WE DID IT.
WE FLEW ACROSS THE COUNTRY WITH A TWO-AND-A-HALF-WEEK-OLD AND A TODDLER, AND EVERYONE IS ALIVE AND AT LEAST HAPPY-ISH, AND ALSO WE DID NOT GET DIVORCED MID-FLIGHT.
Sorry for all the caps. I feel like this one deserves them.
Truth? I was sort of hoping that what happened would happen – which was that our son watched his iPad 100% of the time and our daughter either slept or stared at shadowy spots on the wall and made cute gurgling sounds when she was hungry – but I didn’t want to jinx us by saying it. But it was totally fine, approaching “awesome” (there was even one point when I NAPPED, and again there are those all-caps because you do not nap with two children on a plane, and yet: I did), and I have emerged from the experience with lots of ideas for how you, too, can fly across the country with kids and emerge with at least some portion of your sanity intact.
1. Oh my god, be so organized. Make a list for everything: what goes in the diaper bag, what goes in your purse, what chargers you need to bring…everything. Make lists for your lists. Be a weirdo about it; you will be happy you were weird later.
2. Snacks and snacks and so many more snacks. I wish I had taken a photo of the lunchbox I packed for the trip, because it was kind of spectacular and probably the most Pinterest-worthy thing I’ve ever done. Basically, I just filled a million snack-sized Ziplocs with a million snacks (veggie sticks, cherry tomatoes, cereals, pretzels, et cetera) – variety is key – and whipped them out like a ninja any time my son made even the slightest peep.
3. Do not forget the surprise toy. The surprise toy will save you. It doesn’t have to be big, but it does have to be wildly exciting. You know what your child gets excited by. Bring one of those. (I also did some serious talking-up of animal crackers in the week leading up to our flight – our son’s facial expression up there is actually less “grumpy” than “please get me on that plane RIGHT NOW so that I can eat these magical crackers that apparently you only get to eat while flying.”)
4. Keep the clutter under control, lest ye perish buried under a pile of GoGoSqueez tubes. I always tuck a couple of plastic bags into the diaper bag and hang one on the back of the seat right when I board, and then use it as a trash bag so that all those wrappers and tissues and such don’t pile up in between visits from the flight attendants. Having an organized, clean seating area makes me feel like I’ve got it all under control (or at least look like I do), even during those times when I…don’t.
5. Offer Bottle Service. During takeoff and landing small children will likely have trouble clearing their ears, so either nurse or give your kids something to drink during those times.
6. Be kind to your seat mates. My children were tiny angels on this particular trip, but this has not always been so in the past. When meltdowns happen, as they can and do and will, sending over a cocktail to the lady who just got whacked in the head with a crayon will do wonders. Also: no seat kicking. Seat kicking is the worst, and “no seat kicking” should be a hard-and-fast rule.
7. Be lovely to your flight attendants. They are your best friends when it comes to travel and children, and will likely do everything they can to make all of you happier and more comfortable, up to and including giving you a hug if you really need one (which, after five hours in a confined space with a toddler, you might).
8. Don’t forget to appreciate the view. Even if you usually shut the window shade and tune out on flights, try to take a moment to take a peek. There’s nothing like showing a few clouds to your children to remind you just how magical it is to fly.