Saturday, April 30, 2011

Babies on a plane

First things first. Every Mommy needs a mothership. Well, every Mommy of two closely-spaced young children navigating an airport by herself does. Here is mine, reenacted. It ably carries two car seats, two children, three bags, and a cup of coffee. All it needs is a battering ram and it’s military-grade!

Erik’s last minute carabineer additions to the stroller handle make for easy access to bags and quick unloading when gate checking. Now, what do I put in those bags, you ask?

Plentiful toddler entertainment

1.  Coloring and sticker books. I bought a couple small ones that tucked easily into my bag. Flat crayons that can’t roll off the tray make this activity much less frustrating. A friend of mine made super cute flat crayons that worked great, or you can bring a couple triangular ones like these great ones.

2. A few new storybooks and a couple old favorites. This time our new book was ‘A Day at the Airport’ by Richard Scarry. Luke loves studying all the little scenes on each page and saying ‘uh oh’ at the trucks losing their contents.

3.  One or two small new toys plus several other plane-friendly favorites. This time we played with a new magnetic construction vehicles book and a new toy truck. We also brought play-dough, a mini slinky, and a little baggy of finger puppets. Have the toys handy, because its always better to hand one to your child before a meltdown, rather than after the irrationality hits.

4. The big gun and last resort: video playing capability. We use an old Sony PSP (around $60 on ebay), which is perfect because it has a ‘hold’ button that deactivates all of the controls, and it holds hours of video without any discs to change. We even have child-sized headphones, but Luke doesn’t do so well with those so I usually just turn the volume down low and let him listen through the speakers. I load some tried and true videos that he loves and try to get a new one too. This time I chose ‘Elmo Visits the Firehouse’ as his new flick but unfortunately it didn’t arrive from Netflix in time. Oh well, maybe a family movie night is in our future!

Drinks & snacks

I save these for take-off and landing to prevent sore ears. And I count the first and last 25 minutes or so as the pressure-change period and try to get my children to drink, eat, or suck for its entirety. This may not be pediatrician-approved, but I dilute milk or formula on plane trips. This way Eleanor can eat for longer without getting too full, and she’s hungry again sooner. All that extra swallowing and sucking seems to work at preventing crying!

Luke doesn’t like fluids too much these days unless they’re super-sweet (which is inadvisable, especially on airplanes), so I push snacks plus drinks for him during takeoffs and landings. I try to find a variety of not-too-messy, bite-size, low-sugar foods to bring. Serving them in a snack-trap (with a storage lid) is a must.

Oh, and here’s a tip for all you toddlers out there. When your Mom tells you that drinking from your cup is good for your ears, that does NOT mean you should pour your drink into your ear. Luke was deluded by this urban legend, and I was thankful for the spill-proof feature on his sippie cup when he tested it himself.

Other strategic take-alongs

Diaper covers, like these or these. Even if you don’t cloth-diaper, a cover or two might be a worthwhile investment for frequent plane travelers. Something about air travel’s pressure changes seems to have pressurizing effects on other parts of a baby’s system as well. We find that a diaper cover over a disposable contains blow-outs remarkably well.

Other recommended items include: Ziplock bags, pacifier wipes (to clean bottles, pacifiers, toys and any other baby item that may fall on the floor), infant tylenol (in case of sudden illness, teething, or really sore ears), a bib, changes of clothes, sanitizing wipes, and a few small blankets. Other things to consider: a fun, sanitary, disposable topper for the plane tray table and food court table, like this or this. And a pacifier clip, which makes finding your paci so much easier and doubles as a toy. I love this beautiful one by Haba.

We also try our best to dress to impress! It has to be harder for neighboring passengers to be annoyed by irresistibly adorable children, right? But keep in mind that any item may get poop-soiled, so I try to avoid anything that would have to be pulled over a baby’s head. Been there done that!

What else not to do: keep open cups or cans on your tray table. I like to ask for a can of water (no cup) and then pour it directly into my water bottle and Luke’s sippie cup.

With a little luck and a well-packed bag, our flights this past week were fairly pleasant. Not once did either child cry for more than a few seconds, and it was a fascinating experience for Luke, the vehicle-lover. We sat behind the wing, where he could better identify that we were in an airplane and watch the flaps move and the lights flash. I think the engine droning is louder toward the back of the plane too which was great for putting Eleanor to sleep. And if all else fails, Erik says you can always bring a parachute and sit in an emergency exit row! Smile

Here are most of my tricks unpacked. Soon I’ll put many of them away so they’re still new for our next trip!

  1. pacifier wipes
  2. headphones
  3. bib
  4. books
  5. pacifier clip & pacifier
  6. little Dover coloring books
  7. little Dover sticker activity books
  8. fire truck keychain
  9. more books
  10. finger puppets
  11. slinky junior
  12. car transporter truck toy
  13. homemade crayons shaped like people
  14. table topper placemat
  15. sani-hands hand wipes
  16. play dough
  17. PSP video player
  18. mini little golden books


  1. Erin, I am definitely saving this one for future reference. Informative and amusing--thanks for sharing your wisdom, oh woman of flying baby experience. We love watching your family grow!

  2. Is that a SOAP (2006) reference? ;)

  3. Yes it is! I must say that I much prefer an abundance of babies to vipers! And see I am answering your comments now. Erik told me that was requested and I'm sorry for having been delinquent in the past. You correctly recognized a reference to Jean several posts back as well. (:

  4. I wanted to make sure this was still here. I am recommending it yet again as a source of wisdom for a young mother traveling alone with young kids. Thank you again!