Some Words on Traveling with a Small Child on an Airplane

Traveling with your family on a long plane trip with your small child can be a stressful, tiring experience. Traveling alone with your small child on an airplane falls more in the category of adjectives such as "miserable" or "harrowing".

The thing about overseas flights with children is that children are not required to have their own airplane seat until they are two. Under two years of age, they can just ride with you on your lap, and pay only a small portion of the ticket price. Mind you, this is not an optimal traveling scenario. Having a small, squirming child in your lap during any kind of airplane ride seriously inhibits you from doing anything on the plane - eating, resting, reading...breathing. The absolute worst scenario for you and everyone around you would be when there are no extra seats at all on the plane, and you would have to hold your baby in your lap in the middle of a row of seats...with other passengers sitting on both sides of you....for the whole 12-hour trans-Atlantic flight. In fact, I feel sick right now just thinking about it. It falls in the "Top Five Bad Dreams of Mothers", in my opinion.

Sometimes people will spring for the full seat price for their child, just to ensure they will have somewhere to put the baby some of the time, but it's hard to fork out that extra $600 fee when there is a chance that you might not need to pay that at all. Most parents just hope for the best... and then resort to any possible way to arrange an empty seat next to them to let baby and parents can have their own, separate space. They might order their tickets six months in advance and let their special seat needs be known then. Or they will call the airlines office every single day as the flight gets closer, checking the current seating status of their flight. Sometimes they arrive on Flight Day with special gifts for those airline workers that make those kind of arrangements. I have even known parents who resorted to handing out free drink coupons to other passengers seated where they wanted to be, in order to entice them to trade seats to give parent and baby more space. There's nothing like a parent with a small child (who might or might not be crying already) handing out free drink coupons to make people jump up and scurry away to a new place.

Fortunately, I didn't have to fly with the boys alone very often, but when I did, I employed several tactics to try and make the flights go even a little bit easier.

First, I employed every effort to secure a free seat beside me, using the steps mentioned above. I didn't hand out free drink coupons (probably only because I didn't have any), but I did plead with every airline employee that I could to arrange this situation for me.

Second, I packed a lot of diversions. On the solo flight with Jacob that I mentioned on the last post, I had my mom bring me every kind of toy and interesting diversion that she could out of her teacher stash. I had all kind of little bags with linking chains, plastic animal counters, scarves, things to look through, touch, open, close, and pull out. I ended up with a huge bag of tricks, and I pulled out one after another. My pattern was to let the child entertain himself first with any built-in airplane entertainment (tray tables, overhead lights, magazines to pull of of the seat pocket in front of you, sick bags, etc.). Only when they had grown tired of those would I pull out my goodies.

Third, I was prepared to walk the aisles of that plane the whole flight, if I needed to. This was back in the days that the flight attendants didn't mind you being in the aisles so much. Those big airplanes would have two aisles, so you could potentially walk your baby in a small loop all the way across the ocean. Aisles were (and are) a great thing for travelling with small children.

Lastly, I always had a "mantra" to keep saying to myself when traveling with the boys. Mine was "I'm never going to see these people ever again." By "these people", I meant the other passengers that might have their in-flight experience peppered with my sons' screams, screeches, or other meltdowns. In fact, on the one long flight I had with Jacob alone, I said this to myself about 100 times - every time Jacob would hit the person next to him with one of his objects - his sippy cup, the toys he was tired of, even his soft yellow blanket - over and over and over. My thoughts went something like this, "Uh oh, he just hit the man again. Good thing we will never see him again...Yep, that was a sippy cup right in the dinner tray of Mr. We'll Never See You Again....Okay, I'm so glad we won't see that man again, since Jacob just threw a toy at him...Good job moving over, sir. Now we can pretend you aren't over there and start that "never see you again" phase of our relationship." And so on.

All in all, we survived all of these long trips, and every trip we took had something at the end of it that made the hardships worth it. However, thinking about those years and those flights still breaks me out in a cold sweat and sends me into my deep breathing mode. Some stages in life are just better left behind us.

Barbara  – (16 August 2009 at 17:58)  

You also say, "I'll never see that person again" when he looks disapproving as Jacob finger paints with this butter all over the food tray, don't you?

Post a Comment

Post a Comment

  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP