It’s funny because I remember preparing for our first flight last year. I was (almost) terrified. 5 hours in one seat! Lexi had NEVER been able to sit still. Long car trips could be a nightmare, but at least you can stop. I had no idea what to expect. I was hoping she’d sleep, but that usually lasts an hour. We could read books for an hour. Then maybe iPad/iPhone for an hour. But then what on earth could you do in an airplane cabin for another 2 hours?
In reality, it’s really not that big of a deal.
So anyone freaking out right now about their first flight with a child, stop!
After that first trip thinking about making the same trip next year for the ABC expo, I was not in the least worried. Granted it partially had to do with how much she’s grown, but also with things like that I think it’s just the fear of unknown. So we flew again: Miami-Las Vegas– LA-Miami. And then again Miami- Mexico and then again Miami- LA and on and on. We have at least 2 international and 2 domestic trips planned for this summer. And I am more than excited at the prospect of flying with Lexi.
A few people asked for whatever tips I learned from my first experience and I am going to oblige! 🙂 I am by no means an expert, so these are just our expereinces.
This might be a no-brainer but get a business class seat. If you can’t afford a business class seat, try flying Spirit. We had to fly Spirit because at the time of booking that was the only airline with a direct flight that wasn’t all booked. And I read some negative reviews about the airline (Oh man, people love to bitch! WTF!), but we kind of didn’t have a choice. The tickets themselves are super cheap, but then you have to pay for bags and can choose to upgrade to a big front seat (equivalent of business class). So after all that, you end up in the same fare level as an economy class on another standard airline. Oh My God, it is worth every penny to upgrade. Like, there is no question we will always book a big front seat if we ever fly Spirit again. 70-99 bucks per seat are SO worth it!
Don’t bring toys! For kids under two, a toy or two don’t really mean a lot of playtime. At least it never did for Lexi. Full pretend play isn’t 100% yet, so they can’t sit there and imagine things while playing. They will get bored and you will have lugged a bunch of useless things. I thought it was a great idea to bring an airplane toy- I mean she would be fascinated, right? As much as I want to say that I was right… I was wrong. Couldn’t care less after 2 minutes of play and I ended up lugging it in my purse the whole trip.
Instead load up on airplane and airport related books and leave the airplane at home to do some talking about it when you arrive.
Things that DID work:
B toys drawing pad – at 1.5 this really worked great! She would doodle on it for a long time for such a small kid without making a mess.
Pinhole story books – Love these! I made a book about our Disney trip and we read it throughout the flight and then she spent a decent time looking through the photos.
Snacks – Some of our favorite snacks to take on the plane are Gimme Seaweed snacks ( kids LOVE these), Ginnybakes bars, Sweetie pie snacks, berries from home and Olives to Go ( because she is obsessed with olives)
Scotchi games – These are actually perfect for the planes if you’re not afraid to lose pieces. These are velcro based games that Lexi just adores.
2 years old+
Since that first experience, Lexi has taken a few more flights. Definitely not as many as some kids, but she handles flights really well at this point. Flying with her at 3 is really kind of fun.
Here is how our normal flight experience goes at 3 years old.
The biggest issue, most of the time, becomes having to get up really early to make the flight. This is the ONLY time we ever wake Lexi up from her sleep. While we always hope that she would go back to sleep in the car (since we often fly out of an airport 2 hours away from us due to MUCH cheaper flights), but she never does. She perks up and is up for the day. If we are traveling somewhere far, that usually translates into a cranky kid towards the end of the trip and always in the custom’s line.
So we wake up, we get to the airport and she is JUST ABSOLUTELY excited to travel. I remember the second time she flew she developed some fears of being in the airport (noise, commotion, unknown atmosphere) and would not let me put her down. Having a stroller with me really helped that issue. But on the next trip, she seemed perfectly fine, so at this point we don’t bring the stroller and just walk through the airport and the lines. However, I definitely recommend taking a stroller for kids who aren’t as excited about traveling since it gives them a sort of safe familiar space to hang out in and lets you keep them restrained and your hands free.
She is very aware of everything that is going on around her, so we made sure to explain to her about the “X-ray machine” (security check) that she was already obsessed with from her Cat in the Hat Learning Library books (Inside Your Outside). So she was very excited to go through an “X-ray machine”, while the flight before it scared her enough that she didn’t want to come down. Also, remember you can walk through holding your kid if your child is scared. They don’t need to go on their own even if the TSA agent tries to make you.
If you travel often, whether it’s oversees or domestically, go get your GlobalEntry or TSA Pre-check application done. There is NOTHING better than not having to be hassled with taking your shoes off, and your computers out of your carry-ons. You JUST WALK THROUGH. It is beautiful! Global Entry also lets you get back into US without having to go through Customs, you just scan your passport and you’re done. Global Entry also automatically gives you TSA Pre-check rights.
Once we are done through security, waiting for the plane, even with a long layover is never an issue. She is just excited and busy running around, watching planes take off and land, looking for snacks, eating, drinking and talking to numerous old ladies who love starting a conversation with her.
Really at this age what works are little figurines to play with on the plane. I tend to buy a new set for every flight ( princesses, or calico critters, or any of the Disney characters) and she plays with them for a bit.
Taking Powerclix with us has been really amazing too. These two types of toys really serve well on the plane and in the hotel since she often combines them to build houses for her little figures.
Can’t do without it. Big fan of the iPad on the plane. I find and load some new educational apps she hasn’t seen and/or some shows in Russian and she is all set. However, I’ve been noticing that she is more interested in watching the in-flight TV channels, which combined with toys, snacks, iPad and a nap (since flying usually means an early wake up time) can easily take up anyways between 5 and 9 hours.
We have ALWAYS used Kids Fly safe Cares Harness and it works really fabulously. I really hate to have to deal with car seats on the plane especially when flying solo and checking one is pretty much as bad as getting into an accident and can void the warranty. For the destination, I usually purchase a cheap car seat for the rental car and then sell it as used to recoup some of the cost. However, I’ve never flown with Lexi in a car seat in the plane. This harness system work up to 40 pounds, super easy to put on and keep your child safe.
When the flight is over, I always wait for everyone to leave to take get my stuff and get going. It’s much better than trying to get the carry-on, pack everything up all while paying attention to Lexi and dodging rushing people around you..
Going through long customs lines when arriving at a foreign destination is challenging, but doable. I try to engage her in what’s going on around her. We fill out customs forms together, we count steps, I explain to her what a customs agent is and what he is going to ask, she gets to ride on the luggage cart through the line. So it works.
This is what my last carry on looked like:
My laptop ( I usually get lots of work done on flights)
Change of clothing including undies ( new addition after she spilled a drink on herself and screamed to get out of wet clothes lol)