Dear readers, I’m back! I’ve just returned from a fantastic vacation to California to visit my family. It was quite the adventure getting there because it was D2’s first plane ride. To say I was nervous about travelling across the country on my own with a toddler is an understatement. At almost 20 months, D2 is very active and loathes sitting in his car seat for more than a couple of hours. Now I’m a very seasoned traveler having been all around the world for business and pleasure but I shuddered at the thought of being in a steel tube 30,000 feet in the air with a rambunctious little boy for nearly seven hours. To give my little one credit, he was superb on both the outgoing and return trips. He’s definitely inherited my travel genes and is quite the little extrovert. Where ever we went he smiled, waved, blew kisses and darn near charmed the pants off of everyone we encountered. We had no shortage of people offering to help us.
Prepping for our first trip together wasn’t too bad. There’s a decent amount of information on line (as well as plenty of horror stories and cautionary tales chronicled by helpful parents) but I found the site Momaboard to be the most helpful. This site gave helpful advice on everything from the most family friendly airlines to whether or not to carry a car seat on board. Now that I’ve got one trip under my belt, here’s a few things I learned:
- Buy your child his own seat. Technically, if your child is under two he doesn’t have to have his own seat and can sit on your lap. But airlines pack their flights full so you can no longer count on an empty seat to spread out. At 28 pounds D2 is a real bruiser and I knew neither one of us could stand to have him on my lap for six plus hours. It was a good call.
- Pack light. I packed all of our stuff in one suitcase and checked that and his car seat (I found a fabulous wheeling car seat travel bag that kept my convertible car seat from getting trashed. Great investment). Rather than a diaper bag, I carried a backpack which I filled with diapers, bottles of milk, two changes of clothes for D2, toys, baby books, my Kindle and various and sundry snacks.
- Tylenol and a bottle of milk are your friends. Most parents worry about the air pressure hurting their child’s ears. A mom blogger advised me to give D2 Infant Tylenol 40 minutes before the flight as well as a bottle to drink during take off and landing. It worked like a dream – no screaming baby.
- Embrace the wonder of the airport. As a business traveler I’m so focused just on getting to my destination that I tend to ignore everything and everyone around me. D2 was all about exploring the terminal and meeting and greeting waiting passengers. He also loved watching planes pull in and out of the gate. On the plane, he was endlessly fascinated with the seat belt, the pull down window shade and seat back tray table (apologies to the people who sat in front of us on the way to California). Children really open your eyes to the mundane. Cherish it.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Rather than being fun, air travel these days is something to be endured. So when the s&@t hits the fan, stay calm and keep your game face on for your child. Case in point, D2 had a massive diaper blow out 30 minutes before we descended into the Atlanta airport. He smelled so bad that I saw people as far as three rows up look around to figure out where the noxious odor was coming from. Ordinarily, I would have been undone with embarrassment but there was nothing I could do but suck it up til we landed. Besides D2 seemed totally oblivious happily playing with his puzzle so it was all good.
All in all, we had a blast with my family and D2 took the three hour time change in stride (though he is still on “night club” hours now that we’re back on the East coast). Would I travel solo with a toddler again? Probably not if given a choice. Yes, D2 was a champ on the road but I was exhausted. Traveling a long distance alone with a child is hard work because you are their sole source of entertainment and comfort. You can’t sleep or do much of anything until they’re asleep and if your child is like mine, sleep is for the dead. Still this trip taught me about my increasingly deep reserves of patience, the kindness of strangers, the wonders of things I take for granted and most important, just how resilient my little guy is. I’m looking forward to Dr. D. joining us next time so he can share in the fun.