She slept about half of the first flight (to LA), then about half of the flight from LA to Columbus. We had to wait for a plane to get pulled out of the way as it had some problems, so we were waiting on the plane for about an extra 10 or so minutes before we could line up for take off. The kids were playing, and they both pretended to sleep, and actually fell asleep LOL. Score one for mommy! Again, landing in Columbus was hard for her. Poor baby. She didn't want any drinks or anything. She had a binky, but that didn't seem to help her.

Coming home was a similar story. We had a layover in Charlotte, then onto Phoenix. Same flying time for these. Only difference was the crazy turbulance we had! So many storms! At one point we couldn't see anything but white outside the plane. The clouds were that thick. The wings of the plane even appeared to disappear. She did OK on that one though. Then slept all of the next flight, but woke up for the final 40 or so mins. AMAZING!

I was so prepared for her. I had headphones, portable DVD player with a few favorite movies. My Kindle Fire HD with a movie or two on it, coloring pages, everything that everyone said I would/should bring.

But that was far too much!!!

I had a few snacks for her. I was able to bring in a pack of juice boxes that were sealed in a pack. They were 4.7 ounces, and they just needed to do an air test on one of them. So they asked me to open it, place the straw in it, and they held their strip over it. She was able to drink that one since it was opened. You are allowed to take drinks for babies/toddlers - they must be declared to the TSA agents and in their own ziplock bag. Keep them sealed together if they come in a multipack (mine was a 3 pack). They must also be in their own bin for scanning.

I did bring her stroller and had it gate checked for every flight. She also had a blanket that doubled as a pillow for her head on the arm rest.

The only thing she really used on the plane was the portable dvd player. That's it! So travelling home meant I could pack a little lighter! Instead of two backpacks (one for me, a backpack purse, and a full size backpack for her), I just used hers and put the few things I needed in hers. I also had diapers and wipes in the backpack. But to be honest, she only needed two changes on the way home, one on the way there. So I over did that one, but that's the one you'd rather be safe than sorry with.

The second leg of the first flight I had the kids with me while my husband sat with his brother (my in laws went too).
Bella slept about half the flight. After a while it was easier to just have her lay here between my son and I.

The second leg of the flight coming home (Charlotte to Phoenix). She slept like this for about 3/4 of the flight. She was only up the last 40 mins or so (the flight was 4.5 hours!) It was a morning flight, and we were still on Phoenix time, so it was still super early for her internal clock. 

Lesson: You can't prepare a toddler for a plane ride. But you can try to get the back of the plane. Its closest to the bathroom if needed, and out of the way so that way there isn't people behind you getting annoyed by your toddler standing on her seat if she chooses. All except one flight we were near the back. I actually kinda liked that.

If your flight allows family boarding, take advantage! If you can pay for priority boarding- DO IT! Some say they'd rather get on last with their child as its less waiting on the plane. Nope. Not me. She wanted to stop and get into empty seats, she wanted to touch people or their things. People don't pay attention to the child that may be walking behind them, or in front of them if your kids following you. They may get hit by a luggage going up (or down!). I'd rather get on first and get her comfy. Our flights didn't offer family boarding. You could pay for it, but we didn't pay for the tickets, so it wasn't something I had. We flew United/US Airways. I wish they were like Southwest and allowed families to board first. For Free.

Don't over pack! I brought way too much stuff on. Even the stroller wasn't needed. We could have done without it and been fine. I was concerned with needing to walk her from terminal to terminal, but it wasn't that bad at all. She would have been fine.

Don't worry if your kid cries. seriously. I didn't say sorry to anyone at all. In fact, on one of the flights there was another kid who cried more than mine! I figure most adults should understand that a toddler or baby isn't going to handle a flight as well as an older kid would. So I think most adults are sympathetic. If they aren't, well they should have bought a ticket in first class.

If you're traveling as a family, stop by the counter at your gate to make sure you're all seated together, or if they can move you towards the back if it isn't a full flight. It will make life a lot easier.

Sometimes you just gotta let go and go with the flow. I know its hard for a lot of us to do. But it can be done!

The scariest part for me: the turbulance! OMG. Going from Columbus to Charlotte, and then trying to leave Charlotte and till we were halfway across the country was horrible!

This picture was of us going to Charlotte. It was raining there, and at times you couldn't even see the wing the clouds were so thick!

What are your tips for traveling with kids? Comment below and let me know!

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